Do Authors Actually Want Reviews?

Image result for reading a review, looking scared

I had to link to an article I recently read because it both brought a smile to my face and reminded me how terrifying it is the moment you hit PUBLISH (online) or SEND (to the publisher) and you realize your baby is now up for public consumption.

Raymond Esposito posted a piece on Writers After Dark (@WritersAfterDrk) titled “Why Authors Don’t Really Want Reviews,” and one passage in particular stuck out for me:

“There is a lot of ego in writing. It’s a very personal, very intimate product. And the truth is that every author who has ever hit that publish button truly believes their work is ready for public consumption. And every author desires the confirmation that it really was good.”

I’ve always contended that artists, as opposed to business people or scientists, for example, go through a much more personal journey when they bring their product to market. It’s not a lab study or a new tire for SUVs; it’s a piece of your soul, and to see people not embrace it wholeheartedly is kind of like stripping naked in public and having passersby gawk at you as they mutter, “That’s what you look like underneath your cheapass rayon sweat pants and mesh tank top? Man alive! Put your clothes back on. You’re making children cry and searing my retinas after just a glance in your general direction.”

To answer Mr. Esposito’s question, however, I think all writers want positive reviews that support said author’s belief that their work is unprecedentedly brilliant, as he points out, but writers need reviews if they’re to sell more than a few books.

I think the real problem today is something Jonathan Franzen pointed out in a 2013 interview with the BBC and the fact that writers today spend most of their time promoting their work and networking and trying to get others to review their stories than they do actually honing their craft:

“What I find particularly alarming, again, from the point of view I care about, American fiction, is that it’s a coercive development. Agents will now tell young writers: ‘I won’t even look at your manuscript if you don’t have followers on Twitter’. I see people who ought to be spending their time developing their craft and people who used to be able to make their living as freelance writers. I see them making nothing, and I see them feeling absolutely coerced into this constant self-promotion.”

Ugh.

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