When I self-published my first (and only) book in 2011, I was in a rush to get it out there. I remember hurrying through the final edits, thinking it was “good enough” and “probably ready” to be read by a wide audience. Then I hit the button (well, many buttons) and sent it into the world.
It wasn’t ready.
I’ve spent the eight years since then alternating between being embarrassed when anyone asks me about it to being mortified when someone asks for a copy. I’ve reread it a few times, even tried to rewrite it a few times, and I haven’t found peace.
The other day when I was on Goodreads updating the list of books that I’m reading, my own book popped in at the bottom of the page, reminding me that it exists. I noticed there were a few reviews listed there, and I didn’t hesitate - I clicked and read them all completely.
The reviews were overwhelmingly kind. And accurate. And I finally felt a little release from my fear of that first book. Was it the greatest thing these readers had read? No way. Was it the beginning of something that could be good if it was reworked, lengthened, fully developed? Perhaps.
Their criticisms helped me at this point, almost eight years later, much more than they ever could have back in 2011. I probably would have been crushed by these comments if I had read them back then. I would have taken them very personally, defensively, and seen them as hostile and aggressive. But they are not.
Only time has gotten me to this point of acceptance. Time and words much harsher than theirs have been circling and spinning in my brain for eight years. Add to that the number of jobs I have had since then that have toughened me to criticism and made me realize how very little of this truly is personal - and I should accept it as it is intended. The book should be longer, the characters more developed, the motivations more defined.
So thank you, dear readers, all six or seven of you. I doubt that you’ll read this, but if you do, you have helped me more than you know. I’ve started over a dozen new books since I published that day, none of which have ever reached the point of being close to finished. But I see now what I need to do. I need to keep going. I need to take those criticisms and use them for my benefit and for the benefit of anyone in the future who may take a chance on me.
When I am ready to release something new, I plan to contact those reviewers personally and thank them. They need to know that they are doing good things. Their constructive advice has been valuable to me, and I appreciate it.