Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So... this is awkward...

So... I don't know if you guys know this, but... a couple of weeks ago, THIS happened:

GIANT TOWERS of KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES ARCs were given away at BEA--along with a small batch of LET THE SKY FALL ARCs. And even more KEEPER ARCs will go out this weekend at ALA. And then the special mailings will begin...

All of which is SUPER exciting. 

But it's also... awkward. Really awkward. Because all those books are Advance READER/REVIEWER Copies. And reviews put me in a rather sticky situation.

See ... here's the thing:

I DON'T expect everyone to love my books the way I do. I get it that some people won't like them--or that some will think they're good-not-great and give them mid-level rankings--or that even in a favorable review they might point out small quibbles with things in the interests of being fair. It's the nature of this business and I totally, totally get it.


I'm not sure I want to SEE the negative reviews.

Especially since I kinda sorta *know* some of you--and while I would NEVER (seriously, NEVER) expect all of you to 5-Star my books if that's not genuinely how you feel about them, it might be a *little* awkward knowing what you really think. Seems like ignorance might be bliss in that area, yanno?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Then there's all the crazy Author Etiquette: Should I "like" good reviews--or does that look self serving? Do I comment on a review thanking the person--or will that make them uncomfortable? But will they think I'm rude if I don't thank them? But... will it look bad if I don't comment on or "like" a negative review? 

I know those seem like small things, but we ALL know that Authors + Reviews x Twitter = one big giant pool of Drama.  

So ... I've decided that I'm going to do my best to NOT read or respond to reviews. But ... that's awkward too!

See, I'm also a long time blogger, and I remember how excited I got when an author would stop by my blog and comment on my review (shoot, I STILL get excited when that happens). And I would love to be able to do that for others. But I don't know HOW to do that and not stumble across bad reviews that will make me want to throw my laptop off a bridge and flee to Mexico. Or how to not inadvertently breach some cardinal rule of online author etiquette and end up eyeball deep in faux pas.

Do you see my dilemma?

As if that weren't tricky enough, there's the RT factor. (Oh Twitter, it's a good thing I love you because you make everything so complicated). Again, I'm a blogger, so I KNOW how awesome it is when an author RTs about a contest or a review. BUT... I can't RT a link to something if I haven't checked the link first. And then there's the added challenge of balancing my Twitter feed, so it isn't all: ME ME ME, MY BOOKS MY BOOKS MY BOOKS, LIKE THEM, BUY THEM, SEE HOW MUCH EVERYONE LOVES THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That gets old REAL quick.

So ... yeah. Like I said: IT'S AWKWARD. And I have a feeling I'm going to make a whole lot of mistakes as I muddle through these next few months. Which is why I wanted to write this post, even though I knew I'd never get through it without abusing all caps, ellipses, and exclamation marks to a point of absurdity.

I DON'T want you guys to think I don't appreciate your reviews. ANYONE who takes the time to read my book and talk about it online is AWESOME, whether they 1 star me or 5 star me. I seriously mean that. Sure, I'd prefer good reviews. But even if my book wasn't for you, the fact that you took the time to read it instead of the other thousands of books out there is a truly amazing thing and I'm incredibly grateful for it. 

But I *may* not comment on it, or "like" it or RT it--even when its a good review. OR, I *may* get brave some days and do any or all of those things and unknowingly breach author etiquette. Either way, please bear with me. Please know I'm just trying to muddle through this icky pool of murky awkward the best I can. And PLEASE don't take this post to be a plea for you to not review. Basically: you--as bloggers/readers/reviewers--should feel free to do what you do best and review as you see fit. Just ... please bear with this awkward Newbie who has NO IDEA how to handle any of this.

And... I've now rambled about this for WAY longer than I wanted to--and I'm pretty sure the grammar police is on their way to arrest me for my many abuses. Not to mention I've now used the word "awkward" more times than anyone probably ever has or ever will in a single blog post. So I'll just end with a great big sparkly:

For reading. For bearing with me. For just generally being awesome. And now...

*runs away before she can say "awkward" again*


  1. I'm sure it's hard if you get a not so good review. I'm sure with the advice of your author friends who have been there that you'll figure out the best way to deal with this. I wouldn't worry too much because your book sounds awesome and I'm sure most of us are going to be loving it. Can't wait to read it.

