People will say nice things about your book. Sometimes their enthusiasm may surprise you. Surely it isn't as great as their enthusiasm for it. Well, no. It isn't. You knew it was ok. Good. Not great. But ok. It was ok enough for a pubisher to take it on. Good enough for you to let go of the constant, ego-shattering re-working. Good enough for others to spend their money on it and to read it. And some people really liked it a lot, but most had reservations. You won't hear about these reservations. It is too late. It is done. What point is there for someone to tell you that it lags a bit in the middle, or that the beginning is a bit tedious, that the characters are not fully realised. It is done. There is nothing you can do about it.
The rare friend who will be honest may shatter your composure. You were, after all receiving nothing but praise. What does that friend know? Has he ever written a book? Even if he has, was it any good? Was it perfect? No. And maybe the feedback is misguided. Only you will know, because deep down, you know this book is not perfect, not even close to it. You may be fond of it but your next book will be better, and the one after will be better still. If that tactless friend was right about the glaring holes that somehow you and your editor overlooked, then he is a very valuable friend indeed.
You, my friend, are valuable.
It is an ok book. Maybe it is a good book, but your feedback would have made it a better book. If you had given me this feedback even six months ago I could have done something wonderful with it. I have always respected you for your good eye.
I have a good eye too. I knew there was something wrong with the book despite the excitement of my early readers. I spotted the problem but I was too close to see it. I see the holes in your own work which is also good. Very good. But not great. I am your good eye and you are mine.
The book is forever. It is stuck in print, frozen in time. It will never be better, and each year I am trudging closer to my grave. You were a useful tool just out of my reach. You were my good eye, rolled away from my fingers and stuck there, staring back at me.
Next time. Please. Next time.
I will hear a lot of praise from a lot of people who read this book. Behind my back they will tell each other their reservations. Maybe some of them will also have a good eye but I don't know it because they never tell me what they see.
Next time. It isn't too late for the next book. Next time. Please. Lend me your eye in good time.