Authors Behaving Badly – What you can do about it

I’ve seen a lot of recent posts from book bloggers complaining about author behavior. I want to say I don’t understand it, but unfortunately I do.

A couple of months ago I got an email from a blogger who was reading my book, Secret Storm. She said she was confused by the timing of some of the events in the books. I thought the timeline was fairly obvious, but I took it personally. Without thinking, I wrote back to her and told her if she didn’t like it, don’t review it. She wrote back and apologized for asking, and that’s when I felt like total shit. After thinking about my reply, I apologized and explained that I was having a bad day (mostly true, but also an excuse). She ended up giving Secret Storm a 4-star review, noting her concerns (but fortunately not my behavior) and she remains a fan, but I was very lucky she didn’t chastise me publicly.

We all experience bad reviews or criticism that’s hard to take. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to deal with it.

1. Step away from the keyboard. Never respond to negative reviews. I’ve even been told not to respond to any review with anything but thank you. Thank you is always a good idea.

2. Think before you click send, share, or tweet…if you do at all. Anything you put in writing could come back and bite you in the ass. You can delete tweets, blog posts, and FB statuses, but someone may see it and share it before you can erase it. The internet is scary powerful.

3. Vent privately. If you absolutely have to put your thoughts in writing, do it someplace no one will ever see it. This is why I keep a journal. I can rant all I want and no one knows except me, and I feel better when I’m done. (Or see how crazy I am.) Sending an email to a friend isn’t entirely safe. If it’s in writing and on the internet, it can fall into the wrong hands. My computer is always connected to the internet, so my password protected journal could be accessed by someone who knows what they’re doing. (I watch too much Leverage. Dammit, Hardison!)

4. It’s not about you. It’s about your book. But if it is about you, stay professional. Some reviewers do attack the author, and when we’re attacked, it’s natural to want to fight back. Don’t do it. Engaging in a flame war helps no one. You can’t argue with an unreasonable person. Okay, you can, but you won’t change their mind.

5. Learn from it and move on. If more than one reviewer or beta reader is pointing out the same problem, give it some consideration. A couple of people have called Secret’s heroine, Sara Jensen, immature and annoying. I can’t stand immature heroines, so hearing that I wrote one really hurt. But Secret is being re-released in November, so I’m going to have my brilliant content editor take a look at it and see what we can do to make Sara less annoying. She does grow up though, so maybe…. Let it go, Amelia. 

6. Have a drink. Actually, I never drink when I’m depressed, so scratch that. Bad idea.

Bottom line: however you choose to deal, do it privately. Don’t drag others down with you, and don’t retaliate.

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” ~Trashy’s mom

If you’re an author, how do you deal with a bad review or harsh criticism? If you’re a reviewer, how do you deal with bad author behavior? Do you have positive stories to share?

About Amelia James

Amelia James started reading steamy romance novels in junior high, but her mom took them away from her, so she started daydreaming instead. After she got married, she wrote some of her naughtier daydreams down and sent them to Playgirl magazine. Two of them got published. She kept daydreaming and writing stories until her dirty stories turned into trashy books. She lives in Colorado, but she’ll always be a loyal Wisconsin Cheesehead. When she’s not lusting after her next bad boy hero, she looks for inspiration in sci-fi and action movies, football players, bloodsucking lawyers, muscle cars, and kick-butt chicks.
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10 Responses to Authors Behaving Badly – What you can do about it

  1. Amelia-great advice. As a writer and a book reviewer I made a decision to only review books that I liked. I don’t want to be the one giving “constructive criticism”. I have cried for hours over 1 star reviews written by hateful trolls : ))

  2. Kendall Grey says:

    I get shitloads of crappy reviews along with a lot of wonderful ones. I try my best not to even read reviews anymore. You are so right when you said “you won’t change their mind.” People are assholes. They don’t care about your work the way you do, and engaging in an argument about it will only make YOU look bad, no matter how right you are.

    Sometimes though, I wish there was a way to review reviewers. There are a lot of *fantastic* ones out there, but some leave a lot to be desired. When a reviewer can’t even spell the character’s name correctly, rates a book they don’t finish, engages in bullying/author bashing, or can’t get the facts from the story straight, it tells *me* a lot about them. But potential readers often take that person’s opinion like it’s gospel without knowing any better. If someone else comes along and reads that review, *I* look like the dumbass, and there’s no way for me to defend myself. That’s the part I hate most about reviews–the helpless feeling/loss of control when you *could* defend yourself, but if you do, you’re called a psycho author going crazy on reviewers. I’ve trained myself to shut up, lie down, and take it. Feels like intellectual rape, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s the price we pay for putting our hearts and souls out there. :-(

    I’m still searching for that thick skin. Let me know if you find it.

    • It’s an awful feeling knowing that if you defend yourself, you’ll be labeled crazy. But in the end, it’s better to keep quiet than to call attention to the unfair review. I think thick skin has to grow…and grow back.

  3. Basia Rose says:

    “Have a drink.”

    When you’re nowhere near a computer!
    (Still shaking my head at something stupid – but not offensive – I put on Facebook last night after a few glasses of champagne!)

  4. Basia Rose says:

    The most shocking thing I’ve seen an author do was release the personal details – and photos – of reviewers they disagreed with, and the reviewers’ families too. But then, I’m sure everyone’s heard about that in recent weeks.
    I know some authors love reading reviews, but you need really thick skin if you do that.
    Rule #1 – NEVER stalk your reviewers!

  5. Great points. Writing is such a personal thing that I think it makes the criticism sting that much more.
    I’m not sure if this is exactly related, but I’ve read some rough drafts for a friend and then when I make suggestions or outright say that something doesn’t work for me, she defends what she wrote and sort of argues with me. As a result, I now don’t give her the down and dirty critique that I think a good writer needs. I correct a few typos and say “gee, that was good”. Since we are friends outside of writing, this seems like a wise way to go, but not from a writing perspective.

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