Browsing through the Internet the other day, mainly looking for marketing ideas, I began to realise that many companies now have reveiw management plans. Well, there's an interesting concept. I love reviews - I like reading them, and when I feel like it I write them. But what does it feel like to be on the other end of them?
I can understand a company responding to reviews - if somebody has a complaint, then why not resolve it? Much better value for money than advertising, I'm sure, so it makes good sense for a company member to monitor the reviews and take steps to put any bad ones right.
It's different for an author, however. I honestly think the best response is a dignified silence. But I do read mine, I have to admit it. I learn from them - it's like getting red ink scribbled on your essay. Until somebody points out the B** obvious, it isn't obvious at all. So, I'll never respond to an individual, but here's a few things I have learnt from reviews:
- Nobody Knows Nothing! William Goldman was right. I wrote a couple of books for Black Lace. The editor loved the first one, she honestly loved it. We did a TV show together and mine was one of the books she took along. My second book she hated. She made it clear she only took it because I was under contract. So, the only reviews on these books? You guessed it. Exactly the other way around. The second book sold a lot better as well. See, nobody knows anything.
- Reviews can make you bonkers. I lose confidence easily - if I get 5 stars I'm delighted. But if somebody dislikes something I worry about it for days. Sometimes I learn something valuable, but mostly I just worry.
- You can learn from them, if you can stand the pain. One person complained that I gave too much away too early - that it was too obvious that the couple were going to end up together. My first instinct (I hate criticism!) was to think well, Duh! Hello? Has there ever been a category romance where the couple DON'T end up together? Of course not!! That's what romance is all about. But then I finished the book I was reading, which was Persuasion. And right to the last few pages Jane Austen had Edward first secretly engaged to Lucy and then, so we all thought, married to her. If it's good enough for Jane it's good enough for me. Point taken. I will work harder on my plotting - the external reasons that keep the couple apart must not be skimped.
It is hard taking criticism on board. At least it's all at a discreet distance. I don't get readers in front of me saying that they love or hate or couldn't care less about my books. How do people stand being on reality TV? imagine having one's shortcomings pointed out in front of the nation?
On the whole, I think I should just leave my reviews alone and stop worrying about them! I once read that it's not a writer's job to think about what other people are going to make of their book. It's a writer's job to get on with writing, and there's a lot of truth in that.
Unless I'm insane to ignore valuable feedback that is marketing gold?
I'll guess I'll carry on reading them.