Getting Jitters While Waiting For Feedback on Our Books

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 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?


  1. I remember wanting to throw up the night before I knew people would start reading my book! But I wanted to pop in and tell you I LOVED your book. Read it in two afternoons - and it is rare that I will carve out that much reading time in one week. But I had to know how it ended!

  2. I get this way about asking people to read my blog!! Can you imagine what it would be like if I actually had a book coming out?

    When you put so much of yourself into something there's no way that any critique can NOT be personal.

    I love the countdown counter on your blog. Do you just sit and stare at it sometimes? :)

  3. um.....YES! Big time yes! I keep thinking....what if the reviewers my publishing house sends my book to don't like it?? What if I get 2 stars on RT or a horrible write-up from publisher's weekly?? Yep, it's a scary wait and I still have NINE months!

  4. Good morning, ladies! SO,so glad you liked it Bekah! Whew! See, I was holding my breath again! ;-)

    And Stacy I do love looking at the countdown widget! Even more than that I love the pictures of readers! It's so cool to see faces and connect with people who are reading the book!

    Katie, those early editorial reviews are really nerve-wracking too. But I'm learning to take those with a little bit of thick skin too. PW gave my first book a decent review, but it wasn't as complimentary as I would have liked. But in the end readers overall seemed to like the book, and that's what really matters.

  5. OH YES. Eek! Come next year I think I'm going to feel extremely stressed. I know my book is not perfect and I think those that might have the hardest time with it will be writers who follow "rules". That said, I love my story and so all I can do is wait and hope some people like it too. :-)

  6. If that's what you do when your book is fabulous, what do mere mortals do? Shave their all their hair off lol.

    I'm dropping The Doctor's Lady off for a week at the library. I'm going to ask if they'll put it in their pick of the week spot on the front desk. Sorry to whose book is already there. If they say no, I'll think of some kind of saboutage lol.

  7. This is going to sound trite, but it's the honest truth:

    IF I've done my best on something and I start getting the jitters, I remember that God's bigger. He's bigger than petty criticisms, He's bigger than an agent having a bad day. He's bigger than me.

    If He wants this for me, no one can stand in my way. If He doesn't it won't matter how perfect I am.

    Trusting His judgement over my own takes the stress out.

    Pity it doesn't stop me stuffing my face with corn chips while I'm waiting to hear the verdict though...

  8. I'm about to enter the beta-reading phase for my first novel, and yes, I'm feeling a little nervous about what my readers will say. Fingers crossed they don't hate it!

    It's one of the tough parts of being a writer, that's for sure!

  9. I don't get stressed like that but my mental state def. gets affected during the query process as I'm sure it does as a book is going out to the masses!

  10. My fabulous monthly book group is a reminder that not everyone loves every book. We all participate in choosing the book to read, yet we rarely have a unanimous positive reaction. Usually someone admits, "I just couldn't get into it," or even, "I hated it." And then she tells us why. As a writer, I learn a lot from the comments readers make about why they did not like a book, but most of all I remember that reading tastes, in the end, involve a large dose of subjectivity.

  11. I had one of my closest friends read a copy of my as-of-yet-unpublished debut novel. Then I held my breath while she read it. (Well, it felt like I held my breath.) See, I knew she'd tell me the truth. Even if she hated it and lied and told me she loved it, I would know the truth because, well, she's my friend. And I would know . . .
    Oh, the agony.
    Well, she liked it. Really, really, liked it. (I had a Sally Field's moment.)
    And she told me she was so relieved that she liked it because she'd been thinking, "What if I don't like it?!"
    This was when I decided I was crazy to be a writer . . . not that I hadn't already decided this long ago!
    What did I do to calm my nerves? Tried to pretend it didn't matter. (Yeah, right.) Told myself I loved my friend no matter what. And tried to stay away from the candy jar.

  12. I'm absolutely neurotic when I'm waiting for feedback from my critique partners. I haven't figured out a good way to handle this yet so this post is helpful. Especially because as I progress in my writing journey, there will be more periods of waiting!

