But no matter what the motive, going this route amounts to a search for some correlation between what you set out to do and how it’s generally perceived.
And so, as this foray plays itself out, maybe we can take stock of a virtual tour while the experience is still fresh in my mind.
At the outset, there seems to be a big difference in the quality of the sites, the graphic designs and the sense of creative flair. Which also seems to telegraph the quality of the reviews. For the sake of argument, let’s call the less ambitious blog hosts the “hey-it’s-just-me” critics. On this level you’re apt to receive comments like “It was okay but I don’t go for drifter types,” “I couldn’t really get into it but this next one that came along, this vampire romance was really hot and sexy.” And so on.
Needless to say, this kind of feedback isn’t much help. These sites may simply serve as an exchange for easily-sloughed-off new releases.
Interspersed between the just-me reviews are those that provide a little more to go on. Such as, “I really loved Jed. He was quirky and quiet and like some guys I’ve met. And I didn’t appreciate at all how mean the cops were to him.” Here, at least, we have one element to hang the relative success of the tale on—empathy. And though it was extremely short, here’s another: “This is a complex puzzle but Jed is the good guy and I cheered him on.” And here’s a third. “All told, I really liked the interplay between the characters.”
Sometimes it gets even better. Now and then, a review like this is apt to turn up: “It starts out at a steady pace and quickly takes us down a rabbit hole of twists and turns. The characters are so real, so human, you might forget they’re fictional.” It’s not so much that the feedback is so positive. It’s the fact that you’re offered some inkling of rhythm, dynamics, surprise, and believability. In coming across a more savvy reviewer, you might even discover elements you didn’t realize were there. Or, as a learning experience, aspects of storytelling where you inadvertently felt short.
Granted, your niche may still elude you, along with your place among the literary crowd (whatever that means). However, after you sort through it all, you might just have a better idea of the general impression you’ve made.