While some people are just out to be nasty, I believe most reviewers are just voicing their experiences in a fair, informative, and entertaining way. As a consumer I rely on reviews to fill in the blanks of vague summaries or to give me a honest alternative perspective. Those things in mind, I write my own reviews to fit what I have found helpful, broad non-spoiler summary, positive/negative assessment. But not all my notes are just for consumers, I try to give a fair account on the off chance the author reads consumer or blogger reviews.
With all the controversy surrounding the whole Tempest and Carrier of the Mark reviews, I wonder how many authors read and value what their audience has to say. The best and worst books elicit the most passion and personality in my reviews. During class critiques hearing others thoughts and suggestions always helped me edit and sort through my own ideas as well as get my mind going on new possibilities. Plus sometimes it helps to hear a perspective not trying to woo my ego, or from someone who doesn’t have a claim on residuals, and isn’t related to me. I think authors have a unique resource with such a vast pool of reviewers. Marketing agencies spend lots of money putting together focus groups to find out what works and doesn’t, authors can find all of that from simply logging onto Amazon or Goodreads.
Seeing how others are interpreting your work can make you better if you let. I don’t expect an author to take the public’s view on their creative vision and rearrange their whole series outline but I think it could help a series that’s becoming too drawn out, or correct readers common pet peeves like repetition and too much recapping of previous volumes. But editing is possibly the hardest and most important part of any creative process. Being objective and looking at things through the users eyes can be like the stages of grief. Anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are just a few of the emotions that run through you as one strips away ideas and concepts that you know don’t work yet it doesn’t stop you from feeling like you’re cutting your own arm off. For a creative person even those bits that get discarded to the recycle bin are still your babies.
Reviews are more than a selling device. They can give a writer a place to start, streamline their writing process, point out things to work on and what your audience is responding to or not. Getting feedback directly from the people reading your book is an invaluable tool, which I hope some of the authors and publishers recently entangled in all the recent ugliness will realize and not take for granted.