Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Monday, September 24, 2007

When reviews make you happy

One of the things a lot of non-writers don't understand about an author's life is that it takes FOREVER to get any real feedback on how our books are doing. People routinely ask me whether my books are selling well, and it's always a difficult question to answer. If I say "I don't know," that generally requires an explanation, and many of the people who ask don't really want a long-winded explanation. But if I say "great," I feel like a liar, because "I don't know" is the real answer.

For example, I still can't tell anyone with any great accuracy how Watchers in the Night, my first book, which came out in November of last year, is doing. I won't know much of anything until I get my first royalty statement, which won't be until at least October--and which will only cover the first couple of months or so that the book was out.

I'm telling you all this so you have a better chance of understanding what good reviews and reader feedback can do for an author's state of mind. For months, maybe even a year or so, after a book comes out, we have no clue how it's doing. I don't know about other authors, but that uncertainty leaves my stomach in aching knots. That's why a lot of authors seek out their reviews and obsess over their (admittedly pretty meaningless) rankings.

When Watchers in the Night came out, I got some great reviews--but I also got a few that said things to the effect that it was only "okay." Those gnawed away at my confidence, naturally. I was whining . . . er, that is, talking to my agent about this one day, and she told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to read reviews.

But how could I not read them, when they were my only way to get any feedback? I came upon a great solution with Jenna Petersen (another of my agent's clients, and one of my MySpace friends. Go read her books. Now.) She had also gotten the "don't read reviews" lecture from our agent. We decided that we would read each other's reviews, and only send on the ones that were really good.

It's been a great solution for me, and I've been very faithful about not Googling myself. (The other Jenna hasn't been quite as virtuous--tsk, tsk--but hopefully I've helped reduce the amount of negativity she's been faced with.) The only other time I read reviews is when the reviewer or my publicist at Tor forwards them, and that only seems to happen with good reviews.

Anyway, so far things are looking really good, review-wise, for Shadows on the Soul, and I couldn't be more thrilled. As those who've read my blog know, I've been very nervous for a long time about how well Shadows would be received, what with my unusually dark hero. These reviews have served as nice pats on the back/reassurance. True, they won't make the doubts go away--I don't think anything will, it's just part of who I am. But they sure are nice! Here are links to the reviews that have made me happy. (And please, if you know of any bad ones, do not tell me about them--I won't be able to resist looking, even though I know it'll make me feel lousy.)
Romantic Times (though it's still too early for non-subscribers to see the whole thing online)
Once Upon a Romance
Love Vampires
Romance Reviews Today


At 2:22 PM, Blogger Dayle A. Dermatis said...

When people ask me how one of my books is doing/selling, I have two standard responses.

One is to smile and say "I don't know; it's not my job. My job is to write the next book."

The other, if I know the person well enough, is to ask, "Have you bought it?" If they say no, then all I can say is, "Then it's not doing as well as it could be." (I know, I'm bad! [eg]

But really, while it's helpful for me to have a sense of how things are going, it's still more important for me to be focusing on making my next book the best it can be. (I hesitate to say "better," although there's something to be said for that.)

Besides, although I know the questioner doesn't realize it, asking about stats is kind of rude. It's like asking how much someone's salary is. ;-)

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Amberkatze said...

Your books are great and I can't wait to read more!

I write reviews for 'Front Street Reviews' and I would be happy to write a review for your next book! Just let me know when ;)

Thanks for coming over to my blog...however your found it...and keep up the great work!

At 6:05 PM, Blogger JennaPetersen said...

I know, I know, I'm horrible! But I do Google myself far less than I did, trust me. I'm weening, JennaB, WEENING!!

By the way, I forward virtually everything because you rarely get not very nice reviews. :)

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Lexi said...

That's a great idea to e-mail each other's good reviews. When I get published, I'll have to do that too!

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Larissa Ione said...

Isn't it funny how one bad or "meh" review can affect you more than the dozen good ones? How messed up is that?


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