If you want to test out different covers or titles or blurbs for your book, who do you ask? It's true, we really don't know what will resonate with our readers, so testing is a critical aspect of our indie writing and publishing. Time and again, I'm surprised by what I think is brilliant only to have my readers not like it that much. So, test and test again until you find what works.
But, who can you ask? If you've developed a list of followers and fans, that's an obvious place to begin. They already know you and like your books, so they want to see you succeed. So set up a poll and email them for their input.
Alternatively, you may have a few other writers who are also knowledgeable about your genre and also want to see you succeed. You can approach them too for their input.
I made the mistake of polling a group of generic writers on possible titles for my Sissy Jupiter novel. It's now with beta readers and I wanted to get a sense for which title resonated. Even though I made it clear I was looking for input only from those who write and read that genre, I got all kinds of feedback from all kinds of others.
What began as an exercise in narrowing down the nuances of my title ended up in some complaining that a YA audience or younger might be horrified by possible misinterpretations. These comments were from writers who did not write in my genre and I suspect didn't even read my genre.
That was a big mistake and got me questioning a lot of things.
Fortunately, those I knew wrote and read science fiction and its many sub-genres, were more sensible, so after scratching my head for a while, I stuck with their opinions.
All this taught me (again) about a few things:
Picking up on yesterday's blog, another reason why we take bad book reviews so personally: we see ourselves as writers. Identify as writers (even when the Imposter shows up). So if someone doesn't like our book, we conclude that they don't like us.
And everyone wants to be liked.
If someone doesn't like our book, and tells the rest of the world how much our story sucks, we take it very personally. This is an attack on who we are.
But, your book is not you. My books certainly aren't me. You can dislike my books, that's your privilege, but the onus is on me whether I see that as an attack on who I am or not.
If someone doesn't like my work, I choose to see that either as an indication that the reviewer isn't my target reading audience, or that it's a threat to my identity as a writer. I choose.
You have that choice too. Always.
So... you've written your novel, beta tested it, thrown it out there on Amazon, sold some copies to followers on your list and even got a few reviews. You're delighted that most of them are supportive and positive. And then...?
That one negative review comes in from someone you don't know and probaby hasn't even read the book.
Still, that's the one you focus on. What went wrong? Why does this person hate me? I thought my story was okay, and I get this?
It's a curiosity of human nature that we always tend to focus on the one negative review even if most of them are good. Why is that? Why do we place so much weight and importance on the one bad apple? Like in the picture above, our attention goes directly to the apple that's half rotten, not the good one.
I'm no psychologist. I know nothing about why we behave the way we do, and the best advice I've seen about dealing with that one bad review is to ignore all reviews, good, bad and ugly. I think if we're able to do that, we can continue focusing on creating our art. We don't allow ourselves to think we're wonderful, and we refuse to get sucked into a shame spiral by wondering why some people don't like us.
Here's something I tell my writers. Seek out their favourite authors on Goodreads or Amazon and check out the reviews. Not the gushing ones, but the bad ones, because they all have them. See? Even the brilliantly successful authors have bad apples in the barrel. Do you think they spend as much time as you do on worrying why their story didn't resonate? Nope. They simply refuse to take any of it personally and get back to work.
We should do the same.
Last month, I set myself a goal of writing the first draft of The Hands Of Moaning Bones - my new Sissy Jupiter science fiction series in 4 weeks. I approached this challenge by making sure I'd done my plotting well in advance, so I knew the story and didn't have to pants it along the way. That made a huge difference.
The result was, I actually completed the first draft in 19 days.. just over 70,000 words under 3 weeks. So I'm thrilled with that because for me, the hardest part of writing is getting the first draft out. I love thinking about the story, characters and plotting, and I really enjoy revising--adding colour to the story and all those little nuances that keep it interesting. So being able to put the first draft down quickly is a lot of fun for me.
With the first draft done, my next step is to perform what I call a heavy revision. I go through the story and fix all those things I need to fix (I keep a to-do list with me as I write the first draft). Things like names, inconsistencies in characters, settings, speech patterns, and so on. This can take some time, so that will be my focus for the next few weeks once I complete another project I'm working on with one of my writing clients.
And then? I'll begin plotting book 2 in the series. The question is: which series? Sissy would be fun, of course, but I've also received some good feedback from the beta readers for The Quantum Awakening, and may need to bump up the schedule for the next one there. To be determined!
Hi, I'm David. I write science fiction from a Christian worldview that promotes hope. Want to know the darker details? Click here.
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