Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When Authors Attack

Momma Said Knock You Out

It's a rough, tough world out there for authors these days. With social media sights like Goodreads, Library Thing, and Shelfari, the rise of book blogs, and the networking vehicles of Facebook and Twitter, it is nearly impossible to hide from what the world thinks of you and your novel.

Most novelists have jumped in feet first, making themselves accessible by creating their own personal accounts on these sites in an effort to update the public and remain in contact with their fans. They review the work of other authors, comment on the reviews readers have written on their books, and even participate in online group read discussions to answer whatever questions readers may have, thanking members for helping to spread the good word.

But what happens when the word that is being spread about an authors book is not so... good?

Do they have a right to initiate contact and plead their case? Should they shame the person, degrade the person, or beg the person to reconsider, to ask the reader or reviewer to put themselves in the authors shoes and see how damaging a bad review can be to their image and their livelihood? What if they created mass fake "profile" accounts to back themselves up, show support for themselves, or force reviews and votes to get their novels out to the public?

Butting Heads Is a Bad Idea

The urge to retaliate, to want to show someone the error in their thinking, leads to nothing more than a locking-of-the-horns. A head-to-head battle of ego and willpower. An unprofessional verbal catfight.

It's really boils down to a case of intent versus impact.

The authors intent, when they reach out to someone who shared negative feedback, is to persuade them to take a second look at what they wrote, or said, or decided. I believe we are all in agreement here, yes? The intent is never to harass or bully someone. The author may be seeking the persons empathy by describing how hard they worked on their book, the numerous attempts at getting someone to sign it, the years they devoted to promoting it, or by sharing a sad, heartbreaking story to get you to change your mind.

The impact, however, is quite different. It can be received by the reader/reviewer as pushy, forceful, or unprofessional. It may leave a bad taste in the persons mouth, turning them off of your future or past novels. It can be seen as an attack, and when faced with the threat of an attack, natural human reaction is "fight or flight". Do I engage this author in an attempt to further explain myself? Or do I ignore them?

I Choose To Fight

When my integrity is called out on the line, I choose to defend it, and for good reason (though not always with good outcomes!).

As creator and sole moderator of the goodreads group The Next Best Book Club, I owe my members a friendly, safe, and enjoyable experience. I love being able to share great books with them, and allowing them the opportunity to interact with their favorite authors.

When a member alerts me to a situation that is occurring within the group that revolves around the behavior of an author or the way they promote their novel, I owe it to that member to investigate and, if necessary, control it.

In my eyes, if an author is ignoring group guidelines or attacks a member (or myself, for that matter) due to negative or constructive feedback, ignoring the situation not only allows the author to believe their behavior is acceptable, it also sets a standard to anyone else who follows that that behavior is acceptable. Silence is acceptance.

In the early days of TNBBC, I used to banish the authors (and new members) who misbehaved to "The Spammers Circle in Hell" - which was a comical way to showcase those who felt they were above the rules that were created for behavior within the group. I have since grown up, and also understand I have more options than simply embarrassing people.

I am proud of the relationships I have built with authors, publishers, and lit agencies over the years and I understand the power and influence I can have in regards to them. Wasn't it spiderman's uncle who said "With great power comes great responsibility"? I choose to use my influence for good.

Putter There Pardner

Authors and reviewers/readers/moderators should not be working against one another. We should be seeking out opportunities to work with one another. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live in a world where there was no such thing as a negative review? I know I sure would!

But that is unrealistic, isn't it? So how do we find a middle ground? How can we give an author constructive feedback without turning things into a verbal beat down? How can an author remain open to feedback, and reduce the natural urge to defend themselves and their novels?

Looking for your feedback and experiences! Bloggers, reviewers, writers, authors, publishers.... What do you struggle with when it comes to interaction? What do you find helpful, hurtful, unnecessary? Let's reach out a hand and build partnerships. Let's get past the defensiveness, let's put the ego to bed, and throw away those personal barbs. Let's get better at giving each other feedback.


  1. Amen amen amen! I've had some trouble with authors coming in the College Students group and spamming! Can we say Micha?! I know he haunted your group for a while, too! He was a sneaky little sucker. Always creating other accounts!

    I think Goodreads and places like it will turn readers away when authors get a little to defensive and up in people's faces. Not everyone wants to have contact with the authors. They want to read a book and move on. They don't want to defend their opinion. I am fearful that some of these bad eggs are going to ruin it for everybody else. I like having contact with authors, as long as they can just respect my opinion as a reader. I might not LOVE your book. It happens. A book isn't for everyone. I've never seen a book that has had literally ALL glowing reviews and authors need to respect and deal with it and learn what to do with negative feedback.

    Good discussion!

  2. Oh Goodness, I totally remember Micha. He was relentless. He felt any publicity was good publicity, so the more people he pissed off and upset, the better for him!

    Sadly, there is little a site like Goodreads can do to monitor and deter people from doing things like create fake accounts...

  3. This post caught my eye because it is something I think about very often, as I am both an author and reviewer.

    As an author, when I receive negative reviews I simply ignore them. I always think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I can't make everyone happy, plus replying to negative reviews will only make me look bad, no matter what I say!

    As a reviewer, I make a point of always offering concrit and trying to phrase things as politely as possible. But I have had authors rail at me -- or even worse -- post snarky comments about me on their websites/twitter. This annoys me as I feel I wasted time reviewing their work, and that perhaps I shouldn't have even bothered. Plus it makes me less inclined to ever read/review anything of theirs again, so it's lose-lose all round.

    I think at the end of the day your behavior will influence how people see you. If a reviewer writes a poor, rude review for no reason at all, people will realize when they're reading it. If an author freaks out over a negative (but well-written) review, people are smart enough to realize what's happening.

    Personally, I'd rather get the negative review than no review at all. At least that way I know what I'm doing wrong and can try to make it better!

  4. A.M.

    I love the way you add both perspectives to this post! Being a reader/reviewer AND writer, you know what authors want AND what a reviewer should be doing.

    I whole heartedly agree that the intent is clear in most cases, people are not as stupid as some of us might think they are. When reviews are loaded with barbs, or comments are calling someone out on the rug, we can all see it and feel it.

    Thanks so much for your input!