Camy here, talking about reader subjectivity.
Pam mentioned this on Monday’s post, and I totally agree with her. You often see wildly disparate scores AND comments from judges, and the truth is that you can’t please everyone.
As I get reviews about my books, I’m seeing the same trend I saw when I entered contests. Wildly disparate ratings AND comments.
One reviewer loved the breadth of topics that revealed my character’s family atmosphere—and how it influenced her—in more depth. Another reviewer said there was too much stuff, which made the story too shallow.
One reviewer loved my heroine. Another one said she was mean.
One reviewer loved the insight into Asian American culture, especially the fact I pointed the differences between Japanese and Chinese. Another reviewer hated the Asian-ness of it and thought it was racist.
The truth is, the disparate reader opinions we’ve all seen from writing contest judges never ends, because we see it as published authors. (Except that reviewers tend to be more blunt and public about their opinions than contest judges.)
In a rather weird way, it’s actually a good thing to have that one judge who doesn’t get your writing. The “out there” judges’ comments I received on my contest entries are being echoed by reviewers now, but I’m prepared for them because I’ve heard it all before.
That’s probably not really helpful to you when you’re smarting from a score of 1 and a judge who rants about your character’s political stance rather than commenting on the storyline or writing. Or the judge who gives you all 1’s and all he complains about is that your margins are 1.25” and not 1”.
However, I’ve discovered that having a contest judge complain—no matter how mean or spacey or confusing the comment is—has helped me in the long run because seeing the same sort of comment on an Amazon review doesn’t faze me the way it normally would.
I won’t lie—developing a thick skin takes time and you never really toughen up as much as you’d like to. That’s what family and friends are for—to give you a hug, then smack you upside the head and tell you to “Get over it” or “Suck it up” because it’s only one person’s opinion.
I also received some excellent advice from Kristin Billerbeck and Brandilyn Collins—often when a judge or reviewer complains about something in your story that you really don’t understand, it’s because that part of your book touched a sore spot in his/her own life. Sometimes, the judge or reviewer is with denial or guilt over something in his/her own heart, and your story brought it to the forefront of their mind, causing them pain or anguish. They lash out with an “out there” comment that really has nothing to do with you or your story.
Also, there’s nothing we can do about judges’ personal preferences. Some people like fast-paced stories, others like meandering ones, and if your novel is one or the other, you’re going to get complaints that the story was “too slow” or “too fast.” Some people like strong characters while others like compassionate ones, and you can expect comments from people who think your heroine is “too soft” or “too hard.”
Now, don’t get me wrong—if three different judges point out the same problem, it’s probably something to listen to. But remember to read with a discerning heart.
My advice is to feel the sting—yup, go ahead and feel it! Kick the cabinets, burn the roast, and indulge in lots of chocolate.
Then exert yourself to move on. Tell yourself that the difficult comment will actually help you someday when you’ve got that novel on the Barnes and Noble shelves.