The Book Review Paradox, Sally Field and You

Hey, I got my first-ever review on GoodReads! And it’s GOOD! And I don’t even know this person! At least when the critical ones start rolling in, I can remember that the first made me feel accepted as an author.


I know reviews are difficult to ignore, although we authors probably should. Sure, a good review boosts our ego a bit, lets us know that all the hard work was worth it. But a critical review? It can make us spiral down into the depths of the creative dungeon. It makes  us second-guess all our decisions. Is there something I could have done differently? 

We kidlit authors have one thing in mind when we write–to slap a smile on a kid’s face. To make them laugh, make them think, make them realize they’re not alone in this world. When we succeed in brightening the life of just ONE reader, it makes the whole process (in this case, a FOUR-YEAR journey from initial manuscript to publication) worthwhile. We feel like Sally Field accepting her Oscar for “Places in the Heart”. You like me! You like me!

And so, when the critical reviews pile up, it’s too easy to imagine the converse: You hate me! You really, really hate me!

Why is it so difficult to separate ourselves from OUR WORK? Part of it has to do with where the work originates: in our minds. I can’t yank my brain out of my skull and admonish it: Bad cerebellum, bad! Go sit in the corner!

Part of it has to do with how hard we work to get it right: the umpteen revisions we make prior to submission, the rejections we receive that make us revise again, the editorial letters spiked with red. We think we’ve already been through the wringer, polishing and buffing our story to a sparkling sheen. We’ve satisfied ourselves, we’ve satisfied our agents and editors, but have we satisfied YOU? We don’t know. We hope we have. And we’re disappointed when we haven’t. We’ve let you down, and we didn’t mean to.

Truth be told, we want to be Sally (without the 80’s perm and frosting). We want everyone to embrace us. And by embracing us, we mean loving our book. But that’s impossible. We cannot please everyone. Critical reviews are inevitable.

Frankly, I’m scared over how I will react to critical reviews. Especially if they are factually incorrect, or based upon the [agonizingly long] time Amazon took to deliver the book. Will I get upset? Angry? Feel like quitting? I have no idea.

I’m trying to prepare myself to be brave. To toughen my skin. Everyone in a creative field has to weather criticism of their work. And not liking the product doesn’t mean people don’t like ME. They’re not going to light torches and wield pitchforks. (At least I hope not.)

I don’t want to be the author who sits at the computer all day hitting “refresh” on Chrome, checking her sales rank and star average. So I need a strategy to avoid the urge. Got any ideas? Because, you see, I have other books to write. Because I really do want to get it right.

And not for me or the Academy–FOR YOU.


Filed under Anxiety, Reviews, Satisfaction, Writing and Life

4 responses to “The Book Review Paradox, Sally Field and You

  1. We like you Tara! We really do! 😉 Congrats on your positive review. I have no doubt there will be many! As for advice…you are a step or two ahead of me, so I will be watching. Looks to me that so far you ARE “getting it right.”


  2. Congratulations for your fabulous review! 🙂
    And thanks for this post. I don’t know if non-writers really understand the amount of rejection/negative criticism writers go through, starting with our own heads.

    As you say —
    “We’ve satisfied ourselves, we’ve satisfied our agents and editors, but have we satisfied YOU? We don’t know. We hope we have. And we’re disappointed when we haven’t. We’ve let you down, and we didn’t mean to.”

    YES. This. This times a hundred.

    This is why the writing community is so important, and why it’s so awesome that the kidlit community TOTALLY ROCKS.


  3. I think the feedback is important, positive and negative. It’s always good to consider whether a critical review has some validity and learn from it.
    Of course, I prefer the positive ones 🙂

    There’s nothing like reading our book to kids (and their parents) and seeing by the looks on their faces that they “get it”.

    Much luck! Thanks for your warm and open sharing!


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