Darkhaven is currently live to reviewers! I am so nervous right now. Some people are reviewing it for my blog tour and so I won't get to find out what they thought for a month or so. Others don't have a fixed date and so might post a review ANY TIME AT ALL. It's a fascinating combination of imminent and long-term fear. In fact, I had a very vivid dream last night in which I received the longest and most detailed one-star review ever. So, yeah. It's on my mind a little bit.
Thus, although this was going to be an 'adventures in publishing' post, I feel it may be a good time to talk about my general approach to reviews. Lots of blogs have a review policy, so as a new author, here's my reviewee policy.
I firmly believe that reviewers should be able to post whatever they like about a book, however negative, without any comeback from the author. The whole point of a review is that it's someone's opinion.* Someone who one-stars a book isn't a 'bully' or a 'hater'; they simply didn't like it, and that's their prerogative. As I've said before, if authors are going to make a fuss about one-star reviews then what's the point of having a five-star system? If we're not careful, three stars will become the new one star and we'll end up with far less room to express our opinions. Only being allowed to choose between 'good', 'great' and 'amazing' devalues 'good' to such an extent that it becomes meaningless. (And yes, I consider three stars to be good; flipping out because I got anything less than five stars would be frankly stupid, because there ain't no way everyone who reads my book is going to put it straight to the top of their favourites list. 'Just' liking it is a fantastic compliment.)
As a reader, I'm a big fan of negative reviews as a way of getting a more accurate picture of the book than I can get from positive reviews alone. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to like receiving them as a writer – hence the nightmares. I write because I want people to enjoy it, so if they don't, that will make me sad. But that's why negative reviews are so important! If a decent negative review can put off a vacillating reader who would actually have hated the book, had he or she read it, that's a good thing. Because it shouldn't be about trying to prevent any negative reviews at all so as to get the most sales possible, and never mind if a proportion of the people who buy the book dislike it. It should be about finding the right audience for this specific book. I have no desire to sell my books to people who aren't going to enjoy them, just for the sake of however many pence I earn per copy.
But of course, although I welcome all reviews, the bad ones are still going to hurt – especially as an unknown writer for whom every review is a chance to be discovered by someone new. Approving of them in principle is a little different from being able to cope with them in practice. So I figured I'd better come up with a strategy, and here it is:
1. Delude myself that every single review will come with at least three stars, because my book is JUST THAT AMAZING. This will probably last all of a week.
2. When I get my first bad review, go and cry in a corner for a little while. Someone just insulted my baby!
3. Read this post again.
4. Get on with writing the next book.
You know, I remember a long time ago – back when I first joined an online writing community – someone telling me 'the only appropriate response to a review is thank you'. And that's stuck with me. I should be grateful that anyone takes the time to read and review my work. I certainly don't have the right to demand they butter up my ego as well.
As it happens, before I finished writing this I got my first review. And it was a good one. You can read it at the link below. But if it had been bad, I like to think I would still have had the dignity to thank the reviewer for her time. Because without reviews, good or bad, we authors wouldn't get very far.
Darkhaven's first review: "a dark and twisted journey through false accusations, underhanded trickery and a deadly fight for survival"
* This entire post is written on the basis that the reviews I'm talking about are honest statements of the reviewer's opinion of the book. Malicious reviews directed at the author rather than the writing, or reviews that make incorrect factual statements, or glowing reviews that don't at all match the single star they come with, or simply random people who go around one-starring everything for fun, are a whole different kettle of ball games and not one I want to get into here.