The short version of this blog entry: reviews.
The long version:
Alas, it is my birth month. I’m about to be a year older. It’s been a heck of a year. Since my last birthday I discovered Charles Bukowski, which was a ton of fun. I discovered Outlander, and read the whole series through twice, and had a short Twitter conversation with Diana Gabaldon, and also I’ve seen her speak. Then there was the great vibrating emptiness left in the middle of my imagination after the second read-through of her books. What on earth could fill it? Other books didn’t seem interesting, any more.
So I started to write, and a few months later, here I am. One novel and one novella sufficiently polished that I’ve put them on Amazon. I’m sitting on the uncured, mostly-finished versions of another novel and novella. I eat, sleep, and breathe my writing. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep at night.
It has been great for me. Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to find my thing, that one engrossing hobby that would keep me infinitely occupied. Well, I think I’ve found it. And it’s wonderful. Writing makes me so, so happy.
I used to have a shopping habit. That stopped cold turkey when I began to write. I was doing it because I was bored. While I still shop a little–mostly because I have to take my young daughter out of the house sometimes and the mall is an easy place to take her–I’m not constantly combing the internet looking for stuff to buy. Which means my Amazon wish list is nearly empty. And I can’t be arsed to find anything to put on it for my birthday.
What do I really want for my birthday? Reviews. Feedback. That’s what all authors want. We love our imaginary friends, but it gets lonely with only them and us to play. I’ve had the enormous pleasure of talking to a few people who have read my books, in these last few months. Some of them were complimentary, and one even stood around chatting with me about it for a long time, bless her heart. Some let me know that the books were not their cup of tea, but found something pleasant to remark on anyway. Some had problems with the books, with their structure or their content, and let me know. Mostly they were polite about it. While I wasn’t always pleased by what I heard, it was all useful, and usefulness is a great thing. I don’t want to write in a vacuum. I want to get better. People who have taken the time to tell me what they think is wrong with my books have helped me to get better.
And because so many of us are trying to make a buck off of our obsession, formalized feedback in the form of reviews, on Amazon or on Goodreads or wherever, is crucial. A review doesn’t have to be long. A review doesn’t have to be learned or erudite or profound. A review doesn’t even have to be good–a few stinkers lend credence to all the other reviews of a work, to tell the truth, and a real screamer of a one-star review can sell more copies than a dozen five-star ratings.
You can write reviews. You should write reviews, especially if you read indie, beginning, or self-published authors. Are you afraid you aren’t qualified? Well, did you read the book? Yes? Congratulations, you’re qualified! Drop a line or two on the thing that stood out most about the work. You’ll make the author very happy. Don’t have many nice things to say about the book? Say the one or two nice things you can–or suck it up and criticize the work (only you’d better be witty about it… you’re messing with an author!) You will make the author’s day, I promise.
So, happy birthday to me, in the all-too-proximal future. Will you write a review? I’ll eat a piece of cake in your honor.