The first review for my debut novel The Root is out from Publisher’s Weekly and I want to profusely thank whoever took the time out of their day/life to sit down and read my book and write this review. I know a lot of books are submitted for review and they chose mine. However the review itself, is…not complimentary.
I was sick in bed when my publicist emailed this to me and like a good publicist pointed out the one or two nice things they said about me (Thanks, Bri!) so it was another blow on a bad day. I took a while to sort my feelings about it and I arrived at this post. As a debut novelist it’s been interesting to chronicle my expected reactions to things to my actual reactions. I was talking to a friend recently and mentioned that I was just waiting for the first review to come out because good or bad it would be like pulling the band aid off quickly and at least the waiting would be over. I’m surprised at how true that is. I’m not as completely devastated by this as I thought I would be.
I’m not saying I don’t feel bad about the review and won’t feel bad in the future. I suffer from depression and I know I’ll beat myself up about this at some point but here’s the thing – I knew that getting a book published meant that there would be reviews and not all of them would be great.
Did I want them all to be positive, raves about my genius and talent? Of fucking course I did. What author wouldn’t? This is a novel I worked over for the past two years, I sweated, cried and damn near died over this book. It’s my first time exposing myself to the wider reading world and I wanted it all to be this amazing experience but I’m a realist down to my core.
And I have a choice when a mixed or negative review comes in (and I’m sure there will be some whether professional or not for this book and every other book I author in my long career, that’s the life of an artist) I can let it make me angry and scream at the reviewer/review site on social media about how they just don’t understand, I could let it damage my self esteem so much I stop writing (those may seem extreme but I’ve seen both) or I could try and learn from it, re-dedicate myself to working harder on my craft and move on to the next step in my career.
I have confidence that there will be more reviews of my book and that it will find it’s audience. I also know that a review is only one person’s opinion. Maybe my book just wasn’t for that person or for some other reason they didn’t enjoy it. Is that on me as an author? Yes and no. It is on me to be the best at writing what I want to write the way I want to write it, after that it’s up to quite a few other factors whether someone likes it or not.
I don’t think any writer should view themselves as done growing as an artist, done at getting better. I think when you decide you’re good enough? That’s when you start to stagnate. I know I’m a better writer than I was even six months ago. My writing style is never going to be for everyone but it’s going to get better because I am going to get better and there’s no limit to that.
“I’mma keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.”