By Sarah J. Maas
You finish your novel after months—if not years—of writing. Then you revise, revise, revise until your manuscript is so polished that it gleams. Then—querying. The ups and downs, the moments of hope and despair—and you start thinking: if I can get an agent, I won’t ever have to worry again! Of course, you eventually land an agent, and you start worrying: if I can get a book deal—no matter how much or little I get paid for it—I won’t ever need to worry again! All the dark days will be behind me! I’ll be set for life just as long as I can see my book on a shelf!
Well, let me tell you something: it’s not over. Getting a book deal doesn’t mean Happily Ever After. Within a few hours of getting The Call, I was already fretting about a dozen different things. Perhaps the most pressing of them is the question of: Will people like my book?
Seriously, that’s the question that haunts my every step—the question I ask myself every time I read my novel or edit a sentence or have someone tell me that they’re excited to read QUEEN OF GLASS. Will people like my book?
The answer is maybe. Maybe some people will love it. Maybe some people will hate it. I can’t control that. But I can control how I choose to react to it.
Learning to gracefully deal with criticism is one of the most important skills a writer can attain. That’s why having a critique partner is great, and why querying and submissions are wonderful learning experiences.
There will ALWAYS be people who don’t like your book. And there will always be people who go on Goodreads to give your book 1 star without having read it. I’ll never forget how furious I was a few years ago (when QOG was still on FP): one of my fans created a series of Wikipedia pages about QUEEN OF GLASS, its characters, and me (as an author)—and one day, it was all gone.
I looked it up, and in the deletion records, it showed that someone had anonymously sent a message to Wikipedia, demanding that they take down the pages because I wasn’t a REAL (i.e. published) author. I thought that was pretty hurtful—but it was made worse when I spoke to a friend about it, and she confessed that a mutual acquaintance had been the one who wrote to Wikipedia.
I wanted to throw my computer through a window. No—scratch that. I wanted to throw my computer at his HEAD. I seriously started and deleted about ten different emails that all began with a series of profanities and insults. Ultimately, I never called him out on it. Why? Because I realized that he was just a miserable, jealous person who couldn’t stand to see other people getting ahead.
That is NOT to say that every person who gives you a bad review is a miserable loser looking for attention. Far from it. But I am saying that I am SO glad I never confronted him—because it would have made ME look bad.
With reviews, I’ve come to realize that sometimes people’s personal tastes just don’t jive with mine. I mean, I can’t count the number of times I’ve HATED a book, only to have a friend love it—or vice versa. That’s what’s so great about this industry, and about books in general: people will react differently to everything. And when that happens, awesome debate begins.
It’s really hard not to take things personally when someone slams your book: your book is your baby, after all. But it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will love it. Not every agent or editor will go gaga over your book and beg to represent/publish you. If you’re the kind of person who is devastated by bad reviews, then don’t look at your Goodreads ratings, or your reviews on Amazon and other sites. I’ll admit: I’m nervous about those bad reviews—I’m nervous about how deeply they’ll cut, or if they’ll make me never want to write again.
But I know that even when I get my first bad review, I can’t lash out. Because that’s unprofessional—because readers are entitled to their opinions, and because without debate, this industry wouldn’t thrive.
So, will people like my book?
Will I react to every review—no matter how good or bad—with graciousness and professionalism?
Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.