So Harlequin and Libre Digital spent the last week at the Tools of Change conference talking about the promotion they did with my debut novel, Proof by Seduction, on Living Social. I wasn’t there, but I’m told they highlighted positive quotes from people who read the book and loved it–a lot of anecdotal evidence, the kind that ought to give anyone a warm fuzzy feeling.
What they didn’t do was post slides with the negative reviews. I don’t know if they even mentioned them. [ETA: Angela James tells me that they did mention them.] But those negative reviews were very valuable for me as an author. Here; go read the full spectrum of reviews. They range from one extreme of hyperbole (“This is one of the best debut romance novels I’ve ever come across”) to the other (“This is the single most trashy novel I have ever subjected myself to”).
This is not going to be an “I am a delicate flower” post. It’s not going to be about my feelings at all. No matter what my feelings were about these reviews (and yes I read them all, because even though I am not a delicate flower, I am an antsy debut author who is searching for meaningful data in a world composed entirely of anecdote; and no, I did not ever respond to any of these, nor am I going to now), I realized something halfway through.
Many of the people they were offering my book to were not romance readers. They said so outright in their reviews. This was initially a source of consternation for me. But the non-romance readers split into two crowds. Half of them said, “I do not read romance, and this book did nothing to change my mind about that stance.” The other half said, “I do not read romance, but maybe I should reconsider, because this was a fun read.”
The number of those people who would have read my book had they not had it forcibly shoved down their throats? Zero. The negative reviews were a sign that my book was getting into the hands of a diverse population, not just the regular romance readers who were most likely to purchase my book. The only way for me to forgo those negative reviews would have been to make sure that my book just landed in the hands of the easy readers who already adore this particular type of historical romance. And while that would have been great for my authorial ego, in the long run, it probably wouldn’t have been great for growing my readership.
If nobody hates your book, that means your book hasn’t found its way into the hands of enough new people. And, from an author’s point of view, that is never a good thing.