Is it because I'm an over-sensitive, thin-skinned artist? Well, yes, partly - I don't mind admitting that a bad review can make me feel a little down for a short while, but actually the past 3 or 4 years have thickened up my skin quite a lot, and a fair negative review has little effect on me now, especially as time and distance have made me more objective about RO myself.
But the main reason I don't particularly want to read negative reviews is because they usually serve no useful purpose for me as an author. I've said before that I'm very aware of my own book's shortcomings, and some of these have indeed been picked up in reviews as well. But quite often an author will look to readers' opinions to gage whether they are doing the right things, and if you do that, the message can get confusing ...
"... excellent, fast-paced, and very well-cast period adventure story."
"... a bit slower than you feel it could be ..."
"... the storytelling's so well paced it never feels like Garen's trying to squeeze too much in ..."
"... the narrative suffers from a horribly slow sense of pace ..."
"... the story is exciting and fast-paced ..."
"... the story took a long while to get going ..."
"... an interesting and fast paced storyline ..."
"... It's a slow burner ..."
"... a fast paced adventure quest, a real tale of derring-do ..."
"... It's fast paced and exciting ..."
There are other examples besides the pace of my story-telling, for instance the colouring - some people really love it ("beautiful colouring", "artful use of colour") and some think it's not so great ("dull, unexciting colours", "I found the colouring crude in places"), and so on - characters, drawing ability, plot, backgrounds, etc.
So what am I to make of all these contradictory views? Is my pacing just right or terribly wrong? Is my colouring lovely or terrible? The thing is, these are all aspects that, to a certain degree, are subjective. Yes, there's some bad colouring in my work, and yes, the pacing is not always as good as I would like it to be. But the fact is - I personally like a slow-burning plot with lots of intricacy, and I'm not a fan of bright colours or computery-gradients, I like muted colours, evocative for an historical adventure. And some readers will agree with me and some won't.
Even though I know these things can be down to personal preference and taste, I will still read a review that says someone doesn't like my colouring and I'll think, "people don't like my colouring", until, that is, I read another review that says the opposite, and then I'll think I'm doing okay. It's just the way our brains work.
Not Googling my book can have other consequences though. I recently did Google my book because the past week has seen a rather high number of Amazon sales (even selling out of stock two or three times), after a bit of a slump over the past few months, and I was curious to know the source - perhaps some widely-read nice review or something. I didn't get far into the search when I discovered, quite incidentally, a comics 'fan-site' publishing (terrible) scans of my entire book, for free, on its website. They were also providing several Cinebook titles (including Blake and Mortimer and Lucky Luke) and the full Asterix canon. I alerted Cinebook and we both sent messages to the site resulting in them taking our books down (and I never found the source of the recent sales, as the pirating task took up the next few hours of my day).
This time it was a fairly painless process - I've had to do this before, issuing DCMAs and taking full days out of my work to get a satisfactory result - not fun, and a bit like playing whack-a-mole, so not something I go looking for.
But let's end on a high note: I also came across these lovely tweets from BBC reporter Giles Dilnot:
"... Julius Chancer is pretty addictive ... enjoyed the Rainbow Orchid which I can now return ... felt v much like part one to wider adventures ..."
Thank you, Giles. And, with that, I'm now going back to my non-Googling lifestyle, and ignorant bliss.