Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What's a Review Worth?

With THE MARK now having been in stores for a little over a month, I've had both the pleasure and heartache of hearing from many readers who've read my debut novel and took the time to send emails, MySpace messages, and post reviews. What amazes me most about the letters I've received--as well as the various reviews posted on blogs, websites and online retailers--is the broad spectrum of opinions people have about my book.

One reader said it was the best suspense novel he'd read in years.

Another told me she liked it so much she bought 14 copies for her entire book club.

And then one reader told me I should be ashamed of myself for ripping off the reading public.

Now I certainly don't think THE MARK is the best suspense novel in years. But neither do I think it's ripping anybody off. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle (ok, hopefully it lies closer to the first reader's opinion). I'm proud of the book, but also aware that it's my first novel and that I have a great deal of room to grow.

As I imagine most authors do, I try to lend more weight to the good reviews than the bad. But sometimes the bad reviews go beyond reviewing your book, and seem to attack you personally (I'm looking at you, Mr. You're Ripping Off the Reading Public). Even worse, sometimes the critics are right. You made a mistake. A character's motivation isn't quite as clear on the page as it was in your head. And you begin to question everything.

Now part of the beauty of the digital age is that readers can share their thoughts about a book directly with the author via email, as well as the entire world via blogs and websites. I'd be lying if I didn't do periodic Google searches to see if there are any new reviews for THE MARK, or troll Amazon and bn.com to see recent reader reactions. It also makes me think about those in other professions who receive criticism--good and bad--from a much louder megaphone. Sports coaches and athletes. Politicians. And writers far more famous than I am. The bigger you are, the thicker skin you need to have. Because even if only 1% of people hate your work, if a million people are reading you that's 10,000 people who think you're a hack, a sellout, a bum, etc...

Not every book is going to appeal to everyone, and I'm aware of that. I've gotten some letters from readers who simply didn't "get" Henry and Amanda due to their relatively young age compared to most thriller protagonists. And that's fine with me. Several have made valid criticisms which I will try to address in future books. But most readers have thanked me for entertaining them for 367 pages. And those are the ones that, to me, have the loudest voices.


Blogger Steven said...

I read it. Liked it. Good stuff. How was it a rip off? Strange what people will say.

Don't worry too much about the negative - you've got contracts for something like thrity-seven books if I do my math right, so get cracking on the next one.

Last year I got a PW review that simply hated my book and that had me down in the dumps. Two days later I got a starred review from Library Journal. That helped.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jason your book was awesome and engaging throughout. the characters felt raw and real as though they actually lived.

Ripping off the reading public? Someone must've spit in his double shot, nonfat, extra hot, soy latte.

3:38 PM  
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