A Rant: My Thoughts and Experiences Using Reedsy Discovery
By nature, I’m not the type of person who looks back with regret. Usually, through coaching skills acquired over time, I’ve learned to reframe negative experiences. However, I do regret talking about my plans to use Reedsy Discovery on an episode on The Authorpreneur Podcast, in February 2020. And, it’s taken me three-months to bring myself to talk about the experience. I realise that sounds overdramatic, but I feel that I’ve almost recommended the service. And now that I’ve used the service, I feel a sense of duty to talk about my experience.
As I wrote the first draft of this blog post, old feelings resurfaced. I’m now anxious and a little panicked. For the sake of clarity, I’m not writing this review to throw shade, but to share my experience and to give others an insight into what to expect before you pay the fifty dollar fee and enrol in the programme.
Let’s start at the beginning.
In the spirit of full disclosure, here is a brief timeline of my interactions with the programme and the company in question.
- 24 February – Submitted my book to Reedsy Discovery and paid the $50.00 fee
- 28 February – Book was picked up for a review
- 19 March – Book was immediately cancelled from the Reedsy Discovery service
- 19 March – I Replied to Reedy’s email about cancelling my novella
- 20 March – Reedsy replied, informing me they are siding with their reviewer and my book could benefit from further editorial work.
- 24 March – The anonymous reviewer has no more comments to make, and Reedsy is still expecting me to do further edits and submit my book again.
The above screenshot of the front page was taken on the 16th April 2020.
Things You Need to Know About My Book
In order to create the best book possible, I hired three types of editors. The first was a three-chapter edit. After this, I went through my manuscript and focused on perfecting the issues raised in the report I received. Following this, I purchased an editing package with an editing company, where I received a deluxe line-edit with a report highlighting the most significant issues in my story. And the last edit was a final proofread, which was completed by a different editor. On top of this, I’ve used a small number of first readers for story feedback.
What I Thought I Was Getting
After hearing about Reedsy Discovery on a podcast which I will not name, I signed up for the book launch review service. According to the service promised, I thought the discovery service would help me find an audience for my book and receive an honest review upon or shortly after my book launches. At first glance, you get the impression that the service has thousands of readers. But, upon digging into the frequently asked questions tab, I learned the service has 150 reviewers across all genres.
A little different to what was advertised on the front page.
I was okay with that because every service starts somewhere. And, at the time, I thought I was getting my book reviewed by fans of the genre, and I was being connected with readers.
The above screenshot shares the reason my book was cancelled from the service.
The Service I Received
I got matched with one anonymous reviewer. The feedback was sent via what appears to be an automated email saying my book was cancelled from Reedsy Discovery. In this feedback, the reviewer did admit to not finishing the book (based on the comments they reached chapter thirteen of forty-one), but still wrote a lengthy critique heavily criticising the part of the book that was read or possibly skim-read.
And this is where things start to get interesting.
In a rather ballsy move on Reedsy’s part, at the bottom of the email, they directed me to the company’s find an editor search engine. So, I do believe there is a bit of a conflict of interest with the discovery programme. Coincidentally on Goodreads, I had a book blogger “DNF” my book. Or, in layman’s terms “Did not Finish.” Naturally, due to the anonymity of the review, I’m unable to tell if this reviewer was from Reedsy Discovery, Happy Book Reviews, or the book blogging service that I signed up for, earlier in the year.
A few days ago, I shared my experience on social media, and one of the many replies I got back was from someone who said they were pitched to join the reviewer team. And, they were under the impression it was a beta reading role, so actively encouraging criticism. In my mind, a beta-reader critique is different from the way a reader would write a review. When you hire beta-readers, you’re selective about who joins the team because you want quality feedback.
The Elephant in the Room
Fiction is art, and like most forms of artistic expression, it’s subjective. I’m not saying that my book is a literary masterpiece, is flawless, or that the reviewer’s feelings and opinions are trivial. For me, it’s not even about the negative review. I believe there is a bigger issue at play. One reviewer should not have this much power over the decision about whether a book needs an editor.
Let me explain.
I did not like the Bach Manuscript and the Heretic’s Treasure both by Scott Mariani. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these books are bad, just that I did not enjoy them.
You might, but I did not.
In regards to the first book, I was expecting the story to go in a different direction. And the second, I didn’t connect with the characters and did not like how the plot was executed. These are my options. And, none of my thoughts is an indication that Scott Mariani should rewrite and hire another editor. It’s just my opinion.
Who am I to say that another writer should hire a developmental editor and change a story so that I am happy?
