I get a subliminal twinge when a Kindle reader has left a review of one of my books. This is the perfect moment to utter Dorothy Parker’s famous words “What fresh hell is this?”
Reviews can range from “this book sucks” to “best book I’ve read this year.” New York Times Book Reviewers take note. Fancy references to Ford Maddox Ford or Virginia Woolf won’t get the point across like “this book sucks.” The bad reviews for Best Friends have to do with an ending that most readers hate and a misleading title. Readers want happy endings and they want all loose ends tied up. They also want the title to represent what’s inside. If the title is “Little House On The Prairie,” there better be a little house on the effing prairie and it better be a pivotal part of the plot.
I received a substantial advance for Best Friends when it was published by Delacorte/Dell and had one of the best editors in the business, Jackie Farber (of the cookware Farbers). No one said a word about the ending or the title. In those years, I was still genuflecting to the publishing gods and would have let them call it Hitler Has A Baby. (Btw, I was discussing the meaning of genuflecting with one of my children and he looked it up: ’to be servilely obedient.’ I guess I’m a genuflecter, he said. I’m a serial genuflecter,” I said.
The first hint of a new review is the number next to the title on my Kindle page is higher and my review average is either up or down. In the last few months, the reviews have been great. Reviews come in more frequently after a“free” promotion and thousands of downloads.
I took my Best Friends, ‘misunderstood and maligned’ dilemma to the best place for a Kindle author to get advice: The Writers’ Cafe on the Kindleboards. I asked the wise people there if I should change the ending and the title. Many howled: Absolutely not. If that’s the ending you wrote, stick with it. A couple of people had another idea: why not make it a marketing moment, i.e. “You clamored for a different ending and I listened. Choose your ending, readers.” I like this suggestion. Digital self-publishing is intimate and immediate. Readers can tell you what they think through reviews or your Author’s Page. Best Friends would not suffer from a different ending so why not let readers weigh in?
Here are some of the good reviews I’ve received for Daughters and Nothing to Lose.