It's been a couple of days now since I released Somnium. Some folks are waiting on copies while others have already received them and begun reading. And here I sit...waiting for the reviews to roll in. I had the pleasure of spending time with family over the weekend at a Christmas party. Many times I was asked, "How does it feel to be published?" How does it feel?
Of all the words swirling in my head, only one comes to mind: humbling.
I've managed to distract myself with preparations for the holidays, but there is a looming thought in the back of my head: what are people going to think about it? Isn't this what all writers agonize over, after tossing a nice juicy t-bone out there?
So I decided to study some reviews, to get an idea of what kinds of things people say about books that they love or hate. I perused quite a few reviews on Goodreads from best-selling traditional to Indie work. Contrary to what I originally assumed, there doesn't seem to be a distinction for rating a self-published work over traditionally pubbed. People voice their thoughts without much regard for the manner in which a book comes into being. Of the books I checked out, I didn't get a sense that the reviewers were thinking, that was crappy, but it was self-pubbed, so I'll cut them some slack. And they shouldn't. If I'm bold enough to put my self-pubbed work out there, I should be equally prepared to take the criticism that goes with it.
I won't say which title, but I've read one book that I so wanted to fall in love with based on its concept, and simply could not. In fact, I reread certain parts of this book, just in case I missed something that could overshadow my distaste for it. In my mind, there were too many things wrong with the storyline. This is a NYT bestselling series with quite a following. I scrolled through the many many reviews, noting quite a few 5* ratings with some exuberant commentary to go with it. There are some people out in this world, a lot actually, who LOVE this book. But I also came across some 1* ratings with rude and tactless remarks. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, no doubt (I think it does a disservice to the author if every rating is glowing with stars). But come on, have some consideration that this is a public forum - particularly if you're another writer who'll be jonesin' for some positive feedback soon.
The problem with Goodreads is the black hole that one can get sucked into while reading these things. You can't help but check out other books these people have rated to see how they rate books in general. This leads to a neverending maze and before you know it, you're off in some other galaxy wondering how in the hell you got there. Eventually, I had to stop looking at them. But one thing occurred to me...books are not necessarily categorized into good and bad as I originally thought in my narrow-minded head. It all comes down to taste. Genres exist for a reason - people have preferences. And even within those preferences are more preferences. The parts that I cringe about in my book might be golden to someone else who reads it (let's hope). Even the worst self-pubbed books, pursued without much thought or regard for the industry and loathed by the majority, can garner some fandom (a horrifying thought).
It's not even been 3 whole days since my release and I can't get over how much I've learned already. I don't even have the reviews back yet to guide this level of understanding, so I can't say for certain where it comes from. Maybe just the frightening and humbling experience of exposing myself to the world. I now have a pretty good idea what I'm going to do for book 2. It's not just the publication and marketing piece that will be easier. It's the writing. For weeks, months, I've tried to tease out what had to be fixed with the manuscript, what didn't sound right to me. It's not that I thought it was perfect by any means, but just that I couldn't SEE what another reader might look at as a negative. Like a black cloud in front of my eyes the whole time that suddenly gave way to sunlight. What moved it? I'll go back to - the power of publication is profound.
I know for certain, with the second book, I'll take advantage of the editors and the many brilliant writers found on writing workshops. I did this for part of book 1 and it helped tremendously. It's kind of funny, when I first started writing and allowing people to read my stuff, I was so paranoid. Like a true amateur, I would add the little copyright to the bottom of my MS whenever I sent it out. And I had this really foolish idea that I shouldn't send my work to other writers in the event they take the storyline and run. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!! *cough* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! If I could draw worth a damn, I would come up with the expression on a writer's face when another writer asks them to beta read something. A cross between, 'I'd love to' and 'wait, you mean right now?'
I've always loved science. There's a reason - the courses in college always came with a lab. Sure I could study microbes in a book, but it wasn't until I had gone through the experience of seeing these invisible organisms through the microscope (following the painstaking trouble of incubating them and producing pure cultures), that I could really grasp a full understanding of them. I guess I'm more of a hands-on kinda gal. So it makes sense that the lightbulb would go on now versus prior to publication. I'm writing book 2 now with less clutter in my brain. With each book I write, I'm hoping to sharpen my skills and better organize my thoughts. I'm finding the writing is faster this time around; the thoughts forming easier. Perhaps I would have learned this with time. A long time maybe. But regardless, I'm glad I did it. It's been a great experience.