Getting published–and reviewed–changed me. In the beginning, way back in March 2001 when I had my first Harlequin Presents published, the bad reviews floored me. I felt humiliated in a very public way. The Romantic Times and Amazon reviews haunted me, playing through my head endlessly. It took me 15 years to sell that first book and I had been so excited to have it come out only to have it shredded. Of course, looking back I see now I should have expected it. People like to voice their opinion. And for some people, voicing their opinion strongly feels good. Makes them feel powerful. But I was naive, and didn’t expect it, and those nasty comments hurt. For a long time.
The negative reviews continued for my first three books and without meaning to, my stories changed. My voice changed. I held back. I grew careful, even protective. It hurt taking pot-shots in a public venue and I wanted to please people. I wanted everyone to like my stories. I wanted them to like me. Instead, I lost some of my readers when my stories changed. I gained some readers, too, but I did keep writing and gradually I found my footing again, as well as some confidence. Not huge confidence. But enough.
Move forward three and a half years and I needed a break from writing romance so I wrote my first draft of a new story, a story I thought of as chick-lit but chick-lit done my way. The story sold to Warner Books and was published as The Frog Prince in May 2005. There were lots of good reviews. And there were lots of bad reviews. And what some people criticized most, was the very thing others cherished. It was then that I had an epiphany: I couldn’t please everyone. I wasn’t going to be able to please everyone. More so, I shouldn’t want to please everyone. This epiphany made me a stronger person. And a much better writer.
Now when I write I never worry about those who toss out the one stars and two stars, or those who are disappointed, or those who use words like “ick” and “icky” in reviews because I need those readers as much as the readers who email me to say my story made them laugh, or cry, or both. I write for those who need me. Whoever they are. Where ever they are. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I write for the women who would be my friend in ‘real life’, who’d have coffee with me and tell me about their lives and I’d tell them about mine. We’d laugh about the kids and husbands, groan over the kids and husbands, and ultimately feel good that we’re loved and not alone.
You see, my books are a chance for me to say to each and every reader: you matter. You’re important. You deserve a wonderful life. And if it doesn’t come through? If my stories or message doesn’t work for you? That’s okay. That’s good. There are millions of other books out for the readers who want something else. Heck, that’s what the publishing industry is all about. With that said, if you are one of the readers that like my books, and if you are comfortable posting reviews, please head to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.com and let others know your opinions. Every opinion counts and I believe strongly in countering the negative with positive, so if you do get a review posted, let me know and I’ll send you a small gift as a token of my appreciation. I’ve ordered a bunch of fun Jane Porter water bottles perfect for the beach, the gym, the car, or a tote bag and I’d love to send you one as a thank you for supporting me because your support is hugely appreciated. Your support is why I keep writing.