Bullying ~ The Newest Trend In Publishing

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.


So what?

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…




18 thoughts on “Bullying ~ The Newest Trend In Publishing

  1. A negative review is far from bullying. It’s like the difference between starting a fight and just talking trash. Reviewers just talk trash, but bullies like to start fights. They get a thrill from the interaction. Sometimes they operate in groups and even have forums where they go to share screen pics and audio of their exploits. There was a woman who was attacked online by gamers when she started a crowdfunding campaign to study female sexualization in video games. People within the gaming community hacked her email, and social media accounts and were pretty vicious. She tells the story here in a TedTalk on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZAxwsg9J9Q

    Maybe if I saw the online world as real, I might have retreated into obscurity with these other authors but I don’t. I understand people are allowed their opinions and they can say what they like. That’s okay. You’re allowed to hate my work and even me if you like. Most people don’t read the reviews on Amazon and lots of readers don’t even know what Goodreads is. My career doesn’t hinge on what CuddleBunny365 thinks about the character dialog in my book.

    *Stepping off the soap box*

  2. I completely understand that there are more variations to the ways people are being bullied. And I’m certainly not trying to minimize the trauma some people are experiencing because of it. It just seems that much of this author bullying is starting out on sites such as Goodreads which are based on rating and reviewing books. But I like your comparison, of talking trash versus starting a fight.

    For me it still comes down to how I choose to respond. You can’t fight me, if I don’t fight. And as hard as it is sometimes, and as much as our instincts tell us to take a stand, sometimes walking away with our head held high is the best stand we can take.

    Again, all of these are merely my opinions based on my own experiences 🙂

  3. Well said. Very thoughtful, very interesting. I’m at the editor stage of my first novel. Sometime in the next 12 months I expect to receive bad reviews, especially because one of the things I deal with is an underage relationship.

    I have clicked to follow your blog. I look forward to reading more interesting posts of yours.

  4. I think “don’t respond” is the best advice out there for authors. We hear it all the time, but it’s got to be hard. I know a lot of these kerfuffles start when an author tries to correct misinformation, or asks why they got a 1* review on an unreleased book. I’m trying to learn from all of these cases, but you’re right. Your work can either be ignored, or it can be both loved and hated. We kind of have to take the bad with the good.

  5. Wonderful article. Honestly, I don’t read reviews unless someone I know has read the book and sends it to me. I made the mistake of reading some reviews for a free short story that I had on Barnes & Noble. The review said, “Don’t bother, it’s too short.” Hello — it’s a short story, says so right in the blurb and it’s FREE how can you argue with FREE? The person went so far as to create a bunch of bogus accounts JUST SO they could bash my story. It upset me at first, but then some of the other readers started to stick up for me. I didn’t have to engage the crazy, they did. And it’s consistently my most downloaded story. I wish I charged money for it, but hey — it’s too short. 😉

      • You’re welcome. You’re right, when you engage the trolls and unlock the crazy, you’re simply asking for trouble. In real life, it’s not easy to turn and walk away. In Internet life, you can choose whether or not to respond or walk away.

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