Between them, two of this morning’s emails gave a balanced reminder of the whole business of having your books reviewed. The first was from Awesome Indies, the second from a friend in the USA
First things first, the Awesome Indies one was congratulating me on having a fourth book approved by their reviewers and being placed on their ‘list of quality independent fiction’. The first three were The Sparrow Conundrum, The Figurehead and The Darkness and now the first Jack Carston mystery, Material Evidence, has joined them. In case you don’t know the Awesome Indies site, it’s a place which has pretty strict criteria as to the quality of the writing as well as the professionalism of the formatting and overall presentation of publications by independent authors. So it helps readers to avoid those all too frequent encounters with books where the formatting’s all over the place, typos and misspellings proliferate and the experience of reading is compromised by all sorts of things which shouldn’t be there.
As I said, however, the pleasure and smugness generated by the email was in no way diminished but given a valuable perspective by my American friend. He was telling me, very gently and politely, that The Figurehead wasn’t grabbing him the way some of my others had. He wasn’t critical of it but it wasn’t for him. I wrote back and told him not to worry and just to stop reading it. There are too many good books around and too little time to read them all. If I’m not grabbed by a book after the first dozen or so pages, I move on to the next on the TBR list; I was simply suggesting he do the same.
But it was a useful reminder that, for all the 5 star reviews, there are plenty of 1 star ones which help us to maintain a realistic perspective on our output. The 5 stars give us that warm, fuzzy feeling and convince us we’re in the right job, then the one stars needle into our self-confidence and make us question whether we’re as good as we think we are.
And, as long as they say what they found wrong, we can learn from them. They ground us, make us more self-critical. One review was highly critical and very specific about the flaws in my writing. In effect, the reviewer listed all the reasons why I shouldn’t consider myself a writer. It was hard, but I learned from it and actually made some changes to the book as a result. He’d overstated his case but I could see why.
Then, of course, there are those which are of no use at all, those which reveal more about the reviewer than the book. One person, for example, didn’t like Material Evidence and…
“having just seen the film of Gone Girl, have to say that there are soooo many similarities in the plot. ” He then added “I think this book came first though.” (He was right – it was first published 20 years before Gone Girl.)
Another confessed that “The fact that this author also writes children’s books creeps me out.”
And a third, disturbed by the fact that there was a nasty murder in a crime novel, wrote: “It makes me question the writer’s psyche”.
So there you have it. I’m basically a highly disturbed socio (or psycho) path who shouldn’t be allowed near children and can’t write anyway. God knows what those misguided people at Awesome Indies were thinking about.