Many years ago, a mentor said to me, "You'll know you've been in the business a while when you care a lot more about sales than you do about reviews." I've partially achieved that state, but reviews do matter to me. After working on my books for so long, I want the world to like them as much as I do. Then again, I prefer to have the last laugh when I see a 2-star average on Amazon but very nice sales figures. (Not that I publish James Patterson, but take a look at the Amazon reviews of You've Been Warned. They are execrable, but I'm sure the book sold scads.)
I recently came across a collection of quotes and anecdotes about reviews titled Rotten Reviews and Rejections, compiled by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard (Pushcart, 1988). It reminded me of the emotional roller coaster that writers and editors generally experience with reviews.
Some excerpts for discussion:
"I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has just put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split." -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
"A unanimous chorus of approval is not an assurance of survival; authors who please everyone are soon exhausted." --Andre Gide
"Some reviews give pain. This is regrettable, but no author has the right to whine. He was not obligated to be an author. He invited publicity, and he must take the publicity that comes along." --E.M. Forster
"Nature fits all her children with something to do, / He who would write and can't, can surely review." --James Russell Lowell
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They're there every night, they see it done every night, they see how it should be done every night, but they can't do it themselves." --Brendan Behan
"I've probably missed some good reviews of my work over the years, but never a bad one--some fellow author is always eager to tell me about the bad ones." --Edward Abbey
"Alas, though I've had some pretty dumb and even offensive things said about my work, nobody's ever managed to be particularly interesting in their dispraise. Now I'm going to crawl off and contemplate whether that's my fault or not; perhaps I don't give them enough truly interesting openings ...?" --Rosellen Brown
"Since Fear of Flying is now a bonafide classic with ten million copies in print, this review does not have the personal sting it once had. Nevertheless, it broke my heart in 1974 and, in a way, is typical of the treatment fresh and radical books receive." --Erica Jong (and a note from Agatho: apply this to Gone Girl as well)
"Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic. Is there any truth to the rumor that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven? In any event, is he able to construct a simple English sentence? Do his participles dangle? When moved to lyricism, does he write, 'I had a fun time'? Was he ever arrested for burglary? I don't know that you will prove anything this way, but it is perfectly harmless and quite soothing." --Jeanne Kerr