On the verge of publication - an author’s guide to criticism and reviews
(Note from Pippa Beecheno to herself before publishing, ‘A Thin Sheet of Glass’)
It’s publication day. Your novel is out in the open. There’s nowhere to hide. You’ve sold your book to family and friends, bombarded social media with updates and the day has finally come. They’re actually going to read it. How do you feel?
1. Confident and chirpy, bubbling over with excitement
2. Overwhelmed by nerves. What if they don’t like it?!
3. A bit of both
Many people have asked me if I’m nervous about my work being published, if I’m worried about the reaction. As an author, when you’ve got this far, you can’t worry about it, it’s all about reaching out and hoping for the best. You remind yourself that, just as there are bound to be people who don’t enjoy your novel, there will be people that do. You are exposed, but isn’t that what you always wanted? Isn’t that part of the dream? It’s a double-edged sword.
You feel proud and happy that a bunch of talented people like what you’ve written enough to take this risk, to put you in print. Accepting criticism with good grace is, after all, what got you here. You couldn’t have come this far without being able to take it on the chin. Not only that, without feedback and development, your work wouldn’t be half as good.
Top three reasons why constructive criticism is essential for a budding author:
1. After reviewing your novel for what feels like the hundredth time, you’re fiddling around with words and paragraphs. You’ve lost the ability to see the bigger picture, find the gaps and misfits. Seek out external feedback. Outsiders can spot inconsistencies in your plot, your characters, tell you where you need to tighten up.
2. You’re aiming for a broad readership, you need to get a feel for the reader’s reaction. Test your work out on a few (not too many!) chosen family members or friends.
3. Continual improvement. You need to embrace the learning curve and develop as a writer. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Actively looking for ideas, new techniques and tweaking your style can only do you good. Writing courses are all about analysis and improvement. Writers who take on board criticism and use it to their advantage are more likely to succeed.
Daphne Gray-Grant writes about handling, accepting and benefiting from criticism. Other blogs focus on taking it gracefully. Some, like Writer’s Digest, highlight the personal nature of writing, the need to listen whilst remaining true to yourself.
To make the most of constructive criticism, you need to find the right people to read your novel, just as you have to find the right fit when you start looking for an agent. Choose people who enjoy your style of writing, the genre you have chosen, who will make their points and leave you to it. You don’t want to be ground to dust and demoralised by their feedback. Choose carefully - and remember, it’s your work, take what you’re given and do what you want with it.
Post-publication: reviews and criticism
You’ve experienced rejection before. Plenty of agents and editors turned down your book. Remember, it only took one person to change all of that. One agent, one editor, one publisher. If you’d given up, you’d never have found them.
You’re a reader as well as a writer. You go to a book group. It’s rare to find a book that goes down well with everyone. You’ve written the sort of book you like to read, that's what matters, and there will be people out there who like it too.
Reach out. Feedback is valuable. Don’t let any negative reviews overwhelm you. There’s solidarity between writers on this one. You’re part of a wide community. Keep writing and keep your head up. You’re doing what you love.
Are you a member of a writer’s group?
Have you found constructive criticism useful in developing your writing?
Have you been put off by rejections?
Please do get in touch using my author’s contact form.