Of course, not all reviews are positive and not all messages are congratulatory since there is no book in the universe that is going to appeal right across the board. Once you publish your novel and hope that people will read it then you need to be prepared for the criticism; and also be prepared not to storm in and start a debate with the reviewer! I can't speak for anyone else but this is how I look at it - yes, negative reviews sting (it's a year, or perhaps more, of your life that they're picking apart so it'd be odd if it didn't hurt) and especially if the comments made are incorrect but at least the person making them actually took the time to read your book and then felt strongly enough about its content that they sat down and wrote a review of it too. Reviews matter - there is so much power in the hands of each and every reader now - I mean, think about it; there you are looking for a book to read and you spot a cover that looks enticing. What's next? You read the blurb. Hmmm. Interesting premise, yep sounds like something you might like to read so what do you do next? You read the reviews! we all do - and the more reviews a book has the more interesting it becomes to a potential buyer. There's our first SILVER LINING - ALL reviews (whether they're 1 star or 5 star) draw readers to your work.
I read an interview a while back where the author admitted that he never read the negative parts of reviews. I have to admit that I found that strange - I read and re-read those bits (cringing every time!) 'cause they show me where I failed to live up to that particular reader's expectations and I want to know how I can improve in my next book. I'm a reader first and there's nothing worse than a book with a great premise that just doesn't deliver. Publishing 'Demon's Daughter' was a huge leap of faith for me and I've learned a huge amount, not just from the process itself, but from readers' comments and reviews afterwards.
One reviewer was frustrated by the spelling and grammar mistakes in the book (she was right - I should have been more careful, held back until I could afford an editor maybe) which I'd already found by myself (and was hugely embarrassed by), didn't like my main character and felt that my research was incorrect. Now, that stung - a lot! - but I still got 3 stars for the review which was great! She was blog reviewer so I emailed her and thanked her for taking the time to read and review my book, apologised for the mistakes and promised I'd do better next time. SILVER LINING? It made me tighten up on EVERYTHING for book 2 and I believe that 'Demon's Revenge' is better for it.
Recently 'Demon's Daughter' was reviewed on Goodreads and on a blog and, although the reviewer loved the story, she was appalled by my Italian - she's a native Italian speaker and I got it all wrong. Again, that's embarrassing and I was thrown into a quandary since book 2 has more Italian in it than book 1 (and is already with the designer). If only I knew a native Italian speaker, (if the penny has dropped here for you then congrats - I'm obviously slower in figuring things out!) if only I had a way of getting in touch with someone who could speak/write Italian (nope, my brain STILL hadn't worked out what to do). I knew that if I wanted books 2 & 3 to be an improvement on book 1 then I had to rescue the Italian in them and so I emailed the designer, explained the problem and asked for a week to sort it out. Happily he agreed and, after a few cups of coffee, my brain got a kick start and I emailed the reviewer, apologising for my pathetic-ness and asking if she would consider helping to correct the Italian in book 2 and 3. She was fantastic! I had corrections in my in-box on the same day that I sent them to her. SILVER LINING? The last 2 books in Emily's story will have the correct Italian in them!
And before you ask why I chose to use a language that I wasn't proficient in...I didn't, Sariel did! (And when a gorgeous fallen angel is whispering in your ear in Italian then believe me - you let him speak any way he wants!)