Whirlwind of Humanity

Hey folks!

Harmony here.

Harmony KentToday, I’d like to talk a bit about what I call ‘The Whirlwind of Humanity’ … all those different views and opinions and what we do with them when we receive book reviews.

We can please some people some of the time, but never everybody all of the time. One of the areas where my attention is forced to notice the differences between folks is in the area of reviews.

When thinking of purchasing a book, I take notice of its reviews to help me decide. But that is only one part of my selection process. Far more important to me is reading a sample. Whether this be dipping into a book in a book shop, or making use of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature. This is what decides me one way or the other—the reviews add more information to help me make that judgment call.

And that is what it is: a judgment call. It is a highly individual choice, and is all about me. My preferences. What I want out of a book. For some, the editing and writing style isn’t so important, while for others it is everything. This is how come the same book can garner many and varied reviews.

It’s not about one of them being more accurate or truthful than another, it is simply one individual’s opinion. It reflects the glorious diversification of the whirlwind of humanity.

As an author, it would be a mistake to attempt to please everyone even for one moment, never mind all of the time. Not every review will adequately reflect our hard work, but at least the person has taken the time to leave a review. While each of us can learn and grow from our reviewers, there does come a point where we have to be able to let go. We have put our best efforts out there, and now it is time to move on.

01-judge-by-coverWe’ve all heard the saying: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but most of us do just this. Being a writer, offering our own individuality out to a whole host of different folks demands that we become multi-faceted. We not only have to write a book that will apeal to as many minds as possible, but we also have to write an effective book blurb, and design an eye-catching book cover. Even if we employ an artist/cover designer to do this for us, we still have to decide on the final copy and have a good idea of what we want from the person doing it for us.

Sometimes, working with someone else can make things even trickier, as it can be difficult for them to grasp what we envision. A review on one of my novels likened some of the characters to ‘Pokemon’ … which couldn’t have been further from what I’d actually had in mind! LOL. This simply reflects the multitudinous ways our brains perceive and translate. I don’t think I could have asked that person to design my book cover—we really wouldn’t have been on the same page.

Is there any wonder, then, that there can be such a plethora of opinions and comments about just one little book? The essential thing to do is to take away what’s important from any reviews we receive, and leave the rest alone. Some reviews are just plain nasty, and only attack the writer. Those would be the ones to leave alone. Others, while (perhaps) still giving a low ranking, might be written more sensitively and offer useful information. These are the ones we can learn best from—as uncomfortable as that may feel.

As well as there being millions of authors with gazillions of books, there are equally as many reviewers with just as many opinions and preferences. When we publish a book, we thrust ourself into the centre of the cyclone. The only way out is to weather the storm and push on through. Sometimes the storm winds will be kind, at others cruel. They are all just the same whirlwind. One we all have to live with. Just that authors tend to have to live with it a bit more publicly than they might like.

I would be the first to confess that I like getting positive reviews, but I have learned not to depend on them. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if not for the lessons I took away from some of the more negative reviews. I am also learning, slowly—with time—that we are all such different creatures and have highly individual expectations.

For most of us  Authors, we aren’t dealing with millions of readers, not even thousands, more like hundreds. Still, even fifty readers and reviewers can show us the need for an incredibly thick skin. I have spoken to authors who have felt deeply hurt from one single review. That is, the opinion of one single individual, whose barb happened to be sharpened in just the right (or wrong) way to pierce the writer’s armour.top-10-totally-free-traffic-tips

While we do all need reviews for our books, and while they can be important in influencing a potential reader to buy our tome or not, they are not the be all and end all. They are also not about us as a person. They are about a book we have produced, yes. But that doesn’t mean any of it reflects upon us as an individual. So, good or bad, we need to keep perspective and give them their proper place.

If we get a rip-roaring rave review, that doesn’t mean we are a fantabutastic person … in the same way a devastatingly negative review doesn’t mean we are a despicable human being. We are more than other people’s opinions.

If we base our lives on what other people think, we are going to end up in an awful mess. We would be taking Schizophrenia to extremes! Can you imagine trying to contain that whirlwind within you? Scary thought.images

What’s the best way to handle reviews that might hurt, then? Well, as with other opinions, we don’t need to respond. First and foremost, we do NOT want to engage in vitriol of any kind with the person who has taken the trouble to leave us a review. Some authors believe that thanking their reviewers is good practice, but I have mixed feelings on this whole question.

Sometimes a reviewer can feel ‘stalked’ or pressured in some way when an author makes contact with them. Of course, there are those who might be thrilled (especially the more ‘famous’ you become). This is one of those places where you need to proceed with extreme caution. Really, stick a ‘toxic’ sticker on your computer screen!

toxic

Warning:

Reviews may cause unsightly mutation!

