Friday, October 12, 2012

What an Ass Taught Me about Reviews

Photo courtesy of

As you *cough* might be aware, my debut novel, In a Fix, came out last month.

All right, yeah. I may have mentioned it here, as well as a few hundred other places in cyberspace. Sorry if it got boring, but it's hard not to dwell on what's preoccupying you. I did cut back on my blogging in order to spare you complete overload, though. (You're welcome.)

By the way, I'm going to stick to the reduced blogging schedule for now--once, sometimes twice, a week instead of the three I was doing before. I think that's probably enough to stay in touch while still allowing me time for other writing. Like, yannoh, books. Besides, it was either cut back on my own blogging or else severely curtail my visits to all of your blogs, and I'd really miss reading them.

But now to the point of this post: reviews. And asses.

Please note that I am by no means saying that reviewers are asses. Well, not all of them, anyway. (Er, sorry. That just slipped out.)

When In a Fix first ventured out into the Great Big Reading World, it was kind of an adjustment to realize people really were reading it.

People I didn't know from Adam. People who didn't know me.  Not only that, but they were getting all judgy about it. Huh. The nerve.

Okay, happen. It's normal. It's natural. It's to be expected. 

Still, it's kind of a shock to when it actually happens to you. Sometimes it's a good shock, like when a reader waxes effusive with the praise. (Yeah, I love those--who wouldn't? I'm human.) Sometimes it's a punch in the gut, like when a reader not only doesn't enjoy your literary effort, but takes the time to go into painstaking detail--sometimes even illustrating it with pictures!--about all the ways it sucks. (Yeah, those sting. See above--human.)

But, good or bad, I figure at least it means people are reading. In that sense, all reviews are "good." (Er, not to be all Pollyanna-ish or anything, but I do happen to believe this.)

Anyway, here's where the ass comes in. No, not the negative reviewer. I'm referring to Aesop's ass. (Not that ass either. Though I'm sure it was a very fine one. I hear he worked out.) I mean Aesop's donkey. The one from his fable.

You remember that one, right? A man (in some translations it's a farmer, in others a miller) and his son are traveling to market with their donkey. They pass some people who comment on what fools they are for walking when they might be riding. So the man tells his son to get up on the donkey.

The next person they pass grumbles about how awful it is that the strong young man rides while his poor old father wears his life away walking. So the father tells his son to get off and let him ride instead.

Naturally, the next person remarks on how terrible it is for the father to ride while he makes his poor son walk. So the father tells his son to jump up behind him, and (of course) the next comment is from someone who notes how cruel it is to abuse the poor donkey by overloading it, saying something to the effect that they could carry the donkey more easily than it was carrying them.

So (you see where this going, right?) the father and son get off the donkey and pick it up, and between them attempt to carry it over a bridge. The uncomfortable donkey begins to kick, and they drop it into the water below, losing it for good.

Moral of the story: It is futile to try to please everyone. 

EDITED TO ADD: In case you missed this down in the comments, Diane Henders offered up an alternative moral, one that I like even better: "If you plan to carry the burden of everybody else's expectations, sooner or later you'll have to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye". Brilliant, huh? Thanks, Diane!

Which I think is a pretty good thing to remember when you're reading reviews.

For the writers among you, I hope you'll just keep riding your donkeys the best way you know how, and take with a grain of salt* any commentary on your riding technique.

*Sometimes it helps if the grain of salt is on the rim of a margarita glass. ;)


EDITED TO ADD: I'm being interviewed today over at Book Brats. (Isn't that the best name for a blog? I love it!) Stop by and say hi if you get a chance! You know, so they don't think nobody loves me.)


Raley Blue said...

I'm sure I shock no one, when as writer, I say I was a petulant child. My mom actually made me play Pollyana's Glad Game, for real. It was a good life lesson. I like playing it better with a nice cold marg in hand though. ;)

Kimberly Sabatini said...

You know I love this post!!!!! I need to post it in my office...or at least a good ass picture to keep my head on straight. Love you, girl!

Sierra Godfrey said...

I um...cough..cough... have been under a rock and um...ahem....missed your debut. I feel like a real ass. congrats Linda, you deserve all the best praise and I'm running over to Amazon with my kindle (running is a bit ambitious...clicking is what it is) and BUYING YOUR BOOK!!!

Unknown said...

