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A friend has a new book coming out soon and is dealing with being reviewed for the first time. She’s swinging from high to low and back again and trying to make sense of the contradictory takes on her words. Been there! So here’s my advice (which I wish I’d taken myself): ignore it.
I’ve had people tell me (repeatedly) that the MorM books are way too short, way too long, overwritten, underwritten, pretentious, condescending, annoyingly confusing, deliciously ambigious, beautifully written, badly written. That the Australian slang is confusing and distracting, that the slang is the best thing about the books. That Magic Lessons is crap compared to Magic or Madness, that Magic Lessons is heaps better than MorM. That the Reason/Jay-Tee/Tom bits are boring/the best part of the books. That Reason Cansino is way too sophisticated/too young for a fifteen year old.
What’s a gal sposed to do in the face of all of that?
Me, I’m slowly learning to only pay attention to the stuff that touches on what I was already concerned about. For example, the complaints from readers who bought Magic or Madness not knowing it was the first book of a trilogy and were then pissed when it didn’t resolve satisfactorily for them. Been there and experienced that.
Yup, the signal that MorM was first of a trilogy was very discretely hidden on the hardcover. It bugged the hell out of me. I wanted a big ole number one on the spine and “first book of the Magic or Madness Trilogy” emblazoned on the front cover. I was overruled by my publishers. Apparently when the first book of a trilogy by an unknown comes out with its triloginess prominently proclaimed it doesn’t sell as well as if you hide it. Selling stuff, apparently, is all about tricking people.
I’m determined that if I ever write another trilogy—which I’ve taken a vow not to do (hey, Libba, let’s keep the faith)—it will clearly be marked as such. But, who knows, I’ll probably get overruled by my publishers again. Sigh.
The writer can only control (most of the time) the words between the covers. We rarely control the way the book looks, how it’s marketed (or not), and we have absolutely no control over what people think of it.
Scott gets fan mail all the time saying how wonderful X book is, but that they hated the bit where their favourite character had something bad happen to them. Could he write another book where bad stuff doesn’t happen?
Um, yes, he could, but reading it would bore you into a coma.
Praise is nice, criticism can be helpful, but sometimes the best thing you can do is stop your ears and keep on writing.
Someone hand me the ear plugs!
Posted by Justine at 18:58, 2 July 2006 under Magic or Madness trilogy, Scott's books, Writing life | 20 Comments »
“Um, yes, he could, but reading it would bore you into a coma.”
Amen. A-freaking-men. Hello, people, it’s called conflict, and unless you’re one of those literary-type “i don’t need a plot ’cause i’m freaking herman melville” (sorry, HM fans), books need bloody conflict.
Mm. Yes. moving on.
No more trilogies? Aww.
July 2nd, 2006 at 7:55 PM
my mum has the same sort of problem. ‘ohh, why did you have to make his sister so evil?’ well, because if she hadn’t been evil, she never would have tried to murder him, creating the inciting incident for a four-book series.
July 2nd, 2006 at 8:10 PM
Sherwood Smith Says:
O such good advice. I am already swinging to the lows and lower because my biggie comes out next month (I hope I hope) and the last I saw of it i tried to get all the corrections in . . . but I’ve found stupid mistakes I overlooked, and I know I’ll get slamdunked by the Kewl Crowd, and I’ll get hate mail from the parents who feel they must write to me to tell me to keep my stories as ‘clean’ as the last one, and, and, and.
I must not Google, or check Amazon, or anything else depressing. Must. Be. Strong.
July 2nd, 2006 at 10:06 PM
is m-or-m the first in a trilogy? (:
just wanna let you know that I found it way too short, way too long, overwritten, underwritten, pretentious, condescending, annoyingly confusing, deliciously ambigious, beautifully written, badly written. That the Australian slang is confusing and distracting, that the slang is the best thing about the books. That Magic Lessons is crap compared to Magic or Madness, that Magic Lessons is heaps better than MorM. That the Reason/Jay-Tee/Tom bits are boring/the best part of the books. That Reason Cansino is way too sophisticated/too young for a fifteen year old.
July 2nd, 2006 at 10:07 PM
Ted Lemon Says:
For my part, I’m just grateful that you take the time to write the books. No book is ever perfect, but a nicely plotted book with interesting characters, mysteries, and a bit of the author’s worldview, can be a really valuable thing – it can be anything from an enjoyable interlude to a life-changing event, depending on where the reader is at the time when s/he reads the book.
