Reviews; love ‘em and leave ‘em?

Once that book that you spent hundreds of precious hours nurturing and nourishing from the little embryo of an idea you scribbled on a napkin all the way to a polished, proof-read, judiciously edited publication finally makes its way out into the world, it is at the mercy of reviewers.

Throughout history, the learned and the wise have cautioned against allowing ourselves become too high or too low over the fickle whimsies of life, but this is different. This is the labor of your heart and your soul, squeezed out like blood to dry on the page. It is a glimpse into your inner sanctum where you are at your most naked and vulnerable.

Of course, when your book is well received, you put aside the afore mentioned wisdom and see it for what you need it to be; affirmation of your true genius and brilliance that the world has churlishly ignored for far too long. You copy and post those 5 star reviews that declare your book a ‘must-read,’ a masterpiece, un-put-down-able, etc. You try to bring them to the attention of everyone you know, particularly those who, on hearing that you were writing a book, questioned your sanity.

Conversely, you’re probably not going to make such a fuss over those 1 star reviews as they are obviously the work of vicious trolls and those with axes to grind. Regardless, they are often the ones that get stuck deep down inside of you like grains of sand.

Following the advice of far-more experienced authors who forewarned me about all of this, I force myself to focus on those in the middle—the 2 to 4 star reviews, particularly when the reviewer takes the time to actually say something meaningful and insightful about the book.

This, I have been told, is where the writer can gain very valuable feedback. A good reviewer’s articulated reaction to characters, plots, or scenes, can reveal so much because what may have seemed so solid and obvious to the writer may not be to the reader. Likewise, flaws in tone or setting can be detected in the reviewer’s reticence or ambivalence. 

Of course, in some cases, it is simply a matter of a mismatch—like when your erotic metaphor about the decline of humanity gets reviewed by self-declared addicts of all things Romance, but, as wiser council has pointed out, a good writer learns from that, too. “Reaching beyond the hard-core readers of your genre should be a goal for anyone wishing to take this craft seriously,” they said and, like with all principled advice, you want to believe it. 

Notwithstanding, I realize the importance of having a few glowing reviews, especially for the newbie-author. Writing a book, after all, is nothing less than the making of great public declarations by those who are usually introverted to some degree.
Writers, particularly the more-tortured ones, are supposed to suffer a bit and need a bit of pumping-up, now and then. And having a few friends and family write glowing reviews can’t do much harm. Can it?

This is a particular problem for writers like me whose characters tend to decry things like delusion and denial and all the other things that are wrong with the world today.

That said, we write books that we hope will be read in a hundred years from now and having a few good reviews along the way might mean that we will not have to wait that long.

Peter Murphy
Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family was deported to Dublin, the Strumpet City.

Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for ‘The Wine and Gold’. He also played football (soccer) in secret!

After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff; Paddy, Tommy and Sean.

Murphy financed his education by working summers on the buildings sites of London in such places as Cricklewood, Camden Town and Kilburn.

Murphy also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world.
But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while – thirty years ago.
He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened.
Having raised his children and packed them off to University, Murphy answered the long ignored internal voice and began to write.

He has no plans to make plans for the future and is happy to let things unfold as they do anyway. 


  1. Good advice... I've often wondered about one star reviewers myself. "What? Did the book get delivered to you soaked in mud and torn to shreds? Was there ANYTHING you liked about it?"


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