"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Be Kind, Rewind


On my nightstand is a stack of books that I have committed to read. Most I paid full price for—those are the ones at the bottom of the stack. The ARCS (advance reader copies) that other authors send, requesting a review, always go on the top. I don’t read a lot of famous authors. Most of my books I purchased at conferences or through my local bookstore, even Amazon, to help authors realize their dream. I’m not always interested in the topic or the writing level, but when spending 8 hours of my life seems worthwhile, it is karma revisited. My next book will be out soon and others will return the favor.

I try to be prompt, not one of those people who request an advance copy and then don’t read it. I’m sorry to say, those people unleash in me the pain of a maimed dog. On the other hand, the simple tap of the “share” button on Facebook for a book event or launch is an act of affirmation that cements relationships.

The process of grinding out a novel is tedious, lonely and beset with waves of doubt and self-loathing that flattens the writer’s tush and wears out office chairs. In case another simile is needed: the writing process is like swimming alone in a deep pool at night. We’re swimming blind. By the time the book finds a publisher, we need another body in the pool, a lifeline, a light illuminating the surface—anything helps.

That’s where the critique comes in. The first review is breathtaking. We read it and it’s as though we’re reading about someone else’s work, someone brilliant and deserving. But sure enough, the title is the one we submitted to a publisher two years earlier. Then the second review pops up and suddenly our readers have found us! Publishers pay attention. Bookbuyers and librarians google reviews to see how the stars line up. Five, four, three--things start to get gnarly at three. A one-star review makes authors crazy.   

What a reader says is important. When they say a book is suitable for YA as well as adults, this is good information. When they say the end surprised them, or they wanted to cry for the main character, this is very good. Reviewers don’t need to give an analysis of the use of simile and metaphor. Readers want to know if the book delivers. At least I do.

Be kind. Rewind. That's what we used to say, back in the day of VHS and track tapes. Today's advice should be, Be kind, Review. Writing a review can be addictive. Just go to your favorite book site on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Click on the line of stars. Find where it says, “Leave a Review” and start writing. Be as fair as possible. Click if you find someone else’s review helpful. Be part of the process. And don’t forget the “little author.” If a book already has 350 reviews, try leaving one for a newly-released book. You can start with mine. Maria Ines