On Being Reviewed
I looked at my Gmail this morning and saw this subject in my Inbox: “[Kirkus Indie] Your review is ready to download.” I felt a nervous pang-flash in my chest, and my heart rate increased. I didn’t want to open it, but I also DID, really bad. I ignored it for 5 seconds, then swallowed hard, and downloaded the review.
Kirkus Reviews, you see, has a reputation for being “mean,” especially to indies. I clicked away and read what a professional reviewer had written about my collection of ten short stories and two essays, INFINITE ENDING: Ten Stories. Here’s the review:
Not too shabby, right?
When I was younger and less experienced, I used to be a lot *more* nervous about reviews—any reviews—professional or otherwise. Over the years I have come to know my weaknesses and strengths as a writer, so any negative reviews usually come from an angle that I have already anticipated. Like this 2-star review on Amazon, for example:
It’s not an invalid review at all. It is true that these stories don’t have a lot of plot and are slow-moving. They are more like “philosophy on wheels” than traditional genre stories, which focus MUCH more on an engaging plot to hook the reader into an exciting adventure. I had anticipated this kind of reaction, and that is one of the reasons I wrote an essay about the subgenre of postmodernism in INFINITE ENDING. I wanted to give the reader a context within which I could be properly reviewed. This is a kind of “managing expectations” thing, where if you have never been exposed to this kind of writing before, you might expect certain techniques from the stories which you will not get. This could be tragic from the author’s perspective, because reviews could be written based on those faulty expectations, and then no one winds up happy or fulfilled.
But I guess professional reviews still freak me out a little. Writing is such a solitary task that when the stories go out into the world, I think I’m still a little worried that a *real* reviewer will write something like: “Who is this bozo? He thinks he can WRITE?!?! ahahahahahahahaha” Although it wouldn’t exactly be the most professional thing ever written, there’s still that little tiny echo in my soul that says it can happen, and maybe that it *will* happen, eventually.