I had a migraine early last week. Often my migraines are a direct result of a build-up of stress. But since I didn’t have anything major going on, I had to stop for a minute and try to figure out what had stressed me out.
It didn’t take me long to realize I’d been plagued with second book jitters. I’d started getting reports that people were picking up copies of The Doctor’s Lady. Amazon had shipped pre-orders and others were starting to find the book on shelves. Even though it doesn’t officially release until this Thursday, September 1st, the book has already begun to make its way into reader hands.
As I learned that more and more people were reading the book, the stress and worries started to escalate. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Will they like this new book?” and “How will they like it in comparison with my first?”
I chewed my fingernails to nubs. I paced the floor. I tossed and turned in my sleep. I couldn’t eat.
Okay, so maybe not really! But, as I waited for the first reports of what people thought of the book, I was scared. During that silent interval (when people were reading), I decided that one of the things I like the LEAST about being an author is waiting for the initial reports on a new release.
We all have to wait for the verdict on our books at some point or another. Maybe we’re waiting for our critique partner or a contest judge to read our manuscript. Perhaps we’re waiting on an agent or an editor or a committee. Once we get past all of those initial tests on our books, then we face the ultimate test—the reader.
That waiting is stressful, isn’t it?
We spend weeks and weeks writing the book, analyzing the plot, and developing characters. We put so much of ourselves into every page—often into nearly every word. After pouring out incredible amounts time and effort and love into a story, we long for affirmation and positive feedback that what we’ve written resonates with readers. The affirmation validates us, our skills, and all of the work we’ve put into the book.
No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that we don’t care what others think, that we’re writing to please ourselves, or for a bigger purpose, the bottom line is that we want happy readers. It’s a natural reaction to hold our breath (or in my case get a migraine!) as we wait to find out if readers will indeed be happy.
Fortunately, the initial responses to The Doctor’s Lady have been positive. Kate Burnett (who works for Christianbook.com) read the book last weekend and said this on Twitter: “I finished @JodyHedlund's new book The Doctor's Lady in the wee hours of the morning, last night. Loved it! Thanks for a great story, Jody!” Holly Weiss (a talented book reviewer) wrote up her Amazon review and gave it 5 out of 5 stars.
Other friends and fellow writers also began to report back to me with kind words (and pictures—see the slide show in the sidebar!). And slowly I began to relax and breathe easy again.
But what if readers don’t like what we write? What if it doesn’t resonate? What if we get disappointing feedback?
How can we brace ourselves for those times when we get negative feedback? When readers (or agents or contest judges, etc.) don’t like what we’ve written?
Here are several things I’ve been telling myself in preparation for negative feedback:
• If we’ve done the very best we can, then we have to let it go. I gave The Doctor’s Lady everything I had. I poured all my energy and heart into the book. Now I have to let it go, knowing I did the best I could for where I was at in my writing skill at the time I wrote it.
• Tell ourselves we’ll do better on the next book. With every book I write, I make it my goal to improve in some way. I don’t want to remain stagnant or in the same spot. We all have room to grow no matter how long we’ve been writing.
• Remember, the book won’t resonate with everyone and that’s normal. Of course fellow writers will read with objective eyes and will likely find more to critique. Hopefully most die-hard genre readers will enjoy the book. But we have to remember that readers are subjective, and what we write won’t always resonate with everyone all the time.
So what about you? Do you ever get stressed out wondering what people will think about your manuscript? What do you tell yourself to calm your nerves?