Valley of the Dolls

When Jacqueline Susann started to look for a publisher for this unusual novel, she received a rejection that said, “…she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes …hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly …”

Talk about character- as well as book-bashing!

The book was finally published in 1966, and went on to sell more than 30 million copies! Not bad for an “inept, amateurish writer,” wouldn’t you agree?

The “dolls” within the title refer to barbiturates and as a Christian, it is not the sort of book I would normally discuss on this site. However it’s a good lesson when we look at rejections.

For those who like to know book ratings, I found this interesting.
On Amazon, it received 949 reviews! It achieved a credible 4.5 star rating, yet this was made up of:

287 5-stars
307 4-stars
202 3 stars
59 2 stars
45 1 stars.

The book was adapted into a film of the same name, and several TV series have come out based on it.

Quite a success story, wouldn’t you say?

As I head toward my launch of Strength Renewed – my book of meditations for those on the breast cancer journey, I have become more aware of book reviews, star ratings, etc. I realize how I have neglected to do reviews of books that I definitely should have done, and intend to rectify that matter as and when I manage to find the time.

I recently gave a book a good review with a 4-star rating. I couldn’t believe the negative reaction I received from the author. Yet looking at the statistics for Valley of the Dolls, even the 45 1 stars and 59 2 stars didn’t bring the overall rating down. Makes you think. To paraphrase a familiar cliché: You can’t keep a good book down .

Going back to the critical response of the publisher quoted at the top of this article: I wonder how he felt when he saw how well the book did, when he knew he had turned it down–and with such scathing remarks.

I think there are three main lessons for us here:

When doing a book review, OR if you are an editor, don’t run down the author. Concentrate on the book.
Be diplomatic and choose your words with care. You may have to eat them later!
As authors, we need to learn to look past the few who hate our books, or malign our personalities; and listen to those who encourage. We need to bask in the glory of the 4 and 5 star reviews, and learn from (and then move on from) the 1, 2 and even some of the 3 stars.