When it comes to reader reviews, most of the time I’m fairly unflustered. After having eleven novels/novellas published, my skin has grown pretty thick skin. I’ve learned to accept both positive and negative reviews as just part of the business.
If I’m putting forward my fullest energy and effort with every book, then I have to be content with my best and realize I won’t please every reader with every book. I’m okay with that. And I’m okay with readers being honest in their reviews about what they liked and didn’t like about my books.
It’s slightly awkward, however, to get a negative email from a reader, like this one I got recently: “Jody, you are my favorite author. I have read all your books and can’t wait until the next one comes out. However, the one I just read is not like the rest. It is boring and redundant. I have skipped over some paragraphs just to get through the book. What happened?”
Obviously that particular book of mine didn’t resonate with this reader. But clearly it has with the majority of my readers who have given it high marks. So, although I don’t particularly like getting those kinds of emails, I didn’t let it bother me since I understand how subjective a reading experience can be.
In fact, most of the time, I don’t focus on reviews. I read them sparingly and try to conserve my emotional energy for writing my stories.
However, I have a confession to make. I’ve been anxious about the first reviews on my Luther & Katharina book (releasing in October). This is a book that I wrote about seven years ago. Even though I was anxious to see it in print, nothing happened for a long time. Last year, my new agent was finally able to find a good home for the book with WaterBrook (a division of Penguin Random House).
As I began to edit the book, I realized I’d grown a lot in my writing skill over the years. So I had to do a LOT of rewriting over the ensuing months. I put weeks and weeks into making the book better, checking historical details, deleting and adding thousands of new words, and tweaking the story and characters.
Aside from all the waiting and work that went into the book, Luther & Katharina is also dear to my heart because of the subject. I grew up Lutheran, going to Lutheran schools, learning about Martin Luther, memorizing his catechism, and following Lutheran traditions. In fact, my dad was a Lutheran pastor until he passed away. And in some ways, his passion and fire remind me a lot of Luther.
Even though the book is still a couple of months away from its release birthday, some readers and reviewers are getting Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs). In this case, the ARC is a print copy that is not the absolute final version of the book. Since the ARC was sent out, the book has gone through at least one additional edit. While not the perfect version that will release in October, the ARC is intended to give a sneak peek to a select few reviewers and readers.
Because ARCs are out there, some early reviews are starting to show up on Goodreads. I stumbled across them one day recently and was actually surprised to see so many already. At first I was afraid to read any of them. With a fluttering stomach, I clicked off the site and avoided it for a while. But my curiosity got the better of me and so with trembling fingers, I finally went back to Goodreads and skimmed a couple of the reviews.
I was nervous. My skin felt suddenly thin and translucent. What would readers think? Would they appreciate learning about this inspiring couple from history? Would they enjoy being swept back to the 1500’s while still being entertained by the story? Would they be as curious as I was to know how a wealthy celibate nun ended up with a poor peasant monk?
I’m relieved to say that early readers are appreciating the novel. I’m grateful so far for all of the lovely compliments. But now that I’ve eased my nerves, I’m heading back into the writing cave where I will attempt to regain my thick skin once again!
By the way, I’m giving away 3 ARCs of Luther & Katharina over on my website. Feel free to stop by and enter the drawing for a chance to win this early copy of the book.
How about YOU? How do you feel about giving or getting book reviews?
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