Yesterday my editor sent me the Kirkus review for THE DAY BEFORE.
Now, we all know Kirkus is known for being harsh, although some have said they've softened up the past year, since the sale. Still, they remind me a bit of this guy.
Well, I skimmed through the review quickly, with one eye practically closed, because I knew more than likely, it would be a bit painful. Mostly, I was looking for something nice. Something I could use in a quote on my web site. Just a little something. The closest thing I could find was:
"Sometimes the poetry just tells the story, and other times it is almost too precious."
That's not really a compliment though. It's like the reviewer is saying between the lines - give me a break! Haha. Beyond that, there's not a thing. It's just... not a good review.
A few years ago, I probably would have been upset by this review. But now, not so much. Part of it might have to do with the fact that I went to Lisa's memorial service on Saturday. For months, my thoughts have been filled with cancer, loss, and grief, and I've been so very aware of how precious life is. There isn't any time to be upset about a silly review from Kirkus! I have so many other things to do - things that matter.
But part of is just... I get it now. I understand these basic principles that come along with the business of being published:
1) Not everyone is going to like your book. No matter who you are, what you write, it's impossible to please everyone.
2) Some books are going to be more universally appealing than others. It's just the way it is, and my books are a bit different, in style and format.
When I go to schools and speak to kids, I tell them, "Don't be afraid to be different. In fact, dare to be different! We may get some flack for it, but we are being true to ourselves, and that's the most important thing." At the end of the day, I know my books speak to some kids in an important way, and I'm proud of that.
3) It is better to be reviewed with a not-so-great review than no review at all. I know librarians are smart people. They're going to be able to read through the reviewer's opinion and see that the premise is unique and surely some teens are going to want to read this book.
4) It is possible to get so-so reviews and still find success. It is also possible to get lots of wonderful reviews and have your book die a painful death. Reviews don't really guarantee anything. Yes, good ones are nice to have. But they aren't necessarily essential. I bet if I tried, I could find lots of NYT bestsellers who didn't get any rave reviews.
5) It seems I quote Sara Zarr all the time, but I love this thought she shared with Cynthia Leitich Smith in an interview: Can you separate your identity as a writer from your popularity as a writer? Because they are not the same thing.
Okay, so what if you're reading this thinking, but Lisa, it HURTS! They said mean things about my book!
Repeat after me. It is just ONE person's opinion. Just like not all agents liked your book, not all editors liked your book, neither will all reviewers like your book. It doesn't mean you're a bad person! And it certainly doesn't mean your book is bad.
Tuck it away, eat a bit of chocolate, move on, and KEEP WRITING. It'll be okay. It really will be. Write more books!! PROVE THAT REVIEWER WRONG!
That's what I'm going to do.