Friday, 8 August 2014

When the reviews come in

I'd been writing for years before I ever considered publishing anything. I can be honest about it and tell you that my reticence was entirely due to a lack of confidence. The fact is, so much of you goes into a book that you can feel a little exposed by letting other people read your work.

It wasn't an issue when I published All That & Everything in 2009 because that was a personal project and for that reason, All That & Everything is available for purchase online but not in shops. At that time, I'd told my publisher Paul Higgs from Palmer Higgs Publishing, that I had written a novel but that I wasn't keen to publish it.

Well, didn't that set him off ... !

Paul nagged me for years to publish the novel, and I resisted for years. The truth was that I was afraid to publish it. I was afraid on so many levels ... What if it's a ridiculous story? What if nobody wants to read it? What if people read it and hate it? What if ...? What if ...? And on it went.

As history will attest, Paul won in the end and Torn was published in 2013 - four years after All That & Everything.

At the time I agreed to publish Torn, I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. At Paul's suggestion, I engaged a publicist, allowed myself to be photographed and interviewed, and signed distribution agreements to allow the book to go far and wide!

I was so exposed I might as well have been in the nuddy!

Then suddenly, just to consolidate my discomfort, my publicist, the lovely, relentless Tamara, sent Torn out for review.

Horror of horrors! She was actually asking people what they thought of it! I lived in a state of anxiety for weeks. And then the reviews started coming in ...

It's fair to say that a number of people were ho-hum about Torn, but it's equally fair to say that the overwhelming majority of people loved it, raved about it and demanded the sequel.

What a shock for me! People all around the world were reviewing Torn and loving it.

I won't deny that this was terribly flattering, it was also very humbling, and yes, I gave a big sigh of relief. But then came the next dilemma - what do you do with the reviews?

Tamara had plenty of ideas and she went to work sending them out to media outlets and book stores. This is great for her, but what about me? What do I do?

More specifically, what do I do with the reviews that got it wrong? Okay, I know what you're thinking: a review is just someone's opinion and they're entitled to it, but that's not what I'm getting at.

What I mean is, what do you do when the reviewer gets their facts wrong? For example, one reviewer questioned my research when I mentioned that a dog in my story was wearing a collar. She claimed that dogs didn't wear collars in the early 1800s and announced my perceived lack of knowledge to the entire internet world.

The fact is that dogs were wearing collars thousands of years ago - just check ancient Egyptian paintings for evidence of that! Hunting dogs in Europe were wearing collars hundreds of years ago to protect their necks from counter-attack.

Another reviewer commented that my use of dialogue was not authentic for the era. Words like turd and the F word, she claimed, were not used in the regency period. Once again, this reviewer went out to the world heralding my inaccuracies. Again, the fact is that these words are very old, and while they may not have been used by Jane Austin, I can assure you they were in use in the 1800s, just as they were used thousands of years before then.

If you ever want to know the history of words, check this site - it's brilliant, and fun!

The big question was, in the face of inaccurate criticism could I defend myself? Well, no. And that, I have learned, is the golden rule. Never, ever ... ever! respond to a critique whether good, bad or otherwise.

Love the good reviews, hate the bad ones. Love the good reviewers, tolerate the bad reviewers. I put it down to their ignorance not my own. 

So, bottom line is, when you put your book out there, just as I did with Torn, and subsequently Inviolate, you need to be prepared for peoples' comments and some of them get it wrong. Live with it ... never bite back!

We went through the publicity and review process all over again when Inviolate was published and released earlier this year. Fortunately, as a more experienced writer, I knew what to expect and was a little less intimidated by all the attention. Didn't matter anyway, the reviews for Inviolate were even better that the reviews for Torn!

If you want to read any, check out Goodreads, Booktopia, GoodGabble or just do a google search. It's all there, the good, bad and ... the ones I prefer not to think about.

Until next week ... be safe and have fun!

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