If you’re a reader you’ll be familiar with the “If you Loved Fifty Shades of Twilight” marketing tagline. Comparison is a selling device, as much as book reviews are. Both create a buzz– or are hoped to create a buzz. As a writer, I have to say I like book reviews better than the tagline.
Every author likes the ‘I loved your book’ review. I’ll happily admit it’s ego stoking and validating as hell to know your writing doesn’t suck and someone outside your friends and family enjoyed the tale you told. Oh, YEAH MAMA, that kind of review is a festival of self high-fiving. I’ll be honest and say I like the negative reviews too. Sure, I don’t exactly high five or fist pump those, but the ‘your books is awful review’ is as important as the Let me worship at the altar of the Antonelli cult. But there’s more. As a writer, I appreciate a review, any review of my work because it means someone took the time to READ my work. Thank you to anyone who’s read my books and wrote a review. You rock my world.
But I have to be honest here. A tag is nothing, but a review is All about ME. A review is a narcissistic thing. I really like reviews because they get me thinking.
Now, I may be weird, but i enjoy– yes I ENJOY– knowing what didn’t work for a reader even more than knowing what did. I want to know what I can to do to make a story better– from a reader’s point of view. Jessica (aka Jessica of Read React Review), has read both A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only (thank you, Jessica), and today what I think is her very thoughtful review of For Your Eyes Only popped up on Radish Reviews. Jessica considered the text of FYEO on a number of levels; the beta hero, subplots, the level of sexual tension, the not-on-the-shelf-middle-aged heroine, and as many reviewers do, she discussed what worked and what did not work for her in the story. As reading is subjective, reviews often have something different to say about the same book, but sometimes a review picks up on a particular aspect of the story or characters, the same aspect of the story or characters as another review, both the good and not-so good. I take note of this. I really take note of this. I was on board with Jessica’s review. I understood the times where my writing did not succeed or keep her engaged and I’ve taken note to ensure I don’t repeat the same sort of oversights again. However, there appears to something regarding a review a writer cannot control and that is The Comparison to Another Writer, which, when you think about it, is sort of like a tagline, only…not.
For me, a comparison is both thrilling and terrifying. If the author you’re being compared to is someone you admire, it’s anchors aweigh and tap dancing with Gene Kelly. Then, and I don’t know about you, fear sets in. My awesome dance number with Gene falters and I trip and trip and trip with bizarre self doubt, which is really freaky because I have really good ego strength (ask Dr Shrinkee). I can deal with criticism, but comparison turns my narcissism into questions about me and my writing:
- Was it osmosis at work? Did I read so much of Author X and Author Y that I osmosed it and my writing resembles theirs?
- Holy Shit, is this a moment like George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and unconscious plagiarism?
- OH MY GOD I AM AS BAD AS HOLLYWOOD AND HAVE NO ORIGINAL THOUGHT!
Then I calm down and recognise the HUGE compliment I’ve just been paid.
Then, when I go to bed, and I’m loitering in that state between sleep and awake another question makes my eyes pop open. Is a comparison to another author the kiss of death for a new author, or is it a tagline the marketing department is gonna love?
Then, Mr Sandman tosses another handful of grit in my eyes and I drift off to dreamland realising that, yes, Holy shit, I’ve been paid a MASSIVE compliment and my next coffee is only 8 hours away.