It's frightening, isn't it?
What am I talking about? Spending another winter on Long Island? No. The way Congress goes about its business? No. The amount of money interest groups polluting the election campaign every two to four years? No.
While the above are very important topics to some, the one issue that has piqued my interest most over the past year is how do authors and writers deal with good and bad reviews. Since I began the writing process of my first novel Necessary Heartbreak more than two years ago, I've grown to admire authors in many different ways, including their ability to develop a thick skin when it comes to having their work publicly critqued.
It's how you look at the process too. During the self-publishing timeframe of Necessary Heartbreak, I welcomed any review, sought it out, and wanted to receive feedback. I was very fortunate to be reviewed by mostly informed readers who understood what I was trying to say in my story. They also cut me some slack too, realizing it was my first attempt. For the most part, reviewers want to love your story and praise your work.
What I didn't realize is that every book has an audience. And if you seek out a review that isn't quite right for a particular age group or selection of readers interested in your subject, the reaction can be downright mean. It's not that the reviewer is a jerk or lacks the ability to comprehend your story, the book is just not right for that particular person.
I was able to land many great writeups on Amazon.com and across the internet for more than 95 percent of the reviews. But the most valuable part of the process for me was hearing what the readers and reviewers had to say. I read them all, sometimes five or six times. I digested the information, put it in my memory bank, and made sure I honestly addressed all suggestions.
It's certainly easier to deal with a good review. But there were a few bad ones too. I found out my book wasn't right for a particular age group. The adult issues that Necessary Heartbreak addresses aren't of interest to a teenager or a preteen. In my novel, I focus on the loss of a spouse, cancer, the topic of dying with dignity, and homelessness.
Authors are incredible people. They work hard everyday, suffer with their characters, want their material be looked upon favorably, and then hold their collective breaths hoping someone will buy their book. The process of producing a good manuscript is challenging enough. Always remember this -- a bad review doesn't necessarily mean your book isn't worthy of reading.
I always make my point highlighting William Paul Young's journey. He authored The Shack, a book that has sold over five million copies. Mr. Young has received thousands of great reviews and many hundreds of some not-so-nice writeups. I wondered how he dealt with such a situation. Did he read them? Did it hurt him? Did he lose confidence in his story? Was he angry? Did he respond at all?
His answer was simple: "I don't allow myself to entangle my identity (and therefore my worth or significance) with anything I do (write)," Mr. Young wrote me. "Whenever you put your identity in something that can be taken away from you ... it is false."