Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Author Rule Number 1: Don't be a dick

Okay, so I've been hanging out on Goodreads as my pseudonym lately, and one thing has become increasingly clear. There is a lot of love over there for indy authors, but there is also a lot of wariness as well. And you know why? 

Nutjobs. Crazy nutjob people who've self-published something on Amazon Kindle Direct, and now think they're authors. And guys, whether you self-pub or whether you try to go the traditional route, let's get one thing clear: there is more to being an author than writing a book. 



And while this isn't entirely an indy author issue, it seems to be more prevalent there. I don't know. Maybe an agent helps keeps the crazy bottled up. Or, probably, those authors who have done the hard slog to get an agent have actually picked up some professionalism along the way. But there are a lot of people who call themselves authors who haven't. 

Spend any time in the GR groups or the Amazon Kindle message boards, and you'll spot them. The ones with egos bigger than their vocabularies. The ones who genuinely can't understand when they aren't hailed as literary geniuses. The ones who, having thrown themselves in the big pond, are floundering.  

Which brings me to the only rule you will ever need when it comes to interacting with your readers online: Don't be a dick. 

If someone doesn't like your book and writes a review saying that, this is not bullying. Bullying is a sustained pattern of negative behaviour, not a book review. 

If you then stalk this reviewer, repeatedly insulting them every time they make some unrelated comment on the site, then this is bullying. Oh, also, you should not be surprised at the shit-storm you have created. And when you are facing the full force of the aforesaid shit-storm, don't be surprised when people blame you for bringing it all on yourself. Because, guess what? You brought it all on yourself. 

Don't argue with reviewers about reviews of your book. That's a fight you can't win. If someone asks a question, answer it, and you're done. Easy, isn't it? Don't go off on a rant about how the reviewer doesn't understand how hard it is to write a book. Don't tell them that their opinion is worthless, because they obviously don't understand literary genius when it punches them in the face. And -- this one's been cropping up a lot lately -- when someone (even after you've repeatedly told them that you're a genius) still stands by their negative review, don't suggest they seek psychiatric help. Because I promise you, by that stage in the argument the only one giving off crazy vibes is you. Yes, you. 

So put the crazy down, back away from the keyboard, and don't be that guy. Just don't. 

If you're better than that, prove it. 

17 comments:

  1. Jen,

    This is something I've been waiting for someone to write about for some time now. Well done for doing it :) This is exactly why I could never, ever call myself an author. I write, yes, so technically I could class myself as a 'writer' but only in the sense that I write words, not the, 'oh, time to put on the smoking jacket, and tap a few keys on my next megabucks best seller!' writer.

    I totally agree, there are those who are delusional, and in denial about their true ability and the quality of their writing. To my mind self-publishing isn't exactly a sign of being a successful writer/author. I can paint the outside of my house, but it doesn't make me a Leonardo nor a qualified painter and decorator.

    For me, the only time I could feel qualified to adopt the monica of writer/author is when an agent validates my work and successfully places it with a publishing house. BUT, that is only my humble opinion. I fully acknowledge that there are great writers out there who choose freely to self-publish, and there are those who have become published via the traditional route who seriously shouldn't have in the first place, as an example I will mention 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.

    But in all walks of life there are those who tread the fine line between normality and madness, and the internet gives them a platform upon which to sing, scream, shout, pontificate, abuse, bully, harass and a plethora of other fancies that drive them forward.

    Unfortunately it also includes those who cannot accept criticism. And the sad fact of the matter is, like cockroaches, they will always be out there, mixing with us on a daily basis.

    Good article, Jan ;)

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    1. PS: damn, I typed 'Jan' instead of 'Jen' - please forgive me :O

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    2. It's a tricky subject because, as you rightly point out, there is some fantastic self-published stuff out there. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to find in the mire of "Hey, look what I just wrote and uploaded to Amazon!" and "Editor? What's an editor?" crap out there.

      I always used to say "Don't say on the internet what you wouldn't say to someone's face" but then I realised there are a hell of a lot of people out there that would be crazy enough to abuse people directly to their face. So I went with "Don't be a dick".

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  2. Here's a review I got that still bothers me. It's a "two star" review:

    This book grabbs your attention from the start and never lets go. I found myself devouring the pages as quickly as I could. I can't wait for the next book!!!

    It bothers me because with the two stars it drags down my rating significantly. Bleh. I've had similar. Reviews where the person just didn't seem to understand how the star system works. They liked my book and gave it three stars saying "Wow I can't wait for the next one."

    I personally think the star rating is broken.

    Anyway, Wil Wheaton also says "Don't be a dick."

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    1. I totally get why that review bothers you, Michael. You devoured it, you can't wait for the next book, and only gave it 2 stars? Okaaay. That's a great example of how the star system doesn't work, but I think most readers look beyond it. i know I do. I read a few positive and a few negative reviews to decide whether or not I'll purchase a book.

      And Will Wheaton is full of great advice!

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  3. Damn, girl can I just say how much I love you and this post. Spot on! Off to tweet this to the world!

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  4. It's good to have you back. :-)

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  5. The people who are the biggest dicks are usually the first ones who accuse others of bullying them. It's funny how that works out.

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    1. Yeah, it sure is! And yet somehow they never see it coming!

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  6. 'Glad you're back'? Where have you been, Jen?

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    1. I was away in Brisbane for a wedding and family catch up for a few weeks. Nice to get away from our stinking tropical summer to somewhere a bit more temperate!

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  7. Jen,
    Nicely posited. A review is an honor in my mind's eye - someone took the time to read (or partially read) your work, they then took some more time to tell you what they thought or your work. I say thank you. I say thank you again for your opinion, which I welcome. I bank what they tell me.

    Then I bank it in the "keep this in mind" next time.

    If you treat your readers like you would your grandmother, you can hardly ever go wrong.

    Best to you and again thanks for this piece.

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    1. Thanks, Christopher! I feel the same about reviews. Good, bad or ugly, someone took the time to read your book and leave their opinion, and that's incredibly valuable.

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  8. I was sitting next to an old man in Barnes and Noble today. A friend of his came up and started talking to him about books. The old guy got out his Nook and showed his friend a review he'd left of a Gillian Flynn novel. One star. "And usually I really like her books," he said. "I don't know what it was about this one. But you know, sometimes the reader's just having a bad day." And the friend was like, "Well, sometimes one of my co-workers will recommend a book to me, and I'll read it and be like, 'This is crap.' Everybody's just got different opinions."

    They were my two favorite people of the day.

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    1. Perfect! Old men are full os wisdom. Always. That's what fantasy novels have taught me.

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