Book Reviews: The Painful Truth

The manuscript is written. You’ve gone ten rounds with your editor, and you’ve both survived. You’ve made the revisions. Begrudgingly. Formatting has been done. You’ve read it one last time.

You hit the button, and the baby has been delivered. Congratulations…it’s a Book!

Your marketing is rock solid. And you’re on top of the world. You’ve climbed the mountain. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for people to love your book. Does that sound familiar to any of you…or was that just my experience?

Whether this was your process or not, once you’ve written a book and put it out into the world, a really funny thing happens. People read it. And an even funnier thing happens. They comment on it.

While I was prepared for just about everything else when it came to publishing my book, the reviews were something that I’d never really thought about. I mean, I wrote the best book that I could. I had the most brilliant editor in the world. All the bases were covered. What could possibly go wrong?

Let me tell you. A lot.

While my book got very solid reviews (It’s currently sitting at over four stars with 42 ratings on Good Reads), nothing in the world could ever prepare me for my first lukewarm review.

Like your child, you love that book. You’re protective of every single character within the pages. It’s part of you.

So, when you see the first rating that falls below three stars (I’m being generous here—I don’t really care for three stars either), it’s jarring.

Once again, I’m speaking for myself. Some of you studied writing in college. You stood in front of the class and had your peers and your professors critique your work. I did not.

When I first started receiving reviews, I was very sensitive. Let me give you and example. My first book was written solely from a male POV. Since I’d never written a romance, I didn’t realize that this was not the norm in the genre. I was writing about the male lead, it was his story, so why wouldn’t it be told from his point of view?

Because, apparently, some people don’t like that.

Someone better tell E.L. James this little gem because if I’m not mistaken, the number one best seller as we speak is her book, which is completely written from a male perspective. But I digress.

It wouldn’t matter if it was the POV or the color of the male lead’s hair or the southern accent. There were going to be…wait for it…negative reviews.

Why? Because you can’t please everyone. And while I knew that in theory when I wrote my book, seeing it in black and white was something else entirely.

Being that my editor is also my friend, of course I ran to her (in a virtual sense, that is, since she lives all the way across the country) with my first negative review crumbled in my fist like a rabid dog.

And you know what she did? She laughed. Laughed. Because she knew the secret. She was prepared for it. And like the good friend that she is, she prepared me for it too. I just didn’t listen. Or I didn’t hear. Until that day.

“Reviews are a public expression of someone’s private opinion,” she said calmly. “Don’t worry about it.”

Don’t worry about it? I chewed on that for a while, and then I put it in perspective.

Have you ever walked down the street and looked at someone’s outfit and thought to yourself: does that person own a mirror?

Of course they do. The heinous outfit they chose to wear was most likely a well thought out fashion statement. I just didn’t like it. Maybe it was the color. Maybe it was the cut. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it.

The difference is, the person wearing that outfit didn’t ask for my opinion.

In essence when we promote a book and give it out (for free) to early readers, we are asking for an opinion. And praying like hell that they share our view. But that’s not always the case.

Reviewers, like all people, are products of their environment. If they don’t like rockstars with tattoos, there is nothing I can do to change that. Some reviews hurt more than others. The ones that are well thought out and eloquently written are especially painful.

The review I got that said, “I didn’t like it,” at 2.5 stars was much easier to take than the two paragraph 3.0-star review that went on in express detail about every single thing that irked her about my manuscript. Yeah, that one stung.

It’s the same premise I mentioned earlier regarding fashion. If someone told me, “I don’t really like that dress you’re wearing.” I would shrug and move on.

However, if someone told me: “The cut is awful. The color sucks. And by the way, it makes your ass look huge,” I’d probably go home and throw the dress in the back of my closet and never wear it again.

So, as I sit here, preparing for the release of my second book, I hope that I’ve grown a little in the process. I hope that I can take the good with the bad. And recognize the reviews for what they are: opinions.

They do not define me as a writer or a human being. They are only private thoughts made public.

But just in case I haven’t grown as much as I think I have, there’s a stash of Hershey bars in my desk with my name on them. Because even a bad review goes down a little easier when combined with the gooey goodness of milk chocolate.