The Mystery of Reviews
My first book under my own name just came out. Last week! And it came out from a large publisher, which meant there were lots of Advance Review Copies (ARCs) floating around well in, uh, advance of the publication date. The publisher sent ARCs out to the big review sites, to local newpapers and magazines I had alerted them to, and who know where else. They sent me a box, and I scrounged up as many ways as I could think of to get them into the hands of likely reviewers, including hosting two Goodreads giveaways and sending one to Sister in Crime Gigi Pandian.
So A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die got some reviews. What does an author, particularly a sort of new author, do when she hears her book (that is, her baby, her cherished work, her…, you know what I mean) has been reviewed? More seasoned authors might advise you to Never Read Reviews. Of course, this makes sense. No one will like every book. All you need is enough people to like your book.
But still. As far as I know, I have read every review so far in the public domain. Publishers Weekly liked it. Woot! Library Journal liked it. Awesome news. An independent blogger/reviewer did not like it. Boo. The Goodreads reviews have been great. FB reviewer Dru Ann Love loved it. So far Amazon reviews are batting a straight five star.
Today, though, I opened a review I had been looking forward to. The publisher of The Natural Farmer, a quarterly publication that goes out to 10,000 organic farmers, received an ARC and said he would review it. I used to serve on the board of the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) with him twenty years ago when I operated and co-owned a small certified organic farm. Several other farmers and gardeners had read the book and liked it. I was eager to gain a whole lot of new farmer-reader fans.
The newsletter (a misnomer, as it runs to several dozen large newsprint pages) came in the mail today. I opened it and flipped through to the book reviews.
Jack, the publisher, wrote that this was the first fiction review the newsletter had ever done. And then proceeded to rip apart the willing suspension of disbelief that a mystery relies on. He stated that no real farmer would ever have time to do all the detecting and romance and socializing my protagonist, Cam Flaherty does, AND run an organic farm in June in the Northeast essentially single handed. Oh. Gulp. Rats. True. He acknowledged that my details about farming, about farm-share programs known as CSAs, about certification were all accurate, but they would not be new and interesting to farmers who would already know all that stuff.
So, I guess this is one to chalk up to, “Oh, well.” I’m still going to go to the big NOFA summer conference (with my 24-year old farmer son!) and sell books. I’ll continue to reach out to readers who are also gardeners and locavores and, yes, organic farmers. I’ll try to make the next book a bit more believable to professional farmers. And I’ll end this post with the Goodreads review that a farmer in California, Darryl Ray of Sunnyslope Family Farm, posted:
“I really enjoyed reading A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die. It is one of those books that once you start it you can’t put it down. The story’s location (a new Massachusetts organic farm) and main character (a novice farmer) are interesting and believable. I am looking forward to more stories involving Cameron and her farm.”
So, there, Jack!
Writers, what have your reactions to negative reviews been, or don’t you read them? Readers, do you write negative reviews? Do you suspend disbelief when you read a mystery?
Locavore Edith Maxwell’s Local Foods mysteries published by Kensington let her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge, most recently in the Fish Nets and Thin Ice anthologies.
Edith Maxwell’s pseudonym Tace Baker authored Speaking of Murder, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed. Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.