A Reader’s Prerogative

Why you don’t owe authors your input

A Reader’s Prerogative

I love to write. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t. Pretty much that simple. But I’m not solely writing for myself. If I did, I would never worry about whether a project would see the light of day.

But I do want to share what I write. Whether it’s a short story, novella, or novel, I want people to read my work. Of course, once it’s out there, I can’t control what readers think. Wouldn’t even if I could.

She is totally lying — If she could, she would make it so that everyone, everywhere loved every frickin’ thing she wrote.” – Meg’s wayward muse.

Shh! *Slams dungeon door on muse*

No, no, no. I wouldn’t. I want readers to have different views on my work, even when it’s not always positive. It helps me grow as a writer. The thought of being stagnant, of never getting any better, scares me. So as much as I love positive feedback, I know that a negative critique can also keep me on my toes and help me get better.

An awesome review, even if it’s negative, will tell me exactly where the reader thinks I went wrong. Maybe one of my main characters seemed like a caricature. Fair enough. Maybe I forgot to add any sensory details so it made the story seem flat. Or maybe there was a huge plot hole that makes the whole idea unworkable. Pacing can also be a problem. Too fast, everything seems rushed. Too slow, you’re bored.

In fact, there is no shortage of what can be wrong with a piece. I can attest to that. I once accidentally made it sound like my main character’s dad was having sex with an animal (I promise you, he wasn’t). It made it past my beta readers, past two editors from the publishing house, and only the third and final editor caught it. I laughed until I cried. It was funny. But I’m sure glad it didn’t make it into print before I fixed the problem.

And, if a reader wants to write a review — positive or negative — it can be very helpful, and not just for the feedback. For example, Amazon uses a mystifying algorithm to decide where and whether to give a book more exposure. A large factor is how many reviews a book receives. So, even a negative review, or one that contains only a single sentence, can still be helpful. More reviews = more exposure.

Now, I’m about to contradict myself and everything I’ve said above. While all the above benefits are great FOR ME, readers are under no obligation to give reviews. Not in person, on Amazon, Goodreads, or in a blog. Not ever.

Nor are they obligated to give awesome reviews. Nope. Some readers worry that if their review isn’t constructive, analyzing plot, character, pacing and all the myriad parts, they shouldn’t write it. After all, didn’t I say those elements help me?

Yeah, but, see, that’s not actually the reader’s job. It’s a great side benefit to me when it happens, but if a reader wants to simply say it sucks and has no emotional depth, well, that’s their prerogative. It’s also their prerogative to say nothing at all.

I will admit that I am not the best about writing reviews. I usually sit down at the end of the month and look at what I’ve read in the last 30 days. I try to give most of them at least a one- or two-sentence review on Amazon. Especially if they don’t have many.

But sometimes, even I choose not to review a book I’ve read.

As a reader, that’s my prerogative.

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