In light of King Maker having been released overseas, there are two questions I’m being asked more often these days:  1) how’s the book doing (saleswise)? 2) what have the reviews been like?

Don’t get me wrong, most times when folks ask me “how’s the book doing?” it’s been out of a sense of them pulling for my success.  (In a weird way, it’s like when pastors are asked “how big is your congregation?”  Rather than me finding it akin to asking them to whip theirs out so we can measure it, it’s more of a way to start a conversation.  And, wow, it’s early in my blog post to go for such a digression.)  Same thing with reviews; thing is, in both cases, my answer is the same:  “don’t know, don’t want to know.”

And now a more strict parsing of that answer can begin.

In the case of my sales figures, I’m not interested in the numbers just yet.  Yet is the key word.   I figure the accounting of things will be months in the accruing of data.  My sales figures only matter to me in two instances.  The first is when it’s time to calculate if I’ve earned out my royalties and can take another step towards being able to live off my writing income (contrary to popular belief, once you sign a book deal, you aren’t automatically risk.  Of course, I may or may not be writing this blog post from my bed of money, but my wife won’t let me have a webcam, so you’ll never know.  Granted, she’s more concerned about how much time I spend walking about in my underwear and she fears teh interwebz just aren’t ready for that. SKIN TO WIND!!! And now the count begins for just how many random digressions I can do in one blog post.).  Plus, I’m especially interested in how the book does in England, where it was released first, vs how it does in America, where it will be released in 2010.  That’s going to take a while to get that kind of information and I’m pretty patient when it comes to that sort of stuff.  Usually too patient.  (NOT TO BE READ THAT I DON’T CARE, O GREAT AND LOOMING PUBLISHERS WHO READ MY BLOG!).

That being said, the real reason I don’t want to know:  I don’t want to be one of those authors who obsess over my numbers.  I remember how bad I was when I found statcounter programs/sites to measure my blog.  Oh man, how many hours did I while away watching the ebb and flow of the numbers.  (Don’t think I didn’t think of taping bacon to my kids, taking pictures, and making a blog post about it.  Eat that, Scalzi!)

At this point I’m wondering when Apex will pull the plug on my random ranting.  Still here?  I’ll continue.

There is something similar in play with reviews.  On the one hand, I often say that I don’t really care what most folks think.  As with most things, there’s truth and something less than truthful in that statement.  While all critics aren’t created equal, writers are needy little creatures in constant need of validation.  Buying plenty of copies of my work is speaking my love language (even if I won’t know how much you love me that way for a while.  Delayed love is sometimes the best love.  And OMG, can I quit with these parenthetical digressions?!?).  Lavish praise is nice.  It also has the benefit of being painless.

Thing is, I enjoy when people engage with my work.  I like to see what they took from my work over how well the work went over.  I’ll give you two examples (if I were a smart Apex blogger, I’d probably use a review for my Apex novella, Orgy of Souls, though a link to some of those reviews may have to suffice.  I guess I should at some point work in my other Apex project, Dark Faith, and its reviews.  People liked my story for Apex Magazine, Pimp My Airship, btw, but none of these suit the point I want to make.  And at this point, I officially need a parenthetical asides support group):

-of the reviews of my novella, Devil’s Marionette (Shroud Books), the review that really stood out to me was Michele Lee’s.  “Yet despite this immersive, and painfully open experience of being each character as hundreds of years of hatred and racism crushes down on them, the reader is left with the same feeling as someone who witnesses something beautiful or terribly in a quiet woods. It’s almost as if this pain is clear and known, but we are not supposed to speak of it, or even admit that we know it’s there.”  Okay, admittedly, this is exactly the effect I was going for in the novella.  So when I see my work have the desired effect, I’m filled with a joy so great, I have to run out and get a pedicure.  But even if Michele had loathed the book, I loved that she wrestled with it.

-ditto some of the King Maker reviews.  There are two I REALLY enjoyed and one was from a review who didn’t like the book.  The first praises the book (and has my favorite line “It would be wrong of me to say “I liked this book” in the same way it would be wrong to say “I like drugs / gang warfare” due to the very nature of the subject matter but in my mind a book like this isn’t there to be “liked”, it’s there to be consumed, appreciated, inwardly digested and above all to make you think, to open your perceptions.”).  The second … not so much a fan, but it is the best “bad” review I’ve ever read.

I do have an actual point and it involves why I’m done reading reviews of King Maker … at least for a while.  Books one and two, King’s Justice, are “in the can”, but I’m still writing (agonizing/procrastinating from/filled with writerly angst about) the final book in the trilogy, King’s War.  Reviews play in your head, good or bad.  You have to develop a thick skin for them, neither living nor dying by them.  And sometimes you may feel compelled to argue with the reviewer, especially if they “don’t get it.”  Whether or not one should argue with reviewers is a blog for another time (the short answer is “no” – and I’ve gotten a few of those “You don’t get it” responses from folks I’ve reviewed negatively).  It’s tough enough getting the story out without having to worry about pleasing everyone (especially if some of their issues are how I structure the story or its voice.  Well, that ship has sailed, so I will continue to annoy you in this trilogy).

Hmm … looks like I could have actually done this blog in about two lines: 1) I don’t want to obsess about sales just yet and 2) don’t let reviews play in your head.  But where would the fun be in that?