Should Writers read reviews of their Writing?

A subject touched on by both Meg Gardiner and Tess Gerritsen and raised indirectly at a recent poetry reading where one poet punctuated her poems with anxious looks towards the audience, as if seeking approval before reading on.

Three Reasons Not to Read Reviews 


1. The book’s already been published and can’t be changed.

True, but a perceptive, constructive comment could inform future work, especially if it’s part of series.

2. It’s a flame by an anonymous troll on a site such as Amazon.

Then it’s not a review, it’s a flame by an anonymous troll… and not worth responding to. It’s difficult not to take a scathing attack personally, but if the person writing it didn’t have sufficient courage of their convictions to use their own name, then treat them as a playground bully and ignore them.

3. The reviewer said nasty things.

The world would be a very boring place if everyone loved your books. Reviewers don’t really have that huge an impact on sales – most people buy books because:

• they like your books

• their friend likes your books

• your book was on special offer

• they picked it up by mistake

• they were stuck for something to read and a librarian suggested it

• they were bored and a copy was left on the bus/train/etc

• a reviewer they liked, liked it

• a reviewer they hate, hated it.

Three Reasons to Read Reviews


1. A good review is a good ego boost.

It’s also useful publicity.

2. Positive comments encourage more writing because it’s reassuring to know someone’s reading you.

3. The review said good things.

Sometimes unintentionally. One of my stories was described as “an extended myspace confessional albeit better written“. It was meant as a snark but his comment actually said “contemporary, modern story” and he thought the writing was good (“better” implies “good”) so I took it as a compliment.

Ultimately whether a writer reads their reviews or not is a personal decision. I’ve never had a bad review, but, equally, I’ve never had one that’s been pure praise. That’s good: I’m lucky my reviews have been balanced. However, I’ve never self-published. Everything of mine that has been published has been approved by an editor. An editor who has had confidence to say “this is worth publishing”. In poetry, where rejection rates run at 98%, that editor’s approval counts and rates far higher than the opinion of a reviewer. Even so, it’s hard to remind yourself that editorial approval matters, anonymous flames don’t when it’s your own work under attack. Writers deserve robust reviews by reviewers who are constructive. 

But the worst review of all is no review: flamers take note.  No reviews means no one’s reading the book.

Related Articles:

Reviewing self-published books

Ready to have your poetry reviewed?

If you don’t read, you can’t write

2 Responses to “Should Writers read reviews of their Writing?”

  1. Can a Bad Review End a Writing Career? « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] Should Writers Read Reviews of their Writing? […]

  2. Shouldn’t Writers be Creative about Bad Reviews? « Emma Lee’s Blog Says:

    […] Should Writers read Reviews of their Writing Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Can a Bad Review End a Writing Career?This blog may offend someone!When’s it right to pull an article?Author Snipes Critic on Twitter Over Negative Review Posted in literature comment. Tags: book critics, Book reviews, novel reviews, reviewing. Leave a Comment » […]

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