There’s a famous scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the title characters are trapped on a mountain ridge and a posse of hired guns is chasing them down. Sundance is prepared to fight them off, a fight they’ll likely lose, but Butch sees a way out: jump into the river at the bottom of the ravine. Sundance refuses. After a hilarious back and forth, Sundance admits that he can’t swim. Despite the desperation of their situation, Butch cracks up, not because Sundance can’t swim, but because he’s worried about the wrong thing. “The fall will probably kill you,” he says.
I’m posting this as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hopefully they welcome new members. Anyway, it’s been three months, give or take, since I released my novel, The Wind Maiden. I had no marketing plan, kind of on purpose, and kind of not, because I wouldn’t know what I was doing anyway. Well, anyone who’s published a book – or put their artwork on display, or released a CD, or in any way put their creativity on display for the would to see – understands the sheer terror involved giving it to the world. You also know it’s a thrilling kind of terror, like jumping out of an airplane.* Also like skydiving, the terror fades once you commit. Staring out the side of an airplane at 13,000 feet can get the hardest of hearts jittering, but once you’re tumbling through the air like a load of laundry, there’s not much point in being afraid.
My personal anxiety was simple: what if everyone hates it? I know it’s good, or good enough to be published, at least. I also know it’s not perfect, and good or not, everyone has different tastes. I braced my for the bad reviews. Everyone gets them, even the great ones like Neil Gaimen and Michael Chabon, and I’m not near their territory - not yet, anyway. So bad reviews are the price of doing business, and I was prepared for them. But there was one problem:
I was worried about the wrong thing.
I haven’t gotten any bad reviews yet because I basically haven’t gotten any reviews at all. I’ve sold some books, even to people I don’t know, but so far I have no idea if any of those people have even read it, or if they tried to and gave up, or heck, even if they liked it. I should have expected it: I read a lot, but before I saw things from the author’s perspective, even I never reviewed things, so I’m definitely not taking it personally.
On the other, I really need feedback. I was worried about bad reviews, now I’d kill for one,** This is my first book. I’ve gotten positive comments (and some critiques) form people I know personally, but the readers that don’t know me from Adam, they’ll tell me exactly how they feel, good or bad. And that’s what I want to know.
I’ve just got to figure out how to find them.
*With a parachute. I rather not experience the thrill of jumping without one.