  2. The towers of books at BEA were AWESOME!! I can't even imagine how exciting and scary all this is for a debut author (or a veteran author, at that). Just know that you put out the very best product you could and let the reviews just flow on over you (easier said than done, right?). I can't wait to read your story!

  3. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! Your book looks amazing (cover is gorgeous) and that stack of them at BEA is beyond thrilling.

    So excited for you and all the upcoming fun/awkwardness that's in store. And also totally GET what you're saying. I'm sure you'll find your own way of muddling through, and with a post like this (that is so honest and full of your endearing personality), that you have NOTHING to worry about.

    Best of luck and I for one, can't wait to read. :)

  4. +JMJ+

    First of all, Shannon, a big congratulations! That tower of books looks amazing! =D

    Secondly, I think "awkward" is indeed the right word. =) Now that you're a published author, it seems a line has been drawn between friendly blogging and "professional" blogging. I have a real-life friend who is a self-published author and believes she should create goodwill by thanking everyone who writes a good review for her. (I'm not sure what her policy is for negative or lukewarm reviews.) While I see where she is coming from, I've personally felt very awkward indeed the two times I mentioned her book on my blog and she thanked me in the combox using her author persona. I felt as if I had unwittingly done "professional" PR and was "hiding" a shady personal connection to her, when I was just writing about the book I happened to be reading that week . . . a book that also happened to be written by a friend. And when she linked me on her blog, I felt roped into her little writing/reviewing community where everyone promotes everyone else's books and no one ever says anything too critical. Do you know what I mean? =/

    So while I don't have any advice, I think you have the right idea when you say that anyone who takes the time to read your book is already awesome in your eyes--even if you decide not to tell him so individually or directly. It's nice when awesomeness can be shared on Twitter, but it's not totally necessary, and so should not be expected. And anyone who thinks you are obligated to retweet their great reviews of your book is missing the point of loving a book. I look forward to reading Keeper of the Lost Cities soon. Maybe I'll share my thoughts with you; maybe I won't. But either way, I'll be happy to bask in my awesomeness and send good vibes your way, whether you know it or not. ;-)

  5. Well, you have pretty much covered it! It is SO awkward. Just keep being yourself and you probably won't make a mess of anything:)



  6. First, towers of ARCs are AWESOME!

    Second, something I've seen other authors do, is make their presence known on a blogger's site where a review happens. I presume they go and read the review, but then they comment on a different post. That might be some happy medium where you can sort of acknowledge that they reviewed your book without putting yourself in the awkward commenting-on-your-review-of-my-book place.

    Third, it's totally okay if your sanity will survive better if you don't read any reviews at all. We love you no matter what you decide to do. Good luck with the crazies, you've been handling it all like a rock star so far (and yes, I know that's the outward "brave" face, but you make it look easy, good job).

  7. I saw this post in my reader, and I thought you were going to talk about the EBay SNAFU. I'm so mad I don't even know what to say.

    You are doing the right thing here, though, I think. I guess I can say that.

  8. I'm in the middle of writing my review (it's glowing, in case you were wondering), but it won't post for months. And I won't feel awkward or slighted or anything if you don't read or comment or retweet. It's not something I expect. Actually, whenever an author pops up on my site or on twitter, I get excited, but then I get all nervous and reread the past months worth or posts and was I too weird and I put way too much thought into it and it's... awkward. So now I can consider myself in good company.

  9. This made me smile. :) First of all, none of us expect you to read every review you receive. I mean, when would you write? Or bathe? And it is understandably very AWKWARD to get bad reviews.

    By the way, my 11 yr old uses "awkward" entirely too much - at least you used it appropriately. ;)

  10. Towers of ARCs are awesome. I'm currently reading KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES right now, but I know I will be spoiler free when it comes to my review. I won't be mad or sad if you don't read it or never read it or never stumble upon it. I don't think you need to read every review, but I do admit that sometimes people can learn from their weaknesses from a "negative" review. i.e. Maybe the reviewer felt you didn't have enough description, so amp that up in book 2 or the next book...etc. I think writing and being an author is a learning process, as is being a book blogger and on Twitter, etc. Thank you for writing such a great book Shannon I am so enjoying myself right now! :-)

  11. I feel the same way with reviews!! Do I thank the reviewer or is that weird for them knowing that I read their review? If I don't thank someone, is that bad? *groans* It's so complicated!! And you're right about the whole Twitter/drama/implosion thing. I've trying VERY hard to stay away from that. I also blog and review books (because I love them!) and I'm always thinking about what I would want the authors who I'm reviewing to say about my review. Which may defeat the point of the review...*sigh* Who are we reviewing for? The readers or the author's well-being?

