Scales 120All authors can be divided into three categories: those who read reviews of their books, those who don’t, and those that do and claim they don’t. It would be fair to say that all authors can also be divided into those that are successful enough to ignore reviews, and, well, all the others (like me).

Let’s start with the second of those ways to divvy up the authorial pool. Unless you’re a truly successful author (by whatever measure you personally find to be relevant), you probably spend at least a few moments a few times a week looking for visible evidence that the reading public is aware that you exist. When day follows day with only negative evidence to be found, such as an ever-declining Amazon rank, the emerging of a new review – any review – becomes something to be yearned for. It shows that someone not only bought your book, but, by God, they actually read it, too!

For my part, finding a new review at Amazon or GoodReads is a bit like discovering an Easter egg after the holiday has come and gone. Yes, it’s always possible you’ll stumble on one, but you really didn’t expect to find one just then, now that your book has been out there for so long.

So far, I’ve been lucky with what reviewers have said, so finding a new review has always been a pleasant experience. No one’s trashed my book yet, although I have on occasion been puzzled by what someone has written (could they have been reading two books at once and confused the plot lines)?  But that’s all just part of the mystery and the risk of placing your precious book out there, for all to see and read – or even misread.

There’s also the sometimes seemingly random association between the numerical rating assigned by the reviewer and the textual review that accompanies it.  A few days ago, Therin Knite provided this tragi-comic summary of almost all the possible scoring variations you might experience (it’s part of a multi-part blog series she calls 80 (Short) Facts About being an Indie Author, and you should check it out).

Every now and then, though, you open your book page at Amazon or GoodReads and not only find a new review, but one posted by someone you never knew existed who not only loved your book, but also picked up on all of the bits that made you smile when you wrote them, and which you hoped might make a reader smile as well. That can really make your day. It can also recharge your writing batteries, providing the incentive to get back to that sequel draft that you somehow haven’t gotten around to working on in a while.

That’s what happened for me yesterday, when I realized that Paul Ruddock, of Echoes of the Pen, had posted just such a review at his blog, as well as on Amazon, and at GoodReads. It begins like this:

Tom Sharpe meets Michael Crichton… What we have here is a real rollercoaster of a thriller, combining home grown and international cyber terrorism, the threat of nuclear war and destruction, and not to mention, some of the funniest and satirical writing it’s been my pleasure to read in a very long time. 

But what really made my day was the effort he put into calling out so many elements of the book, its plot, its characters, and its satire. I found myself nodding my head as he checked off virtually all of the aspects of the book that I was happy with.

So what is there to make of those authors that truly don’t read their reviews? Is it because they’re afraid of what they’ll read? That they don’t care whether readers like their books (uh, then why write them to begin with?)

For my part, I have to believe that deep down, it must make a difference to every author to know that they’ve succeeded in connecting with a reader.

And if you never read your reviews, you’ll never know it.

(Thanks, Paul)

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