As an author, it’s easy to get caught up in who loved your book and who didn’t, and to worry (especially at this time of year) when your book is or isn’t part of the discussions about notable lists and awards and things like that. I got a letter in the mail a couple weeks ago that I have set aside. I know I’ll want to read it over and over again, because it puts the whole issue in perspective.
It’s not the kind of letter you might expect to be an author’s favorite. It was part of a packet of follow-up letters from a Vermont classroom I visited this fall, the kind that are neatly written and edited for spelling and packaged in a tidy envelope. I read every one of those letters, and I appreciate and keep them all. But Patrick’s stands out.
It’s a lovely, friendly letter. He thanks me for coming to visit. Then he writes about my presentation, how much he enjoyed hearing about my research and how books come to have the covers they have. The next paragraph says:
I am sorry, but I didn’t really like your new book, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. I like books with a lot of action, and I felt there wasn’t enough in The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. I think you could make it more exciting by adding sectionals and have Gianna win by a centimeter or something like that. It’s just not my type of book. But if it was, I would have thought it was a great one.
I love this letter. I love that Patrick was honest, and I love that his teacher let him tell the truth. And I love the way this friendly note, in Patrick’s voice, reminds me that not all books are for all people. And that’s okay. We can still be friends.
Even though sharing the news about someone who didn’t like your book is a little unconventional, I wanted to pass along Patrick’s thoughts as a gift to my writer friends. The next time you get a rejection or an especially critical review, remember that not all stories connect with all readers. And that’s okay. Then imagine the rejection or review written on lined paper in number two pencil, with Patrick’s words tacked onto the end.
It’s just not my type of book. But if it was, I would have thought it was a great one.
P.S. to Patrick… Thanks. And also…there is an airport chase scene in my novel-in-progress that you are absolutely going to love.