Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reviews, Reviews...

Smashwords, the publisher and distributer of many indie eBooks, has a great service: authors receive email notifications anytime their work is downloaded or reviewed. During “Read an eBook Week” I made my novel, Night Flight, available for free. My Blackberry was firing off all week as people downloaded the book. It was gratifying and fun. After the promotion, the activity for my book went as quiet as a ghost in a graveyard, but I took hope in the fact that readers might start reviewing. After months of waiting – nothing. I figured that was okay. If readers weren’t motivated to write a favorable review, at least they weren’t on the site trashing it. Was nothing better than something? I was beginning to think maybe so.

Recently, at was speaking at a conference in Washington D.C. and I had some time before my flight back home to San Francisco to visit the Mall and see my favorite monuments, mostly those dedicated to veterans of the various wars and the Lincoln Memorial. My Blackberry dinged on the Metro back to the hotel and I read the Smashwords alert: Your book has been reviewed.

I tucked the Blackberry back into my purse in a bit of a panic. All of a sudden a cold sweat broke out on my forehead as I stared vacantly at the seatback in front of me. Oh my god, I thought, there are only two reasons someone would write a review: they either loved it or hated it. I couldn’t bring myself to look. I stayed away from my Blackberry the rest of the day, my anxiety constantly building. I recalled the feeling I had when awaiting grades on my final exams in college—this was the same. I had finally been graded.

I recalled the recent dustup between an author and the reviewer, Big Al from Big Al’s Books and Pals ( Big Al gave an honest review, which wasn’t all that derogatory. His biggest issue was the poor quality of the formatting and mistakes in grammar and spelling, an all too common issue with indie books. But this author, after reading the review, teed-off on Big Al, going absolutely ballistic. Big Al had the presence of mind to make a polite reply and the author went even more ballistic. Other readers of the blog started commenting about the exchange and the author went off on each of them. It quickly turned into a circus and went viral, lighting up the blogosphere and making Big Al famous and the author infamous. Maybe this was the author’s goal—any publicity is good publicity? But that was not who I wanted to be, and I had made up my mind to be a little more gracious and learn from what people said about my writing. Still, it was frightening.

Conference over. Now I’m sitting in the American Airlines terminal, my flight delayed because of severe storms over the Midwest. The irony of situation hits me as I think about the similarities to the plot in Night Flight, a book I would not recommend for in-flight reading to squeamish fliers. Then I remember the review notification, something I never really forgot, but now it’s front and center again. I have to make a choice. If I don’t look at it now I will not have another chance until I get home. I can’t stand it anymore and I pull out my iPad and head for the Smashwords site.

I see the cover of the book and 5 beautiful stars aligned under it, shinning brightly. I was so relieved. Somebody liked it. And the reader wrote a narrative that was so flattering that I had to see if the reviewer was a relative. She wasn’t. I was bursting. I had to tell someone. Would the people next to me be as excited as I was? I looked around and decided I’d call my partner and tell her. She was as happy for me as I’d hoped. Somebody liked my work. SOMEBODY LIKED MY WORK.

Needless to say, I was flying high even without boarding my flight yet. The feeling of somebody appreciating my work that I spent the better part of four years constructing was more satisfying than any “A” grade on a final exam. This was unsolicited acknowledgement. Thank you, Georgi Abbott from Canada. I always liked Canadians!

Since then, Night Flight received another excellent review on Amazon. I am very happy that readers are connecting with the work, and so appreciative of them taking the time to write a review. Thank you!

Click here to read the Smashwords review:

Click here to read the Amazon review: