During this writing journey, one of the biggest challenges for me has been anticipating readers’ expectations of me. When an author releases her first book, there are no expectations and that author has a free pass of goodwill from potential readers. If a reader doesn’t like it, at least the author has (hopefully) a second chance with a second book to improve. But what if readers like that first offering? What does that author do?
Some authors choose not to deviate too far from the formula that brought them success, maybe changing one or two details and the story is basically the same. I, on the other hand, do not set out to do that purposefully. I write the story as it comes and let the readers decide. I have had readers tell me they really enjoyed one book and really couldn’t stand the other. I’ve had readers tell me they really liked one book, but everything else I’ve released just doesn’t compare to that “one book”. I would be lying if I didn’t say every negative review didn’t pierce me in some way, no matter how strong I try to be in the face of it. It forces an author to have humility and be grateful this reader thought enough about you to give you a chance. Then again, if I can get a reader to write a scathing review about my work, at the very least I know my work was memorable!
Besides learning how to be graceful in the face of criticism, I’m also learning how to accept the fact I do have readers who like my work! When I meet people who are self-described “fans”, I still have this moment of cognitive dissonance before I give a gracious, genuine smile and thanks for their support of me. Oftentimes I feel as if my gratitude isn’t enough. It is so hard for an author, harder still for one who is primarily self-published, that every person who appreciates my effort is precious. Perhaps this is why negative reviews are harder for me absorb. I don’t have the thousands of other readers to offset those critical reviews. And then I will get a review or an e-mail from a reader and I realize I don’t need those thousands of readers to offset anything (although my work reaching that many people would be fantastic!); just knowing I could positively affect one person’s day is a wonderful and humbling experience.
I know for me personally, everything I write I try to make sure I’m proud of it. I don’t want to put my name on trash, even if it’s not my most favorite story. Writers everywhere know everyone won’t like every book you release, and sometimes a book you consider your baby have readers giving it the “thanks, but no thanks” treatment, or even worse than that. And sometimes a book you didn’t think was particularly your greatest work turns out to be a fan favorite. It can be difficult balancing your respect and gratitude for readers with your own personal expectations for your work, but I’ve decided the main people I have to answer to are my characters and myself.