Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Suck It Up, Big Boy, and Book Reviews

The Glitter Globe

Always do what you are afraid to do. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let’s talk about fear some more. There are plenty of scary things in the world, I’m sure we can all agree on that. My issue with fear is not to let it get in the way of what I want to do in life.

  • Like writing books.
  • And hiking in the woods.
  • Or trying new things that scare me—like riding in an open cockpit plane (about as big as Snoopy’s dog house) or skinny dipping in a lake known to harbor leeches—with Dear Hubby, of course.

Of course I do that thing most people do, which is to worry about what might happen when I get a leech stuck—ah—somewhere. The thing is, I’ll probably survive it, and get a good blog out of it, right?

Do what you fear and fear disappears. ~ David Joseph Schwartz

When it comes to writing books, the number one thing that can slow a writer down is fear. Fear of the candid exposure of telling a story the way it flows onto the page. Fear of responsibility for what you write. Fear of criticism.

Are you afraid of criticism? As an adult you’ve learned to take it and move along. As a writer it can feel a bit more personal. Sometimes your books are like your children. Most of us know better than to criticize someone’s child. Imagine saying your new baby looks a bit amphibious, but your first one had that squirrel thing going on around the mouth. What's that about? Yet writers must encourage readers to tell us what they honestly think about our stories—despite the fact that books usually take far longer than a mere nine months to push out.

No matter how vested you are in your stories, you have to learn to take criticism professionally.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Yes, I have both feet firmly planted in that place where I invite criticism into my life.

Seriously, tell me what you think about my ancient immortal warrior who’s been around since the crucifixion! Did you have any trouble believing he’s still a virgin in the Twenty-First Century?

What did you think about the voices in Carole Blank’s head? Did you understand why she thought she was schizophrenic? Was the drinking fountain sex scene too much?

Why as a writer do I invite public criticism in the form of a book review?

Because all book reviews are good ones.

You’re thinking Codswallop, right? They’re not all good. But I mean it.

Despite the fact that book reviews are like grades given by all your former classmates, including the kids you might have cut in front of in the lunch line (What could possibly go wrong?) they’re still good. Reviews increase your exposure and SEO results. So you need them. That’s the bottom line.

And somebody took the time to write them, never forget that part. They gave something back to you, even if it’s just the finger as they drive down the freeway of life.

I read my reviews. It’s a great way to know what readers like, or don’t. While I’m comfortable and fairly confident about my stories, knowing the perception of a reader allows me to understand how well I’m saying what I think I’m saying.

Writing is like giving a speech in some ways—there are a lot of variables, and you have to pay attention to your audience. Just keep a few things in mind:

  • Everybody has an opinion and some aren’t afraid to use them anonymously on-line. Cherish sincere reviews by at least considering their input. If you get a troll, I recommend allowing karma to take care of it if possible. It’s surely not easy being a troll. 
  • You will get conflicting opinions and polar opposite criticisms. In the end—as always—obey the muse. That way you can always blame her.
  • It isn’t personal, it’s business—I hate that quote too, but it is empowering.
  • Knee jerk reactions, rumors, and gossip are espoused like the rainbow sprinkles of our time. Don’t defend, explain, argue, or even react to reviews—it isn’t professional. Just keep writing, writing, writing.
  • If you really want to thank a reviewer, thank them privately if you can—if not, maybe get the next book out faster. As a reader, that’s what I want from my favorite authors!
  • You’re going to get stung now and then by verbal shrapnel, find a support network. Fellow writers will commiserate and inspire you.
  • Do you like/love your own story? You should. That is your best defense. If you enjoyed your own story, use that as a defensive shield. There is no book that everyone loves.
  • Rant to yourself if it makes you feel better. Heck add the reviewer’s name to your fiction list of evil characters who must suffer horrible torture if it helps—you might want to switch it up a bit, so you don’t get in any legal trouble, but it will still feel good. Not that I would ever do that.
  • Check bad reviews for helpful criticism. Is there even an iota of truth in there? I know it sounds like I’m telling you to ignore bad reviews. Nope. I’m saying don’t let them hurt you, or stop you.
  • Remember someone thought that, even if they are obviously stark-raving insane. If you can, glean something useful from all feedback.
  • Get some distance from unpleasant reviews before you change anything. Don’t assume that they’re RIGHT or even wrong (even if they are obviously stupid). My reviewers are all brilliant and sane btw, and I wish them negative-calorie cookies, and excellent karma in return.
  • Walk away. If you’re really upset allow yourself to feel that so you can get over it. But get over it, and just keep writing, writing, writing.

S. R. Karfelt
And that is my philosophy on book reviews and doing scary stuff in general. What is your philosophy on scary stuff? How about book reviews? I'd like to know even if you're not a writer! And do you know where I can get my hands on some negative calorie cookies? My jeans want to know.

By the way if you don't leave book reviews, keep in mind they're better than flowers and chocolate rolled into one for a writer...well, okay, it's a tie. 

Now let's talk book reviews and other scary stuff like my bathroom scale that is a *&@! pathological liar. 

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