As I head into the pre-release period for Pocket Full of Tinder, I figured it would be a great time to share my thoughts on reviews, readers, and writers.
- A reviewer’s opinion is never wrong. Ever. Their interpretation of your story is what it is. You can’t change it. Nor should you try to. The wonderful thing about writing and publishing (as opposed to keeping your work locked in a drawer) is that it becomes a dialog of sorts between you and the reader. A reader’s own backstory and experiences become a part of the reading experience. That explains, in part, why fairy tale retellings are so popular. The amount of story information that is immediately conveyed when a character has a red hood or a magic mirror or a glass slipper is incredible. Include two words in your character description and suddenly a reader is drawing upon generations-worth of mythological information. (That’s, obviously, a very simple explanation of how the unwritten dialog between an author and a reader works.) The bottom line is: A writer can’t control that final missing piece of their story – the reader’s interpretation of it. Which is all to the better. If we could, it would be like writing a story for ourselves. Boring! The risk and uncertainty involved with crafting something that requires a last sine qua non from someone else is what makes the writing process challenging and worthwhile.
- In the unlikely event that a reviewer states something factually incorrect about your book, I’m still not sure I’d argue with them. Writers, you’ll have to judge this for yourselves based on the situation, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Quibbling over minor book details seems petty as best, and insecure and antagonistic at worst.
- What happens if a reader or a reviewer is mistaken about you personally? This is a tougher situation and it’s only happened to me once. Years ago, a reviewer posted a review that included thoughts on me and my personal beliefs. What was said was so egregious that I felt I had to correct the record (privately, at least). I ended up reaching out to her via email and we actually had a nice exchange. I have no idea if she continued reading my books or not, but the experience ended up being (for the most part) a positive one.
- From the perspective of the writer, bad reviews suck. There’s no getting around it. We all want everyone to love our books. (Although, that analogy that your book is your baby isn’t one I subscribe to). But we all know, either consciously or deep down, that it is IMPOSSIBLE for everyone to adore our work. Simply impossible. And the more you want your work read, the more you’ll find readers who don’t like it. It’s a math equation. The answer isn’t hiding your work and living in fear. The answer is always to KEEP ON. I don’t want bad reviews (who does?!) but, at this point, I’m more afraid of the fact that, four years after being published, I’m still a slow writer. And that I promised to finish a series in which I have no control over the first three books. (Commercial suicide, people, don’t try this at home! More on that later. Maybe.)
What about positive or mixed reviews? How should a writer handle those?
With cartwheels and confetti and ticker tape parades!!!
Seriously though, unequivocally enthusiastic and supportive reviews will keep you going during those inevitable times when you want to throw in the towel. (If you are a writer who has never thought about quitting, then you are either new to the game or some sort of unprecedented confidence-crackerjack.)
And mixed reviews contain all sorts of valuable information. I love thorough, thoughtful reviews that discuss the many different aspects of a novel.
What’s my policy on sharing reviews?
Since I’ll be reaching out soon and asking for reviews of Pocket Full of Tinder, here’s my policy on sharing the reviews:
First, I hope you’ll review Pocket Full of Tinder! Readers/reviewers, don’t ever think that your thoughts on a book don’t matter or shouldn’t be shared.
If someone sends me a link to a review (or lets me know about it through social media) and it’s a mixed or positive review, I will share it.
If it’s a positive review, I may also include a quote from it on my “Novels” page and include the reviewer’s blog on my “Book Reviewers & Bibliophiles” blogroll. Quotes might also be included in marketing materials such as bookmarks and media kits.
If it’s a negative review, I’ll ignore it. It’s not sour grapes; it’s business. No one expects those to be shared by the author anyway. (But I still hope that any reviewer who doesn’t like the Noon Onyx series might try something else of mine later.)
That’s it for now because I need to get back to work. Updates and more blog posts later…
Hope everyone is having a fantastic October!!!