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What Does External Validation Mean to You?

What about you? What role does validation play in your life? How do you treat it when it comes? Have you heard of Publisher's Weekly, or Starred Reviews? Do reviews affect whether you'll pick up a book?
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Validation is universally craved. Social media have minted entire fortunes out of this human need for validation, for Likes, for comments, for these positive strokes that shore up the sense of self-esteem.
 
As a writer, I’m no stranger to this need for validation, so I was blown away when my publisher sent me news of a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. While I knew reviews from trade journals like the Publisher’s Weekly were useful, I didn’t understand that a Starred Review was a big deal.
 
This brief review is mostly a summary of the book, and ends with these lines:
 
Meticulous local color matches sensitive characterizations, including of brave Mumbai police who try to overcome the deadly hazards of the corrupt system they have to work in. This searing portrait of marginalized people struggling for survival is unforgettable.
 
Which, according to my multiple-bestselling friends, is unusually good, because Publisher’s Weekly is apparently a tough crowd, and the reviewers are not always kind. Starred Reviews with complimentary lines help convince booksellers and librarians of the merits of a book, and if you’re in publishing, you want those people impressed.
 
I’ve looked them up and while Starred Reviews don’t ensure bestsellerdom or awards for a book, they are a step in the right direction.
 
The thing about validation is that it wears off so much faster than a criticism, because your self-doubt tells you you don’t deserve that star. So a part of me is ready for the trough that comes after the crest.
 
But like a good friend told me–in publishing, the triumphs are very few and far between, so we must gather what validation we can, and use it to help with the next bit of writing.
 
So as I work on The Blue Bar sequel, I’m going to take my friend’s advice: celebrate the moment, and use this floaty, cosy feeling, this assurance of safety, to do some good for my chapters.
 
In the end, the best validation is internal. That moment when you finish a chapter the way you hadn’t anticipated, but is way better than you’d imagined. When you manage to fill up a plot hole with a neat twist. When you find just. the. right. word. When you read some of your old work, and don’t cringe. That sort of validation, where your artist self recognizes your own skill— that’s priceless.
 
What about you? What role does validation play in your life? How do you treat it when it comes? Have you heard of Publisher’s Weekly, or Starred Reviews? Do reviews affect whether you’ll pick up a book?
 
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My lit crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out soon with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day.
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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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16 Comments

  • Yeah, it takes tons of time and it almost universally comes down to finding your readers who β€œget” your work and want more and share what they’ve read with friends. That’s it. Thats the secret sauce

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – yes … just settle in to the achievement of The Blue Bar, while moving along without pressure the sequel. Congratulations and all the best as you go forward – cheers Hilary

  • Sonia Dogra says:

    Hearty congratulations, Damyanti. And wishing The Blue Bar many more! Validation, an external one, isn’t a bad thing at all. But as you said, it’s the internal validation that lasts longer. You’ve balanced that well and way to go!

  • dgkaye says:

    Congratulations for the starred review Damyanti. I the self validation is sometimes more important than the short-lived euphoria of an external one. πŸ™‚

  • Nilanjana Bose says:

    Hi Damyanti. Congrats on the star review! Definitely something to savour. Wishing you many more.
    To answer your question I rarely pick up a book on review alone, for me a word of mouth referral means more. When I was (years) younger I’d just go pick up books randomly based on reviews or even the cover blurb, but then as books became costlier, and also space became a major constraint, I have had to stop that. Reviewers don’t know my tastes, my friends do, especially friends I read with.
    Happy Deepawali to you and yours, if you are celebrating.

    • DamyantiB says:

      Happy Diwali, Nilanjana. I guess you’ve also had a ton of sweets sent to your house πŸ˜€ Thank You so much for stopping by and for the wishes.

  • I usually go to the back cover of the book for a short description of the story before deciding to buy

  • Congratulations on your starred PW review! It is usually excerpts, more so than reviews, that will tip the balance for me to buy a book.

  • That is a wonderful review from Publisher’s Weekly–and the star is a huge compliment to your skill. Kudos to you!

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