Writing in the Snow and Reviews
We've had a fair bit of snow lately. Not too much, but enough to have people rethinking their long-term plans in this part of Montana. A recent visit to my favorite antique and consignment shop led to the unsurprising news that people are selling their high-end furniture and "getting out of Dodge." Most likely they'll head back to warmer climates, realizing now that living in an area where winter lasts many months and the sun only shines for a few of those days, may not be for them.
I love the long, gloomy winter months. Well, for me they're not gloomy because I tend to get more writing during the winter. I like to look out the window while I write and see the snow-covered earth and trees heavy with frost. Hibernation is good for writing and for the imagination. I'm currently house hunting, and of course every place I'm interested in has a bit of land and is far enough away from town so all I'm likely to hear is the occasional sound of my dog barking when she sees an animal.
Right now I'm working on a Gallagher book and a Crooked Creek, both of which are set during the summer. I'll admit, the imagination needs a bit more of a stretch while the ground is covered in fluffy white stuff. I started a new Christmas story just so I'd be writing something set during winter.
Unfortunately, not everyone seems to enjoy this lovely weather. A recent conversation with an author about book reviews reinforced my opinion that far too much stock is put into them. Now, before I get tomatoes or snowballs virtually thrown at me, let me explain.
I founded Books & Benches, whose reviewers review books on a regular basis, and I appreciate that those readers have their own opinions and want to share. The site doesn't review anything below 3 stars because quite frankly, authors get enough negativity about their books without yet another website adding to that. So, while I value the readers who choose to review books and help authors, I do believe that too often the supposed importance of them can lead to . . . unfortunate behavior.
Great reviews can lead to positive word-of-mouth promotion for authors. Great reviews can help bolster a new book release. Great reviews can also make a timid author brave in the face of fear, especially when they're a newbie. On the flip side, a poor review can tear down an author when they need encouragement. Poor reviews can cause a rift or feud between reader and author or author and author (yikes, but I've seen it happen). Poor reviews made public rather than private, even have the power to make an author stop writing.
When I say too much stock is put into book reviews, I mean . . .
A review is an opinion and not everyone is going to agree on what makes a good book. What twenty readers love, another twenty may dislike. Authors can't please everyone, and it's important for both the authors and readers to understand that.
Opinions about books, like so many viewpoints in general, don't necessarily mean a book is good or bad. They are simply a reflection of one individual's thoughts on a story (insert exception for poor editing and quality). If authors spent all their time worrying about every opinion out there, they'd never have time to write another book.
Awards and bestselling statuses aren't always a reflection of a book. Granted, they're really cool and as authors we sure do enjoy being able to claim to either or both. We also see them as major accomplishments (justifiably so), but that label is a marketing tool for publishers. Any reader who has spent time online knows that many books with these status labels get bad reviews. That's okay and often expected because it's the nature of the business.
And the big one for authors . . . if I (author) don't like every book I read, how can I expect every reader to love all of my books. I hope they do, but it's simply not a realistic expectation. Do I post negative reviews online about books I don't like? No. In fact, I don't often post reviews, and when I do, it's for books I love and want to rave about.
I know some bestselling authors who have as many bad reviews as good, or not many reviews at all. They don't care. They write their books, chat with readers (sometimes), and live their lives. I've always admired these authors most.
How much better would this industry be if negativity and book bashing were taken out of the equation? Oodles upon masses better, but that's not going to happen. So long as voices have platforms on which to be heard, it's imperative for authors to develop very thick skins or stop reading reviews altogether.