Friday, April 1, 2011

Going Postal and Viral - What NOT To Do As An Author

 "A" is for Author No-No's.  (I was following the fabulous Sarah Allen, who's joined a great Blogging challenge (see box to the right) and decided to adapt this post to the theme of the day.
from crsan at Flickr

As I'm exploring the interwebs, sometimes I'm visiting one blog and I see an interesting link, and follow it, and another one, and another one...

So, I stumbled upon this post that was being Tweeted and discussed everywhere.

And after reading it, and the comments that followed, I was not surprised at the buzz, though sorry for the hot-headed author, as well as (I admit it) somewhat amused at the train wreck situation which unfolded. (Train wrecks and shipwrecks being vastly entertaining - if one is not personally involved.) 

This woman wrote a book.  Lots of people talk about writing a book; few follow through.  Writing a book - even a really bad book - takes much time and a tremendous amount of work.  So for that alone, she can be applauded.  And it did seem that after a while, people were simply dog piling in to slam her in the comments.  Not cool.

However... she did not, apparently, use a critique group to fine tune her work.  (Mine would never, ever have let me get away with the convolutions, below!)  Nor did she invest in a good editor (or, if she did, she refused to take said editor's advice.)  She went ahead and self-published (which is why so many self-published books have a bad reputation,) and when the book received only a two-star rating from this reviewer, began disputing him (her?) on said review site.  Yikes!

Personally, I think two stars was generous.  The reviewer even made a point of saying it was a good story underneath, with many good passages, but that the grammar and typographical errors were very distracting.  Saith Big Al:
Here are a couple sample sentences from the first two chapters that gave me pause and are representative of what I found difficult while reading.

"She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs."

"Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance."
I understand what both are probably saying. I do question the sentence construction.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke,  Those are actually, uh, sentences (if one can call them that) as written by the author. 

Let's imagine the book did not contain bizarre word constructions like those above.  Let's say it was brilliantly written and the reviewer simply had a hair up his/her butt that day, and decided to pick on this author's work for no reason at all.

It's still incredibly stupid to get into a flaming war with said reviewer, and to tune out the other blog readers who chimed in on the site to say, Author Dearest, stop, stop, don't keep going on, you're just making matters worse.

Yet, she did keep going on (see train wreck, above.)  She should have said, "Thank you for taking the time to review my book.  I'm glad you liked the underlying story, and will take the areas you suggested into consideration for my next work."

Instead, she posted reviews from Amazon which gave her work 5 stars to try to sell the reviewer on how great the work was, and wrote several angry retorts that also showed a lack of grammar and spelling skills.

Well, that, and she also posted  F#@k off! several times.  <sighing>  Now that'll win hearts and minds!

To visit the "snake pit and rat hole" and read the review and comments for yourself, click here.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

The author has branded herself, all right, but not in a good way.  She not only lacks grammar and spelling skills, she certainly doesn't present herself as someone who would be delightful to work with, does she? 

This blog post has gone viral throughout the publishing industry, and most agents, readers, reviewers, and publishers will remember her name and behavior.  They are exchanging these links and talking about it at lunches.  While some people may buy this book out of sympathy, or for the kitsch factor, she's stick-a-fork-in-it-done, as far as writing something else.  She could write the next Harry Potter series, and nobody will be willing to look at it.

And it's sad, because apparently, she did have a decent story to tell.  Perhaps now she's realizing she did the equivalent of drunk-dialing an ex - only she did it in public.  Even if the reviewer deleted the post and comments tomorrow, there are excerpts of them everywhere now.  There is no "stays in Vegas" when it comes to the Internet.  I truly hope she's getting some professional help, now, to cope with the emotional repercussions of making herself famous in such an inauspicious way.  Even those who think they want fame can have trouble with it exploding on them all at once (I'm thinking Susan Boyle here.)

Even if this particular reviewer hadn't read the book, even if no blogger had picked up the story, by having a book on sale at Amazon or B & N or other public venues, which allow reviews to be posted, it means that anyone can post a review.  Good, bad, or indifferent.  It means that not only can you ask your friends and family to post great reviews for you, but that the jealous woman whose boyfriend you "stole" can write something nasty, and recruit all her friends to trash your work, too.  That's just the way it works.

If you want to be considered a professional writer, you have to behave in a professional manner.  Tantrums are for two year olds. 

from Visit Hillsborough at Flickr
Big Al (whose blog I'm now following) posted another very good blog on the subject of negative reviews.

It hurts when we write something we think is wonderful, and the response is... "I've never read anything so terrible!"  Or even "Eh.  Didn't do it for me."  But that's part of being a professional writer. 

There are always risks when "going public," whether it's writing a book, entering our strawberry pie in the county fair, or hanging our artwork in a gallery.  Not everybody will like our work.

For some of us, the drive to "put it out there" is worth the risk and possible pain or embarrassment.  If you don't feel that way, if you truly can't handle the inevitable rejections from agents and publishers, bad reviews and negative opinions, in a professional manner, perhaps you should stick to vanity publishing for your friends and family and not go public after all.

Your thoughts?
(P.S. Some weird thing happened to this, I am starting to use Intense Debate for Comments, 
it picked up 4-5, and then... they went away.  If you commented and your comment is now
gone, it wasn't deleted or erased by me.  Aaah, technology!)