In contrast to the recent bizarre reaction to a review that we've probably all read (http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html), here's a sensible, refreshing take on book reviews, straight from Doug in Hawaii.
Douglas Corleone is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series set in Hawaii. His debut novel ONE MAN'S PARADISE was the winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, Corleone now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he writes full-time. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel. Visit the author online at douglascorleone.com.
A Tale of Two Reviews
On a Sunday night, not so long ago, I sat with my eyes glued to the Publishers Weekly website, my virtual finger poised over the “refresh” tab. I was anxiously awaiting the review of my second novel, Night on Fire.
When the review finally appeared, I quickly scanned the paragraph for buzz words. My eyes caught on “appealing” and “amusing,” and I sighed with relief. Not because I thought Night on Fire was a terrible book -- on the contrary, I think it’s quite good -- but because Publishers Weekly had been the only trade magazine to pan my debut novel, One Man’s Paradise, a year before.
Every writer knows the power of a bad review. Bad reviews strike us square in the gut and knock the wind out of us. Because a bad review can sink a good story (or a bad one, for that matter). Bad reviews also hit us writers in the back pocket (or wherever else we keep our wallets).
Some writers claim not to read their reviews, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. But I think most writers do indeed read their reviews; I know I do, and I always will. Unfortunately, the positive reviews – even the glowing ones – seem to have little emotional effect on me, while that single bad review I received from Publishers Weekly last year continues to keep me from sleep on some nights. The good reviews I read once; the bad review I’ve memorized. And it’ll remain smack dab in the center of the Amazon page for One Man’s Paradise for the life of the book.
I’m sure criticism doesn’t affect all writers equally, but I’d wager that for most writers, it weighs more heavily than praise. And maybe it should. After all, criticism, be it constructive or destructive, can be a powerful motivator to improve our craft. That should be the goal of all writers, no matter where they are in their career. Sure, it’ll take a dozen or more positive reviews from Publishers Weekly to counterbalance that single negative review, but at least that gives me something to strive for. In the meantime, I invite readers to judge for themselves.