Behave like a professional, please

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It’s been all over the writer’s blog-o-sphere, and I shouldn’t give the gal any more publicity, but here it is:

How Not to Respond to Criticism.

No need to click on the link, I’m about to summarize the debacle.  You see, this site, BigAl’s Books and Pals, is a nice site that reviews indie authors, specifically folks who publish on Kindle.  He’s a cool dude that offers this service absolutely free (as reviews should be).  Before this whole sad affair hit these inter-tubes, I had never heard of BigAl and I’m glad I now know of him (or her, but it’s a safe bet Al refers to a guy).  I’ll be sure to send him a copy of my book once it’s published so that he can give it a fair review.  I’ve read the above referenced review as well as several others on his site, and he does a great job of giving his honest opinion of a book without being snarky.  I like that.  He points out the good and the bad.

Apparently, not everyone can take it like a professional.  The author referenced above did a terrible thing.  BigAl gave her a less than a stunning review and she struck back – with a vengeance.  Here is her response to his review (the first comment on the review, like she was waiting to respond):

You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don’t get. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks.

That’s not so bad all by its self.  Basically, she’s just saying she’ll go elsewhere for reviews.  Ooohh-kaaaaay.

Alas, she doesn’t understand the nature of reviews.  They are simply someone’s opinion.  No matter how much you might dread negative reviews, no author has  any control over someone’s opinion.  And why would you want to?  The point is to put your stuff out there and see what folks think.  If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.  Ah well.  Either improve your writing, write to that particular audience, or go find an audience that does like what you produce.  That’s it.  An author should use reviews to hone their skills.

To be fair, the author gave her own opinion of the review and that should have been that.  But…she kept writing…(second comment on post, before anyone else could interject their own two cents worth):

5 stars from amazon UK.
I really enjoyed this read. It is light and easy to read but not lacking in entertainment…

WTF?  She posted a review from her Amazon site. 😮

But she didn’t stop there.  The next two comments are two other glowing reviews from Amazon.  If she just would have left it at her first comment, no one would have really noticed.  But then some review readers started commenting about her crazy review-comments.  It went down hill from there real fast, because the author kept responding to their comments.  Read it all if you want, but it may take hours and it will only serve to embarrass the author yet again.  Not that she cares, but let’s care for her.

In the end, the bad publicity actually made her a best seller on Kindle.  So maybe it was part of her master plan.  Who knows?  What I do know is that this internet drama reminded me that keeping things civil is not only professional, but the decent thing to do.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give your truthful opinion about something should you be reviewing, but there’s no reason why we can’t be civil.  If you’ll notice, the BigAl reviewer kept civil and professional throughout.  Let’s follow suit.

If you are new to writing, or maybe have been around awhile, but have forgotten the finer points of critiques, follow this step-by-step program to maintain your dignity:

  1. After reading a particular disparaging review, go out for a run or a drink.  Anything that takes you away from the computer and the offending review.
  2. Once back from your jaunt, take out your favorite journal (physical copy, nothing that will end up in public) and write your heart-felt response.  Get it all out.  Go ahead.  It’s safe.
  3. Wait a couple of days.  This is crucial.  After a few days, you’ll realize that this is just one person’s opinion.  Probably someone you don’t know and if you meet them in person, you’d say, “What a jerk.  I don’t give a damn what he/she thinks.”  If it is someone you know or their opinion matters to you, you might begin to see that their review hurt so bad because he has a tinge of truth to it.
  4. It’s now fine to go to the computer.  Write your official response as if you are writing it to your boss or mother or a snake that’s about to bite you.  Say something like: “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my story/novel/whatever.”  That’s it.  Resist the urge to say more.  There’s no need.  It’s time to move on.
  5. Write.  What else is there?

As for my own reviews, I, too, will strive to be civil when dishing it out.


6 thoughts on “Behave like a professional, please

  1. I’m of the opinion writers shouldn’t read their own reviews. Be very appreciative of the attention, certainly, but don’t mess with their own heads by actually reading them. I’m following this train wreck with morbid fascination and pity for Howett (even wrote my own blog post about it). Hope she comes to her sense. If not, it’s a good reminder to other writers that some things, like our feelings about criticism, should be kept private.

  2. Saw this mentioned on SFFWorld. It’s amazing how bad people can make themselves look.

    Your advice is pretty good, too. Every writer should read it.

  3. I haven’t checked it out, but Nila is right. In anything adversarial, you have to step away from it before you say something that you don’t want to. Some folks don’t get that.

    Sure makes for some interesting and cheap entrainment though! 🙂

    I heard Charlie Sheen’s new gig went sour. Now that is the ultimate “What not to do”. At least he can say it was drug related. Not sure what this lady’s reason is besides, I guess…emotion!” Hey, that’s an Aerosmith song! However, there is nothing sweet about it.

    Have fun all!

    1. And that’s the problem – emotion. When I first started writing, I actually asked another writer, “What’s wrong with all you? So touchy!” And he answered with a shrug, and said, “We’re writers.”

      So I completely understand how something like this could happen. I just hope I never do anything like that. Or said anything remotely like any of Sheen’s comments. Yikes!

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