Monday, March 3, 2014

Angry and Ranting

What is it that makes someone think he can put out a product for consumers to purchase, and not a single person in the entire world is permitted to dislike it? 

Does everyone buy Coke instead of Pepsi? Does everyone have to love polo shirts? Heaven forbid we were all required to love Fifty Shades of Grey or else be subject to a sharp rebuke. People feel free to express their love or hate for Tolkien, Hemingway, or Poe, perhaps because they’re already dead. Last time I checked, Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't pop out of the grave to haunt someone because a reader didn't find the Little House books captivating. Nor would I expect that she sat in her home, writing nasty letters to those who weren't her fans while she was alive.

I'm so angry I could just spit. It's one of those rare times when I'm furious about something that's not my business and not in my control—when I'm indignant on the behalf of people I don't know, whose lives will not change in any way, regardless of my anger.

Yes, I'm talking about life on the Internet.

A few days ago, I witnessed two author meltdowns on Goodreads. As is always the case, they started off with being on the receiving end of a one-star review for each of their books. Follows basic procedure, right? Read. Like or don't. Review. The end.

Wrong, wrong, and wronger.

Not the end. An end would be merciful.

The final step these days has moved right along from "review" to "defend your review/rating and then have your name smeared across every social media available."

I want to call out the first author in question, but I don't even want to give her any recognition by typing her name out here. A review was posted, and she jumped right in and attacked the reviewer. Friends on both sides joined in.

The reviewer had posted portions of the book so all could see why she rated it so low. It appeared to me that the author had somehow ingested a thesaurus and vomited all the words four syllables and higher into a manuscript. Truthfully (and I'm a big fan of the thesaurus, myself), I was glad the original reviewer explained some of the passages featured, because I would never have gotten what was being said.

The author removed all her own comments from Goodreads, but moved over to Facebook. There she began to spew some horrid stuff: shouting out names of people she deemed trolls, posting links to their Amazon profiles, and encouraging others to harass this reviewer and anyone who showed support of this review. She stooped as low as to call one of the reviewers "The Creature from the Black Baboon."

The part that made me the most angry—and believe me, it was tough to choose just one—was when one of the author's friends commented on one of the Facebook posts, saying, "[Author name], you really should take a step back and get some control. You're doing a lot of damage here, and may be alienating your readers with this type of stuff," and the author replied (and I am NOT kidding you here), "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing. My sales are going through the roof since this started."

What?!? She was creating a horrible situation on purpose? And reveling in it?

Apparently she was, because she began repeating the mantra, "Even 'snublicity' is good publicity!" and thanking her "trolls" for all the free promo. She accused them of creating Amazon accounts simply to trash her book, ignoring that they all had established accounts with multiple reviews of other books and products. Facts were not needed or welcome.

As I was in the middle of writing this post, a second author started another attack on a reader who dared to mark his book as a "don't want to read" based on her reading of the sample of his book.

Mr. Author attacked the reviewer on her own blog, calling her names in the comment section of a recent post. She responded with facts and restraint. He went back to the original review and began a long list of insults against her on Goodreads. Her only response at first was to copy his posts for the record, since we all know the pattern by now: hurl insults today, remove all your posts tomorrow. His posts (mostly unanswered) continued to come, sounding more and more unhinged with each moment.

I finally got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore, and decided to stand up for the reviewer. I need to make it clear here that I do not engage in Internet arguments as a general rule. People are not going to have opinions/life beliefs changed when shouted at by a stranger online, and that's all there is to it. But I can't sit idly by while someone attacks an innocent party, and I feel it's important to show support in those situations.

I was embarrassed for the attacking author, because he was making a colossal fool of himself by acting worse than a child. There was no reason, other than immaturity and a bruised ego on the part of the book's author, for any type of response. If she had rated it four stars with no explanation, I don't think he would have attacked her, shouting, "Why?"

