(Not Quite) A Love Letter to a Critic.
Dear Jennifer Higgins*,
You don’t know me personally, and I don’t know you. But, you made a really big impact on my life. You were one of the first to review my book, Hidden in the Writer’s Room. I think you liked the story, but evidently the version of the book that I originally released was so full of typos that you had trouble getting into it.
As a fellow reader, I can totally understand that. Being jarred out of the the story by misspellings and misused words is incredibly annoying. And, it should be noted, you took the time to point out the specific ones that bothered you; you weren’t rude at all. You were constructive, thoughtful and clearly just plain disappointed.
Nevertheless, I wept when I read it. Not, like teared up, but, like SOBBED. I put my soul on paper (I know it’s hard to imagine that my silly romcom was a bookbaby to me, but, it was), and just like that, my book, my baby, my soul on paper, was placed into the category of unreadable and, perhaps even more devastating in the long run, it became unmarketable.
I don’t know if you know this, Jennifer, and there is no reason you should, but the resources that are available for Indy or self publishing authors generally require a specific number of reviews, and those reviews must average above a 4 star. Otherwise, those resources won’t bother to market the book. And, because my book was new and your review was early, the average rating simply couldn’t get high enough anymore. Actually, even with many more reviews, your review is still generally the first review anyone sees when they google or search Amazon for my book.
But, this note isn’t to complain; it’s actually to express my gratitude. For real.
And here is why: I had not thought I could afford a copyeditor for my book, because spending hundreds of dollars on something that I wasn’t even sure was a good story seemed irresponsible. Reckless, even. But, as it turned out, I could not afford NOT to spend that money. If my book was ever going to get a chance to be read, to be out in the world, (not to mention to be reviewed favorably), I had to pay a professional to fine tooth comb it. In my arrogance (and, honestly, in my extreme naivety), I had believed that a good story was what most people wanted out of a free book. Since I did not initially charge for the book, I trusted that readers would not demand perfection or professional packaging. And maybe, had In the Writer’s Room been a Khaled Hosseini’s level (his Kite Runner, a debut novel, spent more than 120 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List) that might have been true.
But your review gave me the level-setting that I needed. You adjusted my expectations. You crushed my ego. And, you convinced me that publishing a book, having that book be read, and then having it earn worthy reviews, would actually cost me more than my time, effort, fears and tears… that it would cost actual dollars to get my book baby into the world.
So, while this isn’t really a love letter, it is a most sincere “Thank You” note. And, it’s a reminder to us all that our words have power. Even anonymous words.
In Love and Laughter,
*This is the name on the review, which I’ve linked to for easy reference. At this point, my ego can handle so much more than I ever imagined, so feel free to check it out. In truth, I do not actually know if Jennifer Higgins is a real name or a real person. Isn’t that crazy to imagine?!