The open book: what writers don’t tell writers about writing (part 5)

Caren Gussoff Sumption
3 min readApr 20, 2021
Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash

A few days ago, Lauren Hough blew up a certain segment of Twitter.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go ahead and look*. I’ll wait here.

Caught up?

* or TLDR: Hough’s essay collection came out — by all accounts, an excellent book, except on Goodreads, where a couple of readers thought it was “good,” or, even “very good,” yanno, a 3 or a 4 star read, cuz people have opinions. Hough commented on the ratings, pearls were clutched, insults were flung, and now, Hough’s book has been dragged on Goodreads for the lolz, and rates lower than Mein Kampf.

I’m not here to judge Lauren Hough. Or her book. Or her actions.

I am not saying Lauren Hough should or should not have spoken out. Her essays were memoir, and that can feel very different than fiction. She’s clear and forthright about her trauma background. And clapping back is on brand for her sardonic, bold voice.

But I do want to tell you, straight up, right now, the honest fucking truth about reviews and ratings and and feelings, for the rest of us**.

With few exceptions***, stay the fuck away from them.

** Lauren Hough has a few things most writers (uh, me) do not have: a huge following, a major publishing house, some (meager, I’m sure, but some) budget for publicity (enough to get on NPR, etc.). And a fine book. Lauren Hough will be OK.

For most of us, however, this is the sum total of the engagement we should have with reviews: zero.

*** Exceptions include encouraging readers to review your book, sending out arcs to be reviewed, and having someone you trust (or in the employ of the publisher) collect quotes from good reviews to use in promotion.

Ignore them. Don’t look. Ignore Publisher’s Weekly. Don’t look at Amazon reviews or Goodreads or b00kL0ver89’s book blog. Stop googling yourself for awhile. Just don’t do it. Nothing good comes of this. I promise.

If the reviews are good, they will never be good enough to validate all the hours and self-doubt and fear. Good reviews feel good, for a bit. But they aren’t filling. You’ll be hungry again, a few hours later.

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Caren Gussoff Sumption

Writer, dabbler, bon vivant. Nerdy words for nerdy people.