As we move closer to the launch date for Barbour's new mystery book club, my days are filled with a variety of fun marketing and promotional tasks. On Friday, the online marketing coordinator asked me to select a page header for our very own soon-to-debut Heartsong Presents--MYSTERIES! blog page. Rather than making the decision all by my little lonesome, I thought it would be fun to put the selection up for a vote among our contracted mystery authors. They could choose between the header that looked like a yellowed notebook page torn from a sleuth's pad or a village street scene. Of the 32 contracted authors and freelance editors in our cozy group, 24 cast their votes.
And the voting results? A fifty/fifty split.
Several took the time to explain their rationale behind their preferred selection, compelling reasons all. With each new post and vote, the tally swayed back and forth like the pendulum on a grandfather clock. When the polls closed, we were no closer to choosing a blog header than when we started.
I met with the marketing coordinator again this morning and requested some fresh options that incorporate some of the suggestions made by our group.
When an author submits a manuscript for critique to a group of their peers or to an editor/agent for acquisitions consideration, they are in essence asking for an up or down vote on their precious work of creative genius. So, what do you do when the final results leave you with a mixed bag of opinions. We often hear the admonition that writers, like politicians, need to develop a thick skin. But do we really have to accept as law every NAY vote cast concerning our work?
Each and every reader--on both sides of the publishing fence--has his or her own biases as to what constitutes a good, or well-written, story. Is it possible to sift personal opinion from professional evaluation? How do you know what suggestions to keep and which to discard?
First, pick your battles. Decide what's most important to you. If you are trying to reach the mass market, you need to aim for the widest target. But, if you've written the story of your heart about a squirrel and a donkey and don't really care if anyone else is interested in your plot, you have the right to ignore any intimations that animal stories don't sell.
Second, realize you can't please everybody all the time. If you sent your work to ten different critiquers, I guarantee you, you'll get ten different opinions. Look for a general consensus as to what works in your project and what doesn't, and pay careful attention to those areas that are repeatedly flagged for revision.
Third, be gracious. When you disagree with someone's judgment, be gracious. At the very least, thank them for taking precious time out of their busy schedule to spend on your work. When you receive rave reviews and perfect-ten evaluations, be gracious. Don't let the praise go to your head. The longer you stick with this writing business, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn, even when the present election declares you a winner by a landslide.
And remember, no matter how hard the race gets, you'll never win if you withdraw from the campaign. Perserverance is the author's greatest skill.
Next week, I hope to provide the latest polling results of our mystery blog header--and maybe even a link to take you to the blogpage. Stay tuned!