Monday, May 7, 2012

Putting your work out there

Being an author means having to be brave enough to put your writing out there for the world to read, and judge. The first part is what most of us strive for, while the second is what many first-time authors dread. They say you have to be "thick-skinned" to be an writer, and that's true. The best way I've found to handle negative reviews is to look at the reviews of any of your favorite authors. Do they only receive glowing, 5-star reviews? No. You honestly can't please everyone, nor should you even try.

However, after a dozen or so reviews, a pattern should start to appear, and that pattern ought to tend toward the positive side. In other words, you can brush off a few negative reviews, but if most readers are having a problem with your book, then it's probably time to reexamine your writing. Is it poorly-edited? Is the plot incoherent? Are your characters flat and lifeless? Is your dialogue stilted and predictable? If you honestly have to answer yes to any of these, then maybe your book needs some more work. Luckily, Indie authors have the amazing ability to pull their books off the virtual shelves and make them better (or just nuke them outright if needed!) Use that ability and vow to make your next version (or new book) that much better.

I've been very fortunate with my first novel, Cyberdrome, in that I've received far more positive reviews than negative ones (85% of readers liked or loved the book), but that could change. About a year ago, right after the move, "Tron: Legacy" came out, my book received three 2-star reviews in a row. They mostly informed me that my book was too similar to Tron even though my book came out before the movie.

While a part of me cringed seeing those pop up, the next five in a row were glowing 4- and 5-star reviews. It all balances out in the end, and I actually like have some negative reviews. It makes my book seem more "well-rounded" if you know what I mean. Honestly, does anyone trust an Indie book with nothing but 5-star reviews these days? I feel I earned my current 4.2-star (out of 5) average on Amazon the old fashioned way, by writing the best book I could, and then investing in many months of editing, workshop and beta-reader critiques, and countless rewrites.

In the end, it was worth it to me to take a chance and put my book out there. If you're a writer (or hope to be some day), I hope it will be worth the effort for you as well, and that you'll take a chance.