When I was studying acting many years ago, one of our drama teachers put us through an interesting exercise. She asked each of our classmates to critique each others acting. So one by one we sat and heard advice from each of our fellow students.
Did the sky fall? Did we want to bury ourselves in a deep hole? No. Our teacher told each of us to take in what advice we thought was relevant, and throw away the rest. It was a refreshing exercise.
So why did I fall apart when I got a so-so book review?
I remember nervously waiting for my initial book reviews to come out. Once they did, there was no sweat. They were fine.
…Grady Harp on Amazon posted his review. It was three stars and, in hindsight, is a good critique. I knew it was a good critique at the time, but it still didn’t stop me from wanting to hide under the doona and not face the world for days.
The line that hit me the most was ‘It is not sure whether this Australian author wants to enter the world of serious literature or the world of gay novels of substance. ‘ It’s a back-handed compliment, and at the time I both appreciated it and cowered from it. I’m in a better position to appreciate both genres and looking forward to one day, trying something more serious.
So I had arranged for one of those pre-paid blog tours with a large number of reviews. At the eleventh hour I changed it to a simple promotional one due to Grady’s review. That was a stupid mistake. I robbed myself from what could have been excellent reach to new readers.
Looking at my reviews for Drama Queens with Love Scenes I can say I’ve been lucky so far. They’re mostly positive high ratings, and even those critiques who aren’t quite on the same page as me, still have given me average scores.
It struck me odd that one Goodread’s author gave themselves five stars, and then added another five star review for his reviewers, thus bumping up his book’s rating. And then he attacked one reviewer in a new post for only giving him one star. He worded it cleverly like any author should, but it was hard to swallow as fellow author reading it.
I’ve come full circle. I used to break into a sweat over mixed reviews at first, but now they’re a blessing. They give me pointers on what to work on in my own writing, or they tell me more about the reviewer than myself – just like the exercise in theatre class.
…I still have more favourable reviews than so-so critiques from people I don’t know. Maybe if that changes I’ll want to hide back under my doona.