It's Thankful Thursday and I'm thankful for reviews...sometimes.
My third book, The Naked Earl, will hit bookstores on April 3. I was thrilled when Publishers Weekly gave it a great review. (You can see the review online on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, if you want.) It was my first time in PW. I was happy dancing along with my editor and agent. Then Romantic Times BOOKreviews gave the book four stars and a K.I.S.S. (Knight in Shining Silver) for the hero. More happy dancing here at chez MacKenzie. And then...well, then I got an advance copy of a review from someone who did NOT like the book. It was worse, really. She wasn't some ignorant toad. She was a fan! She'd loved my first two books; she was disappointed and slightly upset by this one.
Sigh. No happy dancing.
My philosophy on reviews keeps evolving. The fact of the matter is, you just can't please everyone--and you shouldn't try. If you did, the book would be a complete mess, contradictory, unfocused--or, worse, bland and boring. Reviews--yes, alas, even the good ones--are simply one person's opinion.
I do read my reviews if I come across them. (My Lenten resolution for the Earl, though, is to step away from Google.) Now I'm trying for what I consider a Zen outlook--the ability to be dispassionate about the review and the book. Oh, I'm not totally fooling myself here. I'll still feel elated at a good review and kicked in the gut by a bad one. But I also try to ask myself--after I've recovered my equilibrium--does the reviewer have a valid point or something interesting to say? Do I want to consider anything here when I write my next book? Or does the reviewer merely have his/her head up his/her...ahem.
(It's sort of like child rearing. I love my kids to death, but when I get less than pleasant information about them, I owe it to them, actually, to consider whether there is any truth in the matter.)
This doesn't mean I will let a reviewer change my writing--not at all. But I do find that occasionally I learn something useful--or even fun--that I can play with in my next novel. My writing skills are always growing, after all. I can find inspiration anywhere--even in a review.