It's the End of the World as we know it...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bad song lyrics aside, there is something earth shattering going on this year, and it has nothing to do with a long-dead carver running out of space on a Mayan calendar.

If you've been pretty much anywhere in the vicinity of writerdom since New Year's Eve, you've been watching Goodreads trainwrecks and blog pile-ons and likely rubbernecking the carnage like the rest of us.

THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING.

Professional writers are starting to sound like whiny pre-teens on a fanfiction site who bemoan how mean their commenters are and declare all dissenters to be haters and flamers. And what's worse, the reviewers who are caught in the middle are starting to think all YA writers have slipped a few cogs in their craniums. (Can you tell I've been writing Steampunk? I think you can.)

I would like to point out a few things that should be obvious.

1 - if you are published, then YOU'RE PUBLISHED. Your book is out there, in the open, being seen and being read. THIS IS THE GOAL OF THE PROFESSIONAL WRITER. If you want compliments, head to Kinko's and print copies for your family and friends. Personally, I'd rather sell books to people I've never met and have them maybe tell others they should buy them, too.

2 - You're a professional. ACT LIKE IT. The best analogy I've seen is comparing the review explosion to getting a performance review. Before you comment or blog, try and imagine saying what you want to say to your boss while standing in the middle of cubicle-land and while screaming at the top of your lungs. You'd be fired before you could take your next breath.

3 - readers DO NOT owe you a good review. You put out a product. They paid money. They are the consumer, and it's the consumer's privilege to decide if their money was well spent or wasted. All they owe you is the cost of your book in whatever format they choose to acquire it. That's it.

4 - Criticizing a book DOES NOT MAKE A REVIEWER MEAN. It doesn't mean they hate you. It means they didn't connect with your book... like all of those "not for me" rejections that come along while querying. You know how you shouldn't respond to those rejections with venom and vitriol, but rather file them away in the circular cabinet with the rest of the things you toss out? APPLY THE SAME LOGIC TO BAD REVIEWS. Maybe your book hit a nerve, maybe it brought up something uncomfortable for the reviewer, maybe it utilized faulty logic that 98% of people wouldn't notice, and the reviewer is one of the 2% that did. It doesn't matter. The book "wasn't for" that particular reviewer, and if they go into detail as to why, then be grateful they paid attention. For all you know, what they found distasteful, someone else will love.

5 - REVIEWS ARE NOT FOR THE WRITER. They're for the reader. They are not the same as getting a bad mark on a lit paper in school. They are not telling you how to improve, as the book is in a fixed state. Look away. Keep your distance. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT TOUCH.

6 - a bad review WILL NOT sink your career, but alienating those who do the leg work passing on recommendations can. Book bloggers blog books because they love them. Others read their blogs for the same reasons, and if you alienate the loudest voices advocating for you and your contemporaries, then you've just headed out into the desert with a canteen YOU poked holes in, and a compass YOU removed the needle from.

7 - ranting embarrasses you, your agent, your editor, and your publisher. It makes readers give you weird looks. It makes people not want to touch your books because they're afraid of what will happen if you find out they didn't love them.

Remember, you chose this career. It may feel like your blood and your soul is fused to every copy of your words out there, but it's ink and paper and ideas. Ideas can't stay exactly as you create them. They move; they expand as others interpret them. That's how it's supposed to work.

Reviews go away. They may stay on the site where they're posted, but people forget about them. But, if you dig in your heels, pitch a tent on a review site and start making a fuss, then it's going to spread. It's going to hit Twitter and Facebook, and maybe even media outlets. Then an exponential number of new people are going to go in search of that one, bad review. Nothing else. They will focus solely on that as the definition of you and your work, and it will be YOUR fault because you did the same thing by ignoring the positive reviews in favor of that one bad one that rubbed you the wrong way.

Take a breath. Walk away.

/a less ranty rant.

12 Chiming In:

vanyelmoon said...

It all comes back to the old saying - You can make some people happy, all of the time, or all of the people happy some of the time, but you can't make all the people happy, all the time.

This applies to every aspect of life, including writing :)

Bryce Daniels said...

Very, very, very well said, Josin. Kudos.

Yeah, I know. Samuel Clemens would rise from his grave and have plenty to say if he were to read what I just wrote. Regardless, it would only be one review from one man.

I said what I meant to say, in the best way I knew how to say it.

Lois D. Brown said...

Haha. #1 had me laughing. It hurts, but you're absolutely right.

Steph Sinkhorn said...

Yes yes yes. And look, I know some reviewers can get really snarky and it's difficult to keep your cool when someone is basically saying this thing you wrote is stupid. But so what? They're one person. Maybe a few more people latch on and agree. It's okay. It's one opinion in a sea of opinions. Let it go. Better yet, don't torture yourself by looking.

in which a girl reads said...

Hear, Hear!

Amparo Ortiz said...

A-freaking-men. Let's hope this serves as a lesson to both published and unpublished authors. :)

Jen said...

"Take a breath. Walk away." Best advice ever, and it still amazes me when people don't do this.

Let it go. It doesn't matter. And you know what? If they paid for your book, you still came out ahead :)

lee said...

Oh, goodness. YES.

This should be mandatory reading for all writer peeps who never matured beyond junior high. It has been so bad in some instances that *I* get embarrassed, even when I don't know the author, have never read the book (and probably won't), etc.

~l, more than willing to put herself in line of snarky comment fire if it means published.

Lori M. Lee said...

Yessss, absolutely yes. This is perfect. Thank you.

Laura W. said...

This is the best post addressing the blog book review "controversy" I've read so far. Thank you.

Lydia said...

This. This is brilliant. You are so write.

Lydia said...

*Pun intended

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