The importance of wins

screenshot-www.amazon.com 2016-05-31 11-17-10

I’ve been an independent author for more than four years and I’ve long since lost count of the rejections I’ve encountered in that span of time. I’ve written four books, two of which are available on Amazon, one that I’m collaborating on with an artist buddy of mine which makes for an entirely new and exciting process, and a fourth that I’ve been shopping around to agents for the last six months.

Shopping a book to agents is worse than swimsuit shopping. It’s worse than putting a picture of yourself on a billboard and inviting people to critique your appearance. It’s harder than writing a book, and it’s the only reason I would ever consider giving up on this passion of mine. The writing is exhilarating. Creating new worlds is a heady, delightful business. I know what it means to be a god. But I also know what it feels like to watch that work dismissed, repeatedly, with no real clue why. It’s not a literary agent’s job to provide feedback, but without that feedback, how will I ever know what it is—if anything—that I’m doing wrong?

It has been an exceptionally challenging couple of months as I have sought a literary home for my third book, The Wheel Diver. For whatever reason, the standard portion of rejection that accompanies this effort is getting to me, it’s working its way into the cracks and insecurities, burrowing in so deeply that it’s difficult to breathe sometimes, difficult to remember how much pride and joy I take in this work. This may be owing to the fact that I believe The Wheel Diver represents my best work, and if there’s no place for my best work, what chance is there for anything else?

I needed a win. The problem is, this win couldn’t come from a friend. My boyfriend telling me how much he liked the third book just wasn’t going to do it this time. It had to come from someone who doesn’t know me, from someone judging my work on the strength of its merits alone. I looked up my second book, Vestal, on Amazon and discovered a new review from someone I didn’t know. With great trepidation, I read what they had to say:

“This book is utterly fantastic. I was initially a little hesitant (past life stuff can be pretty cheesy) but was immediately blown away by the depth of the story and characters. Switching between the protagonist’s past and present life keeps both plots moving swiftly and the reader wanting more. Even though I knew how her past life would end, I still found myself anxious and eager to find out what happened. A definite recommendation for anyone interested in Roman history, queer fiction, and/or past life stories.”

Will this review single-handedly drive Vestal to the top of a bestseller list? Probably not. But I think this review did something more important. It restored my faith in my abilities as a storyteller.

So here’s my challenge to you: Find a book by an independent author. There are tons of them everywhere. Amazon alone has thousands, if not tens of thousands. Read the book and write a thoughtful review. It might be the only review that book has. But even if it isn’t, I can guarantee that meaningful dialogue will mean the world to someone. When you review a book by a well-known author with a publishing empire behind them, you might be helping another reader decide whether or not to buy that book. But when you review a book by an independent author fighting like hell to make a career for herself, that feedback helps her become a better author. It reminds her of why she’s putting in all those unpaid hours every day. It rewards her enthusiasm and passion. It might even be the win she needs to roll up her sleeves and continue working in the face of rejection and self doubt.

I don’t know E. Tappero, but (s)he is my hero and I’m willing to bet if you take the time to review an independent author’s book, you will be too.

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