So my editor and I are almost finished editing the manuscript of my upcoming novel, By Light of Hidden Candles.
Among the things I’ll need to do next is start asking around for reviews and testimonials.
And… dear God almighty. It’s the absolute worst. So much scarier than querying agents or submitting to literary magazines or publishers.
Why? Because it involves putting yourself in a much more vulnerable position. You’re personally asking someone you admire to read your work and say something nice about it. The more famous the person, the more likely she is to say no (or nothing at all, which to me, is worse than no).
I started freaking out about this and found myself digging through the archives of this blog looking for something to help me feel better, and I found this piece I called “Dancing with the Self-Doubt Demons“.
The only way to navigate this is to recognize that those demons are not speaking Truth, they are speaking Fear…. don’t forget–they are still a part of you, a part of you that is trying to protect you. So don’t be too harsh on them. Be the responsible adult. Let them have their say and then, when they’ve calmed down, do the brave thing anyway.
So I decided to take my own advice.
I sat down my self-doubt demons for a thorough interview.
Daniella: Well, my friends. We meet again. Do make yourselves comfortable. Can I get you anything?
Self-Doubt Demons: How about every ounce of your self-esteem?
Daniella: Charming as always. Tea?
Daniella: So. What brings you to me on this fine day?
SDD: This early review thing. It’s terrifying.
Daniella: What exactly are you afraid is going to happen?
SDD: We’re sorry to tell you this, but no one is going to want to read your book.
Daniella: Oh? No one?
SDD: We concede that a few individuals may be willing to take a look, but only out of pity.
Daniella: How charitable of you. And what are you afraid those individuals are going to say when they’re done reading it?
SDD: That it’s nothing special. It’s mediocre. Or maybe they’ll hate it. Maybe they’ll criticize it. Maybe they’ll write angry blog posts about how anti-[insert cause here] it is and how you are an evil person who hates [insert group here]. Or the worst worst worst? You’re a fraud. You wrote a book set in medieval and modern Spain but you know nothing about the places you wrote about and you haven’t even visited them. Someone’s going to find a flaw, a sign that you didn’t do all your research, and you will be exposed as an IMPOSTOR.
Daniella: That word. It sounds familiar.
SDD: ALSO, it’s not Real Literary Fiction™. It’s too lighthearted. It’s fluff. No author of Real Literature™ is going to think it’s any good. But it’s not Young Adult either because the characters are too old and that agent told you the “scope of the book” takes it out of YA. And it’s not New Adult because New Adult is basically Young Adult with older characters and a lot more sex scenes.
Daniella: I’ll definitely agree with you on that last point.
SDD: For real. And your book has no sex scenes. Also, as your editor repeatedly pointed out, no zombies, vampires, or werewolves.
Daniella: That was a recurring joke throughout the editing process and it was frikkin’ hilarious.
SDD: –But nooooooo, instead of writing about paranormal heartthrobs, you had to write about RELIGION. RELIGION!!! WHO WANTS TO READ ABOUT RELIGION?!?!
Daniella: Not you, apparently.
SDD: AND instead of making it a fluffy kumbaya story about how we’re all actually the same, you presented the religions as being in CONFLICT! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!!
Daniella: I was thinking, I’m a religious woman who has a different and refreshing perspective.
Daniella: Are you okay? You look like you need some more tea.
SDD: YES PLEASE
Daniella: Can we just steer back on track here? Realistically, a lot of these people are probably going to say no, or nothing at all, and that’s going to suck. But do you really think every single one of the people who say yes are going to hate the book? C’mon–really, let’s think this through. If you think they’ll hate it because of the subject matter–why would they agree to read it in the first place?
SDD: We… it…. hmm. You have a point there.
Daniella: Also, I know this comes as a complete surprise to you, but most people are nice and like to help. Writers, especially, like to help other writers.
Daniella: Oh yes and another thing: why do you keep talking about it like it’s a huge burden? Like I’m asking them for the world’s biggest favor? WRITERS LOVE TO READ. I’M GIVING THEM A FREE THING TO READ.
SDD: Because it takes time away from reading Other Things! Other Things which are undoubtedly much more interesting and worthwhile than By Light of Hidden Candles!
Daniella: Yeah, like what, their Facebook feeds?
SDD: HAH! Real Writers™ don’t waste precious time on Facebook!
Daniella: …I have some earth-shattering news for you, Demons.
SDD: ANYWAY YOUR BOOK IS BORING AND THE TURNING POINT IS TOO LATE AND ALSO
Daniella: INSIDE VOICES, PLEASE.
SDD: *ahem* and also, um, “too much like real life”. At least one person gave you that feedback.
Daniella: Some might argue that that’s a compliment.
SDD: And you also sent the manuscript to a bunch of people who care about you and love your writing and they never even bothered to read or finish it. BECAUSE IT’S BORING.
Daniella: Boring? Really? Then why did my publishers at Kasva Press decide to publish it?!
SDD: Because they clearly have no idea what they’re doing!
Daniella: Okay, now you’re just being rude.
SDD: We’re just telling it like it is!!!
Daniella: LOL. Sure. For the sake of the argument, if the opinion of my publisher doesn’t count: why did several agents read the full or partial manuscript and compliment me on it?
SDD: Are you forgetting that one agent who said–
Daniella: No, but why is her opinion more important than that of the others?
SDD: Maybe she was the only one willing to tell you the truth?!
SDD: YES, REALLY!
Daniella: Okay, I think that will be all for today. Thank you so much for your time.
Daniella: Bye-bye now.
SDD: YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING
Daniella: The door is that way.
Daniella, chuckling from beginning to end. Love this Daniella/Demons exchange. ? Christine
Jennifer Ruth Jackson says
I think your demons and mine have private meetings.
You’ll do great! Most people will never even HAVE to worry about testimonials because they never even finish their books, much less publish them. You’ve got this, you’re already ahead.
I’ll be rooting for you. Maybe I’ll drown out (your smallest) SDD.
Daniella Levy says
Jessica Bakkers says
Um, are you sure you weren’t interviewing my Self Doubt Demons? They sound like they move in the same circles…
Daniella Levy says
I suspect that they have conferences where they share new and creative ways to torture writers.
Jessica Bakkers says
Yael Shahar says
Kudos for showing those obnoxious demons the door. Tell them that the next time they show up, your publisher will put them to work writing GREP search scripts for Indesign. Keep ’em out of trouble for a year or two!
Daniella Levy says
Oh, I expect them to be visiting quite frequently over the next few months… but as this blog testifies, I’ve been learning how to handle them!