I recently had the displeasure of reading some comments left by a disgruntled person on a fellow author’s blog following a celebratory moment of success. The comments left were so harsh, I was shocked that such hate could come about from another’s success.
Before we continue, I totally stand behind the freedom of speech, but there is a fine line between expressing your educated opinion and personally attacking someone.
Let’s put this in perspective.
If a reader posts, “I have no clue why this book is so successful. I found the dialog stilted and the plot lacking substance,” I can presume that the reader did not connect with the material. Got it. Everyone has different experiences from reading the same paragraph. Even now, you as a reader, are forming interpretations of what I’m writing here because that is how adults process new material. We equate and compare new input to past knowledge, experiences, and situations. And no, I’m not just pulling that out of the air; I have read and studied tons of material on how adults learn because I used to be a corporate trainer, training adults, so my statement comes from years of psychological study. It is why many book reviews refer to and compare to other published material that the reader has read prior. “This book is a rip-off of Twilight.” Sound familiar?
Back to point. If a reader posts, “There is no way this book is worthy of 5 stars. You must have paid for all of those reviews and tricked the publisher into buying this load of crap, you fat bitch. Your writing sucks. My dog can crap better work,” well, to me, that is way beyond a product review.
So I’m left wondering – when did we as a population of consumers get so harshly opinionated? Can I presume or assume that the reviewer who felt compelled to “tell us how they really felt” is a disgruntled consumer or can he/she be a frustrated writer whose own work is not as successful?
I don’t know about the type of home you grew up in, but my mother (and many others) reinforced the principle, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” But then again, I, as a consumer, have the full rights to be vocal and to rate a product any way I choose if it didn’t meet my expectations.
So let’s talk about expectations. Books, novels, are a work of art. Like a painting, movie, or a song, they are left to be interpreted by YOU. Years ago, when I started reading, I never once had the desire or urge to write to an author to tell him how much his/her work sucked or may have offended me. I often refer back to one of my first experiences reading “adult” material, which was “Flowers in the Attic” by V.C. Andrews. It was brilliantly written, compelling, but dealt with very controversial topics for the time. I’m sure she received a ton of flack back when her novel first published, but no matter how much negative press she received, the book took off and was loved by millions. I couldn’t put the paperback down either (And Fran, if you’re reading this, I still have your paperback. I know it’s been like 30 years since you lent it to me. You can kick my butt for it next time I see you. The book is on my bookshelf in the loft. I dust it often.)
When you buy a book, you are expected to be entertained for X amount of pages. Let’s face it; that’s what reading IS. It is entertainment. As a novelist, it is my job to entertain you. Some may find me funny, some may find me annoying. You are entitled to form your own opinion.
But when you reach out and post your opinion in a personal space, like on the artist’s very own blog, you are now directly infringing on the artist’s rights to have a blemish-free marketing tool. As the owner of the marketing tool, you shouldn’t feel pressured or guilty if you decide to remove the hate-fueled rant left on your platform.
I think out of most of the “artists” out there, authors have made themselves the most accessible and available to interacting with their following. If you wrote to Channing Tatum to tell him how hot he was in “Magic Mike” would he send you back an “aw, thanks so much! Hugs!” message to you?
Maybe he would. I haven’t written to Channing so I honestly don’t know. Would I send a message to Channing Tatum? Hell no. If you’ve read my novels, you know where I stand on reaching out to movie stars.
Do I respond to everyone who writes to me? Hell yes. (Disclaimer – I don’t really answer mail on Goodreads or Twitter. I’m a Facebooker to the core. Hook up with me there and you’re guaranteed to get a reply.)
The point to all of this is this: If you want to reach out and connect, do so positively. If you didn’t like a novel, rate the work without resorting to name calling and being offensive. (No, we as authors don’t have that many well-connected family members, family with tons of Amazon accounts to leave fake reviews, and most of us have been on a diet at least 5 times in our lifetimes so pointing out the size of our asses is truly pointless.)
If you feel so compelled to look up my website and leave me a hate-fueled rant on how much I suck, know that this is my zone and stuff like that has no place in my zone. I would never come to your house and pee on your carpets so don’t expect me to tolerate if you come to mine and try to squat.
And the final point: without readers, we, as novelists, are just words on a page. A story that was in our heads that we had to put into a Word document. We don’t start our days thinking about how we can effectively piss people off with shoddy writing.
All we did was try to entertain you.
Be kind. Make the world a kinder place. Be an example to our future generations.
Thanks for listening. HUGS.