Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Helen: My First Review

I blog about this far too much so most of you know that 2006 was a whirlwind of firsts for me, the only Rider strapped in a booster seat. The biggest first of all and the one that set the ball rolling was my first book sale last March 31st. After that came a string of exciting and sometimes frightening events. Contracts, edits, art fact sheets, a cover, to name a few.

The year ended last week with one of the most terrifying firsts landing in my email. I received notification that the February (my release month) Romantic Times reviews had been posted on-line.

Before I even got to the RT website, ( my stomach started turning, my hands shaking. What if they hated my book? Gave it a throw it in the trash review? How could I look? I flashed on calling someone, anyone, to look for me. But then I realized that if the review was bad I’d need to absorb the shock quite alone, thank you very much.

Bracing myself, I pulled my book review up and felt my jaw drop. A 4 ½ out of 5 stars! Instantaneously, I started crying. A 4 ½ stars in the Romantic Times rating system means, “Fantastic. A keeper.” My baby IS beautiful after all.

I know, I know, I know. It’s exciting, yes, but I’ve been told not to take reviews too seriously. The next one could be a dismal 2. But this hit me. Hard. This opinion didn’t come from a friend or family member. The reader wasn’t a critique partner or writing buddy. This was a stranger who’d read my book and liked it. Loved it even.

So now I’m at a loss.

Readers, writers, everyone out there … what should I do? Completely revel in those 4 ½ stars, or tuck ‘em quietly in my back pocket to offset that inevitable bad review, or attempt to ignore reviews completely?

All our readers out there - how much import do you actually give to reviews?


Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- Woohoo! What a fabulous way to begin. :) Advice on reviews? Enjoy the review and move on. Good ones are fabulous to have. Use it. Be thrilled but then go back to work.

I have one friend who bought a new/used bookstore a number of years ago. She says that many die-hard romance readers come in with their RT marked up or a list based on internet chatter/reviews.

In category I don't think a bad review hurts, but I think a good one helps.


Helen Brenna said...

That's good news, Deb, and I think you're right about the getting back to work thing.

One of the big adjustments for me is getting bogged down with all the other parts about selling books and not doing enough actual writing.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the RT review! Enjoy it as Deb says and move on. You can't worry about what the next book will bring, and after many books out there, I've found no correlation between RT reviews and sales. In fact, my 4 1/2 stars book actually sold less than 3 star ones.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Great news, Helen! I'm so happy for you. I think it's healthy and good to enjoy good things when they're upon us, and not to invite doubt about when luck will change.

That fab RT review is very valuable and readers respect it.

They are less likely to give credence to a not-so-good review, even from RT, because the majority of readers want to like an author's work.

It's the vocal minority that might make one think otherwise.

You must be so proud. There's nothing wrong with enjoying it.

Of course, for we Italians (are you Italian?) no good ever can come from being too happy. But that's just us.

lois greiman said...

Generally, I'm with the Italian chick. :) Cuz I'm Lutheran and Scandanavian and know that it's not healthy to be too happy.

But good reviews--now there's a reason to celebrate. Break out the champagne, call your third cousin twice removed in Poughkeepsie. 4 1/2 stars is a dynamite review. And for reasons unknown to most of us peons, RT is pretty stingy with good reviews for contempories. So yeehah for you!!

I wrote to RT a few days ago to ask if they've reviewed Unscrewed yet. They haven't gotten back to me. I know it's cuz they hate it. But I'm enjoying my depression. Too much joy is bad for the soul.

Helen Brenna said...

Argh, Melissa! That's hard to hear on one front, but reassuring on another. But I guess a reviewer is one just reader.

There are so many other factors that can influence sales, aren't there? Covers, month of release, what's suddenly hot, what's not? We can drive ourselves crazy.

Yes, Michelle! We get to hear a REVIEWER's opinion! All good and interesting points. Thanks for the input.

And, no, I'm not Italian. But you Italian's can't beat us Germans. I'll probaby work harder and harder still, not enjoying one minute of any of it, before I die.

Unless, that is, my Irish side has anything to say about it!!

Helen Brenna said...

Lois, I'm not only German, I was also raised Catholic. As I said earlier, Argh!!

And I wouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions about Unscrewed. You've gotten great reviews on your UN series, haven't you?

Betina Krahn said...

Helen, hurray!!! You're off to a magnificent start! Everyone's already antsy with eagerness to get their hands on this book-- now it will be even harder to wait!

February, come on!

We're so proud-- we just may let you out of that booster seat (lol!) a month early! What say you, Riders?

;) Betina

lois greiman said...

If we let Helen out of the booster does that mean she'll no longer do all the blog work for us? Cuz I know I'm incapable of doing what she does.

Helen Brenna said...


If you're not going to let me outta the booster seat, then throw me a pacifier, a bottle, a blankie? How 'bout a George Clooney, then?

Loralee said...

Helen, what a wonderful review from RT. Looking forward to reading TREASURE.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks, Loralee!

Candace said...

I say celebrate, Helen. Do the happy dance. Shake your booty. Have a glass of something bubbly. Grab someone and plant a big, juicy smacker on 'em, and then happy-dance some more. In this business, you've got to make it a point to revel in the good times.

Helen Brenna said...

I think I'd better have the bubbly BEFORE shaking my booty, Candace. And anyone within eyeshot had better have some of that bubbly as well!

Susan Kay Law said...

Woohoo! Helen, is the actual review up, or just the score? (I haven't gotten my RT yet.) What does it say?

It does pose a delimma, doesn't it? The best approach, of course, is to believe every word of the good ones while paying no attention whatsoever to the bad, which requires a sort of mental selectivity I've never quite managed.

But I'm okay if I think of it as one person's opinion. I never expected EVERY single person to like my books, so I can chalk up a less-than-flattering one to a matter of taste, while still being thrilled about a good one. Yeah! Somebody liked it.

I'm with you on that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know a review is coming, though. I've never gotten over that.


Helen Brenna said...

Yep, you can see the actual review on the on-line RT site if you're a subscriber. She has a few sentences of book set-up and the most quotable part of her review states, "Helen Brenna's TREASURE (4.5) is chock-full of exciting story, fascinating description and colorful language."

Fun, fun, fun.

Anonymous said...

As a reader, I think great reviews can interest me in a new, or new-to-me, author. Bad reviews don't put me off if the book sounds interesting. I never buy fiction without reading the first 3 pages.

There is one national weekly news publication (to remain nameless) that usually has bad reviews of what I like, and glowing reviews of what I hate.

Most of all remember: YOU ARE PUBLISHED!!! Those of us who are not are in awe of you.

Helen Brenna said...

Thanks for the info and support, anonymous. First three pps, huh? That makes sense if it's a new to the reader author.