I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this, but there’s a war going on. Waged on the battlefields of Goodreads and Amazon, it’s a war between readers and authors. Well, actually, it isn’t quite that simple. Authors seem to be split–some side with the readers, some side with the authors crying ‘bully,’ and others choose to stay out of it altogether.
You see, there’s a group of authors out there (many who happen to be self-published) who have a very difficult time handling unfavorable reviews. That’s putting it mildly. Let’s be honest–there are authors out there who throw full-blown tempter tantrums when they receive a bad review. They’ve commented on the review, hurling insults and obscenities. They’ve even tracked down the reviewer’s email address or blog and pursued them on Facebook. In an extreme case, a few of the authors got together and started a website aimed toward outing the real identities of these ‘bullies.’ (True story)
Now, these authors will claim the reviewers are the real stalkers. They claim other authors one-star their books in order to knock out the competition. There are accusations of sock-puppetry on both sides. To sum it up, it’s a hot mess.
As authors, what can we do to keep from becoming embroiled in such a battle? What can we do to ensure we won’t end up on an Amazon or Goodreads Authors Behaving Badly List? Well, here are a few tips…
- Don’t freak out over bad reviews. Every author will receive at least one bad review. It’s inevitable. Don’t argue with the reviewer. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t comment on the review and try to explain where you were coming from. You’ll just sound like a whiny baby. Accept bad reviews with grace.
- Don’t argue with readers or reviewers over anything else. A forum post about how badly your book sucks. An accusation that all your five-star reviews came from sock puppets. “But, Tricia, I didn’t do anything. I don’t know why they’re targeting me.” Maybe someone took offence at a review you posted on another book. Maybe someone saw you were a Goodreads-friend with someone they hated and they decided to extend their hatred to you. Maybe someone just hated your profile pic. Whatever. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. I know an author who ended up on a Badly Behaving Authors list because he tagged books in a way some readers didn’t approve of. There was an Amazon forum post…and before he knew it, there was a whole, big, huge issue–all over something he didn’t realize was wrong. Did he argue? No. He stayed out of it and it all blew over pretty quickly.
- Don’t treat your writing like a hobby. (Well, unless it is a hobby.) Here’s the deal–the moment you decide to publish your work, you have entered the professional arena and your book will be judged alongside the works of other authors who are writing as a career. “But, I’m just writing because I love it. I don’t care about grammar, and besides, I’m too poor to hire a professional editor. And, I need new glasses. And, I’m tired because I work full-time.” As a poor, tired author who needs new glasses, I can totally sympathize with all those excuses and more. But, guess what? The reader doesn’t care about your excuses. Whether they paid ten dollars or one dollar or uploaded your book for free, it doesn’t matter. You made the choice to place your book in a professional arena and the reader has every right to critique your book accordingly.
- Don’t be an author if you want to live a quiet, private life where no one ever criticizes you or talks about you on the internet. Being an author involves an emotional risk. You’re putting your book–and yourself–in front of the world to be judged. Prepare for people to say things about you and your book (good and bad). It’s nothing personal–it’s just comes with the territory of being an author.