Because of space considerations, the following section had to be cut from the final text of The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, but why let it go to waste? The quotes from friends were taken directly from the interviews I conducted for the book, which will feature more wisdom from these gentlemen and others.

As with editors and agents, you might think it’s possible that there are good critics and bad critics, and that the “advice” of a critic can be as helpful as an editor’s or an agent’s. I suffered over whether or not to include anything on the subject of reviews, especially since I wanted to keep this book positive, but I guess I should say something. I’ll start with asking the opinion of some friends.

Lou Anders, editorial director at Pyr, not only reads reviews, but passes them on to the authors he works with as a way, “to gauge reaction, not inform the writing. By the time a book has come out and been reviewed, the author is way past it and into another project, and every project is its own animal.”

Reviews, both good and bad are part of the business, and though many of the traditional review sources, especially daily newspapers, are publishing fewer, if any book reviews, the critics are still out there—especially in the so-called “blogosphere.” Though I would strongly advise against reading any of your own reviews, ever, good or bad, I know that isn’t terribly realistic. According to John Betancourt of Wildside Press: “I always read reviews; I don’t think it’s possible for anyone in publishing to not read reviews of books they have worked on. But it helps to keep them in perspective (good or bad) and develop a thick skin for the (inevitable) bad ones.”

How thick does your skin have to be? I’d say somewhere between a Kevlar vest and the armor of a main battle tank. If not thicker…

Read the rest in…

Editor and author Philip Athans offers hands on advice for authors of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and fiction in general in this collection of 58 revised and expanded essays from the first five years of his long-running weekly blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook.


—Philip Athans


Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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2 Responses to REVIEW THIS

  1. Gabriella says:

    I came across your blog after purchasing a copy of this novel! I found it extremely informative and I would like to thank you for writing a guidebook tailored to SF&F (there just aren’t enough out there!). One thing I was curious about: you mentioned very briefly in your guide about choosing a stand-alone length for a first novel as opposed to a series. Is it possible for a new author to breakthrough with an epic fantasy series? I’m currently writing a fantasy epic that I’ve been nurturing for quite some time now, and hope to one day soon see it on a shelf.

  2. Pingback: WHY I GIVE EVERY BOOK I READ FIVE STARS ON GOODREADS | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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