Saturday, May 7, 2011

Alligator Skin Required

Tough reviews and less-than-stellar reader feedback are par for the course when you're scribbling and making your scribbles available, and you either need a thick skin or you need to keep your scribbles in a drawer. How do I know this? Trust me, I know this.

Take my most recent novel, Show No Mercy. It's a spy story and a departure from my earlier crime novel efforts (all three books are available at the left) and has sold OK--just OK. (So far.) The other two books, my short story set and an action story both of which borrow heavily from the Black Mask school of crime fiction, have sold much better. When I try to specifically promote Show No Mercy, readers buy the other two instead. It makes one want to scream, but at least I have sales.

So where does the thick skin comes in? Example: Some may say the characterizations in Show No Mercy are a little thin; I say, I don't have enough feedback to agree. My editor didn't think there was a problem, so there are two who say there's a problem and one who doesn't. It's not exactly a push, but I have a reason to doubt the second critic because he's my father and he hasn't finished the book yet. I told him to finish the book before he committed to his remarks.

So, thick skin, and stick to your guns. I worked hard on making sure the characters had some life. Perhaps it was too subtle, but I thought it was layered pretty well. This is like the most recent James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, in some ways. There are those who think the movie is unintelligible rubbish and those who cheered at the end and watched it two or three times to enjoy the nuggets of prime storytelling that made us want to try the same thing. Why? Those of us who cheered finally had a James Bond movie that made us think and pay attention to what we were being shown rather than just have everything spoon fed to us. With all due respect to the Bond producers, as I've been a fan for ages, you can check your brain at the door when you turn on a 007 flick. Perhaps that's what the audience wants, but there are those of us who want a little more meat, too. Unfortunatnely the complainers were pretty loud so the next Bond movie will be as brainless as all the others. And I'll go watch that one, too. Maybe that's the case with Show No Mercy; perhaps it is not. I have no trouble sticking to my guns but there's no sense trying to fight an avalanche. Right now we hear rumbles but there is no reason to run.

I flat out refuse to spoon feed my audience. I think readers are smarter than that. Newspapers may be written at a fifth grade reading level, but that doesn't mean I have to do the same thing.

In the end, it's all in a day's work, and nothing is going in a drawer. Don't miss out on the important thing: people are reading my work (or your work) and feel strongly enough about it to make a comment. Mission accomplished!

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