Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's a Sickness

by Stephanie Black

First of all, HUGE congrats to the immensely talented Rob Wells on getting an awesome agent! I can't wait to read his YA sci fi novel!

Now for today’s confession: I’m addicted to Goodreads reviews. Not to writing reviews—as I blogged about a while back, I’m not a good reviewer when it comes to negative reviews. In the LDS market, chances are I either know the author personally, have interacted with him/her online, or know people who know him/her. I would shrivel into a tiny ball of guilt knowing the author knows that I thought his/her book was disappointing and said so publicly. That would make for a nice topic of conversation when we’re sitting next to each other at the next writer’s conference. And yeah, I’d bet those last few Lindor Balls sitting on top of my fridge that, if asked, the author would say that he was grateful for my candor, and it’s good to know what to improve on, or whatever blather authors give to pretend we like the fact that someone said our book stunk for X, Y, and Z reasons. But I’d be willing to bet the entire bag of Lindor Balls that I’m planning to buy next time I’m at Costco (I have a coupon!) that beneath the polite and proper response, the author would be feeling pretty stung. I’d rather not go there. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that I think only positive reviews should be posted. I’m just saying don’t ask me to write the negative ones).

Anyway, my Goodreads problem involves checking my own ratings. I keep looking, every day—more than once a day—to see if anyone has posted new ratings/reviews on my new book.

It’s a sickness.

And I think I’m getting crabbier over the whole review/rating thing. When I feel defensive and snappish because a good rating includes a mild criticism, I’ve got a problem. It’s time to quit wallowing in this. So, um, does anyone have any suggestions for breaking a review reading addiction? Am I the only one with this problem?

At least checking Goodreads lets you see that even wildly successful authors have critics. They may have sold a bazillion books and achieved worldwide acclaim, but there is still someone who disliked the book and is going to say so. JK Rowling has some one-star reviews. Mary Higgins Clark has some very harsh comments. So when someone says something that stings, well, I know I’m not alone.

In a compilation entitled Writing Mysteries, writer Jan Burke stated, “I’ve never understood why people who fear negative comments want to be published. I can only imagine they’ve never had a job that brings them into contact with the public. Once you’re published, any clown with a library card can tell you what he thinks of your book. To get almost anything worthwhile done in this life, you have to risk disapproval. Writing is no different.”

When you publish a book, you do risk disapproval. No matter how many readers love your work, sooner or later someone is going to come along, think your book is a two-star read, and say so. But the joy of creating stories--and hearing from the readers who do love your work--is worth the occasional negative comment.

Which still doesn't solve my Goodreads obsession, so if you want to help cure me, send suggestions. And Lindor Balls.


At 11/11/2009 2:09 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

No, I don't have this addiction but maybe someday. ;)
Actually, I don't put a whole ton of stock in reviews. I prefer to just "chance it" myself and read it. Worst thing that happens is I don't care for it and best thing is that I found a new friend for my shelf.

At 11/11/2009 4:39 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...


Most writers look to reviews for vindication. They want to/need to know others are saying good things about something they created. A mother always feels so good when someone says their newborn is the most gorgeous girl/boy they've ever seen. It's natural, something called human nature.

Well, I can tell you as a reader of Stephanie Black that you're a wonderful writer, and even though I don't know you personally, probably a wonderful person as well. There, I've said it, now you can relax and ignore that dumb Goodreads site.

BTW, I love reading a good review. I have several. I'm so vain.


At 11/11/2009 4:54 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Charlie: she's a wonderful person, take it from me, another one you haven't met in person. =)

I've never had a Lindor Ball. I see them in the checkout lines, and they make me think of chocolate covered cherries (which I don't like) so I've never picked one up. I'd probably be willing to try white chocolate or mint, or maybe the peanut butter. Which one is your favorite, Stephanie?

Also, I apologize that I haven't left a review for you on Goodreads. I've actually started about 5 books in the past couple of months: re-reading your MoM*, Lemon Tart, 38 (?) mistakes to avoid in writing fiction, some parenting book and, of course, the Brandon Sanderson continuation of the Wheel of Time, which is just freakin awesome.

* just one capital letter away from a major faux pas

At 11/11/2009 6:49 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

The problem with reviews is that you can't change anything in a book that's been published, but if there is criticism, you can use it to improve your next book. By far my favorite Goodreads review of my book ABINADI is:
"Do NOT read this book. By the time u get to the end of the fifth chapter lets just say people start 2 break the law of Chastity."

I read it everytime I need a good chuckle.

At 11/11/2009 7:17 PM, Blogger Laura said...

Here's how I deal with it. I don't read Goodreads at all. My husband does. Out of the blue one day he told me there were seven pages of goodreads on my book. SEVEN PAGES??? Great. He doesn't tell me the bad reviews. I'm with you- what good is it going to do me? The book is, oh, I don't know... ALREADY PUBLISHED. It's not like I can take anyone's advice, no matter how well intentioned and do anything with it.

No, all reviews do is convince other people that they do or don't want to pick up your book. That's it.

On that note, yoo're making me want Lindor balls. Did you know they have this seriously dark chocolate version now? There goes any hope of resistance for me.

At 11/12/2009 12:33 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

LT, good strategy. Opinions on a book can vary so widely that you never know until you try it yourself.

Charlie and Jon, thank you! You guys are so nice! And Charlie, I think your analysis hit the nail right on the head--it's that thirst for vindication that drives obsessive review-reading. I feel like I understand myself a little better now!

And Charlie, congrats on the great reviews!

Jon, I'm realizing I'm woefully undereducated--I don't think I've ever had the mint and I'm not sure about the peanut butter. I've got to remedy my ignorance! Chocolate and dark chocolate are divine. White is good too, but I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate (and don't worry about posting a review--you've done so much for me already!)

Heather, that review is hilarious! I love it!

Laura, I'm very impressed with your self-control in not checking Goodreads! I could use a lot more self-control. And yum--extra-dark Lindor Balls!

At 11/12/2009 12:37 AM, Blogger GoletaGlenns said...

Maybe you could have a Lindor Ball instead every time you're tempted to go look at your ratings. Sure, you're just trading one problem for another but, mmmm- boy!

At 11/12/2009 12:39 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Goleta--it's brilliant!

At 11/12/2009 1:14 AM, Blogger David J. West said...


I cannot wait to get reviews like that.

At 11/12/2009 8:28 AM, Blogger Anna Buttimore said...

Drat, now I'm addicted to Goodreads reviews too. I got an average of 3.63 stars which I suppose is OK. At least it shows that some people have bought it!

At 11/12/2009 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's a Lindor Ball?

At 11/12/2009 11:45 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Lindor Balls are round chocolate truffle balls. Chocolate shell, creamy filling. I just ate one. I have one more left. Should I save it for my daughter, who's been asking for one . . . ? Talk about a dilemma.

At 11/12/2009 5:23 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

I'm so addicted to Goodreads when I have a book come out. And you're right - it's very crushing when a fellow author you respect and admire comes out and says they don't like your book or it wasn't as good as previous ones.

Particularly since it is SO subjective, and what one person loves another person will hate and you really, really can't please everyone.

That being said, I still hate negative reviews. I take them so seriously and personally, even though I know I shouldn't.


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