I’ve said in my previous column that writers are, by and large, not terribly greedy people. I’ll stick by that, but it should be said that there are some things writers do covet to the point of greed or even obsession. One of those things is attention, and, more specifically, favorable attention. Most of us, after all, began as readers, for whom good books were the most amazing, inspiring things in the world. Whether it was Tolkien or Barbara Cartland or Zane Grey or Tolstoy, there’s that moment where you said I wanna do that. And it’s completely understandable that you’d want to produce something that hits someone else the same way. It’s not always about aiming for the stars, either; I have stacks of horror and sword-and-sorcery paperbacks that did as much as any literary classic to get me writing, and I look at those old writers with great respect. If I can give someone the pure pleasure they gave me, I tell myself, I’ll be happy.
For erotica writers, that impulse to take on the role of master is mixed up with something more complicated—we’re trying to excite, to titillate, to seduce. So if someone does post a favorable review of your new ebook on Amazon or Goodreads, it can be a remarkably sexy experience. You find yourself wondering about this person, this “FatalKittYn79”. You look up other books they’ve reviewed, you linger over their online profile. You fantasize that this reader truly “gets” you, and sees your work in the same light that bathed your favorite books when you were young. Since any book from your hand is an extension of yourself, reading that review can be a bit (just a bit) like meeting a potential new lover. But in that frame of mind, a bad review can be, as the kids say, a real buzzkill.
The biggest problem, though, is that most books garner neither songs of praise nor the sneers and bad comedy routines that too often pass for negative online reviews. Most books come out to a crushing silence.
Sometimes—when I really should be doing something more constructive—I will google one of my pseudonyms along with the word “review.” This is guaranteed to bring up dozens of online bookstores where my books are for sale, along with canned text along the lines of “Read a REVIEW of Colin’s SWORD OF THE DOMINATRIX Here…” Needless to say, there’s never any review on those pages. It’s crickets, all the way to next Tuesday. Even if your book attracts a number of favorable remarks from your friends and people in your network, you always hope for more, from people who didn’t know you existed yesterday—the FatalKittYn79s of your reading public.
Now, it doesn’t take long for most writers to realize that the silence is part of the job. That realization is healthy; meeting the Silence squarely and spitting in its eye can be a great help for a writer. It can move you away from fantasies and ego to the essential business of getting on to the next book or story. Most of all, it can help you realize that quality isn’t always measured in backslaps and superlatives. It can inspire you to help build your network and develop ways of making things—including reviews, good or bad—happen for yourself.
So next time you’re faced with the Silence, try making some noise.