Friday, January 20, 2012

Authors and Reviews

True story:

My very first full-time job after college was working for this woman who yelled a lot. She would be in her office, sitting at her desk, and instead of coming to get me, she would yell.

"Lisa, what is wrong with this? Please come in here, I don't understand it."

"Lisa, did you do that PAF I asked you to do? I can't find it."

"Lisa, where is that posting listed? Is it in the spot it's supposed to be in?"

And so it would go.

And the way she asked the questions made me feel like I was on the defensive *all* the time.

In case you've never worked for someone like that, let me tell you, it isn't very fun.

Now, some people probably have no problem with this style. They simply accept that's how she is, and it doesn't bother them.

Remember, this was my first "real" job. I was a 22-year-old college graduate, and I hadn't been around long enough to not take it personally.

It felt personal.

The more time that went by, the more it got to me. I didn't like being yelled at all the time. Even when I walked into her office, she'd fire questions at me. "Did you... " Why did you..." "How come..." And her voice was harsh as she asked. I constantly felt like a child who had done something wrong and needed to figure out how to get myself out of trouble.

I finally called the Employee Assistance Program and made an appointment with a counselor to try and get some help with how to deal with it. You can guess what happened. "You have to tell her how you feel."

Are you kidding me?

"You have to tell her how you feel. There's no way anything will change unless you two talk it out."

I'm pretty sure it was one of the scariest moments of my life, walking into that lady's office, asking if I could talk to her for a few minutes, shutting the door, and telling her how her yelling made me feel.

Do you know what she told me? She had no idea she'd been doing that. She had no idea I felt like she didn't like my work all the time. She had no idea she made me feel that way.

I can't say things got better, really. I think maybe she tried, for a little while, but she was the way she was and I was the way I was - more sensitive than most, probably

And so it is with authors. Some authors are more sensitive than others. Some authors are able to let things roll off their backs while others take it all in and it becomes a part of them. And so, here is where problems can happen between reviewers and authors.

I think everyone can agree - reviews are not for authors. But I don't know that it's realistic to simply tell authors, stay away from reviews, because everyone is different. Some really want to read them and to learn from them.

What's important, I think, is for you to know yourself. And then, come up with a policy that is going to make sense for you. In developing that policy, you need to ask yourself questions. Are you sensitive? Is it going to do more harm than good for you to read reviews? What are you looking for when you go looking for reviews? Be HONEST with yourself.

I think many of us, deep down, whether we want to admit it or not, are sensitive creatures who long for love and approval. Maybe we didn't get enough of it growing up. Maybe we didn't get it when we were 22 years old and worked our first job. Maybe we don't get it now from our life partners the way we wish we would.

But whatever it is that we're missing? Here's what we need to understand - we're not going to find it in reviews. All the wonderful, glowing praise about a book I wrote will feel good for a minute. Maybe even five minutes. But it eventually goes away. Because that's not really what I'm looking for. Is it? No. It's not.

And responding to reviews, getting worked up about them, trying to change them? None of that is going to help. It really isn't. Those reviewers aren't like a boss, who I have to work with day in and day out. Those reviewers have nothing to do with me and my life. And no matter how upset I get in regards to a review, it is NOT appropriate to talk it out the way I tried to talk things out with that boss.

I think sometimes we get confused and think, well, if this were someone I had to work with, I'd say something. So maybe I should say something. Do we not remember what we've already agreed on? Okay, so we forget from time to time. But let's all try to remember - reviews are not for authors.

I worked that job for a year and a half, and I finally had enough and decided it was time to move on. That lady and I were not a very good match. I needed different things from a boss than she could give me.

It's not always easy figuring out what we need. What's missing. Or if we do figure it out, how to get it. I have a hole in my life right now because of some things outside of my control. I'm trying to figure out how to fill that hole. How to find the joy I'm longing for in that particular area of my life.

But I want to assure you, readers and reviewers - I know you are not the answer. I appreciate you reading my books, I appreciate your kind notes to me, and I appreciate that because of you, I'm still doing a job that fulfills me in a way other things don't.

Appreciation is one thing. Expecting you to satisfy my soul and to fill me up with peace and love is quite another. And I promise I'm not going to put that on you.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Caroline. Hey, I read MAY B yesterday and really enjoyed it! I tweeted about it last night during MGLITCHAT on twitter. :)

  2. You're so wise, Lisa. I particularly like your very last part that reminds us that we should not look to readers/reviewers to fill a need in us. Thank you - your posts are always so smart and right on.

  3. Aw, thanks Joanne. Somedays it's easier said than done, but the longer I do this, the more I see how it is imperative that we do what we can to keep the creative stuff separate from everything else.

  4. Excellently put! I really can't deal with reviews, and figured that out quite awhile ago. So I avoid them now unless they are sent directly to my inbox. It has greatly improved my life. Thanks for such a caring, beautiful post.

  5. Such a brilliant post! And so RIGHT ON. THANK YOU!!!

  6. Great post. Reviews can be a great help to authors but some reviewers want to make themselves look good at the author's expense. You have to decide for yourself which ones you are going to take seriously.