I never leave comments on any review I receive. Ever. I do sometimes thank a reviewer, if the situation seems to call for it … but I am always wary and choose the forum with great care. For instance, usually I would respond if it is a reviewer from a book club I am in, or if I know them, but otherwise I leave it well alone. And I never leave a comment on the actual review.

Again, that old whirlwind is in evidence here, as there are many opinions on this. What I will stress, though, is that if you do respond it always has to be humble. I cannot emphasise this enough. You won’t win any brownie points by being defensive, or angry, or hurt, or ungrateful. You’ll win a lot more by being gracious. Or by not being anything at all. Despite our differences, nobody can be offended if you don’t comment. You’re not being asked for your opinion, after all.

For those authors going Indie, it can mean going it alone. We don’t have a big publishing house and its public relations engine to hide behind. We’re it. We have to do our own marketing. We have to take care of the whole kit and caboodle right from the start. Getting the right exposure can be tough, which can make some of those opinions even harder to live with.

whirlwindWhile this whirlwind of humanity can be challenging and hard work, it is also something to be celebrated. What if we were all the same? Every book would have to be the same. There would only be so many that could be written. How boring would life be?

The spinning vortex might look like chaos, but really it’s not. It’s a wondrous pattern and synchronicity that invites and beckons to the artistic soul. It’s an opportunity. Surviving the storm requires us to be both strong and flexible. Strong enough to stand up and be our own person. Flexible enough to be able to bend and go with the flow. When we have both of these attributes, we can dance in the Whirlwind and celebrate humanity in all its many and varied guises.

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13 thoughts on “Whirlwind of Humanity

  1. Fantastic post, Harmony! When I published my poetry I was terrified and ecstatic in equal measure. Now, I’m much more at ease with the process. It’s now a contented 20/80. 🙂 Thanks for sharing these great tips with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congrats on your poetry, Natalie. I’m chuckling, as even after all the books that I’ve published, there’s still that element of nerves, lols. 🙂

      Like

  2. I’ve had a handful of negative reviews in my time as an author, but only one of them really got under my skin. Like, you,I don’t respond to reviews, good or bad. I might comment on a review that was posted on a blog and thank the reviewer, but never on Amazon or Goodreads. I think once you respond to a review there, you have to respond to all of them, and that’s opening up a can of worms.

    I do remember one review that really shocked me. Someone gave one of my books on Barnes & Noble 1 star. When I read the review, it wasn’t a review of my book at all. The person was dissing the previous reviewer for sharing too many details of the book and finished by saying “so thanks for ruining what would have been a good read.” And because of that, I got a 1-star review on the book! Seriously?!?!?

    Anyway, you’re correct that we all have differing opinions. Sometimes I’ll read a review of a book I disliked that someone else praised and wonder if we read the same book. By the same token, there might be a book I adored and someone else ripped to pieces. Personally, I won’t leave a review if I can’t give a book at least 3 stars. As authors, when we put ourselves “out there” we open ourselves to praise and criticism. Here’s hoping we all have more of the former 🙂

    Great post, Harmony!

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1 star from another reviewer spoiling the read!?!?!? OMG. The times I’ve seen a one-star rating on a book I’m thinking of buying, and then when I read the review, it says it’s the best book they’ve ever read! I reckon they must confuse the 1 and 5 stars and what they actually mean. Thanks for your comments, Mae 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only gotten one that really upset me. It involved a bit of extortion for the reviewer’s editing services, the review was the threat. I passed and she posted it. Beyond that, even middle of the road reviews are helpful. It’s funny how a new review can influence your whole day, good or bad. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful post Harmony. You bring up many good points about reviews. They can render us ecstatic or can be unusually hurtful. I agree that it is good policy to not comment on the reviews, good or bad. And, thanks goes out to carmens007 for sharing her editor’s advice about making a list of the good ones. It is probably a good idea to read over them periodically just for the boost.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I like your title: “Whirlwind of Humanity”. And it summarizes so well all that happens to us while waiting for a review and reading it after it’s written.
    You nailed all torments we pass through and I agree with you- never be angry in replying to the reviewer.
    I always think of the person who read my book- age, sex, training, place where they live. There are so many things we must take into consideration. Sometimes it may depend on the mood the reader is in while reading.

    With Shadows of the Past, my paranormal light romance/light horror/light historical I received controversial opinions. Some accused me of presenting faith/monasteries/nuns in a bad light. Others accused me of highlighting too much life in a monastery, thus, making a pleading in favor of faith!!!!!

    Anyway the best piece of advice I received from my editor, regarding unfavorable reviews was – to make a list with all good reviews and when hurt by a bad one read them. It will restore your self-confidence and help you pass over the sadness.

    Liked by 2 people

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