The man was not rational. He kept going whether anyone was responding or not. He even went to another thread to complain, thus ensuring that more people moved over to "his" page and were witnesses to his ranting. I should probably mention that his author profile had been deleted after a tantrum two weeks prior, where he’d gotten a GR member banned for bullying that didn’t actually occur, so he had created a new profile as a non-author and was using that for his attacks.

It’s a shame, really, that there are selfish authors like these two who are unable to accept the fact that not everyone out there will be their fans.

Most self-published authors have more class than that, and are concerned with next year’s sales in addition to today’s. They’re insulted that the actions of a few are tainting the reputation of the many, because they have to work twice as hard to get people to even look at their books, much less review them.

I will never forget the names of those tantrum-throwing authors and will be quick to discourage others from supporting their work. I won’t paint the others with the same brush, but there are many who will, and who have already dismissed SPAs as too much bother and high drama. What a shame for all those who work hard to put out a high-quality product, only to have a few bad apples spoil the reputation of all.


17 comments:

  1. Wow! I wonder if the first author created the bad review so she could have a fit and sell books. If that's what it takes to sell a book, then I'll write some crap and throw a tantrum over it.

    Love,
    Janie, who doesn't really have that much nastiness inside her, at least hardly ever

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    1. I would have thought the same thing, except I know the reviewer's name from other posts. I guess if we're ever hard up for cash and suddenly decide we care nothing for our reputations, we can put out a load of garbage in book form and then complain that nobody is smart enough to "get" us.

      I was so angry when I wrote this that I had to have S.K. edit it for me to remove almost half the word count. Physical violence never sounded so good. :)

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  2. Lol. I think I might know the guy you're talking about in your second example, and I have to admit, I just flicked through Goodreads to see if I could find either one. Yes, I'm one of those people that has to slow down and gawk at the scene of a bad accident or a train wreck.

    Part of the problem is a society which rewards people simply for trying. We have a fair part of a generation that was never allowed to fail, even when they had all the wrong answers. Now these people are out in the world, and they can't even comprehend that, yes, there are in fact, wrong answers and they don't get rewarded anyway.

    As far as making sales off of drama, that's easy enough to find out, just check out their book's rating on Amazon. I started Monday with a ranking of 845,000, sold two copies, and rose to 114,000. :-D Numbers change pretty quick, so it's not hard to tell whether a book is actually selling or not.

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    1. Shaun, yes, you know exactly who the guy is (and I won't say "gentleman," because he has proved he's not). I also checked on his Amazon page to see if he's like that everywhere, and of course he is pleasant on that site because it's an obvious "reviews = sales" site, I think. He's had three each of five-star, four-star, and three-star reviews and never once said a mean word.

      There's something about Goodreads that allows people the illusion of being sequestered from the "real" world, and I think many newer authors forget that it's primarily a site for readers. The connection with writers is wonderful, and I love that aspect of it, but when an author behaves badly there, I get the idea the he/she doesn't grasp that they're not complaining around the breakfast table with Mom and Dad only.

      I wrote last week about taking an editor's test (back in August of last year) and failing miserably, before I really got the hang of what I was doing and the resources to help. The test creator/administrator said every person who had taken it had failed, and I was the only one who asked for help afterward so I could become a better editor. All the others responded with hostility and insults, and as a result, she stopped offering the test. I just couldn't imagine that. How could anything but honesty help me in any way?

      I never want to be the recipient of the "Hooray! You showed up!" award.

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  3. Arg. That is so frustrating. Yeah, a 1 star review hurts, but it's my opinion that responding to a review of any kind is completely unprofessional.

    The best thing to do, is either NOT read them (very difficult), or, after receiving a negative review, go look at some of the best-sellers and read THEIR 1-2 star reviews and realize that you're in good company.

    Sigh.

    On behalf of professional indie authors everywhere, I am so sorry you had to witness those temper tantrums.

    And ditto to Shaun's second paragraph. It is so true.

