When I began this very public journey four years, I just knew I'd have a love/hate relationship with reader reviews. On the one hand, they're essential to providing social proof when buyers are considering whether to purchase my books. On the other hand, they are totally out of my control. Strangers from all over the world can post their unvarnished opinions.
Like many new writers, I feared the potential for rejection. After all the time I spend pouring myself into the work, would it be accepted? Better yet, would the large majority respond favorably? Or would their response suggest that I was off the mark about the quality of my writing and storytelling? (It's called Imposter Syndrome.)
I read every review. In fact, I run a quick check for new ones twice a day. After four years and fourteen original titles, I can rest easy. The percentages of 4- and 5-star reviews have far exceeded the others. Well, I should rest easy, but I don't.
The fact is, I've come to relish reading reviews - even the ugly ones (and there are a few). When I see someone leave an Amazon star without comment, I am left to wonder what they liked or disliked. I'd REALLY love to know.
What's fascinating is seeing the range that can occur when two people read the identical material. Take these two reviews for The Impossible Future box set that appeared two weeks apart:
(2 stars): "Hot mess very confusing...Glad it was a kindle unlimited and I did not buy."
(5 stars): "What an Awesome Read. I couldn't put it down. The brain power that conceived this set of books and all the twists and turns that it takes the reader on, is exceptional. The depth of the personalities of the characters is well laid out."
Ego now sufficiently pumped!
I find reviews, for better or worse, to be instructive. For instance, a common trend has emerged in the reviews for The Impossible Future books. Those who love it make note of the wild twists and turn, the pacing, and the characterization. Those who don't (the 2-star folks) consistently find it confusing, or "a hot mess." This tells me many readers like a story with concurrent storylines that jump back and forth, while others prefer a straight-line narrative.
No one is right or wrong. However, as I move closer to a new set of stories after finishing my current series (which has concurrent storylines), I might want to consider a tighter story with fewer characters who the reader stays close to at all times.
Going forward, I'd love for more readers to provide their honest, respectful opinions. It's part of a continuing education.