For some reason, and I don’t know exactly why, I feel the need to talk about ratings and reviews today. Maybe because as writers, we obsessively check our ratings, reviews and rankings every day. All of us do it… we can’t help it. It’s a compulsive need that comes bursting out the moment that we are published.
Because writers put so much of themselves into their work, they (we!) tend to take it very personally when someone doesn’t like their work, or worse, when someone HATES it. What I want to say today, to my fellow writers, is that you shouldn’t. Don’t take it personally. Every once in a while, there is someone out there (a crazy person or two) who does make it personal and they hate your work so much for some strange reason, that they literally stalk you with bad reviews on everything you do. I’ve seen that happen to people, unfortunately, including a personal friend a while back. There are crazies out there.
But for the most part, reviewers are readers who take time out of their busy days not only to buy your work and read your work, but they take time to tell other people about it. And that’s a great thing- even if they don’t love your ‘baby’ as much as you do. Ratings and reviews, as my friend Wren has pointed out many times, are like currency to writers. Word of mouth is our bread and butter- our most effective marketing tool.
I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t gotten a really hateful review (knock on wood!!). So far, I’ve gotten one 3-star rating and one 1-star rating on Goodreads, but neither person said anything negative. The rest have all been 4’s and 5’s with glowing, awesome, amazing reviews and I feel so blessed.
At the same time, I know that I will get worse reviews at some time in the future, because reading and writing is subjective. Different people like different things. And that’s okay. (Easy for me to say right now, right? Please remind me of this in the future when I am crying because of a bad review….) When you get a random bad rating or review, just grit your teeth and go on with life.
In my opinion, and no, you didn’t ask for it, but this is my opinion anyway… this is how I interpret the 5-star rating system.
- 5Star= Your work is so breathtakingly awesome that there is no way the reader can think of that you could have improved upon it- it was just THAT good.
- 4Star= Your work was super good and they totally loved it.
- 3star= Your work was..’eh’ to them. They didn’t love it, they didn’t hate it. It was okay.
- 2Star= Your work was really not good for them. Something about it was totally not working and wasn’t hitting their buttons. Or if it was, it was pushing the wrong ones.
- 1Star= They thought your work was total crap. Or they really hated your topic. Or they hated your writing style. They definitely hated something.
But this is my mindset. You should pay attention to what you get the MOST of. If you get mainly 4’s and 5’s, you’re okay. You cannot please the entire world- if you try, you really aren’t pleasing anyone, because your work will be so lukewarm and vanilla that it won’t be appealing.
If you start getting tons of 3’s, you might want to doublecheck your work and see how you can make it better. Maybe your plot doesn’t carry enough of a punch or your voice just isn’t definitive enough. Check it out and find what isn’t clicking.
And if you start getting more 2’s and 1’s then anything else, you really should reevaluate your work and it might not be a bad idea to have other people evaluate too. You’ll need to determine if the plot need revamped, or if it need editing, etc.
But if only a few people rate it badly, try to put it out of your mind. Those people are in the minority of the readers who have read your work. Everyone else loved it, so focus on that. Keep your chin up, keep doing what you do— which is writing because you love it. Because you can’t imagine going through life without it.
And to the readers… the lovely, amazing, wonderful people who take time out of your busy days to read our work and comment on it… THANK YOU. Seriously, thank you. We do notice and we do appreciate it. In fact, the first thing I do every morning (well, after I get a cup of super strong coffee, that is) is check my rankings, ratings and reviews. I know. That’s pathetic. But as writers, we can’t seem to help ourselves. We’re neurotic like that.
But you, our readers, are the main reason why we frantically get out of bed and sprint for our computers at 2:00am when we think of a better plot twist.. or why we mull over storylines during a church sermon or when the rest of our families are swimming and having fun in the lake and we’re sitting on the beach with a laptop… or why we stay home from a dinner out in order to re-write chapter four… or… well, you get the picture. Our readers are a big reason why we do what we do.
But also, we write because it’s like breathing to us. We love it and we can’t imagine life without it. We’re writers, that’s what we do. We do it for ourselves, we do it for our readers, particularly the ones who love what we write as much as we do. Remember these things the next time you get down-in-the-mouth about a bad review. Don’t take it personally and whatever you do… Just. Keep. Writing.