In a couple previous posts, I mentioned going to my first book fairs this spring. Both brought their shares of new experiences, some of which I expected and others I didn’t. One that falls into the latter group was the way I’d feel as I watched customers analyzing my work right before my eyes.
At past signings, I became accustomed to people passing me by, either because they like different genres or because they weren’t prepared to purchase a book when they walked into the library. While at a book fair, however, the judgement in the air is thick. Readers are canvasing the area and taking in covers, synopses, displays, and prices booth by booth. When they approach yours, there’s no way to know their tastes and how you’ll compare to the rest in their estimations.
I’m not spelling this out to scare any of my fellow authors; truly, book fairs and the like are great and rewarding opportunities. But the fact is, whether you’re sitting beside it or not, your book is being judged, perhaps by a prospective, current, or past reader. Even if it’s all alone on a store or library shelf, someone at this very moment could be picking it up and debating if it’s worth his or her time.
Admittedly, I’m a sensitive person, so when it comes to this, I’ve had to develop thicker skin. In truth, I had to start long before I ever released a book. Like many aspiring artists experience, I observed the critical views some manifest about what they consider a waste of time. I expected it, though, so I didn’t make my efforts known to many until I landed my first publishing deal.
Why would a sensitive girl like me pursue a career that comes with so much judgement? Having a disability, I’ve always stood out from the crowd even when I don’t want to. I grew up in a small community and, for a while, was the only disabled student in mainstream school, making me no stranger to feeling like I’m under the microscope. I’ve faced disapproval for some of the most ridiculous things, so when I chose to write, I figured at least I’d be judged for a worthy cause.
The best way I keep my emotions in check is by realizing that I judge, too. As I watched people give my book a glance and continue walking, I looked around me and mused at how few books I myself would buy. Despite all the ones I’ve read in my lifetime, I’ve passed up many thousands, and the same applies to movies, television shows…and even clothes. My closet may be full, but I’ve still overlooked and condemned tons of garments that have a proud designer behind them.
Every day, we all make judgements about an array of subjects, and no matter what we do, we’re going to be judged, as well. When we work in the arts, we’re critiqued at a heightened level, from the time we begin our endeavors to long after we die—if we’re fortunate enough to have works that outlive us. We can’t let others’ lack of interest or unkind remarks dominate us, however. Chances are the ones who pass us by or make a critical statement hardly remember doing so by the day’s end. So why should we mull it over for any longer?