Of all the things I have learned through becoming an indie writer, I'd say near the top of the list is the value of reviews by readers. I do not get a lot of them; but between those at Amazon and the ones I come across elsewhere on the Internet, I have gotten enough to see their value for any author.
Reviews by someone who likes my books are of course the most pleasurable. It makes a writer feel good to meet the needs of someone else. It's a little wahoo or a big one sometimes. It's even better when it comes from someone I personally know who tried one of my books. I feel the most potential responsibility and nervousness when a friend has taken the risk of buying one. If they like it, it makes the reward of a positive review even sweeter. I do not have the kind of friends who'd lie about it or write a positive review somewhere that they did not mean. I wouldn't do that for their art or writing either.
Part of reviews, of course, is the negative ones. Now if they are about something I cannot change, I simply have to accept that I can't please everybody. I've had a few where they said they'd have liked the books better without the sex. Well I consider healthy sexuality to be an important part of my stories. I don't go on for pages and pages, am not too graphic, but in the end, writers have to write what is their story.
One reviewer wrote that they read 80% of Bannister's Way, got bored and quit. That was like wow-- really! Not even curious enough to skip to the end for how it worked out? That's what I do when a book is turning me off.
Well I went looking for what happened at about that time, had to guess, but decided any of the possibilities were things I would not want to change. They were an important part of the essence of the story. I just have to feel bad for that reader that they wasted their time, but it's part of the deal for a writer to accept that it happens. Our stories simply won't meet the needs of everybody.
When a negative review deals with something I can change, a mistake that I made, or that I should look at, that's when I truly feel reviewers do the most for me. One of those occurred coincidentally (or not) for Bannister's Way.
I have to say this book has had some of the most disdain from readers of anything I've written, but it was usually involving its title or cover. It had another title when it began, Golden Chains. It seemed apropos to the story because it's about love which can be a sort of chain (but one worthwhile) and also about Prometheus where chains are part of the mythology and the sculpture for which the hero will be posing. That title really turned off readers. I was and always am open to thinking of a different title-- hence was born Bannister's Way which also suited the story.
Once in awhile I write a book that does fit into a series and Bannister's Way is one. It arose from another book, Desert Inferno, where David Bannister was an important secondary character. I had liked him enough that I began to think of writing a book using him.
That led to five years later when David went undercover to solve a murder as he hoped to reconcile with his ex wife. I set it in Portland and gave my artist heroine the kind of home along the Tualatin River that I'd love to own. (Incidentally, two of the secondary characters in this one were the hero and heroine of Evening Star).
Now the review, that led to a changing this book once again, was actually positive regarding the book itself, but the person said that was despite its cheesy cover. Huh!!! I had some concern that the hero might look a little too young on its cover but cheesy? I looked the word up although it's hard to say if it meant that to the writer. It said-- inauthentic, trying too hard, unsubtle. hmmmm
I was a bit in shock but reconsidered it once again for the umpeteenth time. You know, our books deserve the most we can give to them; so I began looking through the model images I had purchased this year from CanStock. Some I'd gotten after I had done that cover. When I saw the right face, I knew this was going to be a positive move and went looking for some of my recent ocean photos.
Thanks to that negative comment, I am soooooo much happier with how the cover portrays David Bannister. I think he now looks stronger, the right age, has more of the Michelangelo's David look, and seems tough enough to do what I wrote he was doing. Yes!
It did require redoing the trailer too but that wasn't too difficult (other than giving up the viewer numbers I had had for the old one). Good things come with a cost but that is a small one. And that reader, who made the cheesy comment, will never know how much they helped me.
Positive and negative reviews really can be good for the author. You can't run around changing everything that someone else doesn't like, but sometimes what they don't like can lead to an improvement.
Bannister's Way Trailer