Writers & Reviews

tortured writer

Though many author friends of mine claim they “never look at reviews” of their books, assuming the transparently fake pose of pretending utter indifference and total superiority to what the mass of the reading public may actually think of their masterpieces, I know they are lying.

In fact, lying through their teeth! When I hear that bald faced prevarication uttered by an otherwise intelligent, sensible, honest writer friend, I always smile, nod and snicker to myself. Yeah, right, Felix, you’re way above all that silly stuff.

How do I know they’re lying? Here’s how: I’ve caught more than a few slipping up and oh so casually quoting snatches from the best reviews they’ve received both to me and others. Haha. They just cannot resist sharing any, however meager, stingy, or remotely positive, response to the heap of words and pile of paper (book) they’ve worked on for so long and hard.

It’s not just writerly bragging, oh no. It’s much more complex than that. For at bottom I know from lots of personal experience myself that in reality it’s a compulsive, reflexive autonomic indulgence they’re taking for themselves. It’s the “Pleasure Principle” at work. By just repeating the words aloud, hearing them again, they take a wonderful, pleasurable warm bath in the best endorphins an author can get. It’s like a drug, the sheer ecstasy an author experiences in eliciting any reader recognition and praise. They are simply unable to resist the urge to repeat, even if only to themselves, any positive reader response to their work! Haha.

But, hey, authors are only human after all. They have clay feet. ClayFeetThey have delicate feelings when it comes to their work. They are pathetically frail and sensitive beings in this regard. Fact is, nothing could be more important, nothing is more of a burning interest, more of a source of obsessive curiosity, fear and apprehension than readers’ reactions to their work!

And, let’s be frank, good reviews sell books AND garner more readers for an author’s work. And that, friends, is the “Survival Instinct” (wink) at work. And where the rubber meets the road. Authors , especially full-time, professional authors, are thus afflicted periodically with “Survival Anxiety” (and it’s no day at the beach).

Waiting for reviews of a new book is similar to family members awaiting news about one of their beloved undergoing risky, life-threatening surgery. There’s hand-wringing, anxiety, cold fear, worried looks and long faces. Prayers, cussing, joking, and tears are common. And even worse, more extreme behavior (use your imagination about that).

All of which is to say is that I sure would love to hear on Amazon what you think of TWILIGHT’S INDIAN PRINCESS.   Really.  http://amzn.to/1o9iUi9

Tortured writer in garret
[tortured writer]

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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6 Responses to Writers & Reviews

  1. I just downloaded it, and promise to review it when I finish it. Please bear with me, though, as my reading list is growing longer than my ever expanding waistline!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a sweetheart you are 🙂 Thank you! I hope the free promo was still running?


  3. Special thanks to all the stalwart sturdy followers of this decidedly literary blog. You are a dedicated, serious and hardy lot. .And heartfelt thanks to those who took a chance and downloaded (OK, it was free, but anyway) TWILIGHT’S INDIAN PRINCESS during the July 1-5 promo. Kind souls all, and I hope you read and enjoyed it. I think it delivered as advertised; maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, nothing is, but if you did, why not let the world know about it on Amazon? You could make a difference and I would appreciate it 🙂


  4. bronxboy55 says:

    It’s hard to ignore reviews, especially at first, and one negative comment can outweigh a ton of positive feedback. Writers tend to be insecure, I hear.


  5. Thanks for the observations. Flannery O’Connor said (I’m paraphrasing) that for writers, the best part of the process is the actual writing of the book, the worst part is publishing it and having it inevitably be misunderstood by some reviewers 😉 And hers were very often misunderstood, misinterpreted, even panned. But there is no escaping a bad review or comment every now and then for any author because not every book is everyone’s cup of tea, not everyone is going to like it and “get it.” Comes with the territory! You expect some bad reviews for everything you write, but hope most readers in your INTENDED AUDIENCE appreciate the book. After you’ve been writing for years, you deal with them, shrug them off and don’t take them seriously if you believe in your work. One sign to me of a really interesting book is if the reviews for it are split somewhat, some love it, others hate it. It’s an indicator the author was onto something important in it and struck a nerve on a sensitive significant issue or subject!

    As for insecurity among writers, I don’t think writers are any more insecure than the average person, it’s just that an author is a public person by virtue of publishing books, is out there for all the world to see (usually), while most people are comfortably anonymous and out of the public eye. Lucky ducks!


  6. I should add to this that, yes, writers are sensitive about their work, though not necessarily sensitive about a few bad reviews. What any writer desires most is readers, to have their work read. The worst fate for any writer, I would think, is to be ignored. Financial gain and fame are not overriding factors for the literary writer. Such a person writes out of an irresistible inner directive that is similar to a vocation or calling


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