Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Theme (Publishing Changes): On Blog Reviews by Holly Schindler

I always compare it to meeting up with a shadowy figure at the end of an alley—reading blog reviews, that is. You never do know, when you first start to read a review, if that blogger is about to become your newest ally, or someone who just wants to tear your work to shreds. John Claude Bemis wrote a post last month about some of the horrors of dealing with less-than-positive online reviews. Like John, I had to figure out what, exactly, to do with online reviews of my work when my first book released—a quandary for all current writers. I know some authors ultimately decide not to look—not at reviews on individual blogs, or on Amazon, or Goodreads. I decided early on to set up Google Alerts on my name and my book titles, and to read it all.

Now, with two books under my belt, I’ve got a few pointers for those about to face blog reviews for the first time:

1. Cut the umbilical cord. Your book is your baby; you raised it up from the tiniest germ of an idea into a complete, finished product. Like a proud parent, every writer does—and should—feel protective of their work, as well. This desire to be protective is often what carries you through rejection and multiple rounds of revision. But once that book hits the printer, you need to separate yourself just enough to grab a little objectivity. You should always love your book, and always feel proud of it. But a bit of distance is important when the book releases.

2. Accept that you’ll get some horrible blog reviews. It’s inevitable. Within the industry—among editors, agents, and reviewers for trade journals—there tends to be some similarity of thought. But once the book hits the public, there is absolutely no consensus. None. Somebody out there’s going to say, “Yuck.”

3. Don’t expect to glean much from negative blog reviews. When a reader doesn’t connect with a book on any level, their comments aren’t particularly constructive. But because you’ve cut the cord, and have gone into reading reviews knowing that you’ll get some negative comments, a one-star review won’t cut your heart out, either. You won’t dwell on it. You’ll be able to move on fairly gracefully to the next review.

4. Let bloggers tell you what you can do better. Even in the midst of a positive review, you’ll still hear, “The book would have been better if…” For instance, a blogger who reviewed—and loved—my first book, A BLUE SO DARK, noted that Aura, the protagonist, used figurative, poetic language throughout…and also swore quite a bit. The blogger wasn’t opposed to the swearing (which was used to help illustrate Aura’s desperation), but asked, If Aura speaks in such a unique, figurative way, shouldn’t she also swear in a unique, figurative way, too, rather than just dropping F-bombs? I found that to be an extremely insightful, thoughtful comment. But I don’t think this comment ever would have permeated if I was still being 100% protective of my work and not yet willing to listen.



I realize that, once a book is released, it’s done. There’s no changing that specific work. But as a writer, I know I’ll be writing more similar kinds of books—I’ll be releasing more YA, more literary work, etc. And as much as I write for acceptance from the industry—editors, trade reviewers, etc.—I primarily write to touch the audience: readers who buy my books. Without readers…well…

Constructive criticism goes into the back of my head, and it does, I would argue, help as I draft my next works…every bit as much as constructive criticism from my agent and editors also help.

Just a few years ago, a writer’s audience discussed books in private—in reading circles, over coffee, in living rooms—and the writer never got a chance to know what his or her audience was saying. I feel incredibly lucky to be writing at a time in which I do get to eavesdrop on the discussions of my books.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, Holly. What a positive (and helpful) way to look at things!

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