I have both written and received book (and play) reviews. In the course of those opposite experiences, I have come to certain conclusions about how authors should deal with reviews of their work. This article is intended to supplement my thoughts as expressed in my Goodreads blog dated June 9, 2013.
Just as a reviewer has every right to evaluate an author’s work, the author has every right to turn the tables on the critic. Among the many criteria by which a review should be judged before reacting to it are:
- What are the reviewer’s credentials? In other words, consider the source. Is the reviewer someone whose opinion should be taken seriously? A casual reader who states that a book did not satisfy the appetite of the moment is perfectly entitled to say so, but why should that opinion trouble anyone? Such a review tells a fair amount about the reviewer but is hardly probative of the issue of the book’s essential worthiness. In this category, I would place reviews that complain about a book’s length, its genre, and its vocabulary.
- How impartial is the reviewer? The opinions of reviewers who are blood relatives of, or who owe money to the author are rarely valuable. My favorite reviews come from authors whose own works I have criticized in print. They had every incentive to respond in kind, and when they did not, I was immensely encouraged.
- How detailed is the review? A book is the culmination of a multitude of disciplines—creation of a plot, delineation of characters, and the application of dialogue and descriptive passages to advance the book’s theme. Reviewers who do not dig deep into those authorial challenges are not doing their jobs, and their work products should be weighted accordingly.
A less than enthusiastic review from a qualified, impartial, and diligent reviewer should be taken very seriously to heart and treasured as a guide for improvement in the author’s future writing. An unfavorable review which does not satisfy those criteria should be ignored. How an author should react publically to an unfavorable review is covered in my prior Goodreads blog dated June 9, 2013.
From Christina: Thank you, again, Gordon, for visiting Time for Love and sharing your thoughts with my readers.