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    1. Jenelle, I would imagine a one-star would hurt. Our egos are closely tied to what we present to the public, and if they reject "it," then somehow we feel they've rejected "us." But yelling, kicking and screaming never changed anyone's mind about their own opinion.

      I don't think there's a single author out there who hasn't had SOMEONE dislike them, whether it's because of their writing or their lifestyle or political views. If I were an author, I'd be way too nosy to avoid reading reviews. :) But I would have the good sense to know my frustrations are best left in the privacy of my own home.

      I think a good part of it (and this is me, waxing philosophical) is that people define themselves by how others see them or their possessions. We've often told our kids (currently 20, 18, and 13) that if they don't know who they are, they'll exhaust themselves trying to adjust to fit the ever-changing whims of society. If I remember correctly, you're a former homeschooler, right? So you can completely understand the idea.

      Public tantrums scream (no pun intended), "I'm insecure and I need outsiders to tell me I'm okay!" At least that's my view of it.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

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  4. Shaun had a good point - everyone is so obsessed with the 'no losers' mantra, but in real life, people do lose, and you have to learn to deal with that.
    Authors just shouldn't respond. I've had a couple reviews and ratings that were created just for the sake of being mean, and all I can do is ignore them and move on.

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    1. You're right, Alex. People do lose on occasion, and the way they respond to that is what shows their true character. Anyone can be pleasant when they're on a winning streak and things are going well.

      As for those who see every low/negative review as bullying or an unfair evaluation, I should think it would be a simple thing to evaluate the genuine from the "just plain mean" variety. Not responding is really the only way of taking the higher ground.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I know your blog schedule keeps you hopping. :)

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  5. I agree with the comment here -- responding only makes things worse. Best to move on and worry about other and more important things. Some people are only happy when trying to make others unhappy.
    Best,
    Silvia @
    SilviaWrites

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  6. I wonder why that is, Silvia. I am most certainly NOT happy when making others unhappy, and I try my best not to do it on purpose. But some people live for the drama they create around them.

    Me? I'd rather be happy...with chocolate, of course.

    Thanks for stopping by to read and comment! I look forward to reading your A to Z posts in April.

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  7. It's amazing to me how thin skinned authors can be. Not everyone is going to love your writing. That's just the way the world works. Frankly, you know what the world needs? MORE bad reviews. I hate going to a self published novel that has solid 5 star reviews, and all of them are blatantly biased reviews left by friends and family. That doesn't tell me anything about the book or its quality.

    We have a self published acquaintance who, admittedly, needs work. She has promise, but she's releasing books way too prematurely (she's still feeling out her writing voice, her work needs better editing, etc). Well, her new book has 15 5-star reviews from friends and family and one 3 star review from a random reader that simply says the story is a little disjointed, there are a few spelling errors, and the editing could have used work.

    Rather than take this to heart and use it to grow, she had all of her friends attack this review and vote it down. She ranted on Facebook about how they're clearly an idiot. And yet, honestly? That single review is probably the most truthful and genuine review she's ever gotten.

    I feel like Captain Obvious saying this, but if you didn't want to know people's honest opinions of your writing, you shouldn't have released it out into the public. If all you want is your friends' and family's pat on the back, then vanity publish 10-20 copies and hand 'em out to said friends and family at Christmas.

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    1. I could kiss you, Captain Obvious, for those final words: if you don't want the public's opinion, don't show the public your work. If you want someone to pay for your book, then by publishing, you have promised them a product of quality which has gone through all the proper steps before being released. Research & development is really no different for any product across the board.

      I feel bad for your acquaintance, because she's not only hurting herself with her present actions, but she's depriving herself of the opportunity to learn and become better at what she does. I have to wonder how many of her five-star friends and family secretly wished they'd had the cojones to be as honest.

      I always read the one-star reviews first to see if they're valid. One book I was checking out had a one-star that said, "This book sucked. It was so depressing." Well, duh. It was about a child who had cancer and died from it. You couldn't figure out the "sad" angle from the book blurb?

