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Monday, February 7, 2011

Rewrites and Which Reviews Matter (all of them, but in different ways)

Alex Van Helsing #3 (title TBD, though I think I have it figured out) is into its next stage: rewrites of the rough draft. There to the right you can see my printout, which I let stew for a few weeks and am now going through making changes great and small. This is once again taking up the bulk of my time, and the next draft is due in to the publishers on March 1.

Meanwhile, I read some interesting blog posts on book reviews here and here. Mainly the gist is this: authors sometimes receive bad reviews, and reviewers are uncomfortable with authors taking offense.
Here's my take on reviews: reviewers and authors have different goals. Reviewers want to tell the truth about what they think; they want to be good reviewers. Authors want to sell books. They want to be good authors, but at the review stage, they want to sell books, because to sell books means to be able to publish more books. So a bad review isn't troublesome because we feel hurt-- some of us may, but really, who cares? A bad review is troublesome because we are in the business of selling books, and bad reviews don't help. Send us a good review and we can do so much with it-- we can be thrilled, sure, but more importantly we can link it, share it, send it, post it, anything at all to help sell more books. Send us a bad review and what can we do with it? Nothing.
You can't even respond, even if the review makes a mistake. Oh, on a social networking level you can: if a poster asks on a website "why on earth did the author set this book in Vermont?" it seems to me the author can answer. After all, it's a question, and the author knows the answer. Now, what I just said is in itself controversial. Some authors say no response is the rule. I disagree. We live in the age of Facebook. The writer is expected to be in a conversation with the reader. So converse! I would love to see Dean Koontz wade into a long discussion of his own books. Not that he has time, but isn't that what a platform is for? Doesn't a relationship go both ways?
But a point for point disagreement with a review is verboten, and the big reviews, the Publishers Weeklies of the world, are not identified by name anyway. The reviews there are anonymous. Those you just read and hope for the best.
A writer must not take his best reviews too much to heart. They can make us feel better in the long dark nights, but we have to remember, that's ego. The negative reviews have just as much right to our soul, if we allow any. But from a business side? Any writer will say: good ones help; send more.

If you're wondering, yes, I read my bad reviews and good reviews alike. I use the good reviews and I take the bad reviews under advisement in case there's a recurrent theme that's helpful. Most of us writers do.

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