A common exercise I was often encouraged to undertake along my journey to publication was to define 'my' reader. The idea is to hone in on your ideal audience, eg. A married woman in her thirties or forties, likely with grade school children, enjoys armchair travel… You're supposed to picture this ideal person reading and loving your book.
It's a way to visualize your eventual success, but a side benefit of that exercise was to reinforce for me that not everyone is 'my' reader. This was extremely helpful when coping with rejections and has served me in good stead as reviews rolled in.
I've been trolling my reviews since the release of More Than A Convenient Marriage? and this once again demonstrated to me that not every reader will enjoy every book they read or even every book by the same author. I've cut and pasted a few stand-out remarks below, not all of them flattering, so you can see what I mean. A lot of them are from my July book, Proof Of Their Sin, which has had the most exposure.
- i couldn't take it so i skip to the end. don't get this book because you will be come mad like me at the main guy who is a jackass the whole book. – Proof Of Their Sin [Paolo seemed to get a lot of love him to death or hate him to death reactions.]
- …for a first time novel, the grammar and vocabulary were awesome as well as the conversations. – Proof Of Their Sin [My mother-in-law doesn't own a computer so I didn't pay her to post this review (I don't pay anyone) but she gave me a similar compliment on this book. Wordsmiths, this one's for you.]
- Loved this fantastic characters with real emotions. A must read, I couldn't put it down, much to my family's distress.. – No Longer Forbidden [This would be one of 'my' readers. Every author dreams of their book landing in the hands of someone who is transfixed to the point of neglecting their children. It's sick, but it's really awesome at the same time.]
- Pick up this romantic comedy and be on the look out for it in the theaters. I would almost bet it will get picked up. – Hustled To The Altar [I've had a couple of real butt kicks on this book, along with some really stellar praise. I chose to include this quote as I want to reinforce to the Universe that this would be a really cool thing if it happened with this book. (Any of them, really, let's be honest.)]
- I think this is the best Dani Collins book I've read, which is saying something! – More Than A Convenient Marriage [What I like most about this review is that it tells me this reader has read more than one of my books. Makes me tearful, I'm so awed and delighted.]
- I have read Mills and Boon romances for 20+ years and I think this is one of the best so far. – More Than A Convenient Marriage [Okay, now I'm just bragging, but seriously, how nice is that?]
- However, Dani Collins sure can write. She has a flow and a power that she doesn’t hesitate to employ. When she reaches the purple prose, she doesn’t hesitate at the brink but hurls herself over the edge with an abandon rarely seen these days. – Proof Of Their Sin, [I just love the image of myself hurling with abandon into the purple prose. It's probably like a ball pit of rose petals in a psychedelic range of hues...]
- Usually takes me a bit to get into fantasy romances set in made-up worlds, but there's some excellent storytelling in this one. – The Healer [I was so thrilled to see this review. Poor Athadia and Vaun have not had much attention, despite making the finals in the Epic eBook Awards.]
- I’ve passed by this book for months when I looking for a good romance. I’m so glad I bought it, and gave it a chance. – Proof Of Their Sin [A testament to the powers of a cover, blurb, and central premise. Sometimes readers just have a meh reaction, or feel like they're being told to eat their cultural vegetables. I totally get that.]
- BAHAHA, I'll be honest the last few paragraphs bumped this up to a 3 star for me. – Proof Of Their Sin [The epilogue on this one has received some very nice praise. I remember finishing the manuscript and wondering if my editor would let me keep it , or tell me to cut it because it was too cute. They never said a word.]
- "Top Pick! Brava to Collins' commanding Presents debut, a prime example of the series with a bold, descriptive narrative that will keep pages turning." – Proof Of Their Sin (RT Book Reviews) [Shameless bragging again, but they've chosen it as a Best First Book in Series. I can't NOT mention something that cool.]
- I was waiting for this novel since I saw the summary by chance on goodreads, and it was worth waiting. – Proof Of Their Sin [Thank you Goodreads!]
- After an excellent debut novel (No Longer Forbidden?) but a disappointing follow-up (Proof Of Their Sin) Ms Collins is back on form with her third book. – More Than A Convenient Marriage [See what I'm saying about readers responding differently even to books by the same author? Note that this is the same book that her meh reaction was to the same book that the professional reviewers loved.]
In closing, I should mention that I have actually identified 'my' reader. She contacted me off my website and introduced herself after reading Proof Of Their Sin. She sent away special for No Longer Forbidden, which was only available in the UK at the time. Her name is Dottie and she continues to send me lovely emails telling me how much she likes my writing. Here is what I received from her last:
I received my February presents and I had to start with your book...Loved the story and I feel that no matter what you write that story will be wonderful. You have another winner here Congratulations.
I sure hope you are working on another book? Added this one to my keeper shelf your truly gifted.
She's referring to A Debt Paid In Passion, which I will shamelessly point out is available for pre-order here:
As a reader, what are your thoughts on reviews? Do they affect your decision to purchase? Which authors do you respond to most strongly?