A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
When I was first published I remember the excitement of receiving and reading that first review. Well…it wasn’t excitement exactly, more terror and nervousness tinged with a little feeling sick and a big whollop of hope.
What if they hate it?
What if they slag it off?
What if they give it no stars at all and think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read?
Luckily, it wasn’t. But I often wonder if reviewers realise the power they hold over us writers when they share what they think of our work. (And I’m talking reviews here, not synopses!)
Not that I think they shouldn’t review if they didn’t enjoy it, opinion and debate is good, bad review can make me miserable just as a good one can make my day. Maybe it’s just me: I’m not thicked-skinned enough, take things too personally, am too delicate or other such excuses.
I suppose I’ve been fortunate that my ‘bad’ ones, or ‘less-than-favourable’ shall we say because nobody’s figuratively (or literally I hope!) torn my novels to pieces, have been few.
My gut reaction on receiving my first ‘less-than-favourable’ one was to hunt the person down and explain to them exactly why they’re wrong – much like in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity when he feels the need to explain to his girlfriend when she shouldn’t like a particular band.
But y’know, that’s their opinion isn’t it? I can think of quite a few highly regarded novels that I can’t stand, and ones that I love that others don’t. To a degree what makes a novel ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is subjective, and as some author (I can’t remember who) once said – there are as many different versions of a book as there are readers.
Over time I’ve learnt to take criticism critically. I listen/read what people have to say and think about it. Sometimes I can see their point and will keep that at the back of my memory somewhere to consider when writing. I stress consider.
Other times? Well…I received a review not long ago where the reader clearly didn’t get it – my fault as a writer? Theirs as a reader? No, just the wrong book for the wrong person. Shrug and move on – you can’t please all the people all the time. I just hope that the balance sways in my favour!
Of course when receiving a good review there’s none of this flim-flam.
The reader then is absolutely, completely, unconditionally, right!
I’ve had reviews that have made me cry – in a good way – and I hold those in my head too, for those writing days when I’m convinced it’s all rubbish! (We all have them I’m sure!) They help keep me going.
A writer told me the other day that she never reads any of her reviews, and I thought maybe I should be more like that – it seems stronger, more independent and more professional somewhat.
But, no, that’s not for me.
I like that connection with readers. I want to know what they enjoyed, or even didn’t. I’ll take the bad, (that will hopefully be few) as well as the good (which will hopefully be more!) After all, if it wasn’t for our readers, none of us would be in this position.
Author of A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights
Like so many authors, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made stories up in my head. However, it never seemed an attainable career for ‘normal’ people, so it wasn’t until about the year 2000 when my youngest child was about to start school and the prospect of returning to full-time work loomed that I thought it’s now or never and started taking it seriously. Twelve years, a lot of hard work and loads of rejections later I had an agent (Carolyn Whitaker, London Independent Books) and my first novel – A Brighter Fear – was published.
In those twelve years, as well as many rejections, I was also a finalist in a BBC script-writing competition, and achieved a first class honours degree in Professional Writing.
A Brighter Fear was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards and my second novel, A Dream of Lights was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and awarded ‘Highly Commended’ at the North East Teenage Book Awards.