Should a Writer Read Reviews of Their Novel?

Well, the debut is now out! The Finery is on shelves in Waterstones, in the hands of readers, and sitting on bedside tables waiting to be read. It’s been an emotional journey as the author, because, obviously, I want people to love this book. It’s a story I wrote and cared for, and it took years. But, now the book is out in the world, I have decided not to read reviews (apart from those meaning to promote the book – for example, I was featured in The Guardian!). I would also recommend to other authors to try and steer clear of the desire to keep checking Goodreads and Amazon. Here’s why:

  1. Emotional Impact: Reviews, both positive and negative, can have a strong emotional impact on authors. Negative reviews can be particularly discouraging and can affect an author’s self-esteem and confidence in their work.
  2. Subjectivity: Reviews are inherently subjective and reflect the personal opinions of readers. What one person loves about a book, another person might dislike. And this is key when you consider the next point…
  3. Loss of Control: Once a book is published, it’s out for readers to interpret and analyse. Authors have no control over how readers perceive their work or what aspects they focus on.
  4. Creativity and Self-Expression: Reading reviews can sometimes lead authors to second-guess their creative choices. This can hinder their ability to express themselves freely in future writing projects.
  5. Time and Focus: Engaging with reviews can take up valuable time and mental energy that could be better spent writing new material or working on other projects. Constantly checking reviews can be distracting and counterproductive.
  6. Confirmation Bias: If authors start seeking out only positive reviews or avoid negative ones, they might fall into a confirmation bias loop, seeking validation rather than honest feedback.
  7. Influence on Future Work: Authors may inadvertently start tailoring their writing to appease reviewers or replicate what they believe garnered positive feedback in the past. This can stifle creativity and authenticity.
  8. Variability in Reader Reactions: Just as different people have different tastes, readers react differently to different aspects of a book. Some might focus on character development, while others might critique the pacing. Authors can’t address every reader’s feedback without compromising the integrity of their work.
  9. Art vs. Product: For many authors, writing is a form of artistic expression rather than a product meant solely for commercial success. Reading reviews might shift the focus from the intrinsic value of the work to its marketability.

Of course, not all authors avoid reviews. Some find constructive feedback helpful for personal growth and improving their writing. It’s ultimately a personal decision that depends on an author’s mental resilience, goals, and the effect reviews have on their creative process. If an author can handle reviews in a healthy and balanced way, they might find valuable insights and encouragement from their readers’ perspectives. For myself, I have decided that reviews are for readers, not the author of the work. Therefore, I’ll be steering clear, and continuing to write my new works.