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on whether I wanted to share the feedback I received. The short answer is no. But, I did go through the review and measure it up against the novel. After this exercise, I’m still scratching my head.
In my novella, I dedicated entire scenes and chapters to resolve the issues the reader raised. For instance, the reader thought my character James Lalonde who is a journalist and editor of a small newspaper, was helping the curator of the museum. It’s a strange thing to conclude because my character makes it explicitly clear through dialogue and character thought that he’s chasing a story and trying to avoid a blank space in the culture section of his newspaper. James is not in any way doing the curator a favour or helping her.
The feedback was full of stuff like this. Interestingly, the feedback I received only criticised the plot elements mentioned in the book’s description. But, once again, this could be the result of a harsh critique of a partially read novella.
As an author, I cannot control a readers reaction to my story or how they interpret certain elements. That’s the beauty of reading; each reader can have a different experience. I can only tell the story to the best of my ability and hope the reader picks up on the subtle clues to solve the crime alongside James. After all, my novella is a crime thriller, where the reader needs to figure out the whodunnit. That is made evident in the very first chapter.
In the spirit of fairness, I have responded to Reedsy. Unfortunately, Reedsy is siding with the reviewer, and saying my novella needs help from developmental editor based on the opinion of one reviewer. If I wanted a manuscript critique, I would seek out a professional with credentials. That professional would be known by me, have client reviews, and examples of books they’ve edited. And, that’s the issue with my experience, I don’t know who gave me this feedback and I can’t see their credentials. As a result, I don’t know how much weight to give the anonymous feedback.
I’m not going to lie—this experience has completely shattered my confidence as a writer. For me, it’s more than just receiving negative feedback. The confidence shattering part is the fact that Reedsy has come back and said: ‘your book isn’t good enough.’ On top of this, the Reedsy employee is doubting the editorial work that I received based on a single opinion from someone who didn’t read my entire book.
More Than A Negative Review
To be frank, I would have been okay with a negative review. I know I sound a little crazy after that comment but hear me out. When a reader leaves a one or two-star review on Amazon or Goodreads, you can click on the profile and see other books they’ve read or reviewed, depending upon the platform. With this service, there is a lot of anonymity, and I have no idea what books this person reads. All I have is the word of an employee that this person reads crime and thrillers and is “a good writer”. For a reader to turn around and say ‘I don’t like your story,’ therefore you need a developmental editor is simply ludicrous.
And, I feel like an idiot for stating the obvious. Naturally, I’m super disappointed and will not be using this service again in the future because it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. Reedsy Discovery is more of a critique service or a very harsh beta-read. At this stage in the publishing process, it’s almost too late for this type of feedback.
I can’t tell you what to do or how to spend your money, but if this is your first book and you’re looking for reviews Reedsy Discovery may not be the right service for you.
Unfortunately, I allowed this reviewing experience to knock my confidence. It got to the point where I was struggling to get perspective—metaphorically speaking, I struggled to pick myself off the floor. My husband has read my book and the review said that the comments did not make any sense to him. And, my mother, who has read the book twice, had a similar response to the review. All of this positivity and encouragement wasn’t enough to get through to me. On 20 March, I had a quick chat with Paul Teague from Self Publishing journeys about whether I should hire a developmental editor based on my experience with this review. The conversation that developed as a result of my initial question helped me gain a new perspective.
Looking back, I gave a Reedsy and the reviewer too much power. I allowed them to act as a gatekeeper. And, I should never have given this service or reviewer opinion so much weight.
That was my mistake.
Since writing this blog post on the 16th of April, I’ve enlisted the services as a paid beta reader, who pointed out a flaw in my story that was not picked up by the Reedsy Discovery service. I have since added a new scene and extra content to eleven of the forty-one chapters in my novella. As a result, I’ve hired a different line-editor to edit the new words and uploaded the changes. So, that’s two editors, two proofreaders, and a professional beta reader, have all read my book, and no one has said to me that “the story was poor and badly written.”
On the plus side, I’ve received feedback from readers through Goodreads. I’ve received three five-stars, five four-star, two three-star, and two two-star ratings—giving my book a 3.75 average rating. It’s not spectacular, but it’s almost four stars. Click here to see the reviews on Goodreads.
And, as the results of a recent book blogging tour, I’m now marketing my novella as a mystery, not a crime thriller. Maybe, my book went to the wrong reviewer, but Mystery and Thriller genres aren’t too far apart.
The interesting thing about my confidence as a writer is, three months later, despite all of this positive feedback, this one harsh review still haunts me and causes me to doubt my value as a writer.
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