For those in the reviewing, blogging, or writing business the name Kathleen Hale has achieved a special kind of infamy lately. This is not where I weigh in on her, her actions, or her antagonist. Yes, I read about the antics and I can say that, as a writer, there’s nothing more infuriating than a bad review without substance or justification. Some people are dicks, plain and simple, and get off on making other people miserable. Yet if nobody ever posted their thoughts when something failed to blow their skirt up, how would I find opinions on products I’m interested in buying?
Set the buying aside, how about producing? I write books, and without feedback I have only my editor and my personal opinion on how my finished product turns out. Every book is a learning experience in how to get better at what I do, from grammar to content to writing style. My editors, beta readers, and fans are invaluable to me. I love hearing what worked and what didn’t. And if that means reading about it in a review, then that’s what I’ll do. Even a bad review. As Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can be hit and keep going.”
That’s life, my friends. And a minor jab I took yesterday was from a great blogger / reviewer by the name of Angus Day. He read Voidhawk, my first published novel. I cringe whenever somebody tells me they read it – that was written five or six years ago and I’ve improved so much since then! But people continue to love it. In fact, I had another email a few days ago from a man who read Voidhawk and stated that based on that book alone he would buy and read anything with my name on it. How cool is that?
But back to Angus. His review was positive. 3 out of 5 stars, and I believe he stated the middle of the road rating came from typos and grammatical problems in the book. Since he reached out to me directly in a message I was happy to talk to him about it and learn more about his concerns. That’s the kind of feedback that I strive for. Something to make me better. I address many of the issues raised and re-submitted Voidhawk to Amazon last night with the corrections. That’s the awesome thing about the age of the ebook – I can turn things around that fast.
So thank you, Angus, both for your kind words and for your critique. It was well deserved. As for my readers or potential readers, go try out Voidhawk, it’s free on Amazon and in spite of my cringing I will say that every time I revisit that first novel I’m caught up in just how entertaining it is. And it’s got six sequels, with a seventh burning away in the back of my head and waiting in line to be turned into a living thing.
In addition to my day job and writing I also own Novel Concept Publishing with J.E. Taylor. Jane is primarily the editor and person who determines the thumbs up or thumbs down on submissions, but she defers to me when it comes to science fiction and fantasy stories. Thus far we haven’t had a lot of stories in those genres submitted to us, but one early one came from Marc Hamlet and I jumped at the chance to help him out and publish The Capable Man. Great sales on it thus far have reinforced my decision. But that’s just filler and an attempt to drive a little more traffic Marc’s way. Now onto the crazy…
The nature of the game is that for every one title that is accepted, there are a greater number that get turned away. It’s not out of spite and it’s not because we’re afraid to take on the work. It’s because the manuscript just won’t work or it is need of so much editing that we don’t feel we can take it on. In some cases that disappoints me, because I see some potential in a story but I know it’s going to take too much work to bring it out and make it shine. Between my schedule and Jane’s we wouldn’t be able to devote the attention it requires. I had one of those just recently, in fact, and I’m hoping that writer takes the feedback I gave him to heart and acts on it.
Then there’s other submissions that won’t work because they read like a plate of spaghetti. Nothing makes sense, there’s no proper flow to it, the sentences are jumbled, and perhaps even accepted formatting standards are blatantly ignored. I had that recently too. My first thought was to suggest the author try writing it in a version of English I might understand, but I realized that might sound inappropriate. After all, writing a novel is a lot of work and putting that much effort into something deserves a degree of respect, even if it does read like a randomly generated spam comment.
So I sent a respectful rejection letter. There’s no such thing in NCP’s library as a form letter, everything we do is hand written and tailored to each person. We want to help out even those who aren’t ready yet, such as this case. I offered some feedback and suggestions, even a direction I thought the writer should take. At no point was I rude or belittling. The almost immediate response I received from the writer was:
“Piss off and get lost!!!!!”
My reaction? A moment of shock, a moment of sadness, and then laughter. What else can you do? I shared it with my wife, who went through the same emotional process I did, then I shared it with Jane. Her response turned into the title of this blog.
The lesson for writers everywhere is to keep an open mind. Take feedback in every form and use it to improve yourself. Equally importantly, act professional. Burning bridges and flying off the handle doesn’t get you far in the world. Unless this particular would-be writer can open their mind and learn to accept feedback, they’ll forever remain a would-be.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.