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One Rule for Handling Book Reviews

by Beth K. Vogt

I had a rough day a couple of weeks ago. My daughter fell and badly sprained her ankle. My 96-year-old mother-in-law fell in her kitchen, which I’ve determined is her personal Bermuda Triangle. After 4 firefighters came and helped her back up, I went and checked on her

Two falls before noon. Yes, gravity behaved badly that day.

While I managed to stay upright, my emotions were off-kilter, thanks to anxiety and juggling regular life with these unexpected emergencies. By midnight, I was worn out and yet wide-awake, adrenalin still coursing through my veins. So what did I do?

Because I was overtired and lonely – my husband was away for a week of fishing – I broke my own often-stated rule: Don’t read book reviews.I went to GoodReads and skimmed reviews for my upcoming release, Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

Did I read any of the positive ones? No – and there were plenty. Instead, I zeroed in on the one that didn’t like how my destination wedding novel focused on my heroine’s wedding. (O-kay.) And the one that thought my characters made too many poor choices. (Next time, perfect characters. Check.)

REALITY: A review is someone’s opinion of my book. Of my writing. It’s their viewpoint – it’s not final judgment on me as a person. Some people will like my books. Some people won’t. And for some reason, we writers tend to remember the reviewers who don’t like our books.

It’s all well and good to say Don’t read reviews, but what should we do instead? Here’s what author Francis Chan suggests:

“‘What does this person think? What does that person think?’ Forget about it, look at [the Bible.] What does God say?”

Granted, Francis Chan wasn’t talking about book reviews per se. And of course, God says nothing about my book – any author’s book – in the Bible. But He does say so, so much about you and me. Who we are. How much He loves us. How He will never leave us or forsake us. How we are chosen. Precious. Made in His image.

So what’s my rule for handling book reviews? If you’re like me and break the “Don’t read reviews” boundary: Forget about what a book reviewer says about you; remember what God says about you.

Why anchor your mood, your self-worth, your estimation of yourself as a writer, to some (usually) unknown reviewer’s take on your book? A reviewer did nothing more than read your book and write an opinion about it. God created you. He knows you, inside and out.

Forget what they say. What does God say about you?

Beth Vogt April 2013Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A 2015 RITA ® Finalist and a 2015 and 2014 Carol Award finalist, Beth launched her 2015 destination wedding series with an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love (May) and a novel,Crazy Little Thing Called Love (June). Visit Beth at her bethvogt.com.

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10 Responses to One Rule for Handling Book Reviews

  1. Amen, and amen! There’s nothing to add to this.

  2. Barbara H. says:

    One thing to remember, too, is to take from the crtiticism anything of value that might be there. Of course, sometimes there is nothing of value and the criticizer just doesn’t get it: sometimes I have read reviews of books I’ve loved and wondered how the reviewer could possibly say what she said and why she didn’t see all the good things I did. But sometimes, especially if you see the same point crop up in several reviews, the criticism might point out something that you can improve on next time. Umtimately we rest in God’s love and care for us, but sometimes He does use other people like sandpaper to rub off our rough edges.

  3. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mariam and Barbara. And yes, Barbara, it is good to if the criticism is of any value at all, especially if it is repeated — although there are other trusted places to get that from too. Mentors. Editors. Preferred Readers.

  4. Ian says:

    Hi Beth,

    I needed that Francis Chan quote today. Thank you. Not about book reviews but about rejection.

    It’s funny isn’t how we so forget God’s promises.

    Bless,

    Ian

  5. Beth, thanks so much for putting this in perspective. It’s God’s opinion that ultimately counts.

  6. So agree. I rarely look at the reviews…but every once in a while I’ll pop over and like you I can’t resist the negative ones. 🙂 Good advice to see how God looks at us!

  7. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Ian: I’m so glad the Francis Chan quote encouraged you at just the right time. I love quotes — and they so often speak to my heart.

    And Sandy, for me it is all about perspective.

  8. Mary Hawkins says:

    Excellent, wise thoughts, Beth. I have to confess I do read reviews but am so thankful to the Lord for information about doing this and responding wisely very early in my writing career. I do think we can learn from reviews, but do need to remember the “rule of thumb” that if the same thing is mentioned at least THREE times by different reviewers, we do need to study the comments very closely(after stamping the foot and a few tears perhaps!)with a view to how to improve. If just one reader mentioned something not to worry, and if two the same then perhaps look closely. However, recently read a couple of reviews on Amazon for one of my e-books that was a print release about 20 years ago. This book was received VERY well back then. To start with, the headings on the e-book now were “Horrible” and “Worthless”. I had to read them, but then realised what they said was so wrong I simply wondered if the reviewers had read the same book I had written – or at the most only read a few paragraphs! I’m sure other authors may have experienced the same.

  9. Beth ~

    Stated with wisdom and truth! One of the top things that struck me when I became an author = those reviews. WOW. You’re right on the money that they can hurt. And we seem to go to them when we’re at a vulnerable point. BUT – and you helped us with this in your post – they are not what defines us or our writing. We’re writing for Christ and He defines us (and makes us whole).

    What a beautiful (and very needed) post today. Thank you!

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