In my day job a couple weeks ago, I met a woman whose appearance in my life has this week reminded me once of again of the need to pay attention to what the universe sends my way.
I have been helping her overcome an obstacle to her education. Something about her pulled me into that kind of compelling need to serve a person that you get now and then. I have been helping her mostly because the universe was speaking so loudly in my gut about it being necessary. She said she had been praying for help. I guess I was her answer. Wednesday my support came back to me as I made an even deeper connection to her and to a friend she brought along to our last work sesssion.
There was just something so completely real and genuine about the two women. They were both older, though not quite as old as me. After we had done the academics, I found myself telling them about my writing, all the while every bit as fearful of being judged over it as the woman had been about her writing when I first met her. Then in the way that women connect and leapfrog over getting to know each other, I found myself telling them about the year that preceded my books and why I had finaly stopped putting off getting my books out there.
They left me with hugs and a righteous feeling of having for a few moments stepped up and did the right thing by a fellow human. Being women, they laughed at my humor and cried over my sad stories. I was simply uplifted to have spent some time them.
I feel that same way as an author about every comment, review, or email I receive from any reader telling me what they got from one of my books. The men who are reading them and giving them to their wives are astounding me. I have heard from adult daughters in their thirties who are passing my stories back to their mothers who are my age. I have friends my age also passing them to their mothers who are in their eighties and nineties. The youngest reader I have heard from has been twenty-six. The oldest one so far has been sixty.
I never expected to make the kind of connection where a reader would say "So glad you are creating older characters" or "So glad your characters are funny, they made me laugh". And don't get me wrong--I get plenty of commentaries that say "Great book! Thanks!" or even "Editing was so bad I couldn't finish". I appreciate those, too. Every ding about editing helped me decide a copy editor was not a luxury, but going to be a necessity. The last thing I want is a reader struggling to read one of my books just because I could not see them during the revision process. It is just a truth in this business that no author is a perfect editor of their own work, not even those who may do it in day jobs. It's the price of creativity for most of us. We get humbled by our poor editing flaws quickly.
So in case you ever wondered if what you wrote in a review was important, most writers appreciate book reviews and the time a reader takes to write them. It helps writers to know what readers like and don't like. It also helps new readers take a chance on the book. I've gone back now, especially to the Indie authors I follow, and started writing reviews because now I know how important those connections are to the writer.
I work in my reviews to say something "real" to the author. For example, I follow HP Mallory. I am hooked on her Dulcie O'Neill Series because I like walking in the shoes of her character. In a recent review of Book 2 in my favorite series, I told her what I liked about the book, then I sent her an email explaining in greater detail that I personally related to her character's physicality because it is how I like to imagine that I am as a woman of limited height with more energy than her body can constrain at times.
At least once a week, I go to every retailer of my ebooks and look for feedback. I also have solicited feedback from some pretty hardcore sites that do nothing but review books. Dating A Cougar Book 1 probably has 200+ reviews. I've read them all, even the ouch ones. I did what I could to improve Dating Dr. Notorious Book 2 and published a copy edited revision. With Dating A Saint Book 3, which was already more clean than the other two, I did a partial copy edit and elected to publish in the time frame I had promised readers. I am getting ready to complete the full copy edit this week and put a revision out soon, even though it is mostly in good shape.
Reader reviews are shaping my approach to writing. For the next series, starting in late May, I am scheduling the releases to allow time for a full copy edit before publishing. It might not prevent all errors because even traditional publishing doesn't accomplish that perfectly. However, it is how I have modified my process based on initial reviews. If I'm lucky enough to get 200+ reviews on the new books, I would like them to be about the stories and characters more than about editing. I'm hoping for five stars instead of three or four because of needing more editing.
It is a writer goal for me, based on connections I have made. I sincerely appreciate them all.