This week, I had the pleasure of chatting with the amazing Tania del Rio! Welcome to the blog, Tania! First things first, enjoy a complimentary coffee on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes…
I want you to go on a journey with me to your newborn authors days. Remember all the joy, the self-delusion, the crippling fear and anxiety? Think of all the things you would have done differently. Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You the day after your book sold and offer her some sage advice. Guess what? It’s too late for you–sorry Tania!–but it’s not too late for all the other Baby Authors out there. So let’s dive in. The wee Baby authors of the world need your words of wisdom.
Over to you, Tania. What would you tell Baby Author You about…
Reviews: I think it’s perfectly natural for an author to want to read reviews of their work, especially if it’s their debut. When my first Warren book came out and I saw reviews starting to pop up on Goodreads and Amazon, I couldn’t wait to see what people thought. The first few reviews I read were very positive, and I felt great! I gave myself a pat on the back and was snug in the knowledge that readers were enjoying my book that I poured my heart and soul into. But then came my first 1 star review… and then my next. And suddenly it wasn’t so fun anymore.
Even though the positive views far outweighed the negative ones, all I could do was focus on the negative and how awful they made me feel. I heard a lot of other authors say not to read your reviews, but it took me years to finally learn this for myself. So let me urge you, baby authors, resist temptation. Don’t read reviews. And definitely DO NOT engage with the reviewers. Engaging with readers on social media is perfectly fine, especially if they reach out to you directly. But stay out of the reviews! Even if they’re totally wrong and misread your book, or are questioning something, or are just giving you one star because Amazon didn’t deliver the book in pristine condition…even if they’re just plain bullies who are attacking you personally and not the work, DO NOT ARGUE with them. DO NOT CORRECT them. DO. NOT. ENGAGE.
Here’s the truth: reviews aren’t for you. They are for the readers. Your book is out in the world, and out of your hands. It is a wild animal running amok and some people will think it is the cutest little critter they’ve ever seen, and some will think it’s a bug that needs to be squished. Chances are you’re a reader too (at least I hope so!). Think of the books you’ve loved and hated over the years. If you look at those reviews you will find plenty of people who agree with you, and just as many who don’t. The point is, don’t take it personally. Stories are subjective and will affect people in different ways depending on their own backgrounds and preferences. Focus on the things you can control, and ignore the things you can’t. Trust me, you’ll be much happier.
Revising: One thing I wish I had known as a baby author was that I have the final say over my writing. Even after the editor makes their suggestions, and the copy editor goes over it with a fine-tooth comb, you have the right to fight for your vision. I’m not saying there won’t be pushback, and of course they’re not going to agree if you want to leave in glaring spelling or grammatical errors in the text (unless it somehow serves the story in an intentional way), but you have the right to speak up and say what you want. For example, in my Warren series, there is a type of good witch who are collectively called Perfumiers. See how I capitalized that? That’s how I wanted it to appear in the text. Because, in my eyes, a “Perfumier” was a distinguished title, and not just a job designation. Well, copy edits came back and they de-capitalized every instance of the word. It bothered me, but I didn’t feel like I had the right to challenge it, because copy editing is the final stage of the process, and I knew they felt it was incorrect the way I had written it. In short, I felt insecure about my decision to capitalize it, and I let it slide.
But, to this day, when I flip through my books, seeing “perfumiers” uncapitalized really bothers me. I really wish I had known about “stet”, which means “Let it stand.” An author can mark this magic word next to any change that they disagree with and it overrules the edit made by the editor or copy editor. Baby author, use stet wisely—don’t abuse it—but please don’t be afraid to use it when needed!
Wow, Tania! You said it! What awesome advice for all of the baby and not-so-baby authors out there. Thanks so much for stopping by. Readers, don’t forget to check out Tania’s books and visit her online.
Tania del Rio is the author of the spooky WARREN THE 13TH series about a cursed 12-year old bellhop who manages his family’s ancient hotel which happens to be filled with many mysterious secrets and surprises. The third book in the trilogy comes out in Spring 2020. Tania lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs. You can learn more about Tania and her books at taniadelrio.com and warrenthe13th.com or follow her on Twitter @taniadelrio.