Very shortly, “Dead Jed” is about to face something far more dangerous than any school bully. The book will be available on Netgalley (if it isn’t already), where it will face its first army of the judgmental.
That’s the nature of the creation business. If you make something for the public – art, movies, baked pastries infused with dark chocolate – you are subject to criticism. Though really, it’s hard to think of anyone who would have problems with baked pastries infused with dark chocolate.
I embrace our love of opinion. Purchases often are driven by reviews, from Amazon to Yelp. For a while I was a (semi) professional film critic, and a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. I know the value of knowledgeable criticism. And though I may have been the least knowledgeable member of the film critics society, I enjoyed sharing my opinion with readers.
As a reporter with hundreds of stories under his belt, I’ve heard from plenty of angry people. Fortunately, it has served to thicken my skin. Over the decades I’ve received highly critical letters and emails in response to what I’ve written. Nearly all have had to do more with content than style, people arguing with whatever point of view may have been taken in the article.
My favorite reader response, however, was sent just a few months ago. It was one sentence – “Do you actually get paid for writing such banal drivel and, if so, how do you sleep at night?” In responding, I employed an old trick used by several colleagues: “Thank you for taking the time to write. Due to the volume of emails I receive, I am unable to personally reply to each one, but I appreciate your comments and support.” The person has written me on occasion since then, the latest one expressing his hope that I never write about a subject that interests him, because as soon as he sees my byline, he moves on.
Being reviewed as an author is going to be an interesting experience. Throughout my career I’ve written about other people, my stories based on their words and deeds. “Dead Jed,” however, is mine (with the help of very talented editors). My plot, my characters, my dialogue. If certain people hate it, that rests solely with me.
I am somewhat comforted by the fact “Dead Jed” was good enough to convince an agent to pitch to a publisher who agreed to invest time and money and put it on shelves. I’ve received many positive comments through the process, so it’s not like I’m going into a critical vacuum with absolutely no idea what anyone thinks about it. (Yes, my beta reader loved it, as did her kids, but she also loved me so you really can’t count that opinion – and the book is dedicated to her, my only regret being she did not live long enough to see it published).
I am hopeful “Dead Jed” will garner positive reviews. But I know it won’t please everybody, and expect to see some negative reviews. Either way, I’m proud of the book and hope the vast majority of readers will find much to like.
And to those that find nothing of redeeming value, I appreciate you giving it a shot. That’s all I can ask.