I just wrote a review on Amazon for a book I didn’t exactly love. But before I posted it, I decided to read the other reviews to see if readers had the same issues with the book that I did. Turns out, they found even more flaws.
Aside from the obvious relief of knowing I wasn’t the only one disappointed with the book, I learned something valuable: negative book reviews are super important for writers to read. They’re not just curmudgeons and trolls. They are critical readers who tell us what they are thinking, why they didn’t enjoy a book, and what they wished the writer had done differently. Sure, most of that “How not to write a book” knowledge can be gleaned from reading books about writing, but none of those guide books will say it as bluntly as a reader who feels cheated out of $19.95 and 6 hours of their life for reading a poorly-written novel.
I don’t know about you, but that’s feedback I want to hear before I publish my own book to the masses.
Besides, all those golden nuggets of truth are put into context with a book review. Assuming you’ve read the book, you can understand exactly why you shouldn’t have too many minor characters because -as a reader- you didn’t appreciate having to sketch out a Venn diagram just to keep all the friends straight in that two-star urban fantasy.
So, while I still think it’s a good idea to read everything written in your particular genre (how else will you convince yourself that, yes, in fact you can do better), it is just as important to read those one- and two-star reviews that accompany them. I’m all for learning from my own mistakes, but I’d rather learn from other people’s mistakes first.
About this photo: This is the back of the Caldecott Honor book, “Olivia” by Ian Falconer. We should all be so lucky to get the reviews this pig receives!