Reviews on my debut book, The Preacher’s Bride, have been pouring in over the past month. At latest count, my book had 40 reviews on Amazon, approximately 40 various blog write-ups (see my Books Page for the list of links), 19 on GoodReads, 8 on Shelfari, 9 on Barnes&Noble.com, and 16 on Christianbook.com. (Not that I’m keeping close tabs or anything!)
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the reviews—talk about a quick pick-me-up! THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who’s taken the time to publicly share their thoughts! I’m grateful and humbled by the praise.
As I’ve soaked in the reviews, I’ve realized a few things more clearly than I had previously, namely that readers are subjective.
Yes, I know. Most of us are already well aware of the subjectivity that exists in the world of books and publishing. And yet, I’m learning just how diverse readers can be in their views, to the point that the reviews seem to contradict one another. Here are just a couple of examples from reviews on The Preacher's Bride:
• Different views on how I portrayed the historical details of the book:
“I love the historical era of the 1600's in England. I could just see the towns and the townspeople of that era come to life!”
“The time period was also a bit difficult for me to get into . . . I just kept imagining a medieval town with dirty, raggedy villagers and evil villains terrorizing woman and shooting flaming arrows into thatched roofs.”
• Different opinions on the opening chapter:
“I had a hard time, in the very beginning, getting into the book as, to me, it was just a little bit slow.”
“I was immediately captured in the first chapter” and “I couldn't put this book down starting at page one.”
• Different opinions about the heroine:
“She can be pretty submissive; that and her overwhelming desire to get married and have babies are a bit irritating to this modern woman . . .”
“I absolutely loved Elizabeth's character throughout this entire book. She's witty, outspoken and a very smart woman.”
• Different opinions about the page-turning effect of the book:
“Hedlund . . . writes well of life in Puritan England, though the middle drags . . .”
“It's a fast-moving page-turner. I read it (all nearly 400 pages) in a little over a day, using every available moment.”
Isn’t it interesting to see such opposite views on the same things? What the differences teach me (and can teach all of us), is that subjectivity is alive and well. And here are a few things about subjectivity that we should keep in mind:
1. Watch for trends in the feedback.
If reader after reader indicated that my opening was slow, I’d sit up and pay attention. But if most of the feedback tells me that I did a good job, then I won’t worry about a few opinions. We can’t live to please everyone. We’d lose the essence of who we are in the process. But we can (and should) pay attention to those glaring issues that people bring up more frequently.
2. Make sure to chuckle over the contradictions.
In other words, we can’t take the feedback personally. I truly do chuckle over the contradictions. I let them remind me of the uniqueness of all my readers, the varying tastes and preferences, and the different personalities. Not everyone is going to fall in love with my book. And that’s okay. Not everyone is meant to.
3. Know whose feedback matters the most.
Many different people have reviewed my book—book buyers, librarians, professional book reviewers, other published authors, etc. Of everyone, I value the input of my talented editors at Bethany House the most. Their goal in all of their editing is to help me craft a story that will please my readers. Ultimately that’s what we want—to provide our readers with a completely satisfying experience, so that they say what one of my reviewers said: “A story that draws the reader into the heart, THE PREACHER'S BRIDE is a historical gem that will not be leaving my favorite shelf.”
4. Get back to work and do the best we can.
When it’s all said and done, I read the reviews, enjoy them, and then put my head down and get back to work on the next book. And that’s all any of us can do—just keep on working hard to improve our writing skills and story-telling abilities.
What about you? Have you ever had contradictory opinions about something you’ve written? How did you know what to listen to and what to discard?
*Thank you to Jeannie Campbell for sending me the above picture, taken at the Borders in Eureka, CA! Thank you for getting excited and drawing stares!