    All that to say, I really did love KEEPER! I was so very much looking forward to reading it and it was wonderful. <3

  12. From one newbie-Shannon to another newbie-Shannon, WELCOME! I'm jumping all these hurdles with you. And just when I think I've made all the correct etiquette/sanity decisions, someone from my team (you know, editor, publicist, agent) suggests something that stretches me and puts my sanity at risk just a bit more. But, I've been pleasantly surprised at how the process has forced--LITERALLY FORCED--me to grow with it. I wish you tons and tons of luck and more sanity than you can handle!

  13. As your wise writing bud, Kiersten, has said, every author gets to pick how they'll deal with the public. There's no one way. It's your business and it's okay however you choose to conduct yourself. (Maybe this isn't exactly what she said, but it's what I took from one of her posts a year or so ago). I'll also add you have permission to change how you operate and don't need to explain. You are figuring things out as you go along, just like every other human being. Because you're doing this publicly doesn't mean you have to hold to a different set of rules. Remember that!

    I still lurk on GR but have decided not to respond to blog reviews (unless it's a personal friend). For me, it feels funny butting in on a conversation. I don't ever want people to behave differently knowing the author is hovering nearby. And really, I don't even know most of the time a blog post is out there (unless you catch me in a Googling myself mood).

    I'm the last author not on Twitter, so can't say anything to that! :)

    I've shared this through the Apocs already but wanted to mention again the posts I ran last week at my blog. They're called Navigating a Debut Year and deal with this whole new world we've entered. Writing those posts was hugely helpful in deciding what I do (and don't) want my public, private, and writing life to be like. I've still got tons to learn, but processing some of this now has been good for me.

    All the best, Shannon!

    All the best in finding your own way!

  14. Also, all books are not for all people. Repeat, repeat, repeat! :) xo

  15. I'm going to second Matt here, which is happening a lot today. Scary. You are doing the right thing. This experience is just another step in you amazing journey as a writer. Thanks for letting us be a part of it. ;D

  16. First of all, it's nice to meet other people who like starting there sentences with "So." It's just one habit I refuse to break.

    Now, as a reviewer, I love interacting with authors in any way. Whether it's just chatting about whatever or because I loved their book and started fangirling or because they saw my review and wanted to let me know they appreciated it. I know authors are super busy, so it makes me feel warm and fuzzy that you chose to take the time out of YOUR day to tell me something or respond to me.

    On the other hand, I know I'm not the voice of all bloggers and everyone else has different preferences. I can tell you what my friends like, but that's only a small percentage of all bloggers out there. So I totally understand where you're coming from.

    Honestly, as long as you aren't one of those authors who attacks bloggers for writing negative reviews in anyway they ever see, I don't think anyone will think you're a horrible person and you've messed up that badly. Everyone makes mistakes and people won't hold little things against you.

  17. Oh, this is all so hard. I'm right there with you.

    My working rule of thumb at the moment is that if someone tweets @ me with a review or mention, then I feel comfortable responding and thanking them on twitter. That way, they initiated the contact and so I'm not intruding into a space that I'm not supposed to be. And more or less the same for RTs, though I'll also do those if I see them to giveaways or if my publisher picks up on them. I have chosen not to go seeking out reviews for the most part, because I figure they're not really for me (and I don't want to throw myself off a creative cliff by reading too many--bad or good--anyway), and my editor sends me the ones she thinks I'll really want to see.

    (Thinking back to authors contacting me with specific thanks for reviews I wrote on my own blog, almost all of them chose to email me directly--which is another approach, for special cases when you do want to say something, but not intrude publicly.)

    But YES so thankful for anyone who is interested in and/or reads the book. This world we live in is a gift, allowing such easy and close connections between readers and authors...but also harder to navigate than I think it used to be. But, hey, that's a pretty great trade-off, all things considered.

