The Sound of Silence

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I recently had the pleasure of spending time with a group of aspiring writers who had gathered to discuss the ins and outs of self-publishing, and the conversation really made me take a deep look inside myself. We chatted about finding story ideas, “Pantsers” vs. “Plotters,” self-publishing vs. traditional, and so much more.  But the number one topic that everyone kept coming back to was Reviews.

They talked about some of the terms that I see tossed about in different writers’ forums: spite reviews, review trolls, and one-star “bullies,” to name just a few. Listening to them, I got this crazy mental picture of new books being covered in bacon grease and tossed into a wading pool full of piranhas. These writers have allowed their fear of bad reviews to paralyze them; some of them are afraid to take the next step because they have convinced themselves that doing so will place them in the crosshairs of some maniacal Bad Review Ninja Squad out to destroy them.

Later, I sat down and really examined my own feelings and fears about feedback on my work.  I only have three books out there. So far, I’ve been very lucky that all gotten a few decent reviews, other than a one-star from a fellow who felt that the dialogue in one book was like was reading a Q&A article rather than a novel.  Ouch.  But . . . I am more careful with my dialogue now, so it was a productive experience.  Dude made a valid point.

There’s a lot of negativity out there for writers to deal with.  Rejection letters, bad reviews, sales rankings that can plummet by thousands of points after just a few days without sales.  I am slowly building up a thick skin and learning to accept that these things are part of the package deal that comes with putting my words out there for the world to see. Every day, I get a little bit better at smothering my insecurities.

But there’s one thing that still gets under my ever-thickening skin.


Like any new author, I tend to check my statistics obsessively.  I know exactly when I sell a book, and in which market.  I know which blog posts get the most hits, which categories get the most traffic. And when I get a “like” or a comment on my blog from someone I look up to, I do an impromptu happy-dance that sometimes makes my six year-old ask if I need to use the potty.

But I start pacing the floor over . . . nothing.

Logically, I understand that most readers do not leave reviews.  I can be logical about it and accept the fact that most authors never hear a word from the majority of the people who read their books. To paraphrase one side of a common argument among self-published writers on Amazon: Reviews are for other readers, not for the writers.

Unfortunately for me, my insecurities don’t listen to logic.  My self-doubts thrive on the absence of feedback, good or bad.  It’s not that I need heaps of praise; my self-worth is not dependent on hearing strangers sing my praises.  It’s just that selling a handful of books and hearing nothing feels like a verdict of, “meh, I read it. So, what’s for lunch?”

So I’d like to hear from some of the other, more experienced writers out there. I know the first bit of advice is to start working on the next book.  I’m already half-way there, with a secret baby, an ex-soldier, and a brutal Michigan winter. But beyond that, how do you interpret the silence? How do you deal with the nagging self-doubts that come with it?

How do you deal with the worry that your book is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it?

Author: A.J. Goode

I am a romance novelist, single mother of three, and a high school lunchlady. To be completely honest, I have no idea which of those jobs is the most rewarding and which is the biggest challenge. I love them all. I write romance novels about the kind of people who might pass me on the street every day. My characters are often hurting in some way, and need to learn to trust others in order to heal themselves. I also blog about trying to focus on writing, and about my day-to-day experiences in small-town America. I write about life. The good, the bad, and the just plain odd.

10 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence”

  1. Well, Amy, I usually only leave a review on anything if there is something wrong with it and I am sure I am not alone, so you should go with the old saying, no news is good news. Of course, we all feel pleased with ourselves when we get a good review, even if it does give away the entire story, and as you say some of those bad ones have a point and give you a chance to put things right. But you should be writing for yourself, so self doubt is a non starter. Who cares whether you can write; you know you can so why worry about it. Not everyone is going to like what you write and there are also childish nobodies who really are jealous and will leave bad reviews to make themselves feel important. Best to do as I do and not read them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I interpret the silence as meaning I really failed at marketing myself. It was a big shock when I barely made any sales after my first two releases; by the third, I was no longer surprised to only see a few sales every so often. At least I keep hearing sales pick up after there are at least three books out there.


  3. I reread my stories and fall in love with them again. I think they rock. 🙂 I get fan mail periodically, which helps a lot. We brace against the criticism, but I never thought about the silence. I suppose I lump it with criticism. A very low percentage of readers leave reviews. An even lower number send a note. Do you encourage it at the end of your books? I think that helps.


  4. Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”? But there’s also “no news is good news”. I don’t know, but I think the only advice is to do the best marketing you can and keep writing the next book.


  5. I am on the verge of self pubbing and quite afraid that I am not a marketer of any sort so my book will release to dead air. Meanwhile I am trying the querying path… I like your optimism about the third book too.


    1. It’s been almist exactly a year since I published the first one to dead air, but I’d do it again in an instant. This past year has been such a learning experience!

      Best of luck to you with your book!

      Liked by 1 person

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