I had a review a little while back from a lady who hadn’t enjoyed my second book, Trinity Rising. She’d had a bit of a problem with the sexual aspects of Songs, but soldiered on because she liked my prose. The opening chapters of Trinity, however, had defeated her: there’s a couple of aggressive, non-consensual encounters that occur early on, and she hadn’t been able to finish the book.
I said I was sorry it hadn’t been her cup of tea, but thanked her for trying and taking the time to write her review. She seemed impressed that I’d bothered to comment on the opinions of a self-confessed prude, and that got me thinking.
As a writer, I expect negative reviews. I have to: they come with the territory. And guess what, they’re exactly as valid as good ones. No two storytellers will make the same tale from the same ingredients, and so no two readers will form the same impression of the results. And frankly, it’d be daft to expect them to.
Yes, I’ve lavished months or years of work on my books, made them the best I could, and I’m so proud of them I’ll take any excuse to talk about them or show pictures of the covers to random strangers in the queue at the supermarket (they’re my kids, after all) but I’m not entitled to a damn thing in return.
Sure, undiluted praise would be nice, and send me back into my office with a smile on my face, but it’s a vastly unrealistic expectation. People are individuals and that means we don’t all like the same things. This is why ice-cream comes in more flavours than just vanilla. Believe it or not, some people can’t abide chocolate. Others are freaked out by ickle fwuffy kittens, in which case they’d probably best not be reading this post. And so it goes with books, too – as the recent SF Signal Mind Meld: The Books We Didn’t Love reminded me.
I am not entitled to be adulated by all and sundry – nor is any writer. I’m not entitled to anything. I choose to put my work out there; I don’t get to choose how it will be received. About the best I can hope for from a reviewer is their honest opinion, and if that means they didn’t like my book, then that’s fine. People being what they are, somebody else is gonna love it.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net