“You can make some of the people happy some of the time, but there ain’t no way you can make all of the people happy all of the time.” – Arlo Flynn, Western Author
Recently, the January 2019 issue of True West magazine showed up in my mailbox. I was thrilled, surprised and honored to find that the fifth book in the Brock Clemons Western series, “Battle on the Plateau,” had been selected as one of the 2018 Best of the West in the e-book category. It was very exciting and something I will readily admit to being proud of.
Three days later, the December 2018 issue of Roundup, the official magazine of Western Writers of America, an organization I am a proud member of, arrived. The very same book, “Battle on the Plateau,” was reviewed. At best, my book was damned with faint praise.
“Taking characters from his previous books, Scott Harris places them in Arizona’s Grand Canyon. While the story chugs along nicely, readers new to these characters are confused. Brock Clemons, with Sophie and Huck, leave Dry Springs, venture to the Grand Canyon, meet up with the Paiutes who eventually befriend them. A battle at novel’s end sets the tone for a sequel, which according to the author, is in progress. Confusion in tenses and first/third person makes the novel seem “amateurish,” which it isn’t, and typographical errors take away from the writing.”
Let me be clear — it hurts. The temptation to point out the mistakes in the review (factual mistakes, not challenging the opinion) is strong, but worth resisting. It is important to walk away from an experience like this with a few things in mind and your confidence and dignity intact.
First, different reviewers will see your books differently. One person’s “Best of the West” is another person’s disappointment. And they both may be right. Maybe you caught one on a good day and another on a bad day, or maybe they simply see your book differently. The key is to neither get too high at a great review nor drop too low from a bad one.
Second, be flattered that they’ve taken the time to review your book. It means you’ve reached a certain level of awareness in the Western writing community, and while I would certainly prefer a rave review, I like that this Roundup reviewer took the time to read it and then write about it.
Last, be willing to learn from reviews, but stick to your guns if you believe strongly in something the reviewer does not. For instance, my books are written in first and third person, which is unconventional, and this reviewer is not the first person to point it out or to dislike it. However, it’s a conscious decision I’ve made. It’s the way I enjoy writing my books, and for those who find it distracting, they simply do not have to read my books. It’s not possible to make everyone happy, and you’ll make yourself crazy trying to do so.
One of my earlier books had two back-to-back Amazon reviews that highlight how people can — and will — see your books differently. The first read …
“It had a lot of dialogue that I didn’t think did anything except add words to the book.”
The very next review said …
“I like stories with a little more dialogue between the characters.”
I suppose, in a way, they were both right.
I wish you good writing, and if you have a question or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected].
Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!