and on his own terms, not anyone else's."
"When critics disagree, the author is in accord with himself."
I have said on this page for a while that it bothers me when debut authors tell prospective readers, "My book is right up your alley." Or when they say, "If you love [fill-in-the-blank], you'll love my book!" After all, each reader has different tastes. And each reader possesses the absolute freedom to form their own opinions - regardless of what the author tells them, or regardless of the other authors to whom the author-in-question compares their own writing.
This was never more evident to me than when I read a review of The Great Lenore in which the reviewer said the following:
Thank goodness that even though Tohline is being compared to authors like Fitzgerald and Salinger he isn't horrible like they are!
If I were to have written a statement such as, "If you love [fill-in-the-blank], you will love this book!" I would have thrown the name Fitzgerald in there. Or Salinger. And had I promoted the book as such, this particular reader would probably never have read it. And at the same time, there are surely some readers who love old Fitzy and Salinger, and who will end up hating my book.
A couple days ago, the first negative review for The Great Lenore showed up. And you know what? - (As you can likely imagine...) it stung a little bit.
Who are you to tell me these particular things in the book are no good!
But as I talked to The Shutterbug about it, I realized: This reader was right.
One of the things she said was this: "I didn't particularly like any of the characters. They're all pretty flat in spite of their unfortunate situations, and I thought Lenore was incredibly dull."
This reader was absolutely right, in the same way other readers were right when they said these things:
It's been some weeks since I finished it, but I still feel the sea mist, still worry about the characters and their choices and still wonder about Lenore. This is a must-add to your summer reading list.
The characters are complicated and well developed; you feel like you know them, like someone you went to school with, by the time it's all said and done.
I'm still thinking about it, and that's the best part. It stays with you.
Lenore lingers. Days after reading it, Lenore creeps into my thoughts. A mystery surrounds her, one that is never fully resolved. Lenore, for all her remarkable qualities, remains an undefined factor in the universe, her personal truths shrouded in the aura of her presence. Despite (or because of) her obscurity, she fascinates me.
From beginning to end I could do nothing but tear through each page to the next. Such an interesting group of characters...especially Lenore. I hated her. I loved her. I wanted to be her.
In fact, the reader who disliked The Great Lenore was right in the same way this reader was right in their review of The Catcher In The Rye when they said, "...I hated everything about the novel. There was nothing I enjoyed. "
Or in the same way this reader was right when they said, regarding A Farewell to Arms, "...whatever the hell he was trying to do, for me it read as if everyone was either: 1) Certifiably insane, 2) an alien with no knowledge of human interaction or 3) a certifiably insane alien with no knowledge of human interaction. A vapid book full of vapid people."
I could put up thousands of additional examples - but I'm sure you get the point.
When people hate your book, take it with a grain of salt.
When people love your book, take it with a grain of salt.
No book will ever be universally loved. Some readers will despise your book. Hopefully, some readers will love it also.
I have been encouraging readers to post their own review of The Great Lenore, 'Regardless of whether or not you enjoy the book.'
I am still encouraging you to post a review when you finish reading - regardless of whether or not you enjoy the book.
Why? Because people will be better able to assess whether or not they want to spend $15 ($7.70 on the Kindle) and 5 or 6 hours on the book if they know what other readers liked and disliked about it.
And also, because some people will love the book. And some people will not. And it's great for everyone to voice their opinion...
That's the first reason I am posting this post. The second reason I am posting this post (considering that most of the regular readers on this blog are also writers) is because - if enough people read your book - you will run into bad reviews. And when you do, make sure you remember this post. Make sure you realize: Nothing the reader says in their bad review is wrong. Everything they say is right - because that was the way they felt. And who cares! Your worth as a writer is not determined by what the bad reviews say. Your worth as a writer is not determined by what the good reviews say. Plainly and simply, your worth as a writer is determined by how you feel about the work in question. Nothing more. Nothing less.
and on his own terms, not anyone else's.
Not anyone else's.
A couple noteworthy notes:
Congratulations to Eric D. Goodman, whose debut novel Tracks (a novel in stories) was released from Atticus Books last Thursday.
Between Eric and Steve Himmer - whose novel The Bee-Loud Glade (a novel about a hired hermit living on some rich dude's property) has been garnering tons of national media attention lately - there are two Atticus titles that are currently sold out on Amazon. If you are interested in either of these novels, you can order them on Amazon, and they will ship in a couple weeks. Or, you can order them (with free shipping) through the Atticus Online Store.
Also news: In case you missed it, you can find my recent interview on NPR Tulsa right here.
Also news 2: If you live in or near Mystic, Connecticut or Bath, Maine, I will be up that way in August as part of my book tour. See you there? (Many more dates are being added, so stay tuned!)
Oh, yeah - you can find the Amazon reveiws for The Great Lenore here
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