Crit Lit

Mountains and snow – they go together like books and critics.

Writers love feedback. It’s like getting free samples on a visit to a sweet factory – first and foremost we’re glad to be there at all and then there are extra goodies. What’s not to like? Funny you should ask that! 

Does anyone remember acid drops? The sweets, not the psychedelic experience! Sweet and sharp, and surprisingly moreish (and yes, that does look a strange word). Is anyone else thinking: book reviews? We feverishly check Amazon and Goodreads, and are often drawn to the negative reviews more than the positive ones. I’d like to think we’re looking for valuable pointers, in order to improve for our next book, but maybe it’s simply hard to fathom why readers didn’t appreciate the sweeping emotional landscape and the troubled yet finely drawn characters. Or, to quote a book review I received recently, they might just think your protagonist was way too sissified. 

Now, I’m fortunate in having a psychological quirk that means ‘bad news’ is often amusing to me. My own, I mean. So while I genuinely appreciate the fact that anyone thinks enough about one of my books to take the time and trouble to write a review, I’m also amused when I know I’m reading something that will make my ego bristle a little.

Goodreads has a sage view of the whole business.

As I often say, context is everything. One person loathing your heroine or hero is one thing; 20 people loathing her / him for the same reason is more of a cause for concern. Well, unless your character is called Mr Ripley or Hannibal and that’s your intention.

So, by way of entertainment – for both of us – I thought I’d share some of the feedback I received about Standpoint before it was published. These are from agents, publishers and a reader. Enjoy, as I do!

OK: I liked your new spin on the thriller genre, with a hero who is a civil servant, but I found the plot a little too convoluted and far-fetched at times.
We felt that your novel was an old take in a genre that has been stale for a long time.
I’ve agonised over this. As the various reports that you’ve taken the trouble to commission say you write very well. My one reservation is that the book doesn’t sufficiently stand out in what is a very crowded market. An agent with more experience of the current fiction market is a better bet for you but I’m sure you’ll find a publisher and I’d love to know what happens.
We found the concept intriguing!  In a thriller, we’re looking for mystery, intense action and vivid descriptions to really show us what’s going on and make us unable to stop turning pages right from the opening.
I found Standpoint to be a little too ‘laddish’ for my tastes.
Just finished your book tonight. Really enjoyed it and thought the story was excellent. I don’t do much reading but for what its worth I thought this was really good. I found it easy to read and follow which is a good sign it’s accessible to the masses. Thanks for the read.
The idea of a thriller based around a government special surveillance unit is quite interesting and the writing is competent but the characters do not stand out, excite or intrigue enough I am afraid.
While we enjoyed reading your submission, which stood out from the many we receive, we couldn’t find an agent here who felt strongly enough to take it further and therefore we are afraid we are not able to offer you representation for this project.
We like the beginning very much, the writing is good with a humorous tone. But for a thriller it feels too little thriller-ish, and we feel it’s too long, so I’m afraid we’ll give it a pass.

What’s the context I talked about? Early indications are that Standpoint has sold over 5000 copies since it launched at the tail end of March.  My point being that one critical swallow needn’t ruin your summer. And if the book you write is, according to popular opinion, a bit of a stinker, write a better one.

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