How Much Head Space Do You Give Reviews?

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Just this week, a group of us were discussing Goodreads reviews. One of my friends was firm. “I don’t even read Goodreads reviews any more. Those people are nuts!”

Wow. That felt a bit harsh. But really? Some review really aren’t worth giving any head space. Let me explain.

The temptation is to give credibility to positive reviews and to ignore negative reviews. But some of my negative reviews were spot on. One person criticized the design of one of my books. She said that the sidebars were darn near impossible to read, and she isn’t the first person to say so. Nope. The first person was my father-in-law!

The PDF of the final design was gorgeous and oh so readable. But when the book in question came out in print, the maize colored sidebars looked lighter and, paired with the glossy paper, made the text impossible to read. I didn’t design the book but this is definitely something I keep in mind when I do design various things.

Negative reviews can be helpful!

But then there are those other negative reviews. “I bought this book for my 3rd grade grandson and it is just too difficult.” Well, ma’am, the book is for teens so I’m not sure why you thought it was the best choice for a 9 year-old. Admittedly, I have not checked Amazon and it might still be the ONLY book with certain key words in the title, but still. Not meant for a 9 year-old.

If you write for young readers, a lot of the negatives have to do with audience. The vast majority of adults simply do not consider audience when they pick up a book for young readers. Maybe they reason that all kids books are created equal. Whatever they are thinking, I’ve had complaints that books are too hard.

I’ve also had comments from people who don’t understand why I spent time introducing the topic. “Everyone knows all of that!” Maybe but probably not especially when your audience is 12 or 9 or 15.

So how much head space do I give to reviews? It all depends. I’ll admit it. The good reviews get plenty of head space. The bad reviews get as much space as they deserve. If there is something that I can learn from the review, I do my best to learn it. After all, I want to create the best books for young readers that I can possibly create

. But the reviews that are written by someone who clearly didn’t read the book or who have an axe to grind? Whatever. They make interesting fodder for conversations with my writer friends but that’s about all. If it isn’t going to help me or my readers, there’s no point in sharing my space.

–SueBE