I’m normal – I like it when someone compliments me on something I’ve written, especially if it’s someone whose intelligence and skill I admire. I recently asked two writers I esteem for the huge favor of reading my next book with the hope they would feel it was worthy of a positive review we could use in pre-publication publicity.
I asked them to be candid and assured them they were under no obligation to give me a blurb if they had reservations. They were both gracious. Lucky for me, they liked the book a lot, and had good things to say about it. I breathed a sigh of relief. One of the two made an astute suggestion couched politely, easy to hear and accept.
Last week, as I researched the status of my first book, which Amazon now has the rights to and which they will be publishing in paper and ebook formats soon, I happened on the reader crits of that book on Amazon’s site. I hadn’t checked for well over a year and was surprised to see a negative one. After flinching slightly, I read it. It wasn’t at all snarky. The critic had read the book, used specific examples to illustrate what she felt were its weaknesses, and had no obvious ax to grind or ego to strut. She just didn’t like some aspects of it, while acknowledging other parts were stronger and kept her reading until the end.
I sat with the comments for a few minutes, waiting for some emotion to kick in – fear of failure, humiliation, anger, self-righteous denials…whatever. But nada. I didn’t happen to agree with her overarching criticism, but I understood her point of view and had to respect it. The choices I made in creating that book didn’t work for her as a lover of fiction. Fair enough.
There is some nasty, mean-spirited, sometimes personally motivated verbal attacking going on in crit environments these days. You only have to say “sock puppets” in a crowd of writers to set all the eyeballs rolling. But the other side of that is illustrated by the author who gave me a smart piece of feedback wrapped in a positive context and the reviewer – unknown to me – who took the time to analyze what didn’t work for her in a book and then to put it out there where the author could see it, without apology or spleen.
To both of them, I say “Thanks, I hear you!”