  18. I like all reviews, good or bad. It's a hard thing to do sometimes, but if someone took the time to read and review my work they deserve a like...even if I secretly want to kick them. I have only really gotten angry about reviews when they have been from fellow writers. They should know better than to trash writing from anyone. That is reserved for critique groups where we are uplifting our craft and honesty is still painful, but more appreciated and appropriate. A writer should send me a private email, breaking down the issues for me so I can fix them and improve. Other than those, I kind of ignore the bad reviews. You will do great though, Shannon. The bad ones will be sparse and based on taste more than anything you could have done better. Be happy with that.

  19. I agree, the entire situation is confusing.

    Personally, I would never tweet a link of a negative review to a book's author. That would be so awkward!

  20. Such tricky ground!! Thanks for this, Shannon. I'm still learning, and will probably make TONS of mistakes on the way. But I think perspective is key.

  21. Ah, awkward indeed. After reading everything obsessively when my debut came out, I realized how detrimetal it could be--undermining confidence, ruining my idea even when I swore I could totally handle it, etc. My method now is I read the good reviews and scan the lower-rated ones. If the review takes a non-constructive turn, I stop reading. It's the reader's right to say whatever they want, but it doesn't mean I have to read it.

    I do "like" reviews on goodreads but never comment. ANd I retweet good reviews if the person has tweeted it. I don't think there is anything wrong with that as long as that's not all you're tweeting.

    Good luck!

    (And not to self-pimp, but I wrote a post after my debut about the 5 Emotional Stages of a Book Launch--reviews factored into that if you want to read it: http://www.roniloren.com/fictiongroupiearchives/2012/1/25/the-5-emotional-stages-of-a-book-launch.html )

  22. My Twitter/review policy is thus: I only @ an author if I give their book 3,4 or 5 stars on Goodreads, and I tweet them a positive comment, often about how tired I am after reading the book all night (I'm looking at YOU Stephanie Perkins and Barry Lyga. Don't pretend you can't see me) My blog reviews are mostly positive, unless something has ticked me off (political stuff usually). If I really want to hoe into something I do it on Goodreads and I don't do anything to draw attention to it. I only tweet the author about good reviews. There are certain authors whose books I will support even if I don't like them. Authors that share my agent or publishers, other local authors and friends. I have a friend whose book I haven't even read (not my thing) and I rave about her, retweet her etc all the time. If I don't like your books, Sharon, you will fall into that category. So either way, you'll have my support. But I think I'll like your books. I LOVE the covers, that's a start, right?

  23. As awkward as it is, look at the bright side: you have a book! That's published! And out and ready for people to read! Woohoo! So whatever the reviews say now, and I'm sure they'll be great, you still did something amazing.

    That being said, I've reviewed ARCs for friends before, and it's always particularly awkward for me when I can't give a five star review. (Heck, it's sometimes awkward even when I don't know the author.) And even when it is a bad review, there's a part of me that hopes maybe if my friend reads it and finds that other reviews mimic mine, and it turns out not to be my opinion, she will take it to heart when writing her next bad ass novel. So maybe just keep that in mind. If they're you're friends, whatever they write, they probably really want to do what's right by you.

    Good luck managing the awkwardness!

    ~Gina Blechman

  24. Well written article, i think it is good you addressed the issue. I do think however, you may want to consider that there are bad reviews on Honda civics from time to time, ipads, and people even complain about free services such as Facebook. The concept is, people will choose to comment on the negative no matter what, unless they received enough positive to ignore it. But lets face it, we all know the complaining type, and unfortunately, these are the types that have the resources (time on their hands) to write a bad review. Im not downing the persons who wrote the bad reviews, but ive been to a lot of great places that yelp reviews or google reviews have spoken of otherwise. Take it with a grain of salt, but then again, you already knew that :)

  25. We all get bad, or at least luke warm reviews. Don't worry about it, Shannon. When it comes to middle grade fiction, the only opinions that really should matter to you personally are the kids that read your book. :)

  26. Aw, thank you guys all SO MUCH! I honestly have no idea if I've had any bad reviews pop up--I haven't been checking--but I'm SURE it's only a matter of time. No book is ever loved by everyone.

    But good reviews, bad reviews, lukewarm reviews, it's all just this great confusing noise that I have no idea how to deal with. So it's just going to be trial and error until I figure out a system that works for me. THANK YOU for bearing with me as I struggle to figure it all out. You guys = AWESOME!

