Readers. Precious, constant, wonderful, and mind-fucking-insane, readers.
Who loves ya baby?
Readers are a writer’s drug of choice. We would chop them up, scrape them into dusty lines and snort ‘em off a hooker’s décolletage if we could.
Considering we live in a Universe where the Standard Model of Physics is now under suspicion of being slightly wrong (I don’t know about you but I don’t feel right living in a universe where particles decay under the influence of an as yet undetermined force). It is saying something when readers are still the most mysterious force in the Universe.
Readers look and feel like the rest of us. They have the same genes, the same biological functions, they go to our schools, and our local shops. They come in the same range of political, theological, ideological, biological, psychological, and illogical sample sizes as the rest of us.
But they buy books, man…
Why they do this is hard to determine. It has been suggested that they read because the like books. Sure everyone likes books. Readers digest them, like osedax worms digesting a whale carcass at the bottom of the ocean.
And like a foot long, whale-soup sucking worm, readers are always looking for the next thing to gorge themselves on.
This is the point where existential angst becomes a lot less ‘stential and way more exist. Writers are there to feed the ever open craws of readers. We have a symbiotic relationship with readers. We churn out stories, they read them. In return they give us money.
They also give us reviews.
They have learned to write reviews?
Cacatne ursus in sylvis?
And like readers, reviews come in all shapes sizes and other spectrums.
Some are like:
I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE/ HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK!
That’s a 5 star or a 1 star review. For those reviewers, there is no middle ground. No reasoned discourse. It’s a purely emotional outpouring. Or, they are a troll with a micro phallus.
These are the readers who either want to marry your book and have its babies, or drag them under a bridge and eat them.
A useful review falls into the 2-4 star range. These people actually read your book and took some time to think about it. They may have noted flaws, research errors, or just found the story un-entertaining.
Those reviews are the ones you should read and take on board. The 5 star frenzy’s of excitement are wonderful and gratefully and humbly received as the 1 star frenzy’s of faecal flinging are generally ignored and we hope that the reviewer is tortured with the thought that the author of the book they hated is crying themselves to sleep at night between Charlotte Thomas ‘Bespoke’ 24 karat gold and merino wool thread sheets.
The most interesting review I have read (of one of my books) was on Goodreads (where their motto is, “No Good Read Goes Unpunished”). The reviewer made some interesting insights about elements of the book that I thought were buried under the general silliness and madcap adventure. There were moments like the eye of a hurricane where the story actually said some deep things. I’m sure other readers have noticed and appreciated those scenes. This was the first one to actually analyse them.
It was a sobering moment for me. I felt like Jared in Silicon Valley, the first time Russ pointed at him and declared, “This guy fucks!”
That moment of clarity when you realise someone saw through the weirdness and did acupuncture on the hidden nerve deep inside that you slipped in to a story because you were on a creative binge and purge.