“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
I remember Kansas. Kansas was 1997, and I had just published two romances with Bantam’s Loveswept line. Kansas was traditional publishing with agents and editors and books with paper pages and professional reviewers who worked for newspapers or magazines like Romantic Times. Back there in Kansas, your average reader had no way to say yea or nay—aside from word of mouth, which, as we all know, is limited to the number of ears you can bend. Kansas, my friends, was black and white when it came to reviews. You knew exactly whom you were dealing with … for better or worse.
A bit more than six months ago, I jumped the rainbow and landed in Oz—otherwise known as The Land of Self-Publishing—embarking on a magical mystery tour where every day is an adventure. Where every– and anyone is a reviewer, and word-of-mouth is multiplied ten-thousandfold.
If you’re an old-timey author like me, you’re like, “Whoa.”
Now, the only thing I want to say to reviewers is this: Thank you. Whether you gave my books one star or five, you read them. You took the time to review or rate. I appreciate that, no lie. So, I’m not going whine about, fume over, judge, castigate, or otherwise deprecate your efforts. How ungrateful would that be? I mean, hey, I’ve learned a lot from you. Like ….
- It’s not personal. Truth is, not everyone will like my stories, no matter how skillfully written. The relationship between a reader and an author is intensely subjective. I either connect with you, or I don’t. I could name ten bestselling authors and not a few literary giants I simply can’t read. Not because their books stink, but because their books don’t speak to me. (This is why Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar or Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are often rated three-stars on Goodreads.)
- Negative reviewers are sometimes right. Yes, I read them. No, it’s not pleasant. But every once in a while I stop pouting long enough to admit a comment rings true. Know it or not, that reviewer has helped me improve my writing and kept me from making the same mistake in my next novel.
- I can’t let myself live or die by reviews. They can’t even be my main focus. My main focus is writing, and taking reviews too much to heart will kill my art. I’ll either wind up writing to get positive reviews or to avoid negative ones, and that’s the best way I know to end up with cardboard characters and a cotton-candy story.
Thankfully, the majority of my reviews are 3 stars and above—Amanda’s Eyes has a 4.4-star average on Amazon, 3.55-star average on Goodreads—but even when they’re aren’t, I’m learning to cope. So don’t expect Hershey’s stock to go up on my account. I don’t need nearly as much chocolate as I used to.