As you likely know, my novel October was published on Saturday. It went pretty smoothly. Reviewers had really loved it so far, seeming to truly catch the intention of the story. Many very kind people had helped me spread the news.
I went to bed satisfied.
The next morning, I woke up earlier than I’d intended and, as usual, reached for my phone. I decided to check reviews, curious whether there were any more yet. I didn’t expect any.
I saw that the number of reviews had gone up one–and instantly saw that the rating had gone drastically down. Nervous, I read the new review.
One star. And it wasn’t just “I personally didn’t like this book” or even “I thought it had some flaws” this seemed like an outright attack. The characters. The theme. The writing. It accused me of incorrectly and sloppily portraying something that is only mentioned once in the book, something that I have researched from many different angles over many years.
In addition, there were indications that this may be a personal hater rather than a genuine reader. It’s always suspicious when you get a scathing review from someone who’s never reviewed any other book, ever.
To say the least, it was unpleasant to read. And it didn’t get my Sunday off to a great start.
I told friends and fellow authors, all of whom were sympathetic. Most authors have had the same thing happen. Someone looking for a fight. Someone being needlessly unkind. We all know that not everyone is going to enjoy our creations. Some people may downright dislike them, and that’s fine. You can’t please everyone. But just plain nastiness?
That feels different.
Cut to a few hours later, when I’m waiting in the church lobby for my husband. I was checking my phone somewhat absent-mindedly, and saw something that caused my heart to sink even further.
The number of reviews on Firmament: Radialloy had gone down one. Just when I was getting so close to fifty reviews.
This didn’t improve my mood. Amazon is known for removing reviews if they think that the author may have a personal connection to the reader, no matter how honest the perspective. So far I hadn’t had this trouble, but now–and on top of the bad review from earlier–I felt weighed down by discouragement. I work hard to promote my books. I’m not a natural saleswoman, and it’s a lot of work. To have it counteracted by something completely outside my control–was decidedly frustrating.
I headed into the Sunday morning service still heavy-hearted.
We entered in the middle of worship–a song that I’d heard a few times before. The lyrics of the chorus arrested my attention, yanking my thoughts away from my authorly woes.
God, I look to you,
I won’t be overwhelmed.
Give me vision
to see things like you do.
God, I look to you,
you’re where my help comes from.
Give me wisdom.
You know just what to do.
How did He see all this review business, I wondered? What was His perspective on the matter of people or corporations that may seem to be against me? Things to push me down, to groan at and allow my frustration to build? Or something else? Something that maybe I couldn’t see?
Because looking to these matters of my reputation, my work, my concerns, was most certainly overwhelming my heart.
When the song was concluded, the pastor came out and asked everyone to spend a moment asking God to show us what He wanted us to hear from the worship. I did, bowing my head in the silence of the large, dark room, but I already knew the answer.
“Let it go, my child. Stop trying to carry these things. Just trust me.”
Because is it my reputation, or His? Is it my work, or is it the works He has prepared from eternity for me to do? Is it my concern or is it something to hand over and just follow His lead?
After all, if these are the stories He has given me to tell–as I believe of all my writing, but this new book most of all–then He can take care of what other people think and how it all goes down. All He asks of me, is to let it go, and just keep following.
Awhile later, it suddenly dawned on me which review was missing from Radialloy. I skimmed to double check, then to confirm my hunch I skimmed the Implant reviews. They, too, were down one.
The reviews removed from those books were other rather nasty ones from a reviewer who also had never reviewed anything else. I had often wished they could be removed, since they misrepresented the books. And lo and behold, Amazon, the entity that can so often be the bane of independent publishers, had noticed the suspicious nature and had duly taken them away.
So all that worry, in the end, had been for nothing. But then–isn’t it always? Did the worry remove the reviews? Can it do anything at all?
Let it go.
It’s time to stop trying to carry the world on my shoulders. To hoist the burden onto shoulders much stronger.
To paraphrase a favorite quote: Writing is ours. The consequences are God’s.
Let us not be overwhelmed in the process.