by John Peragine
As the date of the launch of my novel, Max and the Spice Thieves, approaches I have been seeking and receiving reviews. Every time I see a new one in the mailbox, I cringe a little before opening it. I brace for the worst and hope for the best.
There is a certain amount of courage that is needed to send your “baby” out into the world, not only to be read but to be judged. On purpose, no less.
Before I was a full-time writer, I was a symphony musician. Since I was a boy, I played the flute and had many years of lessons and education. By the time it was performance time, I would have rehearsed with the orchestra for two or three weeks. As I sat down, I still worried about missing a cue or hitting a wrong note. As the piccolo player, there was no hiding in the orchestra. If I played at the wrong time or missed a passage, it was very obvious. 99.99 percent of the time, I played well, but it did little to help me reduce my stress for the next performance.
Sending a book out, and having someone read it, is my live performance. When I finished a piece with the orchestra, the conductor motioned with his hand, I stood up, and there was applause. When I type “The End,” there is no such applause or feedback, and so reviews take the place of the applause.
Coming from a music and theater background, I often heard, “Don’t read your own reviews.” For many years, I believed this advice is to deter people from getting an inflated ego, but now I think it was for a different reason: to protect your confidence.
Even one bad review can wheedle away at your self-confidence and allow the fraud police to step in and whisper in your ear, “You see, they hate it. Give it up. You’re not a writer. You’re a fraud.”
There have been times I have read a review and heard those very words in my head. So, maybe I shouldn’t read my reviews? I don’t think that is the answer. Instead, I have to read them with the right mindset.
I have accepted (or I am learning to accept) that not everyone will love my book. To me, it is like taking my human baby out for a stroll in the park and someone coming up and saying, “Damn, that’s an ugly baby.” It’s tough, right?
But the truth is that not everyone will love my book. I have broken down the common reasons for this:
1. My book just wasn’t good enough. It could mean I need another edit, a better cover, or a rewrite. I have to watch for patterns of many reviews saying the same thing, determine they are right, and then being willing to do something about it. This is why authors MUST get reviews early and allot at least 90 days before they release their book so they can make changes before the book goes live.
2. The reviewer is a troll. You know, someone who just likes to trash another person because they are a coward or a bully. These are easy to spot, as they are usually one or two sentences, and from their remarks, it is obvious they never read the book. Moving on.
3. Jealously or competition can be a motivation. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. An author may trash another author to try to bring the book down and reduce its rating. If you know that this is happening, you should contact whoever is in charge of the platform for the review and report it. Most readers can recognize these types of attacks. Again move on.
4. It just isn’t their type of book. This is the category that most less-than-stellar reviews fall under. It’s not you, it’s not your writing, they just don’t like your book, and that is fine. You want honest reviews. Accept it and move on.
Sometimes people skip asking for reviews. They fear people are not going to like it. They may or may not like it, but reviews are very important for a couple of reasons.
First, they provide you with feedback about what works, what doesn’t work, and what your readers are craving. If they like a particular character in your first book, you should definitely consider putting more of them in your second book. If Jar Jar Binks appears in your book, then you should kill him off quickly and in a satisfying way in your next book.
Second, you are building buzz. You are getting people to talk about your book and hopefully convince them to buy a copy when it’s available.
Third, it adds credibility to your book. Good blurbs make your book worth reading. Adding these to your book listings, your cover, and inside your book make it look desirable.
Having a few imperfect reviews makes the other reviews look more authentic. No one gets all five stars, and it could look like to readers that you only had friends and family review your book.
Less than perfect reviews can trigger me a bit, but then I sit and analyze the review further and remember that someone on the other end cared enough to read my book and then sit down and write a review. And for that, I am grateful.
Where do you get your reviews? What is your best “bad” review? Please share your stories down in the comments!
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. You can learn more about his books at JohnPeragineBooks.com.
His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, will be released on April 20, 2021. Click here for a free first chapter.
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