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The Five Stages of Review Hell

I've had two contrasting experiences this week which prompted my thinking around this blog. The first was a conversation with an established writing friend, who has three books out. We were talking about each other's books and I said I thought I'd left a review having read their book - but wasn't sure. (Must check, actually). And they were equally not sure because they hadn't looked at their reviews for awhile.

In the meantime, I have several friends who have only just brought out their books and they know what reviews they have, what stars they've been awarded, and who else might be going to leave a review.

That was me a year or so back. And, I suspect, the first exchange will be me in a year or two. (I'm not there yet. Not quite.)

So, here's how the review cycle has gone. (For me. I assume there are some writers who come out of the blocks not giving a damn and plenty of veterans who still angst over reviews).

1. The book is released. You've had your beta feedback. You've worked with your editor. Your book-baby probably doesn't resemble the book you began with. Hell, it probably doesn't resemble the one from two months ago. And the first readers buy it and you start chewing your nails.

Now, if you're in any way organised - or if your publisher is - the first reviews will be gentle. They'll be from people who were interested enough to read in advance, or your mother, buying it the moment the book comes out. They're survivable. In fact - whisper it - this review lark is great craic! Everyone loves you. You are the writing-boss.

2. First negative reviews come in.

You've been so used to seeing 5* and the odd 4* to balance it out - and then you get your 1st 3*. And you're staring at it, and your average has dropped and things aren't just so much fun.

And then you get a 2*. And then a 1*. And it eats at you and you want to respond but do not. Do not engage. (I don't say ever - I've had a couple of very nice exchanges with reviewers but I've never thrown my dummy out of the pram).

And you look at your next WIP and think what's the point if your stuff's so crap anyhow....

3. First professional review

Now, this one kept me awake nights with both Abendau's Heir and Inish Carraig. These reviewers know their stuff. They review books all the time. Worse - they have followings. People who trust their judgement buy books because of what they say.

I did okay with all of mine. My nerves coped less admirably.

4. You take your first day off checking.

Maybe you're on holiday. Or busy. Or it's just quietened down on the review front anyhow. Whisper it - checking feeds that don't update gets old. But you suddenly wake up, realise you haven't checked, log onto Goodreads and.... nothing. Nothing changed. Still 3 people reading it and however many reviews. Go do some writing, why not?

5. You stop obsessing. You might even stop noticing.

I'm not quite there yet. I do still know my current Goodreads ratings. (I think. Sort of. In a ball park manner.) But I don't tend to wince at the bad'uns. And I don't tend to feel my heart jumping when a new review arrives.

So, take heart. This crazy stage gets better. In the meantime - own them all like a boss. Even the one stars - someone hated your book enough to tell the world! Get you. :)

In the meantime, here's my profile. Go read my horrid reviews and remind yourself we all get them. It just doesn't always have to matter.


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