Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Can't Sing. Can't Act. Can Dance a Little.

By Hilary Davidson

There are two kinds of writers: those who read their reviews, and those who lie about not reading their reviews. I fall firmly into the former camp. I've never tried to pretend I'm blasé about reviews, because I'm not. I set up Google alerts with the titles of my books so that I know when new ones appear, and I have to remind myself to breathe while reading them. When The Damage Done was published in September 2010, I checked Amazon and GoodReads on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, looking for reader feedback; I've calmed down on that front, but it's a rare week if I don't surf by those sites at least once.

What I don't do is obsess about bad reviews. I've had some — in major publications, to boot — and they're never easy to read. The first negative review I received made me want to bury my head in the sand, ostrich-style, and my book along with it. How could I live with the shame? But, after a while, I realized the sky didn't come crashing down. Most people didn't even seem to notice the lousy review — or if they did, they flat-out didn't care.

On my website, I quote from good reviews, so it seems only fair that I mention a couple of the worst here:

"The Damage Done isn’t a bad book: it has its moments. But it is something of a disappointment." — Quill & Quire

"Davidson’s first mystery follows 18 nonfiction books. The story is zealously overplotted." — Kirkus Reviews on The Damage Done


When it comes to reviews, I've learned to let go. Not everyone is going to like my books; in fact, some people will hate them with a fervor normally directed at deadly diseases. That won't stop others from enjoying them (or stop a book from earning awards). I like to remind myself of one Hollywood executive's early assessment of Fred Astaire's screen test: "Can't sing. Can't act. Can dance a little."

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

You are a dear, dear person.

Hilary Davidson said...

Patti, you are the best! That is all.

Meredith Cole said...

It's always important to remember that not everyone loves every book--and that's okay (especially when you're reading a review that's less than stellar). Love your attitude, Hilary!

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks, Meredith! I also remind myself that writers I love have had their books torn apart by critics. You can't win 'em all...

Vicki Delany said...

As you say, can't win them all. I'm instantly suspicious of books that have all five star reviews. I figure that those reviewers must all be relatives of the author. Almost no book is going to appeal to everyone (Maybe To Kill a Mockingbird is the exception) and certainly any book that is in any way edgy is going to have its detractors.

Barry Knister said...

Hillary--
Thanks for an honest post on a matter of universal interest to writers. Meredith Cole has it right about not everyone loving every book. In fact, I would say any book that offends no one, that is universally loved is probably something I would dislike on principle.

Hilary Davidson said...

Vicki and Barry, thanks for your comments! I'm suspicious of "universally loved" books, too. I believe Newtonian physics applies to novels: for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. So, if some people passionately love a book, I expect others will be just as passionate in their hatred for it!