Thursday, September 13, 2012

The First Review

So a little while ago I linked to Nathan Bransford's awesome GIF-illustrated post on the process of publishing, and said I was in the "waiting for reviews" stage represented by the unsuspecting guy walking down the hallway with a reviewer about to drop on his head...

Except in my case that's not quite the right analogy, because like many an author before me, I crave reviews. Seriously, they are the crack of authorhood.  Jaded (and no doubt wiser) authors say you shouldn't read them - good reviews will puff up your ego to the size of Jupiter and you'll stop listening to honest feedback, until your writing starts sucking bricks through a garden hose; while bad reviews will crush your spirit and leave you a sniveling mess afraid to ever touch your keyboard again. 

Maybe so, but heck if I can stay away. The whole point of seeking publication is to share your stories with other people - and reviews are precious proof that all the craziness of the publishing process isn't for nothing.  That somebody read your work, and reacted to it; you're not just tossing your book out into a void, never to get a response.  Monologuing is all very well, but that's interesting.  (Even if it's a necessarily limited conversation on the author's end - I hold to the policy that reviews are for readers, not the author, and so refrain from ever commenting except to send thank-you emails to the reviewers for their time and effort.  Though in other venues I am delighted to discuss my books ad nauseum. :)

My goal for publication has always been to have one single stranger enjoy my book.  And so, just as I did last year for The Whitefire Crossing, I've been waiting for The Tainted City's first review with a combination of seething nerves and hopeful anticipation: will my goal be met? 

Well, the first review is now in...and yes. Yes! The reviewer enjoyed it. Haha, and this time it's better yet: the reviewer enjoyed it despite a) primarily being an urban fantasy reader, and b) not having read The Whitefire Crossing.  (Kudos to them for forging on with The Tainted City anyway once they realized it was book 2 of a series!)  Fangs for the Fantasy says: "I love the characters in this book...even though I rarely read high fantasy now, I'm sorely tempted to track down the first book so I can fill in the gaps and the background of this story - I already know I will be checking book 3."  (You can read the full review here.  Though be warned, it does contain some spoilers.  But also a very welcome discussion of gender and LGBT issues.  I love detailed, thought-provoking reviews like this.)

So. I go to sleep tonight knowing my goal for The Tainted City is met - anything else from now on is icing on the cake. And damn, that's a great feeling.   


  1. That's such a great goal to have.

    I used to try to please everyone, but I found that's as impossible (and enjoyable) as sucking bricks through that garden hose.

    1. Yes, sometimes when I tell other authors the whole "I just want one stranger to like my book.." they peer at me with a quizzical look, and I know they're thinking, "Isn't that bar a little low? Shouldn't you be aiming higher?" But I think the secret to happiness in publishing is to dream all you like, but stick to goals you can actually achieve. So much in publishing is completely, utterly beyond a writer's control - but I know that if I write the absolute best book I can (which IS in my control), then chances are good I can meet that personal goal of a stranger enjoying it. And at least for me, the satisfaction I get from meeting that is huge.

  2. Except in my case that's not quite the right analogy, because like many an author before me, I crave reviews.

    And yet there are lots of authors who avoid reviews like the plague. What do you make of them?

    1. I figure, everybody's different. :) Some people find it works best for them to shut other voices out as they write the next book. I can totally get that - I did have a time back when I was about 3/4 of the way through Tainted City where I did back off reading reviews and such of Whitefire for a little while, because I had this huge attack of "Oh no, what if readers don't like the next book?" (It was quite funny, actually. The better the review of Whitefire, the more stressed I got about Tainted City.) But luckily enough, for me that phase didn't last - I think it was mostly a product of stress over my deadline, combined with lack of sleep (which always leaves me a mess). Once I finished Tainted City, I found myself just as eager to read reviews again (of both books!), and able to take them in stride. You've just got to go with what works for you as a writer. If reading reviews is giving you enjoyment & pleasure, then read 'em. If it's making you stressed and upset, then don't.