Countdown to Publication: 12 Days - Reviews
Written by
Sonya Chung
February 2010
Written by
Sonya Chung
February 2010
I've received two pieces of interesting advice about reviews: 1) Don't read the bad reviews; 2) Don't read the good reviews. There is wisdom here, as strange as it may sound. Because as wonderful as it is when people praise your work, and as disappointing as it is when critics point out flaws, you find that these opinions don't hit you as hard or as deep as you might fear or expect. I remember when I was reading the final-final pages of LONG FOR THIS WORLD before going to print – this was my fourth read-through in about two months – and I thought to myself, “This. This is what is going to matter most. How I feel about these words and these pages in the long run.” And I have generally found this to be true… …which is to say that I have indeed read all the pre-publication reviews of LONG FOR THIS WORLD. Most of them have praised the book in ways that I can hardly absorb; the adjectives that have been put out there include elegant, impressive, ambitious, exquisite, breathtaking. Yikes – will the book live up to expectations once readers dive in after March 2? I myself would never use these words to describe the novel – how could I? How could any author really internalize these kinds of assessments? ("Ambitious" may be the one that does ring true for me; that's very much how it felt throughout the three-plus years of writing and rewriting.) Reviews, I think, give the author some information to bang around her head, but ultimately, they won’t supplant anything fundamental that you already know and trust. One review included some hard criticism along side some solid praise. The critique that stood out for me was “unwieldy,” referring to the multiple points of view and the many characters which drive LONG FOR THIS WORLD. But I found that in my heart of hearts, this criticism didn’t bother me too much. And if you have a couple of minutes, take a look at this brief author video I did for Scribner, to find out why.

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  • Sonya Chung

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    Victoria, thanks for your kind words about the video. I found the process very strange (talking to a camera), but I learned a lot from the experience!

  • Siobhan Fallon

    Really looking forward to your novel. Congratulations, sounds like a long but mostly satisfying journey!

  • Jillian Lauren

    Yeah, yeah. Everyone always tells you not to read your reviews. To which I always reply: AS IF.

  • Victoria Mixon

    That's a wonderful video, Sonya. I've been hearing more and more lately about how seriously publishers take an author's ability to present themself with confidence and charisma in person to an audience. Clearly, this is exactly what they're hoping for!

    And that's a fascinating point about the reviews not touching you as deeply as you'd expected. There is certainly a threshold at which you must detach from the work and say, like Paul Bowles, "You are not I."