My Stupid Book

Writing a book is a little bit like having a child.

I can’t really comment on whether or not it’s like actually giving birth, since I’m not equipped to make that comparison. And as hard as writing a book is, after watching my wife go through four pregnancies and c-sections, I’d say writing a book is, in fact, very tame. (p.s. My wife is amazing)

But, being a father, I think I’m qualified to make the case of books as children. You spend hours agonizing over decisions and choices and tiny little things that might have huge repercussions. You stay up late with them, you clean up their messes, you strive to make them the best they can be.

Sometimes they reward you for it and you experience emotional highs like never before.

Sometimes they throw up on you at two in the morning.

But at the end of the day, they’re your creation, and you love them.

Your parents and family and friends will adore them too. They’ll see past whatever flaws they might have and praise the good. At least they should. You need to have that support system, both as a parent and an author. But then things get trickier, because at some point, you send them out into the world, hoping that you’ve prepared them as well as you can for what’s to come.

And here’s the hard part. Your kids and your book are going to be judged.

They’re going to be judged on how well they perform, how well they can exist in the outside world, and so on and so forth. And those judgements are going to be a reflection of you, of your skills, of your abilities, of how well you did your job.

I’ve heard authors say they never read reviews. While it might be noble to refrain from reading them, it’s not really for me. When a movie I’ve worked on comes out, I religiously check Rotten Tomatoes to find out what people think. I don’t read all the reviews, but enough to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t. The same with my book.

Criticism is good, to a certain degree. Not only does it keep you humble and grounded, it can help reveal problems with what you’ve created that can be avoided in the future. No one has ever written a perfect book, or raised a perfect child, and having the flaws pointed out can help in your next endeavor.

When my book came out, the reviews were generally pretty good. Like I said, family and friends were very supportive. And people I didn’t even know seemed to respond well to it also.

Then one day, I got my first one star review on Goodreads. Since it’s short, I’ll quote it here:

“Probably the stupidest book I have ever read. Just stupid.”

I went through a lot of different emotions when I got that review. I was mad, annoyed, frustrated, hurt, and many other adjectives. I considered responding to the review, then figured it would be a bad idea. After I’d cooled off a bit, I decided to just write a short note saying something along the lines of “Thanks for reading. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it.” But when I clicked to make a comment, Goodreads showed this warning:

“Goodreads has found that it is not in an author’s best interest to engage with someone over a negative review. Please think twice before commenting on this review.”

Fair enough. I decided to simply hit the “like” button on the review and leave it at that.

As time has passed and I’ve thought about it more, I’m glad I didn’t say anything to the reviewer. I’m also glad I “liked” the review. For those reasons listed above, I’m actually thankful for the criticism. Not only does it compel me to work harder on my next book, it serves as a reminder that not everyone is going to love my work, no matter how good I think it is. And really, that’s fine. It’s just a book, and I’m glad the person took the time to read it.

That’s all we as authors and parents can really ask for. Give our creations a chance. Let them show you what they can do. Hopefully you’ll find something of redeeming value in them. If not, we’ll simply move on. No harm, no foul.

But fair warning:  If you ever call my kid stupid I might punch you in the face 🙂

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One response to “My Stupid Book

  1. I’m sorry Dan, that review wasn’t very fair, especially since they didn’t explain why it was they thought your book was “just stupid”. I remember when I saw that you “liked” this review a couple of months ago on Goodreads. I was actually impressed because I thought it meant you had a good sense of humor and didn’t take yourself too seriously (I’m less impressed now because I see your reaction was only human, probably the same reaction I would have had.)
    I remember when you were first publishing your book you said to me, “I know everybody won’t love it, but I hope that everybody doesn’t hate it.” Your track record shows that people like it, so I think you can consider yourself a success. Remember, you knew that people wouldn’t like it (although I’m sure you hoped that everybody would.) You gave one of my favorite books, The Book Thief, a very low rating on Goodreads, without any review to explain why. Your opinion doesn’t make the book any less valuable or the writing any less beautiful, just like, “just stupid” doesn’t take away anything from your book for those who love it. We offer opinions in the world and we are given them. But, that doesn’t mean we have to listen.

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