Friday, November 29, 2013

Authors behaving badly: You're not a special little snowflake #writing #dec #asmg #nov

Last week, a friend of mine self-published her YA fantasy book. I encouraged her to write the story but also to go about it in a professional way (i.e. professional editing & cover). As anyone who follows this blog knows, I enjoy supporting fellow authors, which is obvious from the vast amount I have showcased and interviewed (see most popular blog posts to your right).

Well, I work nonstop these days between writing, starting my own publishing services company, and working a part-time job to make the ends meet. Seriously, it is 24/7. When I didn't respond to her text message right away, the wheels in her brain started turning. "Amber must be jealous." Then when she received a 2 star review from someone who had my book on her wish list from over a year ago (Sept 2012) and who also happened to be a Sandra Brown fan (she has millions of fans), this new author accused ME of being behind it. (I sell a lot of books…doesn't mean every fan is my buddy.) While I was working and living my own life without making a big show about her book, she created a mental story about how I am threatened by her mere existence in the writing world.

*heavy sigh* Really?! I have four books in the world, one of which has reached international best seller status (my memoir). I have a signed contract with a major NY publisher and a new release coming out in two weeks. More than that, I am part of multiple writing teams where the authors there will tell you I am one of the first to help promote them. I am the last person who would deliberately hurt anyone else, especially because I know how this writing business works. It's tough out there! That's why we need each other.

Get over yourself, people! Especially all of you new authors who think that uploading your book makes you special. I have family and friends who have never bought any of my books let alone reviewed them (which I don't expect). That's the reality of publishing. Your work is out there and no one may care except the general reader, which is all that matters anyway.

Was I given a chance to discuss this like an adult? Nope. Then she received another poor review from a writer I admit knowing, but this is not someone I "control" or who is vindictive in any way. She actually comments on the review on Amazon that "Amber" must be involved and that the reviews are lies. (I heard about this after the fact as well because I've been enjoying time with my family and friends over Thanksgiving…you know, living my life.) 

Authors need to show some class when receiving reviews and not blame people they know in "real life." The fact is that at the time of that first review, I had been too busy working to download her book let alone read it. But that's not the point here…being professional is. Instead of stalking your reviewers, read what they have to say, take it for what it is, and continue doing what you're doing. Period. Do not comment. Do not hunt them down. Do not "pray for them" or tell them they "have darkness in their hearts." Seriously, those were the author comments on the review. Do not do that! 

With the permission of the reviewer, I'm posting the review here so you can see that it is written professionally with constructive criticism. In fact, despite the 2.5 star rating, the reviewer seems to actually like the book. You'll see that it is written in a constructive way without any hateful tones. (and why would there be hate? This is a professional reviewer who has reviewed many books. In fact, her Amazon reviewer ranking is very high.) You can see the actual review and subsequent comments here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3BKHB89RF8ZU9/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3BKHB89RF8ZU9
Customer Review

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spark of a great series but falls shortNovember 27, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Grail Court (The Thalo Series) (Kindle Edition)
Overall, I have to give this 2 1/2 stars. While the premise of the story has promise, the delivery falls flat. The formatting issues alone made it difficult to read. I have three different types of kindles and on each one the layout of the paragraphs looked terrible and choppy. I'm not sure if the use of mixed lower case and capital letters in the chapter titles ( sORT oF lIKE tHIS) was meant to be artistic or cute, but it was extremely jarring and pulled me out of the story. Multiple grammatical and style errors fill the pages in this one and could have been avoided with the help of an editor...one who knows fantasy in particular.

The teenage heroine Cassie seemed to have some spunk but she was never fully developed. None of the characters were taken further than the superficial. The author made sure we knew exactly what color hair and eyes all of them have, but never gave any insight into what makes them tick. As a reader, I couldn't get invested in the characters enough to care what happened to them...but the spark is there. The author just needs to develop her skills as a storyteller further. She has a potentially fabulous fantasy series here but as it stands now, it's lost in a world that's TOLD to us instead of SHOWN. Telling me Cassie is sitting outside listening to the night sounds is rather boring, but if the author would have described those sounds in detail, I could have pictured it all as her characters were living it.

I'd be willing to read this book again if it's rewritten and edited properly to bring out the story I know is there. Bring me into the world so I can see it in my mind and don't just assume I can see what's in yours.


No one likes hearing a poor critique of their work. Responding, accusing, stalking the reviewers past reviews & wish lists, are all horrible no-no's. Doing any of the above is technically called author misconduct. Don't do it! 

On Goodreads, as an example, I have nearly 180 ratings for one of my novels. Most are 4 and 5 star, but there are a handful of 1 and 2 stars in the mix. That's simply how this business works. Have I tracked down those who dared rate me low? No. You can't please everyone all of the time. The novel in question is still one of my most successful and one of my personal favorites. I have an author friend who found some of my most beloved characters "likable but annoying at times." We're still friends, go figure!

Listen. At the end of the day, I'd rather be handed an honest review like the one above that's written with precise feedback than simply receive a negative rating and wonder what they didn't like. Take it for what it is.

As an author, I commented on a 4 star review where the reviewer had given detailed feedback. I actually commented to say thank you for her insights because they were something I hadn't heard before--and saying "thank you" got me in trouble as an author. Like I said, this is a tough business.

You're not a special little snowflake, whether you're a writer or not. The world does not revolve around you. People have lives of their own and are busy trying to make it all work. Don't play the victim simply because not everyone out there thinks you're amazing.

And whatever you do--don't retaliate, don't stalk, don't accuse, don't comment, and don't go off your medication! If you do, you may end up burning the bridge that could have helped you the most.

2 comments:

  1. One thing I learned is to ignore the stars. I have had 3 stars and 5 star ratings and they both said the same thing..."I liked the book. It was fun. I want to read the next one." Some use stars to rate a book on how much they liked it. Others (usually writers) rate it as a piece of literature, so five stars is Pulitzer Prize material. (So 3 stars from them is very generous!)

    A review is really written for potential readers not for the author's ego. It's best to lay out any weaknesses in the book. The reader can then decide if that is important enough to them to make them want to avoid reading it. For instance: too much gore, too much cute, too much romance, too much sex might be a turn off for some and a selling point for others.

    Come on, these reviewers aren't getting paid, they are doing you a favor. They are taking the chance you might stalk them. Give them some respect!

    So listen to Amber!

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  2. I learned long before I ever had a published novel, DO NOT RESPOND to reviews - good, bad, ugly, beautiful. It's unprofessional to get into the thick of it with your reviewers. We would all love glowing 5-star reviews on everything we publish, but that's not very realistic. Professionalism is of utmost importance. I'm less likely to review a novel if I see the author has responded to previous reviews - especially since I review using my real name.

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