Great post, Linda!
I have to say that I recently noticed that someone on Goodreads added my book to their 'to-read' list. Under it, they'd written, "I'm not dying to read this." It kind of shocked me at first, and then I laughed, like really laughed. and then I told all my friends, who didn't see how i could find if funny, and I was like, "I've THOUGHT this about plenty of books, but I've never come right out and said it" *shrugs* it gave me a snicker and really, if you can't laugh at yourself, who else is going to laugh at you? ;)

Diane Henders said...

"Sometimes it helps if the grain of salt is on the rim of a margarita glass" - best line ever!

And another moral of Aesop's fable: "If you plan to carry the burden of everybody else's expectations, sooner or later you'll have to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye".

Sorry, couldn't resist. :-)

Linda G. said...

Aurelia -- A cold margarita makes everything easier to swallow. ;)

K-pop -- Love you, too! And, yes, a good ass pic helps keep everything in perspective. ;)

Sierra -- LOL! No worries. Hope you enjoy it! :)

Karla -- Ha! One review gave me a very, um, lukewarm review (really, she couldn't stand it), but finished up by saying she was definitely going to read the next one. All I can figure is, she must be a masochist. *grin*

Diane -- Oh, I LOVE your alternate moral. I'm going to go add it to the post so nobody misses it. :)

Delia said...

Ha! I'm picturing Aesop on an elliptical. :)

Linda G. said...

Delia -- Ha! Now, there's an image, huh?

Patsy said...

An illustrated review? Is it wrong that I'm jealous of that even though it was a negative one?

Linda G. said...

Patsy -- LOL! Trust me, you would NOT be jealous of this one. ;)

Carol Kilgore said...

Ah, yes. And the same goes for critique partners after your first draft :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Ah reviews. Love 'em, hate 'em, can't live with them, can't live without them. But they're sure easier to swallow with said marguerita.

And thanks for the ass tale. I never learned that one.

Michele Shaw said...

All part of the process, right? I think as long as YOU are happy with your effort, and your agent, and your publisher, then all is well. Yes, you can't please everyone, but if we all liked the same things, life would be boring. And the asses keep us knee deep in Manhattans;)win/win

Al said...


Camels out Aesop in?

Well this reviewer is not happy! :-)

LD Masterson said...

I love that fable and it's so true. Don't worry about pleasing everyone. Some people aren't worth the effort.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Your moral AND Diane's moral are excellent ones to remember when facing reviews of your work.

I just dropped Goodreads from my Favorites bar to make it harder for me to check on my upcoming book. (Typing in the URL is so much more work than clicking a link!) I recently had new ratings appear -- AND ARCS HAVEN'T EVEN GONE OUT YET. I don't want to obsess about how strangers are managing to read and rate my work before ARCs are released. So I've made up my mind to Stop Looking.

Perry Block said...

Reminds me of a song by an old time rock and roller named Ricky Nelson whom I'm sure you're much too young to know anything about.

On a recent episode of Jeopardy, all three contestants scratched their heads and failed to ring in on a clue about this very song.

Now .. umm .. er ... gee, I forgot the point I was going to make. And I'm feeling kinda depressed ...

Linda G. said...

Carol -- Ha! Yeah, but at least CPs have your best interest at heart. That takes some of the sting out.

Anne -- Aesop was a wise, wise man. If he was in fact a real man.

Michele -- Exactly. :)

Al -- Hey, go back one post. You'll find your camels. ;)

LD -- So true.

Dianne -- Grrr. I had a few of those "what the heck?" reviews myself. And, yeah, it's probably best to just stay away from GR as much as possible.

Perry -- LOL! Ricky Nelson was my very first crush. Um, in utero, of course. ;)

Teri Anne Stanley said...

That was one profound ass story--a good one to remember!

abby mumford said...

i wasn't expecting such a deep, spot on moment when i started reading this, but i should know better, especially when you and aesop (and diane) get together. big moments happen!

thanks for this wise advice. it's definitely going to stick with me.

Bess Weatherby said...

I love that you have been able to include reviewers and asses in a post about reviewers without actually calling them asses.

Unknown said...

Oooh!! I remember that story!! My mom told it to me once when I was a kid and I was soooo freaking sad that the poor donkey died. :(
I think I even cried, lol.

Anyway. Yeah. Sometimes you gotta post less--I'm posting less on my blog too, like three times a month or so. I've been so busy!

About the reviews. I've ALWAYS thought that was the scariest part of publishing a book! lol. But I'm glad to see you blogging fun stuff about it! You rock!! Seriously, Linda!! Love ya! <333