Posted On May 24, 2013 by Print This Post

It’s Great Advice, But I Can’t Seem to Follow It – Donna Cummings

Have you ever been told what NOT to do? Find out what Donna Cummings does when faced with this dilemma!

Author Donna CummingsThere is a ton of great advice out there. Some of it I agree with, and I comply without hesitation.

Like not putting your toaster in the bathtub. That makes sense on a whole lot of levels. Nobody wants soggy toast. Or electrocution.

But there’s some good advice I just can’t follow. I’m a contrarian. It’s a well-documented fact. But I usually have good reasons for going against the grain.

The prevailing view is to NOT read the reviews of your book. I understand why this advice is bandied about. When we’re crafting a story, we have to peel back our protective mechanisms, those things that allow humans to make it through each day with their soul intact. But that armor has to be tossed aside in order to get down to the juicy middle parts that allow us to write convincingly about all kinds of emotions. If that protective gear isn’t put back on properly after a writing session, or it’s inadvertently left a tender spot exposed, reading a review that isn’t glowing. . . well, there could be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention the arrival of the doubt monsters. Which could cause future stories to die before they’re a gleam in the writer’s eye.Back on Track cover

So yes, it makes perfect sense to avoid reviews. It’s great advice. Really great.

And yet. . .

I just can’t NOT read the reviews. I want to know what readers have said about my stories. I’ve been writing for a lot of years, and for most of those years, I didn’t have an audience, other than me. I wanted readers. I dreamed about having readers. So now that my books are out there, I want to hear their thoughts. If they love it, I’m thrilled. I also want to know what they loved about the story. Was it the same thing that made me laugh when I wrote it? Or is it the same part that made me despair about my characters when I revised it? Whatever it is, I love to read their descriptions of the time they spent with my book.

If they didn’t love it, I’m curious about that too. Obviously it isn’t something I can change in this book. But maybe it’s something that I can be aware of in future books. Like the overuse of a certain word I’m partial to. Or something that relates to not explaining characters’ motives properly. This can be helpful because often a writer has tons of stuff in their head that might not have made it to the page. Next time we can keep that in mind, er, out of mind. . .you know what I mean.

I Do or Die Cover(I’m actually in awe of people who write reviews. It’s a skill set I would love to develop, but honestly, I think it’s much easier to write books than book reviews. Heck, I think it’s easier to write a book synopsis than a book review.)

I know there will always be readers who won’t like certain things in my books, and that’s understandable, since there are certain things I steer clear of when I’m a reader. For instance, I’m not a fan of love triangle stories. I can’t seem to connect with a heroine who is unable to choose between two perfectly good heroic-type guys, and I always end up feeling sorry for the one that didn’t get picked. It doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good, or well-written, or anything like that. It just means it didn’t provide me with the entertainment I craved, even if it satisfied millions of other readers.

So even though avoiding reviews is good advice for some people, probably even for most people, I know it’s one rule I won’t be adhering to.

I’m good with that toaster one though.

***

Do you have advice you try to follow, but just can’t? Or am I the only contrarian here? Who else likes to read their reviews?

Join us on Monday for If at First, You Don’t Succeed by Anna Sugden

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Bio:I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

Back on Track, my contemporary novella set on the Napa Wine Train, released last month from Samhain. Also available is I Do. . . or Die, a romantic comedy/mystery, Summer Lovin’, a free romantic comedy novella, and Lord Midnight, a Regency historical romance. Coming soon is The Curse of True Love series, with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, playing matchmaker in Regency London.

Links:

Website/blog: www.AllAboutTheWriting.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/@BookEmDonna

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Donna.Cummings.Author

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5349107.Donna_Cummings

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/bookemdonna

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Discussion

18 Responses to “It’s Great Advice, But I Can’t Seem to Follow It – Donna Cummings”

  1. Hi Donna,

    It’s impossible to ignore your reviews. If they’re good, authors post them everywhere. If not, we hope no one sees them.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | May 24, 2013, 6:37 am
  2. I’m the same way, Donna. I have to read my reviews. Maybe that will change someday, but right now I’m just too thrilled that I have readers. Like you, I want to know what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what I can do to make the next book better.

