Over the past week, in the midst of all the other stuff I've been working on, I was sort of riveted by the various dramas going on on Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, and at least one author blog. In each of these, reader/reviewers posted negative reviews of a book, which was followed by various negative reactions on the part of either the authors or, in one case, a friend of the author. In all cases, feelings were hurt, harsh words were spoken, and mistakes were made. In no cases was the author's career helped in any way whatsoever. In a few cases, I think it did concrete and measurable harm. [I don't think I've ever written a paragraph with so many passive sentence constructions]
All this stuff got me thinking, about lots of things. Why people are able to talk to each other this way on the internet (that's for a later post), how things have changed with the rise of a more democratic vs. professional reviewing process (also a later post), and what people can do to avoid making mistakes like the ones I've been reading about over the last week.
There have been a few extremely good posts about how authors can avoid acting out online. One of the most recent is Lynne Kelly Hoenig's entry on how to respond to negative reviews. Lynne is not only hilarious, but also wise (and has a book coming out in May). I strongly suggest you get over to her blog and follow her!
I have to say, I can't do much to improve on her advice, which includes some concrete ways to lower your blood pressure and lighten your mood when confronted with potentially hurtful information. But there's another piece to this, a part all of us can play--and that is of the friend.
The writing community is vast and incredibly supportive (and, from what I've seen, the reviewing/book blogger community is quite similar). We empathize with each other, cheer each other on, and often band together when threatened. Buuuuuuut ... I think there are better and worse ways to provide support.
Here's an example:
Author: OMG! This reviewer posted a horrible review of my book! How could she?!?
Friend: No way! Your book is awesomely awesome! She doesn't know what she's talking about.
Author: Yeah! I worked SO hard on that book, and she has no idea what that's like! And her review was crap! A personal attack!
Friend: That bitch! She has no right to do that! Someone should put her in her place!
Author: You're right! *sits down at keyboard to compose career-killing reviewer-bashing opus*
[yes, I know this is grossly oversimplified, and I'm sorry about that.]
Now ... that friend was being really supportive of the author, right? The friend had the author's back, was totally on her side. Yet ... did that friend help the author think rationally about the situation? Did that friend's "support" ultimately work toward the author's well-being, or was it the opposite?
|I'm thinking of using this as|
my author photo. Thoughts?
I have a good friend you've probably heard me mention before: Brigid Kemmerer. Brigid is ace at the talk-down. She's really frank and honest, but supportive at the same time. So, on a few occasions, I've emailed her and been like, "OH NO THIS IS SO UNFAIR I CAN'T FREAKING BELIEVE BLAH BLAH BLAH ..."
And Brigid always says, "Oh, that must really hurt. I totally get where you're coming from. But ... do you want my honest opinion?"
Hahaha. This is always followed by her gently challenging me and helping me see the situation from various different perspectives. She NEVER fails to validate my feelings, but she also never gives in to the OUTRAGE impulse. In other words, she never whips me up. When I get to the point where I have to deal with reviews, Brigid is the first person I'm going to seek out, because I know she will hug me ... and then smack some sense into me before ever condoning anything unwise.
I am fortunate to have many sensible friends like this. Lydia Kang and Justine Dell, to name a few others. Do you have friends like this? Friends who will sympathize with you while holding you back when you feel like going on a rampage? Are you a friend like this? Ultimately, the author is responsible for her* actions, but if she's lucky, she has friends who help her out--sometimes by ripping the keyboard from her hands and emailing her the link to a baby animal video.
Be sure to check out Lydia Kang's Medical Monday post, and Laura Diamond's Mental Health Monday post!
*By the way, I don't mean to exclude male authors. I just like to have subject-pronoun agreement without using her/his all the time.