|Courtesy of NoShoes|
Congratulations! Now you're a published author.
Remember all that stomach churning anxiety as you first wrote your book? The doubts and fears that told you the plot was trite, the characters cardboard, and this whole enterprise stupid? Or receiving comments back from your beta readers that illuminated the book's flaws and sometimes contradicted each other?
It's about to get a lot harder.
Reviews can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they allow your readers to discuss and share your work. On the other, they only highlight the fact that not everyone who meets your book is going to love--or even like--it.
I was reading a post by Seth Godin on What Are Professional Reviews For? and I agreed with a lot of what he said.
Once your book is out there in the wild, it's going to run into critics. The key is figuring out which critics to listen to and which to ignore. I've separated the types of critics into three separate categories as they pertain in relation to the author (you).
These are the critics that appear in the newspapers, magazines, etc. Critics whose organizations have gained the authority to offer criticism--both positive and negative--for the books they read.
These can be helpful, especially if they bring up a strength or weakness you may not have considered before, but they can also be less than helpful sometimes. To the best of my knowledge, professional reviews that represent an organization like Kirkus, rather than a specific book reviewer who might have a column, are listed by the organization's name, leaving the person who actually read and reviewed the book anonymous. This can make it harder to determine the context the reviewer was reading in--which will have a lot of weight in how the reviewer perceives your story.
My opinion: when in doubt, don't give it space to worry you. Professional critics are not always perfectly matched with books that will resonate with them, and you have no control over this. Besides, there are plenty of other things that will be ulcer-inducing. Don't let this one be one of those.
Not Your Audience Critics
In a perfect world, readers would be perfectly matched to the books they loved. They would never come across books they didn't or genres they don't care for, so there would no longer be reviews of this sort. Authors and avid readers rejoice.
Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect.
The Not Your Audience Critics (hereafter to be known as NYACs), can fall into three camps:
- People who came to your book with certain expectations. They could have formed these expectations from your cover, the title, the blurb, chatter about your book, or recommendations from friends. The thing is, for one reason or another, they came to your book expecting pumpkin pie and found chocolate mousse instead.
- People who don't usually read your genre, but were enticed by all of the things in the first group, or maybe they got your book as a gift or for a good deal. Either way, they like apple pie, and can't stand strawberry, but decided to give yours a try anyway. Predictably, they really don't like strawberry pie.
- People, who, well . . . demand tolls for bridge crossings and have some major beef with certain Billy Goats Gruff. I believe this is the smallest group, but it doesn't make their words hurt any less--especially if your confidence is already shaky.
In all of these cases, while the reviews have merits for other possible readers, you're not going to be able to take much from these reviews by way of constructive criticism, because if you're serving a strawberry chocolate mousse pie, you're serving a strawberry chocolate mousse pie. The key here is to find the readers who really love that flavor.
Your Audience Critics
These are your fans. People who love the type of pie you're serving. If ever you were to listen to a group of people, these would be the ones to listen to. They understand the tropes and themes common to your genre. They come to your book wanting to like it, and hoping to love it.
They want you to succeed.
Are you going to please everyone in this group? Happy dream that this is, probably not. Books can be broken down into so many smaller parts (genre, sub-genre, style, age level, etc.), that it would be virtually impossible to hit the sweet spot in each of them for everyone--especially as some will favor spare prose while others prefer their prose to be nice and lush. You would need to take individual taste into account, but for the most part, these are the ones who are more closely aligned with where you're coming from and where you hope to go.
(There is a fourth critic, your inner critic, but I'm focusing on external critics for this post. :D)
So what does this all mean?
Pretty much, once you release your book into the wilds of publishing, the ones who read, judge, and review your story is going to be out of your hands. I would suggest that making peace with this and coming up with coping strategies to deal with reviews will lighten the publishing load a little and make it not seem quite so heavy.
There is another way to handle reviews, and that not to read them at all. :D
That is also my favorite method of keeping myself sane and centered. The people for whom I take a closer, more critical look at my own work are those that read my story *before* publication. Beta readers, editors, proofreaders, and--in the end, my own gut.
After that, I try to make peace with the little doubts that creep onto my shoulders and into my ears by reminding myself that I honestly wrote the very best book I had the power to write, and that, for me, has to be enough.
Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (Catspell, Firespell, Applespell, and Frogspell), Slippers of Pearl, andBitten: A Novel of Faerie, and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.