Thursday, March 22, 2012
When Some Like It and Others Don't....with a Contest
As readers, we have our likes and dislikes. What 90% of the reading community may enjoy, 10% may stop and ask themselves why, and the reverse also happens. Sometimes 90% wonder how a book made it to the NYT list while 10% rave about it. As readers, we're also often called upon to let other readers know what we think. Yes, people want our opinions about what we've read - the catch is, they want an honest opinion - something authors don't always want to see.
On the flip side, as authors we want all of our readers to enjoy the books we spend hours writing, but we often forget that not everyone is going to like the books. Some will and they will be the type of reader you draw to your future work. Some won't and they will be the ones who either don't particularly care for your genre, or are writers themselves and therefore look at the book from a different point of view. Some simply won't like the story.
Keep in mind that this is not a bad thing! Without variety in genre, subject and style, we'd soon grow bored with books and the authors. Sometimes what an author does works and other times it doesn't. Some authors just have an exceptionally remarkable talent and everything they write is golden...in reality, this type of author is extremely rare. The great thing though, is that as authors we have the chance to improve upon our writing, thereby producing better books. As readers, we have the chance to write more honest and insightful reviews.
I've posted previously about the positive aspects of negative reviews and my views on that have not changed - in fact, I'm even more convinced of the usefulness of these reviews. I've recently had the pleasure of having my Victorian-era novel reviewed by another author, one who has been through all of the ups and downs of writing and publishing a book. In addition to her review, which I actually thought was rather kind, she provided genuinely helpful feedback that not only had me pulling the novel to make a few minor changes (okay, so as self-published authors we can do that!), but will also help me with future books I'll write set in the Victorian-era.
So what happened when she kindly sent me her critique, believing perhaps that I would be upset because of it? I was grateful because it wasn't that she didn't like the story, but that as another writer she saw things I had overlooked. Others who have read the book and said how much they enjoyed it, were coming at it purely from a reader's point of view. I now realize how important it is to gain reviews from other writers who can look at the book with a more critical eye.
There was a catch...some of the critiques this reviewer provided seemed to rewrite sections in a way that left the voice of the story, my voice, out in the cold. Her suggestions were good, but not necessarily how I would have written them - they weren't my voice, but rather that of the reviewer. So where do we draw the line between accepting critiques and changing the way we write?
Here's what is most important to remember. Reviewers aren't always right! Sometimes they are and their input is valuable. Mostly, they're just expressing an opinion. I remember when I first started looking around for editors, I went to two professionals, both of whom provided me with vastly different feedback and edits - so which one was correct in their assessment? Both or neither depending upon how one looks at it. The same is true for reviewers. They have their opinions, but many of them just won't agree with you or other reviewers. Writing is a learning experience for both the new and the seasoned, and I for one prefer to embrace the challenges with all the good that comes our way. Because really at the end of the day, most of us just want to sit back, cozy up and be entertained. If I'm looking for a historical study on a subject, I'm not going to read a fictional book, no matter how accurate. I'm going to read a historical text and leave fiction for the weekends.
Readers - as authors, we generally love what we do and for most of us, our hope is to simply tell our stories and hope you like it. We don't expect you will all like what we write, we just love that you're reading it.
Authors - remember that feedback is valuable, but sifting through reviews is not writing. Worrying about what every reader thinks is not writing. If what others suggest or critique can in fact improve your work, then it doesn't hurt to consider the recommendations. Most important to remember - don't lose your own voice in the process.
So, about that contest...no it's not as much work as roping a steer, but you do have a chance to win a free book and a gift card!
I have three questions to be answered and anyone commenting (or sending an email) with answers to one or two of these questions, will be entered into a drawing for a free Kindle copy of Alaina Claiborne and a $10 Amazon Gift Card (both prizes to one winner). Anyone answering all three questions receives an extra entry. That's right - I want to know what you think!
Question 1: As a reader, what is the one thing you find most bothersome in books published today?
Question 2: As a reader, what is the top reason why you didn't like the last book you didn't like (when that reason has nothing to do with genre or author, self-published or not-please don't be specific about author/book)?
Question 3: As a reader, what do you most want to see from a new book or author? Whether it be a fresh storyline or more adventure - anything goes (but keep it clean)?
This contest is now closed and Congratulations to our winners, Natasha and J. Barrett! Since we had only two participants, both will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a free ebook copy of Alaina Claiborne.