I know, you’re not supposed to read your own reviews. But for me it’s hard to resist, which is why I know that Flight is doing surprisingly well so far–it’s currently #11 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list for lesbian fiction, and out of four reviews to date on Amazon and Goodreads, Flight has garnered an average of 4.75 stars out of 5. A loyal reader (you know who you are, C.) wrote to tell me, “Flight is an incredibly positive journey, not in the shallow sense of the absence of sorrow or pain, but in finding in love and life the courage to search and discover.” Another reader commented, “What a thought-provoking book! Slow food for the mind.”
So why after five other well-received and decently selling books do I find all of this surprising? Probably because like many other writers (and artists and musicians), I am way too close to my own work to be able judge the merits of anything I produce. I mean, of course I like what I write. Why else would I spend so much time and energy on my novels? It’s not like I’m turning out runaway bestsellers; clearly I haven’t sold my fiction-writing soul at this point.
But it is still gratifying to have people I’ve never met announce publicly that they loved my book. And, of course, a relief, because I’m not sure I’ll ever completely quiet the little voice in the back of my mind whispering that I’ll never write anything good. Four years, six books, and only a few bad reviews in, that voice is much smaller than it used to be. Perhaps a decade from now it will have faded into nothingness. One can hope.
The funny thing is, the worst review I ever received was for an unpublished book, a historical mystery/romance that I entered many years ago in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I made it to the semi-finalist round, which meant I got to have a (supposedly) real Publisher’s Weekly reviewer take a gander. Lucky me. Suffice it to say, the reviewer detested the novel, and very ably and snarkily detailed exactly why, pulling zero punches in what seemed to my bruised ego like an attempt to convince me to give up writing fiction altogether.
Looking back, I now feel fortunate that I got that egregiously awful review out of the way in a venue that few people other than my friends and family members saw. I’m also glad I didn’t let that jerk–who has probably penned nothing more than snarky reviews himself–convince me to quit. If my literary-fiction-leaning grad school classmates and professors didn’t succeed on that front, I guess a random stranger didn’t have much of a shot, either.
But the thing I’ve come to realize about books that everyone else probably already knew is that taste is subjective. Some readers like one of my books and not the others, some like them all, and some don’t like any. And that’s okay. An estimated 95% of the books published in the US sell fewer than 1,000 copies. Given that reality, life is good.
Okay, so enough on reviews and sales and fragile author egos. The other part of this post relates to a giveaway: For those who don’t already know, I’m giving away a paperback copy of Flight on Goodreads. Sign up at http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/75931-flight before December 31 for a shot at winning a signed copy, or pick up an eBook copy–still only $3.99…
Happy Holidays to everyone, and happy reading!