Feedback on your writing can be — enlightening. So far my worst review has been three stars, but the reviewer was disappointed enough to say they probably wouldn’t read my next book. That kinda hurt. I looked at some other books they had reviewed, and initially, I was surprised that they’d read my book at all. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t looked at the complete list of their book reviews nor do I have any clue as to how they choose which books to review. Perhaps my surprise was misplaced. The fact that they bothered to write a review at all was good. I’m under no illusion that everyone is going to like my book let alone read it. But, when someone goes to the effort of reading and then posting a review, it makes sense to take that criticism seriously and see if there’s something I can learn from it.
Most of the negative comments have been about my enthusiastic coverage of STUFF. Most of the people making that complaint are women. What’s that mean? It means that not everyone is interested in the same things I am. Everything the reviewer said was in a way, valid. I do have a lot of words dealing with the minutia of gear – I love that stuff in books that I read, the problem is: It rarely moves the story forward, and there are a lot of people who don’t care for it. I had, I think, good solid rationalizations for each of those little equipment diversions.
Notice I said – rationalizations – not reasons? Well, there are reasons too, but in all honesty, I’m not sure I can judge the difference. I’m a gear junky – I love stuff – it’s sort of a guy thing. So, are my reasons sufficient? So far the guys seem to think so, and the women don’t. I’m not sure the guys would miss it much if I left most of it out. Should I have left it out? Maybe. Considering no one said – wow I really love all the detail you put into Ham Radio, or guns, or… Perhaps I spent more time on those things than was necessary to the story. It’s something that I really have to think about going forward. No matter what – the story comes first.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the reviewer was female, as most of the complaints about radios, guns, tents, and stuff have come from women. Which doesn’t surprise me, what does surprise me is how many women were willing to take a chance on my book. That notion was based on an admittedly small sample size which seemed even remotely interested in the topic.
Live and learn. In only a few weeks I’ve learned that I don’t know my market nearly as well as I thought and that a significant portion of my audience doesn’t share my fascination with STUFF. Also, reading reviews about your work written by total strangers is a lesson in both not letting things go to your head and not getting depressed. My goal is simple – make the next book better. That means listening to critical feedback and put the story first.