Thursday, November 26, 2015

Critic's Choice

This week was a first in my career and a big moment for THE FAR EMPTY, when the cover was finalized and released!

Not actual cover, lol

For some authors, this is accompanied by a big roll-out and a reveal, but my cover started appearing on the Penguin Random House website and Amazon almost simultaneously Monday morning, and I happened to be on the phone with a friend who noticed it before I did. This was followed by a mad scramble to confirm it, and just like that, THE FAR EMPTY had a “face.”

There it of the big firsts for any new author!

And then it took maybe 24 hours for me to have another first in my career…a straight dose of criticism. 

Someone who I admire and respect hated my cover.

Now, I did ask for their opinion, and although I appreciated the honesty, I can’t say it didn’t sting.  I could have made all the arguments about debut authors and their covers, and the choices of big publishing houses and their art departments, but this person understands publishing and is well-versed in all that. And I know they love the book itself, so their criticism and concern was from a "good place." I could have pushed ahead anyway and argued all the reasons why I like it, and why we went with the scheme we did, but I passed on that, too. 

Instead, I merely thanked them for their honest opinion, and let it go.

Let go.

That’s the nature of any artistic endeavor - you have to be prepared for criticism every step of the way. Some people will like your work, others won’t, and I’m not sure there’s a lot of profit in arguing with or trying to convince the latter. You take risks and expose yourself with every story you write, and to succeed in the long term, you have to develop thick skin; hell, you have to become bullet-proof. There will be bad reviews, and there will be worse reviews. Some readers simply won’t and will never understand what you're trying to do, and others are going to mischaracterize it even when they do know better. There are going to be slings and arrows. But when all is said done, if what you're doing speaks to you - if you’re doing credible, meaningful work with honesty and integrity - the only thing you can do is let it all go, and keep writing.

If you're interested, pop on over to Amazon and check out cover for THE FAR EMPTY. I am thrilled with the mixture of old and new and the wholly unique look. I think it’s striking and provocative and eye-catching, and people are going to notice it.

I love it.

Now I can't wait for that next "first" in my carerer, when it's up on the shelves of your local book store...

Have a  great Thanksgiving, and always keep writing - JTS


  1. While no stranger to criticism, I received my first douse of... for lack of a better term, "attack" from a close friend in the same way, and no amount of bad reviews from strangers or constructive feedback from peers and professionals can prepare you for that.

    My friend had given me feedback prior, we had worked on several projects together, and she had always been supportive, excited, and diplomatic about her opinions. She had no problem telling me when she didn't like something prior, but when I got a grant to produce a literary journal--which I'd printed her poem in--she sent me a nasty message on seeing the cover reveal. It was angry, blunt, disgusted, and vague, completely different than what I'd heard from her before. When I asked her to clarify what she didn't like, she responded with, "There's just nothing good about it."

    I had never been so hurt by someone like that or felt so betrayed. People suggested it came from her boyfriend, who was a beginning graphic designer and, it seemed, might have wanted to been hired. It wasn't just criticism like she normally gave; it was completely unlike her, and unsolicited. I had a really hard time letting go, and didn't talk to her again for over a year, though I too just said, "Thank you for your opinion," and left it at that. We're back in touch now and she asked if I needed help on this year's journal, four years later, to which I agreed, but it is definitely a different experience to have a negative review by someone you care about and respect, especially if you think it's not coming from a great place.

  2. I think the key here is that it probably wasn't coming from a "good place;" although it's always tough to guess someone's real intentions about anything. We really want/need/hope our close friends and family unconditionally support the work we do, and when they don't (or aren't tactful/diplomatic about it), it can hurt, no matter what, and there's no denying that...