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  • Writer's pictureAl Hess


When I first started self-publishing, I read every single review, as you do, and took all the negative ones personally. As you do.

But after five years, I don't seek out my reviews, and I've grown far more indifferent to the bad ones. My books aren't perfect; I am not perfect. People bring their own baggage and perceptions to your stories, and they end up seeing things there that you never intended.

Sometimes that's great. You get a reader who connects deeply with a character for a reason you didn't expect. Other times you get a one star review because your post-apocalyptic book about a pandemic is "too on the nose after Covid." Nevermind that you wrote it years before Covid happened. Shame on you. You should have predicted the future.

I accidentally saw my first negative review for World Running Down (two stars), which claimed I had a great story but my writing itself sucked.

You will never please everyone, and expecting to do so is a path to madness. This is universally true, not just in the publishing world. World Running Down went through so much work with my agent, with editors, and I'm satisfied knowing I made this book of my heart the best I could.

HOWEVER, my indifference to reviews does not extend to getting a starred Publishers Weekly review! I can barely believe it. Publishers Weekly reviews around 10,000 books a year, and only gives a star to about 500 of them. Only 5%, and they gave one to World Running Down along with an absolutely glowing review. My friends keep telling me they aren't surprised, but I struggle to wrap my head around it. Everything about my trad publishing journey has had difficulty sinking in.

You can see the full review on their site or check out the screenshot below.

Reviews are subjective... except in this case. In this case, they're right. 😉


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