I don’t think many people grasp just how grateful authors are for reviews. When I think about it, I realise I’ve been a pretty lousy fan to my favourite writers. I’ve never left them ratings on Amazon and it’s only recently that I’ve started to post reviews on Goodreads. In all honesty, I didn’t think it would bother them much. They were big shot, mainstream authors – did it even matter what I thought?
Since I’ve self-published, I’ve realised the answer was probably yes. I didn’t truly appreciate before just how vital honest reader reviews are to the writer’s soul. Of course good reviews help to sell more copies, but that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about. I may be old-fashioned, but I could never pay people for “sock puppet” reviews, because I’d know I was just cheating myself. I want to earn a five-star rating from someone who genuinely likes my work. And I think, deep down, every writer yearns for this, no matter how famous they are.
When I started writing God Save the King, I hadn’t received much feedback for my writing. Friends would just tell me it was “good” – which they may have genuinely believed, but I didn’t know if I could trust them to tell the truth. My brother and my husband always knew how to encourage and constructively criticise at the same time, but again, I thought their praise was clouded by partiality. So putting the novel out there was a great big step into the unknown. I honestly didn’t know if I’d sell enough copies to get any reviews. Then I started to envisage an endless barrage of 2* and 1* ratings, followed by essays on what I’d done wrong.
In all fairness, I may still get these bad reviews in time. People only tend to review something if they love it or hate it – but so far, I’ve been extremely lucky. The “worst” ratings I’ve received are 3* and that’s what I give to a standard book that I enjoyed, so I have to say I’m pretty happy. But what’s thrilled me even more is that fact that people I have never met or spoken to are engaging with my work – and Queen Charlotte – on an emotional level. I can’t begin to describe the thrill you feel when someone else “gets” what you’re trying to do.
Here are a few sentences from reviews of God Save the King which, quite frankly, left me flabbergasted. I never thought I’d see such things written aboutmy work.
Purcell is a promising new author who has channeled her obvious love for the Georgian era and the Hanoverians into a compelling piece of fiction.
What an amazing story!
This is a wonderful novel, filled with a main character who is fully developed, complex, loving, devastated, controlling, petty, and more. Charlotte is no saint, and Purcell doesn’t want to make her one. What she is, thanks to Purcell, is a fully developed woman, faults and failings and all. I think that Purcell’s ability to portray Charlotte as more than a one dimensional saint shows that she has an incredible talent for characterization.
I was drawn in right from the first chapter, and eager to find out how the characters ended up in this sad situation
Where was the publicity for this book? It certainly deserved some! This was a completely engrossing novel.
This is Purcell’s debut novel and it is an absolute success! The Georgian period has rarely been covered in historical fiction and finally someone brilliantly offers it to readers. Purcell appears to be an expert on this time period as she beautifully portrays every detail of life in England for the Royal family, the events and politics going on in the world, and gives readers a look at the many members of King George’s family. Purcell puts so much thought and detail in this novel, it is flawless.
Woah. But it’s not just these lovely bits of encouragement that keep me happy. I honestly want to know what I did wrong, too. How will I learn what doesn’t work without feedback? One reviewer was kind enough to point out an imbalance in my point of views – there was much less Sophia than Charlotte and Royal – and I’m looking at this in my next draft before I submit to publishers. I’m not saying authors should take every bit of criticism to heart – some people out there will never like what you do because it’s simply not their thing. But where I see validity in the feedback, I act on it.
I haven’t actually submitted God Save the King anywhere for reviews, or requested one from readers in exchange for a free copy. This is the type of promotional activity I’ll save for the traditionally published version (if I manage to sell it, of course!). But I’m still immensely grateful for the people who have taken the time and initiative to write down their thoughts. Because, if I may, I would like to tell you a little secret. Despite the fact I’ve made a lot of sales, despite the lovely words quoted above, despite the fact I now have an agent and despite the 5* reviews I’ve earned, I still have days where I stare at the page and think, “I am the worst writer in the world. I should give up”. It’s stupid, of course, but many of us still get these periods of intense self-doubt. Yet it’s often on these days that I pop onto a website to look at my book and find a new review, full of encouragement. It gives me the push I need to suck it up and get on with my work.
It’s not all about me, either. The reason I set out to write my Georgian books, and God Save the King in particular, was that I felt deep connections with the historical figures. It saddened me to think that few people knew their stories, and were unlikely to unless they wandered in to the deepest darkest corners of the history section in the library. I wanted to bring them alive and take the stories to people who wouldn’t usually come across them. With every book I sell, I get the profound satisfaction of thinking someone else out there knows about Queen Charlotte now. Here are some quotes that make me very happy.
Before starting God Save the King I knew very little about this period of history, having always favoured reading books on the Tudor of Medieval periods. After reading this book I am now keen to read up more on this period.
Stateside we really don’t learn a lot about George III. If anything he is a vague shadowy figure from our high school history books, the king who lost America, though to be completely honest I’m not sure too many people could tell you even that much off the cuff. Personally I’ve read histories of the American Revolution and have dim recollections of the 1994 film starring Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren, but such shoddy and shallow background material could hardly be considered adequate preparation for the story that unfolded under Purcell’s pen in God Save the King.
On a side note, as an American, George III is usually portrayed as either a tyrant or a buffoon. It was heartbreaking to see a man who dearly loved his wife and family succumb to an illness that he and his physicians could not do anything to stop.
Everyone knows about the madness of King George III of the United Kingdom. What about his long-suffering wife, Queen Charlotte and his sheltered and smothered six daughters? What did they suffer because of King George’s descent into madness? What was their world like? In “God Save the King” by Laura Purcell, readers enter the world of a depressed queen, a bitter eldest daughter, and another daughter longing for love.
So to reviewers everywhere, small or well-established: thank you. You keep us writers going and remind us why we put ourselves through the endless toil. Your time and thoughts are always, always, appreciated. Even if you didn’t like the book.