There is a reason why many authors avoid reading reviews of their books. Sometimes the harsh words of amateur critics can send us into a downward spiral to the pit of despair. (Did you just envision the torture chamber in the Princess Bride? I did.)
It’s okay if someone doesn’t like a book. I’ve certainly read plenty that didn’t satisfy me for one reason or another. But we live in an age when society has been taught it’s okay to give our opinion on everything, and when it can be done anonymously, the venting of spleens can certainly get ugly. I know of some rather devastating words that have been written about and/or to more than a few authors, myself included.
A related phenomenon got started with the giving away of free digital books on Kindle (perhaps also on the Nook, but since I’m a Kindle owner, I am more familiar with what happens on Amazon). People download the freebies without paying much attention to the types of books they’re getting, and some of those same folks are highly offended by “Christian” novels. Instead of simply stopping to read them and opening a book of the type they would like more, they go over to Amazon and give one star reviews and often write scathing words too. Why? The book was free. No one forced them to read it. They can delete it off their Kindle and never see it again. I don’t like horror novels. If I were to accidentally get a free one, I would just delete it. I wouldn’t feel like I had to slam the author of said book. (Insert Thumper, repeating his father’s advice at his mother’s request, here.)
Here is a snippet from an article I wrote about Christian fiction for the Romance Writers Report last year:
It is only fair to point out that some readers who don’t practice the Christian faith (and perhaps some who do) may find CBA fiction “preachy” no matter how well a character’s faith is woven into the fabric of the story. I hope the majority of readers will enter the Christian world created in CBA fiction without prejudice, the same way most readers entered the Muslim world created by Khaled Hosseini in The Kite Runner, but I know not all will.
As a woman of faith, I talk about God as naturally and openly as I talk about my children and grandchildren or my writing or my pesky Papillon, Poppet. It is second nature to me to offer to pray for someone in need or who is hurting, as natural for me to say “God bless you” as it is to say “have a good day” or “how are you?”. Thus it is second nature for my characters to do the same. Yet even these small things can turn some readers away from Christian fiction, and the writer has to be prepared for it.
Naturally, I love to get great reviews. My desire for any book I write is that it will entertain and encourage readers. I hope that when they read the last page, they will do so with a sigh of satisfaction and even, perhaps, a touch of sorrow that the book has ended. I want them to look forward to my next novel with anticipation. Still, I also know I cannot please all of the people all of the time; I can live with that. And, I should add, I’m very grateful to those readers who enjoy my books who take a moment to say so on one of the on-line booksellers’ sites.
But if you do write reviews, try not to send me, or any other writer, into the pit of despair. We’ll be eternally grateful.