      But if a one-star review mentions numerous spelling errors, typos, plot issues and general mayhem, then I'll take it seriously. On one occasion, I actually contacted the author to see if the problems were still there and was told the book had been re-edited...and it wasn't a bad book, so I was glad I'd asked, and even more glad that he'd taken his critical reviews to heart.

      Thin skin and easily bruised egos have no place in the public realm. I've even read an author's reply on a GR thread which cautioned everyone to "be kind, because your negative reviews could send someone into a depression or push them to suicide; if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Um...no. I'm not taking the weight of someone else's anxiety on my shoulders and feeling responsible in any way for the reaction of a stranger to my honest review of her book. If it's out there and it stinks, it's my responsibility to at least warn others not to waste their money.

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  8. I think I know who you are talking about... I think I sharpen my Bat'leth and go hunting. Just kidding. I have received a 1 star rating from someone who bought my book and said he couldn't get through the first chapter because "it was just that bad" I got a 2 star from a reader on Goodreads that got my book in a giveaway. He admitted he skipped chapters and stated they must have been fluff because he still knew what was going on. Yet, he says later that events happened without foreshadowing and certain sections were rip offs of other stories. I think his complaints come from not reading all the chapters. He also claimed I ripped off Avatar because an alien race in my book was blue. (only similarity) I say all this because I did not respond to either review. I could have went off on a tirade but I didn't. I am offfended that a person who expects people to pay for their drivel and by god have to like it. Those kind of authors give professional authors a bad name. And Lynda I am glad you took up for the reviewer. As you may have noticed you don't see me on GR much anymore. I have 0 tolerance for the drama.

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    1. oh in case your wondering the typos are intentional.

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    2. First of all, J.T., thank you for the intentional typos. They gave me something to keep my mind sharp while reading. :P

      I once read a trilogy of books that had a guy with a really cool ring his uncle gave him. It was kind of wordy, and I skipped every few pages because they were always eating or talking about food, or describing the countryside. But what do you know?? Right at the end, they're throwing the ring into the middle of a mountain and letting the thing melt. What the heck? What kind of gratitude was that? Maybe I should have read all those in-between pages, but I can't imagine they would have cleared things up much. That Tolkien guy wasn't much for detail, I guess.

      A blue alien...shame on you. You probably didn't know it, but most of the solid colors are copyrighted now, and if you want to write about an alien, it's either going to have to be polka-dotted or checkered. Stripes can't be used anymore, either, according to the Siegfried and Roy Act of 2010. Bummer.

      I am seriously sorry you got some low reviews, though. Whether they're justified or snarky, I'm sure they sting. You were wise to keep from responding, because that type of thing never ends well, no matter how kindly you phrase things.

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  9. I have, so far, not been witness to any of the crazy defensive negativity you speak of, and I hope never to see it. I have one critical review (2 stars) who complained of formatting issues. I asked if he had bought it a whole back or if he had the new one ( I wanted to know if the issues were still current). The same day I get a 4 star that also mentions the formatting...and so I check.

    I had forgotten to put the source file into HTML. It looked AWFUL. Without those reviews, I wouldn't have known.

    An opinion is always right - for the person who holds it. Decide if the opinion holds weight to you, and trust others to do the same.

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    1. Jason, if you haven't seen it yet, you will eventually. I think there was just such a rash of them, all in a row, that it stunned everyone into inactivity for a while. But the natives will get restless, don't worry.

      You have a terrific attitude about the reviews: the opinion is right for the person who holds it. No one can argue with a person on his feelings being valid or not. And you did the right thing by looking into the formatting complaint to see if they were right...and probably saved yourself a lot more comments like that down the road.

      There are reviews which are helpful and reviews which are snarky. Sift what's good from what's not, use it and move on. But never argue. You'll only lose.

      Glad you stopped by to comment!

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I love comments, and will always answer them, partly because I like having the last word and partly because I just like getting to know the people who read my blog.