Guest Post: Authors and Reviews by Amanda Jennings

Friday 8 April 2016
It is a little later than planned but I am so happy to be sharing a guest post from Amanda Jennings today as part of the super long blog tour for one of my favourite books of 2016 so far, In Her Wake. I was blown away when I read this book but what astounded me even more was the reaction to my review from Amanda and Orenda's Karen Sullivan and from everyone else who read it and Tweeted to me about it. It has since become one of my most popular reviews ever (I've even read it back myself multiple times!) and the past two years blogging have brought many differing reactions from authors to my reviews and it's always interesting to get an insight into how an author views reviews of their books, if they even do at all. So, for my stop on the tour Amanda is discussing her own view on reviews and it's well worth a read.

If you are one of the few who hasn't read my review yet, help me hit 1000 views by reading it now!

Authors and Reviews
by Amanda Jennings

Authors and reviews. It can be a sticky old subject but it’s a subject you can’t avoid. Reviews go with the territory. Good ones, indifferent ones, and the bad ones. Writers need reviews nowadays. Something to do with Amazon sales algorithms and visibility. (Possibly obvious right now that I have no clue how the Amazon behemoth really works). So as well as enjoying the good things about being an author you have to brace yourself for the ‘bad review’.

A quick Google search reveals bucket loads of articles advising the author how to deal with a bad review. Not replying seems to be the most sensible one. There are horror stories around of disgruntled authors who’ve broken this cardinal rule and gone full nuclear online, defending their work and then entering into a grubby ring to fight an unwinnable battle. Of course having a critical review hurts. But remembering that reading is subjective, that everybody is entitled to an opinion, that people have differing tastes and likes and hates, is important. Personally, I’m never going to write a bad review, but then again I’m not going to complain in a restaurant, either. I would merely show my displeasure by ‘never going there again’. (That’ll show ‘em.) Nor would I tell somebody who was making noise at the cinema to be quiet. Obviously I’d tut and make pointed stares and tut again, but actual confrontation? No way. I will only ever leave a review for a book if I’ve really, truly loved it. For me, it’s the equivalent of telling a friend face to face that I’ve read a seriously good book and I want to share the joy with them. But if I don't enjoy a book? Well, I’d just put that down to me not enjoying the book. I wouldn’t want to warn others off it. They might love it and then I’d be responsible for denying them that pleasure. I also know how much of themselves – blood, sweat, tears – the author has put into that book. I would no sooner slate another writer’s book in public as I would tell a mother her baby was ugly.

My own way of dealing with a bad review is to read the reviews of one of my favourite books, let’s say The Book Thief, for example (a book of which I am deeply envious) I read a few one stars and then sit back and think ‘if The Book Thief can be rubbished then any book can. Including mine. It’s no biggie.’ I know lots of authors who don’t look at their reviews at all. I wish I had this self-control. But I don’t. Why? Because it might be a good one! And when a reader tells you they have connected with your writing, that they ‘get’ it, and, well, yes, I’ll be honest, tells the world how fab they think the book is, it feels good. Really good. I know I should apply the same ‘it’s subjective/don’t read anything into it/take it with a pinch of salt’ logic that I apply to less favourable reviews, but I don’t. Instead I sit at the computer and read the lovely words with a warm glow. I’ve even been known to shed a tear. (But in truth I’m quite well-known for my lachrymose tendencies.) In fact, the reason I suggested to Shaun I wrote about reviews, is that his review of In Her Wake was one of those that prompted a tear. And when you’re struggling against all the demons of self-doubt that plague every writer on the planet, there’s nothing like a few lovely words to make it all seem worthwhile. So this is a shout out to those people who take the time to tell the author they’ve enjoyed their book. You genuinely keep us going.

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