Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hubby vs. Mean Reviews, Touched by an Email

I'll be very honest with you, blog reader friends. Just between us, negative reviews about a book you've written can suck. Even though every book gets them, even though you can always learn something from feedback, even though it's part of what you signed up for when you decided to take the self-important step of foisting a book on the world. Even though, even though, even though.

It doesn't matter how you re-frame it or how much you're expecting it; if any part of your fragile writer's ego is exposed when you peruse the one- and two-star reviews that are an inevitable part of the publishing process, you are open to be a little wounded by them. The ones that make valid critical points are challenging enough to swallow, but at least they offer you something you can take away with you to improve for later. Or, choose to ignore and better define who you are as a writer. Both useful behaviors.

More difficult are the reviews that seem just plain mean-spirited. These are definitely the minority, even of negative reviews, and they don't bother me as much as they did at first. I'll admit to being surprised sometimes at the vitriol that some people feel after reading a book that wasn't exactly what they expected, or they felt was wordy, or whatever. But I'm the writer, and I knew the minute I clicked "publish" that one of my new jobs was to work on checking my sensitivity and keeping perspective.

Hubs, on the other hand, is still working on growing thicker skin. He's learned to handle my (often intense) self-criticism and even helps me wade through feedback to pull out themes to improve my writing for next time. But when people are mean, he still gets a bit hurt and defensive. And, you know what? I think it's sweet. At the end of the day, I'd rather have the guy who gets mad on my behalf than a thousand five-star reviews.

All that said, I also wanted to share that I have received some incredible emails in the last few weeks that have been really heartwarming. Several people have reached out to let me know that The Marriage Pact was more to them than just an entertaining read (which was my primary goal), but that it had some personal significance to them. Whether it was something Marci experienced that resonated with them or just a connection with one of the characters, some people have a special experience with the book, and I've been delighted to hear it.

One note in particular landed in my inbox last week while I was taking a break from working on Regrets Only. The note was from someone who would probably not be considered my typical target audience (as he pointed out): a 63-year-old man. I'll respect the privacy of what he shared with me specifically, but several events in his life mirrored some of those in The Marriage Pact; though his real-life story was in many ways far more beautiful than my fictional one.

It meant the world to me that he enjoyed the book, and that he took the time to send such a personal email about it. It means even more, since my Dad -- who was also 63 -- died last year before he could finish reading my first novel. I never got to hear his impressions, but it's nice to know that it's at least possible he might have enjoyed it.

Self-publishing can be both a raw and rewarding process. We get to play a lot of roles: from parent to author to spouse to business owner to editor to marketer. Sometimes in the midst of the chaos, the universe gives us what we need: useful feedback, a supportive spouse, or an encouraging word at just the right time. The trick is being able to look up from the keyboard long enough to appreciate it!  

5 comments:

Francene Carroll said...

Those negative reviews really do pack a punch, but fortunately they get easier to bear! In my (very limited) experience the bad reviews seem to be balanced out by the good, so you just have to roll with them and get on with life. That's a lovely story about the man who emailed you over The Marriage Pact. It must be so nice to know you've touched someone's life in a positive way.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed TMP. Thanks for putting it out there and for telling a story about a larger woman without making the whole story revolve around it. Very refreshing! Having a free promotion period is brilliant. I bought a paper copy after a gf of mine from work downloaded it for free and couldn't stop raving. Ever thought of telling the story of Aunt Mildred and Dottie? I'm dying to hear what happened. Just a thought!

M.J. Pullen said...

You know, it's funny... I actually HAVE thought about writing Aunt Mildred's story. Maybe a little side project this fall? :-)

debbianne does PDX said...

Great post... and timely, for my current reality. I've adopted the belief that everyone gets what they need, and when someone exhibits a strong negative reaction to what I've written, it has everything to do with their buttons being pushed. After all, what is art at its core other than emotional evocation? So now when I see a scathing review I think "my work is done here!" and I silently thank that person for helping me get just a smidgeon further down my ego-shedding path.

It certainly is interesting though---the vitriol as you so eloquently put it---that some individuals feel compelled to spew, isn't it! It's clear to me as an observer that most people believe there is one true absolute objective reality, and they are doing others a great favor by shedding light on it. They are unaware that reality is subjective and many-faceted... Looking at it through that philosophical lens only fuels my writing (which is about woo-woo shit incidentally.)

Anyway, love ya---mean it. May all your dreams manifest beyond even your imagination! : )

Debbianne

Debbianne said...

Great post... and timely, for my current reality. I've adopted the belief that everyone gets what they need, and when someone exhibits a strong negative reaction to what I've written, it has everything to do with their buttons being pushed. After all, what is art at its core other than emotional evocation? So now when I see a scathing review I think "my work is done here!" and I silently thank that person for helping me get just a smidgeon further down my ego-shedding path.

It certainly is interesting though---the vitriol as you so eloquently put it---that some individuals feel compelled to spew, isn't it! It's clear to me as an observer that most people believe there is one true absolute objective reality, and they are doing others a great favor by shedding light on it. They are unaware that reality is subjective and many-faceted... Looking at it through this sort of philosophical lens only fuels my writing (which is about woo-woo shit incidentally.)

Anyway, love ya---mean it. May all your dreams manifest beyond even your imagination! : )

Debbianne