This is a guest post by Lily Kaligian. Lily is an editor at Businesscheck.co.nz and Canadabiz.net. She creates a variety of articles about careers, entrepreneurship, technology, business, education, as well as travel and personal development.
Who Should You Listen to – Reviewers, Peers or Readers?
Having your writing work read and appraised by others can be a very emotional experience. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a novel, a short story, a poem or even just a blog post, you need to know that it’s not just you who sees your creation as valuable.
But writing and reading are incredibly subjective. One person’s prize winner could be another’s trashy holiday read. It can be hard working out who to trust when it comes to feedback and critique. Whose opinion should you take into account when reviewers, peers, and readers all have something to say?
Established reviewers read hundreds of books and written works in a year. They have a good understanding of the current literary landscape and lots of other examples to compare your work against. They’re experienced in offering critique and may seem very well-placed to appraise your work.
However, reviewers approach written works from a particular standpoint. They may be more intellectual or widely read or demanding than your standard reader. Also, they always look for an angle for any review that they write. So remember that reviewers with the least integrity may forgo a balanced appraisal in favour of a catchy tagline or in a rush to meet a deadline.
Peers can give a great perspective on your work. Another pair of eyes will spot things that you, so immersed in your own writing, will inevitably fail to see. They can give honest and writerly feedback, allowing you to improve your work as you go.
As with reviewers, there are some limitations to peer critique. Who’s to say your peers have any greater grasp of literary excellence than you do? And even if they do have something to say, they may not be able to articulate it in a way that proves useful to you.
Knowing that someone has read and enjoyed something that you’ve written can be hugely satisfying for a writer. Good reader reviews translate into more readers. But, in comparison to reviewers and your peers, readers may be satisfied with less. They may overlook clunky sentences or poorly realised characters because they just wanted something easy to read.
So who should you listen to? Reviewers, your peers or the readers? It all depends on your own perspective on your work. If you see it as a great work of art then the critical response you get will be paramount. If you’re more focused on generating revenue, then the only opinion that matters is the readers’.
Usually, however, all of the feedback you get from across the board, should be considered together. An in-depth peer critique will help you see your work from another perspective and allow you to make changes before it even reaches publication. A good critical response means more people are likely to come across your written work and actually take the time to read it. And good reviews from readers make sales and bookstore features that bit more likely.
Ultimately, though, you can’t be overly swayed by one or the other. Your own faith in what you have created is of the utmost importance. If you took all opinions on board, your work wouldn’t be yours – it would be a strange hybrid designed to tick every box for every person.
Accept that no written work is going to please everyone. Learning to balance the feedback you get with your own feelings about your work is one of the hardest but most essential lessons a writer needs to learn.