Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Stars in My Eyes

So, this being the 21st century, and me having a book coming out, and we all being on the internet, I naturally set up Google Alerts to notify me when someone even THINKS about my book. And, this being my first book, and that clearly not being enough, I have been known to (now and then)* wander over the Goodreads, where my publisher gave away some advance copies last month, to see what people are saying. Because, you know, ego.

Up until yesterday, all the early reader reviews (there and elsewhere) have been pretty good, ranging from "ZOMG! Read this!" to "It's okay." (My favorite so far has been " could someone not love this? It's so good..." Oh, look--more ego. ) Then, yesterday, I came across my first pan. As in (paraphrased), "Couldn't finish it. Didn't like the characters. Ew-ew-ew. Maybe I can pawn it off on a friend." And you know what???

I was so f***ing relieved, I can't even tell you. I literally felt the weight lift off me, and I let out a Great Big Sigh.

Someone hated my book! Yaaaay!!

Wait, you say. What? You're happy about this?

To quote Phineas and Ferb (two of the West's greatest modern philosophers): Why yes, yes I am.

See, up until this point, my manic scouring of the internet has been turning up nothing but (very small) pockets of (somewhat) heated anticipation or (somewhat) heated praise. Don't get me wrong, I love that (a few) people are excited about the book, and that the ones who've read it prior to release are, overall, pleased with the final product. Trust me, as a writer, you want people to like your stuff. That's kinda the whole point (well, at least for me--I know there are some writers who would prefer a poke in the eye as opposed to praise, but that ain't me and I don't even pretend to be that tortured). But after a while, I started to wonder "Is it that good?" Even more, I started to wonder, "OMG--what if it is that good? Holy crap!"

Because, you see dear reader, I'm still working on the second book. The book I don't have ten years to polish and groom and fiddle with and take my-ever-lovin'-sweet-time writing (although I suspect my editor is starting to wonder about that....). And if I'm reading nothing but praise for my first book, it makes the second book--which, let me tell you, is hard enough to write--that much harder. Will I be able to make lighting strike twice? Will this book be a let down after the first one? Can I produce something more interesting than a grocery list under a fixed deadline? Am I the genre literary equivalent of Kajagoogoo? (ew...)

It can be...distracting.

But fortunately for me, someone thinks my book sucks. (Which, btw, does not mean they think I suck.; that's a whole different thing, and a separation you need to learn to make early on--people not liking your work doesn't mean they don't like you...usually). Even better, I found another person today who thinks the book may suck even a little more than the first person. Hurrah!

Understand, if the book was only getting slammed, this would be an entirely different story. Then I'd be typing this on booze and some funny little pills I raided from my wife's medicine cabinet (no, I don't know what kind--all I know is that MORE milligrams are BETTER!!!) But that's not the case.

And that's the point. You write the best book you can, knowing it's not going to be to everyone's taste; that, in fact, it will in all likelihood be flung across the room by some people. Great reviews are great, but if that's all you let yourself see, or all you get, it can in some ways be as troubling as getting none at all. And yes, it's easy for me to say that now; just wait until the second book is out, and the people who've been singing my praises come after me with pitchforks and torches.

But that's okay, too, because somewhere out there on the internet, someone will be giving it four or five or ten or however many stars they can. And in the end, it won't matter either way, because at that point, it's firstly about the reader, and only secondly about the book. And it definitely isn't about me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to writing (right after I go check Google Alerts one last time.....)

*= Where "now and then" equals a value of "way too freaking much"


Calenhíril said...

Last night I received a copy of Among Thieves (I won it through LibraryThing), and I'm excited to read it. You'll see my review at some point, once I get through my current book :)

Douglas Hulick said...

Thanks, Calenhiril, and congrats on the freebie! (I'm still tickled people have had a chance to win advance copies--it's kind of like early holiday presents for me to get reader reactions even before the release date.) I look forward to seeing what you have to say, good or bad. :)