Over the weekend I’ve been poking around on Amazon. A few other author friends were talking about all of these things I should be doing to promote my work on there and so I decided to at least have a look. I feel a little weird about some of the system gaming that takes place there, but then, just making sure the tags applied to your story are accurate so people can actually find your work if they’re looking for it didn’t sound to shifty.

Anyway, there was a review on my first published novel The Night Caller. I sort of stopped talking about that book after a brutal review that made it sound  like I wrote the book to irritate her personally.

It didn’t help I sent the wrong edition of the digital book, of course, but for the most part, she didn’t say anything I could necessarily argue with. It was a simple mystery. If you didn’t like the characters, the story would suck. I liked the characters, because, well, I like broken people. But, critics are looking for different things than writers and maybe even readers.

I settled it out in my head that maybe she was right and the story just failed on the romantic level, licked my wounds and moved on with my life, playing down the first novel (that I had been excited about, but I decided to accept wasn’t as great as I thought it was.)

So I was on Amazon, checking tags and saw that there was a review on Amazon. I didn’t look at it for a few hours because last time I was on Goodreads there had been a review on there and I’d gone there innocently enough to find that the original reviewer spewed a less spell-checked version of the same review on Goodreads. So, I was hesitant that this was some sort of trick.

But, it was marked five stars and I couldn’t imagine this lady doing that, so I pressed on thinking maybe a well-meaning friend said something nice.

It wasn’t. It was someone I totally didn’t know. They acknowledged the mystery part was less than mysterious, but they liked the characters and liked the relationship. I never thought of myself as someone who looks for a lot of external approval, because as an artist, that’s the quickest road to self-destruction. Art, writing, life itself, is so completely subjective that you have to have a thick skin and a good anchor to keep from being crushed.

But you know, the fact that someone got it, someone who wasn’t someone I know, took such a weight off my shoulders. It doesn’t take away someone being a cuntmonster, but it puts it in perspective. I guess in the absence of feedback, I took bitchiness as truth, which I, the ultimate cuntmonster, should know better.

Anyway, I made a lot of mistakes with that book. Probably all of them you can make as a newb. But I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons, too. So I’m going to stop shrinking from it and own it. It’s my book. I wrote it. It’s not perfect. I’m getting better.

Of Montreal – She’s a Rejector

5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. I remember the posts on this on the author’s forum, Clancy (I think!). Reviewing is a tricky thing. It totally depends on what the reader likes and doesn’t like and often doesn’t reflect on the book itself. Having said that I’ve decided to suck it up and see when my next book comes out and send it everywhere.
    I believe you can learn from bad reviews even more than good ones. Mind you a well constructed critical review is not easy to come by. I’ve had some pretty scathing comments thrown at me during the beta stage, but most were warranted to some extent and I learnt from them after I licked my wounds and calmed down.
    It can be the characters’ personalities (as you say).
    Glad you got a good review though. They do help.

  2. Yeah, it really depends on the negative review or where it comes from. There truly are some people who are just negative because they feel they can be and they think it’s entertaining (and others who are reading them think it’s entertaining) it’s an industry unto itself and something that you just can’t take to heart, because it has nothing to do with you or your story.

    Then there are other reviews that are negative, but point out weaknesses in your book which are ouchy, but something to think about in crafting your next story. “Okay, that wasn’t exactly a deep mystery, maybe I need to look at improving that main hook when I write these things” or “hm, maybe I should’ve marketed it more as a thriller than mystery.”

    But the most recent bad reviews have really had more to do with the characters. Words like “needs therapy”or “dour alcoholic” which…I can’t argue with. That’s who they are. That’s as they were created. But maybe those aren’t the sort of people romance readers want to read about. Or maybe it’s just that reviewer doesn’t want to read about those people.

    I know you’ve read Tricky…a couple of times…by force…but the comments I get on that are along the lines of “not a fun read.” Definitely fair. It’s hard issues, broken people. So it’s negative in that if you want a fun read, don’t go here. But it’s fair, I don’t want people thinking it’s Pretty Woman when it isn’t. But it still means someone was disappointed with what they got, which is a bummer all around.

  3. I actually really liked Tricky and the characters. I wouldn’t have had you change anything in that way and I certainly didn’t get “forced” to read it.
    It was one that I would have been happy to buy and read.
    I have friends not liking some of my characters, too. But it reflects back on them and the characters they like/write. So I don’t worry too much. (Well I do but I try not to!)
    To me it is a fairly fun read.
    I don’t know why readers want their characters to be perfect. Yes, they probably do need to go into therapy, but they’re right for each other and isn’t that the main thing?

    1. Yeah, I really like the idea of two people who are broken, but broken in complimentary ways that makes them work together. I’m glad to hear that you do too. That was one of the things I really enjoyed about working with you is that I really felt like you got it and that to me is worth more than money.

      Admittedly, warm fuzzies don’t put food on the table, but I could stand to lose a few pounds.

      I don’t think it did too badly. I’m pulling out a lot more stops to promote the next story. It’s an easier read.

      “Tricky” was more about my perspective on sex work industry and the ex-gay and life-in-denial movements.

      “A Certain Pressure in the Pipes” is more about Steampunk and could I write it and build a world and why not set it in the Gilded Age? It’s pretty goofy but I like it.

  4. The good side of ebooks is that they are still there for a few years to be bought. Whereas print books have their covers ripped off and binned after a month of not selling. If your next book is more successful many readers (I do anyway) will check out your back issues.
    So we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

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