It seems that in this ever changing industry of publishing, we are currently undergoing yet another new and rather ugly trend. Bullying. And, as a direct result, authors are apparently dropping like flies left and right. Which, in my opinion, is rather unfortunate…and also, a bit strange.
Having never been publicly bullied, I cannot attest to what type of suffering might be associated with such an experience. However, without burdening everyone with my own private sob stories, let me just say, I’ve encountered it on a personal and more intimate level, and suffice it to say, ones attacker packs a heavy punch when they know exactly where to hit.
What have I learned from this? I’ve learned to choose my battles more consciously in order to best win the war. Because I’m in it for the long haul. Writing. Publishing. Life.
But let’s get more specific. Let’s talk about the real issue. The bad review bullies.
Nothing stings quite as much as when someone rips to shreds your book baby. Because to us, that is personal.
Thing is though, to the readers, it’s not. And I think as writers, we need to exert more effort in accepting that.
If I get cut off in traffic by some jackass and choose to call him a fucking moron, does that make him one? It’s an attack on him as a person, but should it be taken personally? No. And, no. I have no idea who this guy is. He could be a wonderful and intelligent person. I don’t know that. I’ve only seen one teensy weensy sliver of him and made my judgement based on that. Doesn’t change how I feel about him in the moment, because right then and there, that is how I see him. But I hardly think that driver gives a rat’s ass about my opinion. Why should he? He’s not a fucking moron. And he knows that better than anyone.
And while we’re on this lovely little analogy, should I, as the one expressing my negative opinions which in the heat of the moment I deem to be fact, expect this unruly driver to hand over his license on the spot and give up driving forever more? No. I may wish he did, but in what universe would that actually happen?
Well, the publishing one, apparently.
Bad reviews suck. Seriously. There’s no other way to put it. I remember the first time I got one and I was literally crushed for days. It didn’t matter that twenty other random readers had left glowing 5 star reviews, because that one person, that one reader, she had thought it was the biggest piece of crap to ever hit the kindle. I mean it. She tore into everything. The story line, the characters, the editing. Then she even went so far as to say that I had ripped off a song to write the book. It was horrible. It was humiliating. It was hurtful. It was her opinion. And let’s face it. We all have those.
I’m not looking to give up mine or my right to express them, are you?
Now, you’re probably saying – No of course not, but there’s a wrong and a right way of doing things and these people are just trying to be mean on purpose.
It comes down to the same thing I tell my six year old when someone is being mean to her. You cannot control how other people act. You can only control how you respond.
And I get that it’s easier said than done. I’ve seen the bad, ugly and the obscene of those reviews. Especially on Goodreads. Holy shit. Those people go all out, don’t they?! I mean, you almost have to wonder if this is their only creative outlet. And book bashing or not, some of them are hysterical. I have to commend the bad reviewers for the amount of thought that goes into everyone of them. Animated images and all. I mean, think about how strongly they must feel about what you’ve written to spend that much time on putting their thoughts together after. Personally, I think if you’re at the receiving end of one of those, you should give yourself a nice big pat on the back ~ You INSPIRED someone today! Maybe not in the way you had intended, but in the end, your work spoke to them so intensely that they couldn’t just let it go. And no matter which way you spin it, that my fellow writers, is a compliment.
Anytime a new piece of art goes out into the world, the artist risks complete and utter ridicule. The more raw and honest the work, the greater the chances of someone coming along and shitting all over it. That’s just how it is. You can’t go around flying your freak flag and expect everyone to appreciate it. They won’t. Some people will go out of their way to tell you that you’re wrong. That you’re stupid and you suck. That’s the price of being different in this society. The reward is in all of the people who connect with you and your work and see the beauty and courage in what you’ve done. Everyone has to decide for themselves which one outweighs the other.
From a strictly practical standpoint, let me also say that out of all of my books, the one with the lowest overall rating sells the most copies. It’s nothing fancy. Just your basic, cute chick lit. I would love if everyone came in and rated it 5 stars, but the truth is, it comes in at around a 3. It’s not a literary masterpiece. I never expected anyone to be deeply moved by it. That’s not why I wrote it. I wrote it for fun. For entertainment. For me. And that’s exactly the response I get. It’s cute, fun, sweet. Easy read. Funny. Those are the terms most frequently used. And you know what? That works just fine for me.
Now, let’s talk about the bullies.
Having never been one, nor ever had the desire to be one, I can’t say that I entirely understand the motivation.
Are there really people out there who have nothing better to do than to go around starting campaigns to destroy some stranger’s career? Apparently.
But, if that really is the goal, I have bad news for you. Your efforts are backfiring. All of your hard work is turning out to be for nothing, because those books you’re so busy bashing are suddenly selling like hot cakes.
As any parent or pet owner will tell you, when it comes to good versus bad attention, the end results are completely the same. The only difference lies in the feelings with which it is given and received. In the end, attention is attention. Period.
And you know what else? Notoriety sells books. Know what doesn’t? Being invisible.
So, the next time you read something you think is so abhorrent you feel like you need to put an end to the author before they dare produce another abomination, don’t get all fifty members of your book club to write a scathing review. Don’t start a petition to ban them from the publishing industry, and really, really don’t take the time to email the author (Because you know what that is? – Fan-mail!) Just let it go. Walk away. Do nothing and I have feeling we might all get what we want.
The authors live on in peace…and you can rest knowing you didn’t contribute to their success. Because that is essentially what you are doing by broadcasting all of your feelings and leading everyone to focus on the very thing you claim to detest.
And in case you hadn’t heard. No one likes a bully. But EVERYONE loves the underdog. And yes, we can all tell the difference…