    Posted by Tonya Burrows | May 24, 2013, 8:22 am
  3. Hi, Donna.

    I definitely read my reviews. Like you, I’m thrilled to have readers!

    Good reviews let me know what worked about the book. If I encounter a not-so-great review, it lets me know what DIDN’T work for that particular reader.

    I know I’ll never be able to please everyone, but I so appreciate when a reader takes the time to write review! What a reward to an author!

    And, uh, good thing you don’t like your toast soggy! :)

    Posted by Mae Clair | May 24, 2013, 8:33 am
  4. I thought I’d sent a reply earlier. But maybe the “submit comment” button was ignoring my advice. LOL

    Mary Jo, I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right — we do get to see the good reviews posted. I’ve actually found some good books that way!

    Tonya, I’m thrilled to have readers too, and it’s fun when readers are excited about something I wrote. It’s very motivating!

    Posted by Donna Cummings | May 24, 2013, 8:35 am
  5. Mae, we were typing at the same time! There must be a Vulcan mind meld thing going on. :)

    You’re right about a review being a reward! And you’re so right about not being able to please everyone. But if I’ve received the same comment about a book from more than one reader, I definitely take notice of that.

    And yeah, nobody likes soggy toast! LOL

    Posted by Donna Cummings | May 24, 2013, 8:38 am
  6. Morning Donna!!

    So glad to have you back with us again…=)

    I KNOW I’ll read the reviews and I KNOW they’ll upset me…er, that is when I do get published. =) Some of the reviews I’ve read on books that I just love shock me with their meanness. Not all of course, but all it takes is that ONE, the one that makes you want to crawl in the tub with the toaster! I would think it’d take me a few days to recoup after a bad review (and lots of brownies)…but how on earth do you take something like that and view it with a critical eye?

    As for advice I try to follow but can’t? Ask my mom…..my husband….Jen….(the list goes on…lol)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | May 24, 2013, 9:01 am
    • Carrie, thanks for having me here again! I would have brought brownies, but. . . *wipes face* they seem to be gone for some reason!

      Maybe the harsh reviews aren’t as tough since I had several years’ experience with rejections of my manuscripts. :) AND, the majority of the reviews are positive ones (unless I’ve just jinxed myself — LOL)

      So if there’s a mix of responses like that, then it all comes down to personal reading preference–and that takes the sting out too. :)

      Now give me that toaster!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | May 24, 2013, 9:49 am
  7. I no longer Google my name, and I don’t go looking for reviews unless a reader or friend alerts me to a balanced one. Not every reviewer has the skills set to write a balanced review. However, an insightful review can provide the opportunity for learning and growth. The task/challenge is to determine what to keep and what to discard. Over the past ten years, I’ve learned that I can’t please everyone, and I’ve decided I’m writing for myself first and others second. So I no longer pay too much attention to reviews. They’re opinions, and we all have those.

    However, I read Amazons reviews for amusement. The negative ones in particular because they’re usually quite brutal, yet filled with irony. It also helps that they provide reassurance I’m not a brilliant author to everyone. Snippets such as these make grin, AND it helps keep the Amazon rankings from being skewed…(paraphrasing here)

    I hated this book. I couldn’t get it to download properly so I didn’t get to read it. (A review totally unrelated to the content of the book)

    Who edited this book, they don’t know how too use “to” properly.(Do you see the irony in this sentence? LOL)

    I hated this book because it had too much sex. (umm….this was for a book that has EROTIC in the title on the buy page LOL)

    In Regency times, a woman couldn’t have kids late in life, let alone two, and she would probably have died in childbirth. (well, I’d have to research that one, because my book is Victorian set not Regency)

    Nice job on the article. Monica

    Posted by Monica Burns | May 24, 2013, 9:47 am
    • Monica, I’m glad you enjoyed my post! I agree that you can’t please everyone — in fact, I’ve read some stories where it appeared that was the goal, and it took all the life out of the book. Reading is such an emotional experience, and we’re all bound to have widely divergent opinions. The trick, as you said, is to figure out what to keep and what to discard, and learn and grow from there. Even if it means growing a tougher hide. LOL

