|You know what interviewers like to ask? They always like to ask if I read my own reviews, and they ask in a way that always makes me think they’re going to feel sorry for me no matter how I answer. Oh, poor, thing, you do? OR Oh, you don’t? That’s probably best.
Here’s my answer: I do read reviews. Not all of them, and not obsessively. But this is how I look at it. My publisher and I are putting a product out in the marketplace. A product we want to sell. Why wouldn’t we want to know what the buyers of the product think of it? Sure, we can’t change it, but it could inform future products.
I’ll look at the early reviews (especially trade reviews, like Publishers Weekly) and pre-publication reviews that trickle in on Goodreads. Those give me a sense of what the general consensus might be. Then I’ll continue looking at them until about a month post-launch, at which point I let it go, because, as I said last month, letting go is almost always the best thing to do.
I definitely learn some interesting and useful things in reading reviews. There may be several reviewers who say they guessed the ending early on, and I’m always fascinated by that because I never know the ending myself until I’m about 80% into the writing of the book. Or reviewers might comment that the book design didn’t match the story, and that’s something my publisher and I can be more attuned to for future books. Or I might get a general sense of exactly how scary or creepy my book is to the general public, something I have no perception of when writing it.
I never, ever, EVER engage with a reviewer. I’ve seen instances when authors have done that, and it’s never pretty. What’s to be gained? You’re not going to convince someone to like your book after they’ve slammed it. All you can do is stay silent, hope most people will enjoy your book, and see if there’s anything to be learned from those who don’t.
Sometimes I get an itch to reply to reviewers. Whether the review is good or bad, there are some that just hit me in such way I have to walk away from the keyboard before I do anything stupid.
|This book didn’t resolve anything at the end, which I hated. I mean, we don’t even know what happened to the main characters!
|Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I was writing for an audience who might want to own their own interpretation of what happened at the end. Okay, here’s your ending. They all drive off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. And the car lands on a picnicking church group.
|I borrowed this book from my sister. It was a fun, easy read that I whipped through on the beach one afternoon.
|THAT BOOK TOOK ME A YEAR TO CRAFT AND I CRIED WRITING THE LAST CHAPTER.
AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN BUY YOUR OWN COPY??
|John and Clarice’s storylines intertwine with palpable tension, culminating in a satisfying ending.
|Thanks for the nice review. But it’s JACK and CLARA. (This actually happened in a major newspaper review).
|Easily the best thriller I’ve read all year! ONE STAR!!!
|THAT’S NOT HOW STARS WORK
YOU’RE FUCKING UP MY AVERAGES
|I actually bought this book by mistake. I don’t even like thrillers. I read about 20 pages then put it down. One star.
|BOUGHT IT BY MISTAKE? THEN WHY DID YOU EVEN REVIEW IT?
YOU’RE FUCKING UP MY AVERAGES
|Wilson is my new favorite author.
|Will you be my best friend for life?
|Trigger warning: there’s animal cruelty and death in this book. The author doesn’t depict it explicitly, but a poodle does meet an untimely end.
|IT WAS A POODLE
|Jane, thanks for posting that trigger warning. I’ve read and enjoyed all of Wilson’s other books but I think I’ll be skipping this one. There’s never, ever a reason to have an animal suffer, not even in the make-believe world of fiction.
|But apparently you were okay when I cut a baby’s head off in my first book?
|I found a typo on page 278. Should be “they’re” and not “there.” That pulled me out of the book and I did not finish.
|I AM BLIND WITH RAGE
And so on… Overall, however, very few reviews stir much of any reaction in me, as I’ve grown a pretty thick skin over the years. And honest reviews are helpful in so many ways, from their basic purpose of providing valuable reader feedback to increasing search-result positioning on book sites. So please, I want you to leave reviews! Unless you’re a poodle-lover, in which case let’s just go our separate ways quietly.
|Making It Up
Newly added episodes of my new interview series Making It Up are out! This month I chatted with bestselling and award-winning novelists Julia Heaberlin (We Are All the Same in the Dark), Mark Stevens (The Melancholy Howl), Steven James (Synapse), and Graham Hurley (Last Flight to Stalingrad).In addition to the personal, in-depth conversations, each episode features an impromptu short-story each guest and I craft together.
All episodes are available on my YouTube channel and wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Check them out now here!
|What I’m Reading
|Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris (2021, Penguin) I do love a good biography, because I want to know how a person became that person, and this book did not disappoint. I’m ashamed I wasn’t more aware of the scope of Mike Nichols’s cultural impact beyond being the director of The Graduate, Silkwood, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But his career launched in the 1950’s as a comedy duo with Elaine May, and from there he went into directing, overseeing the making of a bajillion plays and movies. Biographer Mark Harris does a tremendous job with his research–you HAVE to see the list of celebrity acknowledgements at the end of the book….hundreds of them–and reveals Nichols to be the flawed genius we want him to be. Running about 700 pages, there are no shortages of Hollywood behind-the-scenes stories, with the best ones centering on Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. A worthy read.
|What I’m Watching
No Sudden Move (2021, HBO Max) – Oh my goodness, Steve Soderbergh has created a wonderful noir picture here. I mean, first, just look at the cast: Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Amy Seimetz, Jon Hamm(!), Ray Liotta, Kieran Culkin, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon (!!). And look at those sets of 1950’s Detroit..gritty, beautful, sometimes breathtaking. And look at how the film is shot–with special, very large lenses that warps the edges of the camera frame just a bit, making you feel a little unsettled the whole time. The story itself is serviceable (from IMDB: “A group of criminals are brought together under mysterious circumstances and have to work together to uncover what’s really going on when their simple job goes completely sideways.”), but the reason to see this movie is to appreciate a director who knows how to assemble the finest of talent (actors, art directors, set designers, cinematographers) and just let them have the time of their lives.
|Photo of the Month
Spotted this fella near my hometown on July 3rd.
|Update from My Kids
My kids went on a Colorado mini-road-trip last month and made a stop at the Royal Gorge Bridge, where Ili and Sawyer went on the Skycoaster, which allows the riders to “sweep 50 mph through the Rocky Mountain air in a free fall, momentarily dangling 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River on this one-of-a-kind attraction.” Well, they just about lost their minds as their mother filmed the whole thing. You can clearly hear Sawyer praying to God. Harder to hear–but it’s there–is Ili’s war-cry of HOOOOLEEEEE SHEEEETTTT.
|Update from My Cat
Relaxed indifference or contemplating evil? You decide.
|Internet Find of the Month, Sent to Me by a Friend
Click to watch all the glory…
|A Reader’s Instagram Pic That I Love
|Another Reader’s Pic That I Love
This person was the grand-prize winner from my recent pre-order contest. They were kind enough take a picture of their loot and send it to me.
|That’s it for now! See you next month.