A recent encounter with an unusually critical book reviewer brought on the longest thread of discussion on my facebook fan page, to date. A few people commented that I, as the author, should walk away having learned from the reviewer’s criticism.
That is an interesting discussion and a question authors should ponder: Whose criticism should we listen to? And from whose criticism can we learn?
The answer to that is twofold (in my opinion) and here is why:
- · Listen to fans’ criticism
Some of you might disagree with me on this point because often readers disagree with the professional critics. However, I write for my readers and I am growing a following, so it is for this audience that I write. If you know your audience and, more importantly, are creating your own following, the stories you write are the kind of stories they will read. Ultimately it is your readers who decide if your book sells or fails.
- · Learn from Peers’ criticism
This includes editors, and published authors whose work has sold successfully. A good editor knows how to judge a manuscript because he/she has seen what works in writing, and what does not. Published authors have a working knowledge of writing. They’ve jumped through the proper hoops and been judged, and now their work is on the market.
On another vein, is there any criticism that we can not learn from, or that we should take with a grain of salt?
- · Unpublished writers
I was sitting in a class under Steven James and he advised aspiring authors not to join a critique group, unless that critique group was led by a published author. He also advised people to avoid taking college fiction writing courses, unless the course was taught by a published author. That was some of the best advice I ever heard given. How can you learn from someone who has not passed under the publishing industry’s scope? That would be like a guitarist learning from John Smith. “If you want to perform in Nashville you need to do this, this, and this…” when in fact John Smith has never made it to Nashville. If, on the other hand, you take advice from Johnny Cash (yes, I know he is dead, but I like his music so he’s my example) you will be on track to learn from his success.
- · Blog book reviewers
There are so many book reviewers out there today, most of them on blogs. Some are professional, some are amateurs. Don’t misunderstand me, I have found many good blog reviewers who have never been published. But these are not industry professionals and, as such, we should not take their harsh criticism to heart.
The most valued criticism comes from those who place great importance on reviewing in a charitable manner. If it is a Christian reviewer, I expect them to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. If they don’t like a book they should say so with honesty, but it should be in a spirit of encouragement and not a tearing down of that author’s style and craft.
I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks on my thoughts!