Monday, May 7, 2012

Advice for new authors

I've done several interviews for blogs and one question always asked is some like 'if you could give one piece of advice to new authors, what would it be?' My usual answer is to not give up and follow through with writing b/c I think many people get easily discouraged.

While I agree with that to be very true, I feel it is kind of vague. I've been thinking about this lately (don't ask me why lol) and I came up with some more concrete advice. I feel like I should put in a disclaimer here that reminds you I'm still a new author and that this is all coming from my own personal opinion.

My advice is about reviews. First I'd like to remind you of what a review is.  A review is written by the customer (for a book, it is your reader). The point of a customer review is to give the customer a place to voice what they thought of the product. In this case the product is your book. The point of all that is to let other customers read those reviews and hopefully be helpful.

When I am ordering clothes or shoes offline, I find it very helpful when other customers note that the shoes run a size small or the clothing runs large. Stuff like help influences what size I'm going to order. I also find it helpful when people list what they did and didn't like about a product. Personally, the 'I didn't like it' reviews are not helpful to me.

But, back to your books and its reviews. You will get good reviews and you will get bad reviews. I have seen many people say that books with only 4 and 5 star reviews look fishy and I totally agree. There is not one single product/book/invention/food/whatever that will please everyone! Remember that!!! You cannot please everyone in life. You could write an award winning book that is on the NY Times bestseller list for weeks and you will still have people who do not like it. Take Twilight for example. Super popular, super well-liked but some. Absolutely hated by others. Why? Because people have different opinions. So, when you get your bad reviews (b/c it is bound to happen) be happy you got another review under your belt and move on.

Now, what really irks me (and my main piece of advice) is authors who respond to these bad reviews (mostly on amazon). Again, IMHO, it is in very bad taste to try and argue via an amazon page on why the person who gave you a one star rating is wrong.

Opinions are subjective and cannot deemed wrong. I think donuts are gross. Thousands disagree with me. Does that make my opinion of donuts wrong? No. It just makes it mine. So someone leaves a review saying that they didn't like your book b/c your characters were boring/dull/flat/unlikeable/mean/stupid/whatever. And let's say 90% of the other reviewers stated how much they loved your characters. Does that make the person leaving a bad review wrong?

Not at all. It means they interpreted the story differently. That is one of the best things about books! Every reader can interpret it how they want. Characters can remind you of people from your life (which, in turn can reflect on the overall enjoy-ability of the book. And yes I just made up that word ;) ) You can put yourself in the main characters shoes and imagine their world to look like yours or look like something entirely different.

Maybe this is super lame of me, but I don't even like saying 'bad review'. I'd rather call it negative b/c to me, no review can be entirely bad. On amazon, for example, the more reviews you have-regardless if they are 1 star or 5 star- the more 'important' amazon sees your book. Supposedly, once you hit 50 reviews your book gets some free advertising from amazon. I've only heard that from other authors so I don't know if it's true or not...I hope it is! (48 reviews for Contagious so far! Woo-hoo!)

Anyway, do not respond to the negative review! If you want to read it, fine, but take it with a grain of salt and remember it is just one person's opinion. It is not the be all end all to your writing career. And, please remember, that the reviews are not meant for the author. They are not suppose to be tidbits of advice. They are written for the customer, whose decision to read or not read the book might be influenced by what others thought.

I feel like this post is all over the place. It was something that was kind of bothering me and I do think it will be helpful. So, in conclusion...

  • You will get a bad review. Deal with it and move on. If you don't want to be criticized, do not offer something to the public.
  • Reviews are for other readers, not for the author. If you want constructive criticism, find some beta readers or, better yet, hire an editor.  
  • Do not under any circumstances reply to a negative review! It is so unprofessional!! And, you are arguing with a complete stranger on the internet...don't waste your time. Go write your second book instead!
  • Be grateful you got a review. The more reviews you have, the more 'legit' your book looks.
  • If you're going to get upset over negative reviews DO NOT read the reviews. Pretty simple, right? (Oh, but it's sooo tempting! lol)
I hope that doesn't sound too mean. Just remember that there are people out there who think it is their duty to 'warn the public' about something they didn't like. Seriously just move on. Read the good reviews you've gotten if it bothers you that much. Yes, I completely understand the time, devotion, and emotion put into writing a book and no one likes their work insulted. 

Be prepared for it to happen, b/c it will. 

Enjoy writing, write from your heart, and write what you want to write. For every person who didn't like your book, there is one (or more!) person who did like it. You live and learn and improve and grow every day. Do not let the negativity get you down! :)

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