As part of a cross-promotion with eight other authors, I temporarily lowered the price of the ebook version of A State of Jane to 99 cents over President’s Day Weekend and in honor of Valentine’s Day. Thanks to several very supportive bloggers, social networking in general and a well-placed ad by my amazing publisher, there were approximately 1,200 downloads of A State of Jane that weekend. To be honest, I never expected to sell 1,000 copies period, so selling more than that over a few days is, for lack of a better word, fantastic! I even made it onto a few Amazon best-seller lists and since I have no idea when that will happen again, if ever, I took screen shots and have them hanging on my bulletin board at work so I can look at them when I need a quick pick-me-up.
Although I am very excited about the volume of sales I experienced, I am also terrified. With more sales comes more readers (it ain’t rocket science…) and with more readers comes the increased risk of negative reviews. I’m well aware that even The New York Times best selling books get bad reviews as it is impossible to please everyone. Impossible. It stands to reason, therefore, that not everyone is going to like A State of Jane. Negative reviews are just part of being a published author, right? My head understands the logic behind this but my heart is a different story, not to mention my thin skin.
So far, the majority of reviews for A State of Jane have been very positive. Most of the ratings I’ve received have been 4, 4.5 or 5 stars and some of the reviews have included comments that the book is “chick lit at its finest”, “a must-read” and “hilarious”. Many people have asked me about a sequel and told me they want more Jane. Obviously not everyone has LOVED the book but most have said they enjoyed it. It has made the handful of two and three star ratings on Goodreads easier to swallow since, like I said before, no book is going to have only positive reviews if anyone reads it besides friends and family of the author!
Am I fooling anyone? I didn’t think so. Despite two published novels under my belt, negative reviews/ratings hurt like a mother fucker!
I’ve recently received two somewhat unfavorable reviews for A State of Jane from bloggers. Both reviewers did not like my main character and said that it took away from their enjoyment of the book. I’ll be honest in saying that I can live with that. It was my intention to write a story about a very idealistic and optimistic young woman who learns the hard way that life doesn’t always follow a to-do list. Unlike many main characters in chicklit, Jane is not merely an innocent victim of circumstances outside of her control, i.e. relationships that don’t work out, career aspirations that don’t take off due to an evil boss etc. When faced with disappointment, Jane tries everything (and I mean everything) to turn things around and becomes obsessed to the point of alienating her friends and family. As many readers have said, Jane becomes very unlikeable for a portion of the book. I fully expected readers to dislike Jane for a period of time and so reading this doesn’t surprise or upset me. My hope (and expectation to be honest), however, was that Jane’s antics would endear her to readers and that they would understand and appreciate why she acted the way she did and maybe even relate to her. For the most part, readers have expressed that this was the case but unfortunately for me, other readers could not warm to Jane. I cannot apologize for that because if I could go back and change Jane, I wouldn’t. If I did, it would be a completely different story and not the story I wanted to tell. And if I changed Jane to please those people who didn’t like her, I would thoroughly piss off those who did. (To those readers who did not like Jane, might I suggest that you pick up my debut novel, Just Friends With Benefits? The protoganist is much nicer 🙂 )
I obviously prefer to read reviews from readers who got a kick out of Jane, found her relatable and refreshing and laughed their way through the novel, however, it does make me feel better when the basis of a negative review is something I did intentionally and would not change. I did, however, read a review recently that really pissed me off because it did not seem like the reviewer even read the book. She got a couple of facts wrong and made comments that were just not accurate. She said that the book focused entirely on Jane’s dating experiences and that there were no other relationships or sub plots. Since the premise of the book was how Jane’s obsession with finding “the one” and controlling her destiny negatively affected her relationships with her best friends, family, co-workers and career aspirations, I got the feeling that the reviewer simply skimmed the book and wrote her review based on assumptions of what she thought it was about. That bothers me, especially if others rely on her review, but I guess that is the risk I take putting my book out there.
In summation, bad reviews suck. Despite my friends and fellow authors reminding me that even Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner get bad reviews, bad reviews make me want to cry and sometimes I do cry. Bad reviews even make me question whether I want to keep writing. But then I re-read all of the amazing reviews I have received, I look at the screen shot of A State of Jane reaching #6 on Amazon’s list of best sellers in humorous fiction, I recall how undeniably happy I feel after a good writing session and I move on.