I’ve written this sci-fi space opera called Attack Planet. To get some early reviews, I’ve approached some reviewers on Goodreads who liked similar books. I found a couple of readers who were interested. The few that actually FINISHED my book gave me rock-solid 4-5 stars, which was awesome.
And then one reviewer showed up, and it wasn’t.
Let’s call him Jason.
Jason slashed my book apart, using the lines of the famous movie “The good, the bad, and the ugly.”
And boy, did he find lots of ugly. He discovered many writing mistakes, was confused by the weird tech slang in the beginning and scolded me for mixing X with Y chromosomes (he’s a biologist), which is only one stupid joke in the whole book. I swallowed and sweated salt reading the review.
Every new paragraph oozed more criticism.
E for egoburn.
Here I was in the cave of creativity, hammering my keyboard like I stole it, believing I was crafting THE sci-fi story of the year and then receiving backlash per excellence. I of course replied the guy, which I will reveal later down the post.
But the story didn’t stop there.
Checking out my Amazon sales profile, I saw a space opera that was listed next to mine, launched at a similar date but gathering wayyyy more reviews and sales. So what did I do? I checked the author’s Goodread’s profile and asked him for the secret sauce of his success, since it was his first book and he was an unknown like me. Well, he said he’d check out my book description and Goodread’s presence to see what I was doing wrong, if anything at all.
Warning: burn imminent.
He sent me the email the length of a page and ripped me apart like a raptor on steroids. First of all he ‘politely’ derided me for my cartoon profile on Goodreads—it’s the same I use for Twitter and everything else.
“Which pro author would use a comic picture? Unacceptable.”
Then he took apart my wannabe-cool anime and manga quotes in the Goodreads author profile, saying they made me sound like a freaking teenager.
He couldn’t believe how I was considering a pro author career with a childish presence like that.
He thought I was joking…
I’m not gonna lie, the message did hurt, and I had to wait a few days for the reply so my ego burn could cool off. After five days, he replied and eased his voice, saying sorry for being so blunt.
I thanked him for his brutal honesty. I even agreed with almost every point he made and changed my Goodreads profile accordingly, for the better, I want to believe. I used a real photograph for my author avatar, told my life story and got rid of my wannabe-funny paragraphs, including the crappy one-liners.
Remember the first biologist reviewer who found the good, the bad and the mostly ugly? Well, I TOO thanked him for his honesty. He actually wrote me a message a week later, excusing himself for his brunt review. I told him I was grateful, since he was speaking from his heart with fairness (he still gave me 3 stars). I’m currently reediting the novel based on the errors he found.
It gets better—the biologist offered to be a beta reader for my next book since he liked the story and wanted me to improve it—for free!
Lesson? Our egos are frail and don’t want to get slapped, but if you take your craft seriously and you want to improve and make more sales, that’s exactly what you need: ask for a big, fat slap.
Ask for a review. Ask for an honest opinion. Ask for improvement.
The answer will hurt your ego, but if the critic is constructive, and the people I mentioned above all were, then they can help you reach a level others only dream of being.
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