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) Amazon.com 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)SFRevuOnce Upon a RomanceLove VampiresRomance Reviews Today
Hooked on Puzzles
I'll tell you, sometimes I wonder if I'm borderline OCD. In the past couple of weeks, I got completely hooked on one of those silly little Internet games I downloaded from AOL. To the point that my wrist was getting sore from all that mousing, but I still kept saying "just one more game." So I decided I needed to find something else to obsess over--something that didn't involve the computer and the potential of carpal tunnel syndrome.
I turned to something I used to enjoy years ago--jigsaw puzzles. I went on the Internet and found a number of sites that offered a dizzying array of puzzles, and I ordered five of them. While I waited for them to arrive, I dug out a couple of old puzzles I'd done long ago and worked on them with my husband. Tearing myself away from them was always tough--I'll just try to fit one more piece
--but at least I wasn't sitting in front of the computer.
The five puzzles I ordered arrived yesterday, and I started on the first only minutes after it arrived. This morning, instead of going directly to my computer to start writing, I found myself hovering over the table on which the puzzle sat. You'll be happy to know I eventually dragged myself away to work on the proposal for a third Morgan Kingsley book, but even now I'm itching to get back to it.
And here's just one more thing to feed my obsession--personalized jigsaw puzzles
. Not only do I get a jigsaw puzzle, I get a jigsaw puzzle of the cover of Shadows on the Soul
! How cool is that? (I'm working my way up to a puzzle of The Devil Inside
cover--I suspect that one would be quite . . . challenging.)
How many people enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles? I don't know how far into the weirdness spectrum this puts me. If you like doing jigsaw puzzles, what sizes are your favorites? And would you find a book cover jigsaw puzzle an appealing contest prize for my website/newsletter contests? (They're kind of expensive, but not so much so that I couldn't do an occasional special contest for one.)
Hero or Villain?
I do a monthly newsletter on Yahoo Groups for my subscribers. It's nothing fancy--no cool layouts or graphics, just a chatty little newsletter in which I announce my news. I also run a monthly contest just for my subscribers. For this month's contest, I asked my subscribers to name the male villain in Shadows on the Soul
. The answers started to trickle in, and that's when I started getting a complex. Because so far everyone has answered "Gabriel" on their first try.
Gabriel is actually the hero of Shadows on the Soul
. Yes, he's a dark hero, but there's still something very unsettling about having my fans name him the villain. I'm pretty sure I know what's happening. I suspect those who have answered so far have not read the full book yet. Perhaps they've only read the first chapter online
, in which Gabriel acts decidedly unheroic. Logic tells me someone cannot read the full book and think Gabriel is the villain, but I still cringe each time I see a contest entry come in. (Although I must admit to a fair amount of amusement, also. Obviously, I've succeeded in my goal of making Gabriel dark, and scary, and hard to redeem! I just hope I succeeded in redeeming him in the end.)
Those of you who aren't writers probably can't imagine the depth of self-doubt we tend to go through. And it never goes away, no matter what successes we may have. (Yes, Romantic Times
gave Shadows on the Soul
a 4 1/2 star Top Pick, but does that stop me from chewing my nails to the quick? Nope.) So despite my quite logical assurances to myself that no one who read the full book would think Gabriel was the villain, I can't help the niggle of worry.
So if you've read Shadows on the Soul
and know the real answer to my contest question, please sign up for my newsletter so I can enter you in the subscribers contest! You'll make me feel better, and you might win a nifty mug or mousepad to boot. To subscribe, send a blank email to: JennaBlackBooksfirstname.lastname@example.org