Sunday, April 14, 2013

HOW to Avoid Reading Reviews of Your Own Works

I wrote here about not reading reviews of my own works anymore, and it's turned out to be my most popular blog post. It's also gotten me a few emails from other authors who say they plan to not read reviews anymore.

This blog post will deal with the "how" aspect--HOW not to read reviews. I thought all I'd have to do was stay away from my books on Amazon and similar sites, and in the case of Yahoo groups I belong to, if anyone posts a review of one of my books, just simply not click on that message.

Guess what? That isn't enough. Turns out that friends and fans are in a way, the trickiest aspect of this. I'll explain, starting with the friends/fans angle.


1) Make sure that friends and fans who email and talk with you a lot are aware of your plan--AND tell them specifically that if they read bad reviews of your work, you don't want to hear about it. The thing is, ALL of the reviews I've heard about came from friends or fans who wrote me to complain along the lines of: "I just read this review of your book XXX. This reviewer is so off base and doesn't know what he/she is talking about. She actually said ABC XZY."

Okay, technically, that isn't reading the review, but the principle (for me, anyway) is that I don't want to hear about reviews that don't offer any constructive criticism or whatnot. The first couple of times this happened, just the fact knowing some of my books had these apparently terrible reviews was enough to make me gloomy a few days. That was exactly the mood I was trying to avoid by not reading reviews.

So, you tell your friends and fans what's up. Also say that if they read a review they don't agree with, they can best help not by emailing you and letting you know, but by leaving a comment on the review explaining any points of contention and/or clicking "No" on "Is this helpful?"

2)  Plan ahead. Get your book links stored in a central place and don't lose them. That way, you won't need them later. A few times, I didn't have links for books and had to go to Amazon to get the link again. In these cases, I was able to copy and paste the link before the page loaded, but this won't always happen. (Have a paper to block the screen!) What I do after a book is on sale, on whatever site--Amazon, BN, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace, whatever--is copy and paste the link and put it in a file. There, I have the link if I need it. Not necessary to revisit the product page.

3) Author Central--yeah, this one kind of blows. Author Central is necessary to make sure all your books are grouped under the right author name. There's pretty much no way to log into Author Central (an Amazon property) without seeing aggregate star reviews. Again, this isn't reading reviews per se, but it's the principle of seeing a rating (IMO, that's a basic review in itself). What I've done since I decided to stop reading reviews is just not going to Author Central anymore. I'm taking the risk that my more recent books aren't linked to the older books. I can only hope that the Amazon computer (as it often does) is able to make the link itself eventually.

One way around this is to have someone else (spouse, friend, etc.) do the adding, but the site may be difficult to navigate for people who don't know it.

4) Goodreads. This goes back to #2 and having a link for your book. I like to have my Goodreads link, so what I do once a book is for sale is manually add it to Goodreads, copy and paste the Goodreads link, put it with the sale websites and make the announcements on a few Goodreads clubs that my book is available. Hopefully I won't ever need to return to that book's Goodreads page. This, of course, also necessitates never visiting your author dashboard, changing your author profile pic, etc. Too bad sites don't give authors an option like: "Don't show reviews and ratings!" ;-)

5) Cut down on your browsing for books in your genre (or eliminate such browsing). My #1 inadvertent way of seeing star ratings of my own books has been when I'm looking at a lesfic book in my genre, and one (or more) of my works is under "Also bought." You CAN position the page so that only the top half of these "Also bought" covers shows, but that takes some time and conscious effort to do. You're in trouble if you click on the sample because then in the right-hand column, there are "Also boughts" with the star ratings, and some of these books may be yours.

As a consequence of this, I've become much more careful about browsing lesbian books in general. When I do it, I am very aware of other titles' placements on the page. I always scroll down slowly in case one of my books is there, and if it is, I never scroll far enough down to see the star rating.

6) Proceed with caution. For example, I recently dipped my toe into audiobooks. I'm using ACX to start with two of my short-story collections. One thing I had to do in the application process was enter the book's ASIN so the program could find it in the Amazon system. I had a paper over the computer screen for this (paper covered the estimated area where star ratings might show up). Turns out at this point, you don't see the star ratings (YAY!). This made me happy, so I thought: "I'm home free from now on."

Nope. On the very last step of the application, the aggregate star ratings do show up. Fortunately, for the two collections I was setting up, the star ratings were high (4.7 of 5 and 4.3 of 5). So now I know the approximate place where I need to hold up a paper to block my view on this last step OR pull my wife in to handle that last step so I don't see anything.

Yeah, companies don't make this easy, do they? ;-) But with some time and tenacity, you can figure out little tricks such as these to avoid reading reviews of your own works. It's way been worth it in my case. My mental health has been so much better.

Happy reading and happy reviews (I hope!). :-)

1 comment:

Patty G. Henderson said...

Probably not a bad idea. You could also use it to avoid noticing that you don't have reviews at all! LOL.

I would think our inherent curiosity gets the best of us, though. I applaud you if you've been able to carry this off.