The Bell-Shaped Curve

As an unpublished writer, I don’t have the experience of seeing reviews of my books on Amazon or some other web or paper-based site.  Perhaps soon, though.  However, I’ve heard from and spoken to a few writers who seemed to be surprised at the reviews they’ve gotten, especially negative ones.  I’ve decided to steel myself against reviews, both bad and good, by retreating to the information tucked away in the bell-shaped curve.  I suspect most of you who read this blog are familiar with that curve: it’s high in the middle, and tapers off to almost nothing at each end.  It describes so much of human life.  We hear how professors in college grade on the curve so that most of the middle grades will fall in the center where the curve is largest, while the extremes of grades, the A-pluses and the D-minuses will fall at each end.  The assumption is that students in a class are concentrated roughly in the center, near the B-minuses and C-pluses.

I’m going to make another assumption too, that reviews of my books will fall on a similar bell-shaped curve.  I may be wrong in the long run, but that’s my expectation right now.  I figure that most reviews will be moderate, and fall in the center.  I may get several excellent reviews, and there almost certainly will be those who take in inordinate amount of pleasure in panning my books, as well as others, and give them totally despicable reviews.  I feel that anyone who publishes a book must realize that reviews are going to be both good and bad.  So, I figure, why sweat it?  There will be positive and negative reviews, sure, and some in the middle.  Certainly, a writer would like his reviews to be skewed toward the good side.  After all, no one wants bad reviews (even though they say bad reviews can help a writer by pointing out flaws and inconsistencies.)  But you have to take the bad with the good and look for a variety of reviews.

I’ve heard some writers say “Never check your Amazon reviews.  It’ll just drive you crazy.”  I haven’t decided whether I want to be the type of writer who checks his reviews repeatedly and incessantly, or ignores them altogether.  But I am assuming the reviews will fall somewhere along the bell-shaped curve.  If they do, I won’t be surprised.

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