Jennifer Hillier

Publishing is hard, yo.

May 14, 2012 | Uncategorized

CONFESSION: I stopped reading all my customer reviews for CREEP six months ago.

Back in October, I was closing in on the deadline for FREAK, and was frazzled and beyond stressed out – especially with the upcoming move back to Canada – and I honestly couldn’t handle reading anything about CREEP, good or bad. I’m sure it’s different for every author, but the reviews triggered emotions I didn’t have the energy to handle. If the review was good (and thankfully, most are), I felt a crazy high, followed by an intense sense of relief which passed much too quickly. If the review was crappy, I felt horrible for days.

The emotional rollercoaster was exhausting.

So I stopped reading my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I felt I had to, in order to stay sane, and in order to finish the book I was currently writing.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate reviews. I do, and I’m so grateful for the ones I’ve received. A review means you’ve read my book, and that’s huge to me. Even if you didn’t love it, you felt passionate enough to write about it, and I think that’s a good thing (apathy is what scares me). I believe that reviews – even the bad ones – are valuable. Heck, it was the controversy over Stephenie Meyer’s books that made me buy and read all four Twilight novels, because I wanted to see what the fuss was about and I wanted to be able to participate in the discussions.

As a reader – and first and foremost, I am a reader – I like reading reviews. Yes, even the mean ones! Because let’s be honest, those mean reviews can be the most entertaining. (Not that I encourage anyone to write mean reviews. I definitely don’t. Keep in mind that if a review is nasty and mean-spirited, it often says more about the reviewer than it does about the book.)

But as a writer, the constant feedback can be overwhelming, especially when you’re working on something new and already filled with self-doubt over whether it’s any good. By October, I had read every single one of my trade reviews, every blog review, and every customer review up to that point, and had taken all the feedback to heart. CREEP was not a perfect book, and thanks to the reviews, I felt I understood exactly where it was weak. The time had come to take that knowledge and move forward, focusing on writing a better book with FREAK.

A review of CREEP, from Canada’s National Post last summer. Read the whole thing here.

With the new release coming up fast (August 7th, which feels right around the corner), I’m once again bracing myself for the rollercoaster of emotions I know I’ll experience. Reviews for FREAK will be coming in soon, and at times it’s almost paralyzing, worrying about what people will think. I’m worried about disappointing readers. I’m worried about being thought of as a crappy writer. I’m worried about being a big fat failure.

Because here’s the thing: I always worry about failing. I will always worry about failing. I doubt that will ever go away, no matter how many books I write.

Publishing’s hard, yo. It’s not for the thinned-skinned or the faint of heart. It’s not easy being in a profession where your work is criticized for all the world to see. Being a writer isn’t for chickenshits. You can’t write for the fame (because most of us will never be famous), or God forbid, the money (because most of us will never be rich). You can only write because you love it.

Do I love it? Yes. I would have no business being in this business otherwise.

What do you think about reviews? As a reader, do they sway you into (or out of) making a purchase? As a writer, do you (or will you) enjoy reading your reviews?

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