  27. Hey Shannon, I'm not published yet, so I can't really give you advice. Except maybe to say "look to well-published authors you respect and admire and follow their lead." I respect and admire Meg Cabot, and noticed that she tweets and retweets positive reviews and doesn't comment on negative or critical reviews. Learn from those who've been in the industry awhile and survived. Seek them out and talk to them if you can. I'm rooting for you!

  28. Just popping in to give my 2 cents since I'm coming out the other side of the debut year. I found the debut time exhilarating but also incredibly stressfull. You're out there in a whole new world, promoting your book, writing a new one probably, working working working. If you're anything like me you're going to be spending alot of that time more than a little insecure. (ok, full disclosure, if you're anything like me you'll be a barely controlled neurotic mess) The last thing you need is to dwell on negative reviews, even meh reviews. You need to do whatever it takes to stay positive and stay confident so you can be out there doing your job. I think maybe there's a time to sit down with reviews and weigh what other writers think but right now, in the middle of the whirlwind when you're a raw nerve is not that time.

    Give yourself a break. If you see a good review read it and enjoy it. If you suspect that one is bad or even mixed and you think it will hurt you with no upside, skip it and don't comment on it. Let it pass away and move forward.

    And yeah, most likely if someone tweets you a review of your book it's probably positive. I've never seen anyone push negative reviews in people's faces. Thank god!

    Oh, and I always went back and forth on commenting on positive reviews but more often than not i'd drop a little thanks for reading it or a 'glad you enjoyed it' and leave it at that.

  29. That tower is a thing of beauty! And yes, I hear you on the desire not to read reviews. I try hard to avoid reading my own reviews because too many times it's brought me down (way more often than the brief euphoria of a good review.) As you mention about twitter, though, often people will @ me with a review and then the temptation is there to go read. I'm fortunate: I'm not currently writing new material right now. But I do affirm all the awkwardness you describe here. :) In general, I think the less one reads reviews, the happier the writing life will be. Great blog!

  30. Even though I haven't gone through what you're goin trough, I just want to say that it's all a learning curve! You'll get it soon and then all this worrying will seem silly! I just hope that you enjoy the ride and have fun! :)

  31. The world after being publishes is such a minefield and I do not blame you for feeling this way. Each person has to handle things the best way they know how. I know I can take criticism from those I love, but strangers? And what if someone I "know" doesn't like my book. Yeah, I get you. ;0)

    Hang in there, it will get easier I'm sure.

  32. great post and i totally understand the dilemma you have. i think it's safest and cooler to just stay drama free.

    i hope to be able to pick up a copy of your book this weekend at ala!

  33. Handling all of that is more than slightly terrifying! I completely understand your feelings and I think you're making a wise choice. :)

  34. For those of us who got advanced copies of fall books, we appreciate the advanced opportunity. I didn't get a copy of your book and would love to read it. I'm being 100% positive for anything in advance.

  35. Shannon--That book tower ROCKS!:) So cool--like this post. :)

    I think you're doing a great job, and just like there is no single book that appeals to all, there is no one--and no perfect--way to navigate a debut year. You're so sweet and honest--and talented!--that you have us all rooting for you & your book. And personally, I'm grateful for this post. *adds bookmark*:D Thanks for helping those of us behind u on the road to publication! :D *sends cupcakes in thanks*

  36. Hi Shannon! Don't let yourself get stressed out. The book tower is AWESOME! I look forward to reading the book when it comes out.
    : )

  37. Awww, I hope you'll stop by my blog when I post my review of your book! Of course if I do a negative review I'll kindly not point you to it....not that it will happen (the negative review). :)

  38. Oh yes! Yes to all this! :) Some day I'm just going to do a post directing people to this post...because seriously, this nails it on the head. :) Thanks, Shannon!

  39. Thanks for writing this. My debut book comes out after the first of the year and I was wondering how to handle reviews. Now I know I'm not the only one with questions, concerns and misgivings. I'm sure I'll read the reviews, good or bad - I'm too curious not to, but how or whether to respond? I didn't have a clue except to stick to the high road. It's great to have company there!

  40. Shields eyes...that IS sparkly. (Blinded by the light!) I'm definitely going to bookmark this post and use it in the future. Ima writer so I will need this post.
    P.S. And The Grammar Police would have to arrest me and all of my friends. I LOVE YOU SPELL CHECK! : )


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Any arguing or intense debate--on any subject will be removed. Let's keep this a safe, fun space.