One of the craziest things about being published is that total strangers out there in the world are actually reading your books—and on top of that, forming opinions about them! This is very surreal. As someone just starting out in this whole published writer thing, it’s a new experience for me.
I’ve been surprised to find that as I gain more reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, it’s easier than I expected not to take it personally. After all, there are tons of books out there that I don’t like—it wouldn’t be possible for everyone to like mine, or to like them for the same reasons. The critiques range from glowing (I do love those) to brief and disapproving (one reviewer wrote, simply, “dumb”), and run the gamut from thoughtful dissections of the plot to simple explanations of what the reader liked and didn’t like.
Instead of obsessing over what each person is writing or how they’re rating my books, I’m appreciating the larger process of seeing what readers have to say. It’s extremely gratifying that people are responding to my books enough to express something about them. Some of the criticism is helpful to me as an author, some isn’t, but being willing to face reader opinions is a necessary part of publishing a book, whether those opinions are complimentary, neutral or that the whole book is dumb.
I’m learning to rejoice in the good, especially in knowing that my story entertained and satisfied a reader; to laugh at the ridiculous; and to take the bad philosophically. Being reviewed hasn’t changed my enjoyment of writing, in part because I decided years ago that I was going to write the best work I could for fun, and not worry about what the end results would be. And once I hit “publish” on that first novel, I released all control of what happened next.
Publishing requires letting go, doing all that you can and then stepping back and watching things play out—which is true about a lot of things in life. I think that’s the most valuable lesson I’m taking away from all of this: whether I’m adored or despised by my readers, to just enjoy the ride.