July 3rd, 2006 at 3:02 AM
Jenny Davidson Says:
I do feel the need, Justine, to chime in and say “beautifully written, of course”!
My first novel was published by a small press & really it was the case that ANY review was a good review; there was one SUPER-nasty one at Bookmunch but even then I still felt it was better than nothing. Painful, but better than nothing.
Sherwood, I am SO excited for your new novel! Just took a look the Amazon page; I am a great fan of Crown Duel, this one sounds absolutely wonderful too….
July 3rd, 2006 at 9:10 AM
At the risk of sounding solipsistic, are you talking about me? If not, you could be. I’m a mess…
I think my former career as a food critic has given me bad review karma.
July 3rd, 2006 at 9:49 AM
jenny–thank you! (though, faint voice here, it’s not exactly young YA as CD was)…
July 3rd, 2006 at 10:30 AM
a is even better than ya! no faint voice needed!
July 3rd, 2006 at 11:08 AM
as a bookseller, I find I also get upset when I recommend a book I love to someone and then they come back and tell me it was way too short, way too long, overwritten, underwritten, pretentious, condescending, annoyingly confusing, deliciously ambigious, beautifully written, badly written, etc., etc.
I feel like i’ve shared this precious gift with ‘em and then they come back and wound me. ingrates!
Especially upsetting when it’s a regular customer – someone you felt sympatico/had similar tastes.
One customer recently slagged orf a book I had particularly liked – she’s an English teacher at a local high school & had read it from the school library – and gave me this very flip “oh it was so badly writtten” bullshit.
That was it. Like a red rag to a bull. I challenged her – “explain yourself!”.
She ummed and ahhed and eventually folded. She couldn’t really back her comment up & it all came down to her not liking all the bad stuff that had happened to the characters.
She’s a Mary Sue kinda gal I guess.
Hate to think what she’s teaching her charges!
Now, I’m always nice to her (killing her with sweetness in fact!) but will never, ever recommend anything to her. Just cant stand the hurt no more
July 3rd, 2006 at 4:39 PM
Ron, I know what you mean. Reccing books is like setting up friends on dates. If the person doesn’t like the book, you start to not trust their taste…
July 4th, 2006 at 11:24 AM
Chris S. Says:
ron: i hear you, and I feel your pain. Bad customer! No biscuit!
justine, I hope you can convince your friend to not trawl for reviews on teh intarweb (sherwood, this goes for you too). All of that time and angst would be better spent… writing more books for the rest of us to read, and sell.
July 4th, 2006 at 2:27 PM
13. Justine Says:
Lots of ace comments! Thanks. The dread deadline keeps me from answering in more detail—hell it keeps me from having an actual life. So I will be brief.
Your book sounds tres cool, Sherwood, can’t wait to read it.
People who don’t appreciate our genius (either via what we write or what we recommend) are too annoying for words. May they all be stuck in a room with a computer that will only let them google themselves and nothing else.
July 4th, 2006 at 7:06 PM
chris, i try to tell my friends it’s really not at all helpful pointing out where someone has slagged me or my books.
justine, I am sooooo looking forward 2 and 3…
July 4th, 2006 at 8:30 PM
15. Justine Says:
Sherwood: That is so true! I have a few friends who feel the same urge to share their discoveries. I really wish they wouldn’t
July 4th, 2006 at 8:35 PM
If you are being solipsistic, then it doesn’t make sense to wonder if someone else is talking about you, because no-one else exists.
July 5th, 2006 at 4:17 AM
Magenta Griffith Says:
I just finished Magic or Madness yesterday. It was great, and I am glad to know there is a sequel. I thought there were a few loose ends; that was the only problem I had with it. (Like, will Reason get her ammonite back?) But the ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, just clearly not The End Of The Story.
I think publishers are afraid that people won’t buy the first book in a trilogy until all three are out. Too bad.
July 6th, 2006 at 4:51 PM
18. Justine Says:
Magenta: Thanks so much! Do you think you would have read it if you’d known it was the first book of the trilogy and the third book isn’t out yet?
July 7th, 2006 at 12:06 AM
Dawn Cline Says:
OOOO! LOOK! Magic or Madness is on the top page at amazon.com! It’s Sunday, July 9…noon central time. I took a screen shot, but can’t post it here. Congrats!
July 9th, 2006 at 1:14 PM
OK, I feel incredibly stoopid…Magic or madness was on the top page at amazon because I had been looking at it the night before…and after reading several posts I’ve realized these are REAL YA authors posting here…i’m so in awe:)
July 10th, 2006 at 11:20 PM
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