One morning, a few months ago when I originally wrote this blog post I woke to three new reviews of my novels, all written by the same reader a close friend who has been promising to do the reviews for some time (in the case of one of the novels, Passing Place, it was a review for a book he has told me how much he loved on numerous occasions, but it had taken him just over three years to get around to writing the review, and as much as I was grateful I must admit I felt a tad frustrated it has taken him so long to write the review, but I digress into mild bitterness, so lets not.)
Those reviews came on the heels of three new reviews for both From Russia With Tassels and Maybe from other readers a few days before. All of which put a little sparkle in my day, because on occasion it feels like writing is throwing words out into the void and hoping people like them. The reviews of late, and for Maybe in particular have been universally good, both for the books and for my prevailing sense of self worth.
If that last bit sounds over dramatic… its really not. For while I may protest that I am a perfectly well rounded individual, with faith in his own self worth and in the worth of the books I write, you would not be incorrect in the assumption that I protest that a little too much. Bad reviews (and I have the odd one of those, every author has) hurt. They rip me to shreds and make me lose faith in my own ability and the worth of my writing. They do so to the extent that they make it hard to actually write at all some times.
One particularly god awful review got to me to the point where I deleted a few thousand words, and did not turn on the laptop again for a fortnight. This was despite a friend who read that review, pointed out what utter bollocks it was, and that it was written by someone who as clearly had missed the point and appeared unable to comprehend the underlying satirical nature of the humour inherent in the novel concerned, and also confused Queen Victoria with our current monarch, declaring my novel was offensive because it “insulted the Queen and Prince Philip…” All of which I knew the moment I read it but it didn’t prevent the visceral reaction that review inspired in me.
But its not just those rare bad reviews that eat away at me, even good reviews can have an adverse reaction at times. A turn of phase meant as praise can be read in a way which actually feels damning even while it is clear that is never the intention of the reviewer. Added to which there is the perpetuity of people to add something along the lines of ‘this authors books are self published but don’t let that put you off…’ Which is saying its ‘good despite being self published’… Or, ‘its good for a self publish book’… Or ‘well no publisher would have looked at this in the first place but its okay, I mean clearly it’s not as good as something that was published by Random House, but don’t let that stop you…’
This is a personal niggle of mine and perhaps it is petty to point it out, but I self-publish for a reason, and the reason is not because I couldn’t send my work to a big publishing house, it’s because I chose not to. Self-published, or as I prefer to call them independently published books are just as much the product of just as much hard work, skill and talent as books which are traditionally published. The majority of them are just as well edited, just as well checked for typo’s and errors, indeed if anything the process they go through tends to be even more exhaustive. I have read plenty of traditionally publish books with typos that have slipped through…
And now comes a little rant, bare with me, and forgive me for it, but…. It annoys me when I know just how much work is put into eliminating them form my own and someone writes a review that mentions spotted a couple of typos… In a fucking review…. email the author and they will thank you for letting them know, trust me on this, they will then make sure it goes on the revision list. But don’t point it out in a review, because your belittling someone’s work over a typo or two, and unless you have ever tried to edit an 80000 word documents and get every single last word perfect…
Now, a confession, as I alluded at the start I wrote this blog several months ago, and left it half finished but decided not to published it at the time. This is because I wrote it as a response to ‘the slow crushing of an authors soul’ that is reading reviews. Even the good ones sometimes. But at the time I decided not to air my demons. So what’s changed? Well nothing, save time and distance. Authors need reviews, and I sort of hope anyone reading this will still write reviews, I just hope they will take a moment and consider that the author is a person who has put a slither of their soul out there when they publish a book and take care to tread lightly.
And please for the love of all that is holy, don’t write something like ‘this is good for a self published book…’