Quickie with Lori Foster On Criticism
(May 29, 2000)
I was pretty tickled when I found out my first Harlequin Duets, Say Yes, had made Desert Isle Keeper status at AAR. Id never really thought to be there, though I had reviewed a few of my favorite books (Catherine Coulter’s Magic trilogy) for the site, so I knew exactly what it was. And Say Yes is a book I especially didnt expect to do so well.
Im not an author who gets overly excited about reviews. If theyre negative, oh well, its just an opinion. If theyre great, I smile. But opinions vary so much that its hard to get too enthusiastic over a nice review.
However, this time I was more than smiling. You see, Say Yes had been rejected once, and everything that reviewers and readers seem to like about the book, were things the editor didnt like.
My purpose in this note is to remind authors, new and established, not to put too much credence in any criticism they get. Just as we can agree or disagree with reviewers and readers, we can agree or disagree with editors. If theres a book you love that an editor just isnt getting, make up your mind whether you want to revise for the sale now, or if that book means enough to you that youd rather hang on to it, and keep it intact.
Ive had a lot of editors since getting published, and Ive enjoyed them all for their abilities and their talent. This is in no way a judgement against an editor. I think its important to make that clear up front! But opinions vary so much and what one editor dislikes, another may love. And thats what happened to me with Say Yes.
I originally wrote Say Yes for the Harlequin Love & Laughter line. Based on a proposal, my editor told me shed buy it. I wasnt given a contract, being very new and many new authors need a complete book to get a sale. But when I finished the book, she rejected it. Why? She said it wasnt funny. Not only that, she said it had far too many animals, and the hero was much, much too nice.
Wow. I was shocked. Her suggestions were to take out all but one animal.
I gasped! No! I loved all the animals by that point and couldnt bear to part with any of them. <g> Also, the hero was too perfect, she said, so instead of him being a wonderful house builder, she wanted the house to start falling apart. In her mind, that would have been funny.
In my mind, that would have made him much less than a hero!
She also wanted me to tone down the sex for the line. It was too racy.
Me, tone it down? I gasped again. <g> In fact, by the time we hung up the phone, I was sputtering. I didnt know what to do. I wanted the sale, I really did. But I loved the book as it was and didnt want to change it. Oh, Id changed other books, of course. Often a suggestion makes perfect sense and you get that smack me on the head sensation because you realize its the perfect solution and your book will be better for it.
But not this time.
Ultimately, after chewing my poor husbands ear for two days, I decided against revising the book. It went into a drawer and stayed there for some time. When the Duets line opened, my new editor asked me if Id like to do one. She said all of my books had overtones of humor and she thought Id enjoy it. I had a multi-book contract I was already working on, so I wasnt anxious to add to it. Instead, I mentioned the L&L book, and she said to send it to her.
The day after she received it she called to say shed laughed her butt off, she loved the animals, and the hero was to die for.
Talk about differing opinions in editors! I made the sale, and AAR was kind enough to make it a DIK book. Im still smiling over the vagaries of fate.
So the next time you have a book you love that someone wants you to change in a way that makes your heart clench, stop and think about it. Do you want the sale? And maybe you do. Theres nothing wrong with that. But if your heart says to stick to your guns, know that sometimes our hearts are right.