  13. I'm a wreck when someone is reading my work for the first time. My critique partners, my husband, my agent.

    I'm sorry to hear about your migraine, and hope you're feeling much better. Especially after those positive reviews!

  14. Sorry about the migraine, Jody. I've had a few myself, and they are no fun, especially with little ones around!

    Just so you know, I started The Doctor's Lady and am loving it so far!!! I had to stop one-third of the way in...Got a long to-do list after meeting my agent last weekend. :) But I'm anxious to pick your book back up and finish!

  15. I use to think the desire to please is ingrained more in Type A personalities than in Type Bs, and that's what causes some people to be more prone to stress than others. But I'm more of Type B person and my unpublished novels are stacking up in my closet because I can't quite deal with sending them out. Guess that shoots down my theory!

    The best defense might be to remember, despite how much of ourselves we put into them, our books are not us. When people criticize our stories they are not intending it to be a personal criticism.

    Just so you know... my copy of The Doctor's Lady was in the pile of mail that accumulated while I was away on vacation. Today I'm still unpacking and have several things I must do prior to a coming commitment. No time for reading. I only planned to peek at the first page this morning to see how it starts. (You know... writer's curiosity: what's the hook?) Four pages later I stopped reading only because the clock said I was going to be late. I think you can breathe easy, Jody. It's another winner. :)

  16. I just try to remember that everybody doesn't like everything. Just take a lot of deep breaths and drink some coffee to fend off those migraines! :)

  17. Jody, my friend and CP, I knew readers would love The Doctor's Lady. You worked so hard on it, and the story is awesome. I've enjoyed reading it for the third time--this time in print!

    And I thought you'd like to know that I met Kate from at Sarah Sundin's launch party in Antioch, California yesterday. Kate and I talked about you (OK, I bragged about you), and I heard directly from her how much she enjoys your books. I'm glad my outfit didn't have any buttons, or I'd have lost 'em. =)

  18. Hope your migraine has faded by now.

    Yes, I get stressed out while awaiting feedback. Especially to query letters, which is still early in the process. Good advice, though, about letting it go. All you can do is your best, and then hope that if that isn't good enough this time around, your best will be better next time.

  19. I,ve just sent my first ever novel to our local writer's center for a professioanl appraisal. I know the report I get back will be full of helfpul advice but there's always that niggling fear that it won't be something people want to read. On the bright side, less than a year ago I didn't even know I was capable of writing a novel; it has been and continues to be a wonderful learning exderience.

  20. YES!!!! I was just thinking about this very thing with my current WIP over the weekend. I'm finally to the point where I can dedicate a little time to my writing again, and I'm having middle-of-the-book doubts. What if it's stupid? What if I write it and everyone hates it? What if I put all this time into it and Rachelle takes one look and is like, "uh, yeah, what else do you have?"

    What do I tell myself? Well, at the moment, I'm just putting proverbial earplugs in so I can't hear my brains rantings, eating some chocolate (while trying to lose weight... ugh) and just keeping on writing.

    The earplugs still come out though from time to time, and really, there is the possibility my head might be right! *sigh*

  21. Sounds like some healthy and helpful steps to keep it all in perspective. (And keep the migraines away!)

  22. Jody, I can't wait to read your book, and I love the slide show on your sidebar! Anyone as nice as you can't help but be a success with this and all future books. Again, congratulations!

  23. This is such great advice Jody! And from the happy place of having put your book out there too :) I had the trauma of putting my (book) baby into a contest - one judge loved it, one hated it. *shrugs* - you win some...

  24. I pray you're feeling better. Stress is also a contributing factor of the migraines I get.

    One of my manuscripts is with a reader now, and I'm nervous about his reaction. A book launch? I'm going to need a lot of prayer.

    Susan :)

  25. Thank you all for your kind words and well wishes! :-)

  26. *nods*

    don't stress about the people that don't like it. Rejoice in the ones that do.

    I have no doubt Jody that there will be far more in the later category than the first :-)

    Now... where to buy your book...



© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!