      Posted by Donna Cummings | May 24, 2013, 1:16 pm
  8. Hi Donna,
    I don’t have any books in the great wide world (soon… but not yet… June can’t get here soon enough. LOL.), but I see similarities with reviews and getting brutally honest feedback from beta readers and critique partners. I had one CP say she would have thrown my book across the room at one scene and never have picked it up again. Meanwhile my two other CPs *loved* that scene. The drastically different ways people can react to the same set of words is fascinating to me. Sometimes there are things you can learn, and sometimes you just have to say “You can’t please everyone” and move on. :)

    Posted by Lorraine Paton | May 24, 2013, 10:40 am
    • Lorraine, I’m excited to read your books. I’ve read snippets and enjoyed them, so it will be a delight to read the whole story at once. :) I’m always intrigued at how the thing one person hates is the very thing someone else adores!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | May 24, 2013, 1:19 pm
  9. Hi Donna! This article is particularly relevant to me, having just set my debut into the wild. I’m with you – I can’t not read reviews. For so long, I had no readers and then suddenly, I have regular, non-writerly people reading my book. I want to know what they think, even if it crushes my soul. Then, I’ll take that soul-crushing review and use it to churn up the emotions I need to write that tricky, angsty section of my next book ;)

    Posted by Kate Meader | May 24, 2013, 1:41 pm
    • Kate, you made me laugh — that’s a great idea to use your emotions in the next book. :) Heck, that’s advice *I* could see myself following! And I haven’t read your debut yet, but I’ve read Book 2, and I know you have nothing to worry about. :)

      Posted by Donna Cummings | May 24, 2013, 8:09 pm
  10. Hi Donna,

    Sorry I’m late!

    One rule I don’t follow is the one that says the H/H must meet in the first scene.

    I couldn’t help myself from reading all the reviews if I had a book out. Like you said, not everyone’s going to love your book. But I do think there’s a way of writing a thoughtful and constructive negative review as opposed to the trivial bashing I see so often on Amazon.

    Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | May 24, 2013, 9:24 pm
    • Jennifer, you’re not late! And I thin that’s a good rule to “break”, about the hero and heroine not meeting in the first scene — if it doesn’t make sense for that to happen, it shouldn’t happen like that. :) You have to do what’s best for your story!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | May 25, 2013, 8:23 am
  11. Oooh, a LOT of people are going to relate to this! I’m not published in fiction, but I had several non-fiction books published. It never occurred to me that people would review them, so it came as a shock to find some reviews on Amazon.

    In a way I was lucky, because I was distracted by the comments when I realized one of the reviews was written by my (then) 14-year-old daughter, who basically wrote “My mommy worked really hard on this book – you should buy it.”

    I was mortified because I was afraid it made me seem unprofessional – as if I might have asked my daughter to write the review. Now I think it was kind of sweet.

    The reviews were mostly painless, but they scare the heck out of me now. A lot of work goes into a non-fiction book, but fiction takes some of your soul. I don’t know anyone who can ignore their reviews, and it takes a very strong person to read a negative review and not take it to heart.

    I hope I’ll get published one day – I’d love to see my stories in print. But it gives me cold chills to think of reviews!

    Thanks for a great post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | May 24, 2013, 11:05 pm
    • Becke, I love that story about your daughter’s review — that’s so sweet! Don’t be afraid to read your reviews in the future — don’t forget, there will be great ones too. :) The negative ones can sting, but the enthusiastic ones will make you sing!

      Posted by Donna Cummings | May 25, 2013, 8:25 am
  12. Donna,
    I believe that as an author who wants to learn and grow, who better to learn from than your readers. I am not saying that what they say is the end all, but I have found that I have learned how to be a better writer by reading the reviews of my first book.

    Not all reviews are going to be flattering or give high praise, and that’s okay because everyone is entitled to their opinions. You can’t win them all over and you shouldn’t try. But I feel that even the negative reviews can be a learning experience.

    Posted by Michelle | May 27, 2013, 7:20 pm

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