I've been wanting to write this blog for a long time now. Several things have stopped me. One, the subject matter revolves around something negative. And two, I don't want to write a sour grapes post. Yet, as I approach my one year anniversary (May 5!) as a published author I feel that I've learned so much about this business, about myself and my writing, and about other people, that I have a legitimate reason to post about the subject matter. Plus, the blog is called Writing Romance in the Closet and it's my blog and I can write what I want:)
One recent cold night in January, I came home from a party, happy with the world and ready to write. I figured I could squeeze in at least 2 hours before it was time to fall asleep. As my usual habit, I opened up my computer and checked my email first and found that there was a new review for Bunco Babes Tell All on Amazon (I have a Google alert for such things). It was my first one star review. Bummer. But the shocker part was that the review was from the Sacramento Book Review and the reviewer had given Bunco Babes Tell All a really good review when the book came out so this new review made no sense. Until I figured out it was for the wrong book. The review was clearly meant for Bunco Babes Gone Wild. The reviewer compared my book to Judith Weiner's Best Friends Forever (they meant to say Jennifer Weiner) called my book trashy, etc... Something didn't add up, so I set out to investigate. I looked up the review on the Sacramento Book Review site and found out that indeed there had been an error. The review was meant for Bunco Babes Gone Wild and to my relief, the reviewer was not the same women who reviewed Bunco Babes Tell All, but someone completely different- a man.
Still... it bothered me. Should I bring this up to someone at Sacramento Book Reviews attention? I'll take the one star for Bunco Babes Gone Wild, but I hated that it was listed in the wrong place. After some deliberation and whining to writing friends (Mel and Louisa) I decided to let it go, but I'll admit, for a time, it paralyzed me. All I could think of when I sat down to write was that review. Then a few days later, the review (now with Jennifer Weiner's name spelled correctly) started popping up all over the place. The reviewer posted it on his own review site with the blog title : Shameless. Then a couple of days later, another Google alert popped up on my email. This one with the title "What's the worst book you've ever read?" Um, yeah, you guessed it. Dude jumped in with Bunco Babes Gone Wild (he's gotten the title right now too.) Of course, I have to say my Bunco Babes were in good company. Twilight and The Great Gatsby and a mirage of wildly popular books were also listed under worst books ever read.
So while this wasn't exactly the place I wanted any book of mine listed, it was the push that made me think that as a writer, I've made it! I have written something that another person on the planet truly hated. But I've also written something that other people have written to tell me they loved. I once heard Jennifer Crusie say that she despised 3 star reviews. She'd rather have a one star because it meant that someone was really moved by your work. In a negative way, yes, but you made someone feel something and that's what art is all about. Evoking emotion. Good or bad, it's so much better than indifference.
When I first met my editor last summer she casually let drop that one of the things she liked about my writing was my raunchy sense of humor. I must have looked surprised because she quickly added, "that's a good thing." I'll be honest, I like my raunchy sense of humor too. And if as a reader, you don't, then that's okay. My target audience is largely women, like me, who enjoy a fast paced, contemporary book with a little sex and a few laughs. A book that focuses on things that are important to women- like friendship and family and love.
So after some time has passed I've learned to put the whole thing in perspective. I'm grateful that a book review site like Sacramento Book Reviews took the time to read both my books and post a review, so thank you for that. Without people reading and reviewing your books, you're dead in this business. But I can't let a bad review guide me in my writing. I have to write to my target audience. Which is me.