With the publication of my new sci-fi book, I did something I have never done before. I hired someone to help me promote my work to a large number of reviewers. Reviews help to raise your visibility on Amazon — so more reviews are more good.
This seemed like a worthwhile investment, and thus far a decent number of people have agreed to read and review the book. This is exciting!
The first of these reviews has come in. I first read it on Instagram and was super-excited by it. It looked fairly positive.
Then I read the full review on Goodreads. Not so positive. Two of five stars.
I will not deny that it’s fairly disheartening to see a negative review like that. This is the first book in a series of novels I am working on. If the reviewer dislikes this one, they are not likely to recommend it, nor the rest of the series.
It is also challenging to not take this personally. However, the review was of the book and not of ME. There is a difference and its important to recognize it.
The book was reviewed — not the author
Books are kind of like children. The characters, the stories, the effort that goes into making them happen. You start with just a few words and eventually, you have a complete work. From those first sentences you raise it to a couple of hundred pages of ideas, text, and what you hope is some serious awesomeness.
So when you get a bad review it feels like you are being called a bad parent. You didn’t raise your book right, it’s out long after curfew and constantly causing trouble with poor characterizations and rambling plots.
The thing is — this is about the book, not the author. The review made it clear that the reviewer read my book and didn’t like some of how I put it all together. That’s fair — it was not just randomly tearing the book apart and saying I should never write again.
My dad is one of my biggest supporters. He buys and reads everything I write. And I know that this genre is not his glass of wine. By the same logic, I have read some of the great “classics” of literature and wondered why in the hell they’re considered classics.
There are aspects of a work that you may like or dislike for various reasons. For example, I read all of Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath books. I enjoyed the story and characters quite a bit — but his style is unusual to my sensibilities.
I had the privilege of meeting Chuck Wendig once — and we were introduced on Facebook by a mutual friend. He’s a writer I really respect and admire. My commentary above is only about the books and not the author.
Same genre, different styles. Hence this first bad review of my new work is not to be taken personally.
Reviews are outside my control
This is a good thing. Look, I can’t make you like me, let alone the things I write. And that’s perfectly ok. The style of my work, the genre, or how I tend to be more character-focus than plot-oriented might not be to your liking.
I didn’t hire a publicist to get me sycophantic positive reviews. Of course, I prefer a good review over a bad one. But at the same time, a well-constructed, thoughtful bad review can help me to be better.
Some of the criticism in the review is applicable to future work. I know that my tendency to write a lot without getting to the plot doesn’t work for everyone. Also, in the case of this book, it is a lot of development and background before the action kicks off. That was a choice. I could have gotten to more of the overall story arc — but then the book would have been much longer.
People are less inclined to read super-long novels from anyone who isn’t Stephen King, George RR Martin, or any other renowned writer. , the first book of my The Source Chronicles fantasy series. is not short. Neither is , it’s sequel.
One of the delays on Harbinger, the completed but not-yet-fully-edited third book in the series, is my discomfort over its length. Hell, the reason the series went from 4 books to 5 was because Harbinger was getting so lengthy, I chose to split it into 2 books.
Opening Gambit could have easily gone another 100 pages. But I made a choice — and I think the first reviewer did not agree with it.
That’s ok. For my next series, I will take that into consideration.
This is not personal or an intentional slight
Seeing a two-star review made my heart sink a little. However, I know it was not a personal attack, intentional slight, nor was it outright derision of my work. This was a well-written, thoughtful, considered review.
Still feels like a knife to the heart, of course. Hey, I am only human. This is my word-child you just said is not as cute and awesome as I think it is. But this is not critical of me or saying I should step back from this idea and go a whole different path for my life.
The next review may be made of awesome. It’s an unpredictable notion, but I believe in what I am doing. My path is to put the words out there, whatever form they take. Hopefully, they prove to be helpful and inspirational to you, too.
Thank you for taking part in my ongoing journey. Thank you for joining me, and for inspiring me and my art.
You are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter — no matter how anyone reviews us and our work.
Originally published at http://www.mjblehart.com on June 5, 2020.