Your stomach turns, adrenaline begins pumping through your veins, your chest rises and falls as you take deeper, rushed breaths.
There’s a good possibility of you vomiting.
Why? What’s the problem?
Is there a scary predator hunting you down?
Have aliens landed and demanded you explain how the toaster works?
Someone’s left a review on Amazon for your book.
…You may laugh but the reality of this scenario can be terrifying for some people.
Hello, I am one of those people.
After receiving a two-star but lovely review (no idea why the two stars. I messed up on one thing and I guess it made them that angry), I made the decision to take a break from publishing.
There were a number of reasons behind my decision, which I’ll go into another time, but one of the smaller reasons was the Fear of the Review.
It happened during a vulnerable moment in my life. Things were becoming too much. And the stress of handling other people’s opinions about these stories and characters I’d spent so much time and love over was too much.
These things happen.
The problem with writing, editing, reading and everything else attached to the glorious business and consumption of books is that the whole bloody thing is so subjective.
As a copy editor and proofreader, there are certain rights and wrongs. Mostly when it comes to punctuation and grammar. And as a writer and copy editor, I know there are certain rules to be followed (and potentially broken in the right hands).
But when it comes to stories, there is just no right or wrong.
Want an example?
Here we go…
I was recently book shopping on Amazon and couldn’t find what I wanted. As always with my fantasy books, I wanted to read my favourite book as if I’d never read it before.
So I went to that book on Amazon and had a look at the books other people who had read it had bought, thinking that it might lead me to something I would equally love.
For some reason, I also had a glance at the many reviews my favourite book had collected over the years.
This book isn’t funny.
Erm… Okay. No, that’s fine. We all have different senses of humour.
There’s only one joke in this book and it’s DnD related.
Hello! I don’t know many DnD related jokes. I picked up this book because the tagline is a reference to one of my favourite movies. There’s also a lot of slapstick humour… But sure, we all have different senses of humour.
The characters aren’t likeable.
Now, hang on a minute there. That’s my fictional husband you’re talking about.
Just a book about boring old men.
I’m assuming this is from a young person who thinks they know everything. Speaking as a person in their late thirties, this book about ‘old men’ is EXACTLY what I want. And I’m not the only one. There’s a spike in popularity in women’s fiction right now for characters in their forties or fifties for a reason.
Also, did I mention that’s my fictional husband you’re talking about?!
Do you see what I mean?
The book also has who knows how many glowing five-star reviews.
Stories and characters are subjective.
What one person hates, another will love.
Our job, when marketing our books, is to find those who will love it.
So, if you’re feeling nervous/vulnerable/stressed about strangers reading your books and leaving reviews, go check out the bad reviews on your favourite books.
Read them in context, and balance them against all those shining, positive reviews.
And in the meantime, if you know of any fantasy books about older people going on adventures, PLEASE let me know about them.
I’m a little desperate.
(The book I’m talking about is Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, and if you like older men with aching backs going on one last adventure in an epic fantasy then this book is for you.
But please don’t tell me if you hate it. Did I mention that’s my fictional husband you’d be talking about?)