Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Authors Gone Wild

by Julie Coulter Bellon

There has been some flap recently over authors who get angry when they get a bad review. One author ranted about the bad review on Twitter, delivering twenty-seven tweets about it, including the reviewer’s telephone number and e-mail address and asked readers to contact the woman and tell her what they thought of “snarky reviewers.” Another author responded to their bad review in the comment section of the review blog and wrote, “"I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make."


That’s just scratching the surface as other incidents in the blogosphere have come to light, including a response to a bad review that said the reviewers themselves were jealous and probably hadn’t ever written anything more than a grocery list. It stuns me a little bit to see this kind of behavior. As an author I have had a few negative reviews (I’m looking at you Goodreads) and while it stings, I know I wouldn’t ever resort to name-calling and death wishes for the reviewers. (Although I might borrow one of Rob’s voodoo dolls and stick pins in it.) (Kidding, kidding.)

No matter what, every author will experience a time when someone won’t like their book. All their hard work, blood, sweat, tears, effort, love, everything they’ve poured into that book will be labeled. Characters are too shallow. Plot had holes. Grammar mistakes. Too cliché. Whatever it is, it’s going to hurt, and there is no way to prepare yourself for it. So here is my advice for authors who get a bad review.

If the review is so bad it makes you want to cry, get out a journal or open up a new Word document, and write down how you feel. Get it out of your system, and then let it go. Do not post it on your blog or Twitter or Facebook. You will be tempted, but don’t do it. (I know some people post links to bad reviews for the sympathy vote, and validation that your work doesn’t suck, and that is not taboo, of course, and completely up to you as a person, but be careful. Don’t let your friends trash the reviewer, either.)

Take a good look at the review. Is there anything to their criticism? Is there something you could improve on in your writing style? Try to look for any positives that you can take away from it, and then move on and get back to writing.

Talk to your best friend. Or, if you don’t have a best friend, or they’re not home at the moment, take a nap.

Get out of the house and away from the computer. Go for a walk. Go to the mall. Go to that little bistro you love and get a low-fat yogurt, or a chocolate brownie, or something that will take your mind off of it.

Sit down and remind yourself of why you got into writing. Think about how you love to share your stories with others. Think of how you felt when you got that first fan letter thanking you for your work. Look at how many good reviews you’ve gotten and maybe read a few of those.

Whatever you do, don’t diss your reviewers and don’t make the mistake of publicly reacting defensively to feedback. It can be an author’s biggest mistake and often comes back to bite you. No matter what, reviewers have taken the time to read your book and offer their opinion on it. You may not like their opinion, but it’s theirs and it does deserve some respect whether you choose to respond positively or negatively. However, if you post your positive or negative feelings online, you can bet that, with social media today, your post will get around. And what you post matters. It says something about you as a person and as an author. Make sure what is out there accurately represents you as a human being, and not you when you are in the heat of the moment.


At 3/24/2011 11:33 PM, Blogger David J. West said...

Wow-I've griped, but 27 tweets, address's and phone numbers?

I have found that a simple brick through the window at midnight (with a note that says 'I am watching you') usually does the trick all by itself.

At 3/25/2011 1:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all the nasty, terrible reviews you've given my books. Get her!:

Julie Bellon: 801-297-FROG

134 E. 1546 W. Sucksville, UT

email address:

At 3/25/2011 2:33 AM, Blogger j. littlejohn said...

deep down, we all know the bad reviews are as true as the good ones

At 3/25/2011 4:19 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

I think it's also important not to review a book in the heat of the moment, either. I post fanfiction on a forum where feedback is pretty much instantaneous, and recently I was following a story there that had started out well, but became more and more unrealistic with each installment. I became more and more frustrated, and finally posted something that pointed out some of the problems I had with the story. The author was stung, probably rightly so, and not-so-kindly invited me to find something else to read. Later, I felt bad that I'd said anything at all, and wished I hadn't.

On the same forum, I also recently finished posting a new story of my own, only to have a reader comment that the ending was very unsatisfactory, because the main character had been longing for a snuggle and didn't get one. The story was not a romance, and had the word "loneliness" in the title, but I was still a little hurt and confused. I wondered if I had written something wrong, if I had inadvertantly caused my readers to expect something snuggly, when that had never been my intention. But after I'd thought about it, I decided to simply thank the reviewer for reading and commenting. You get a lot of lurkers on forums like those, and only one in ten, twelve, or even twenty readers actually says anything. I think that must be the same with published books; only a fraction of those who read them actually get online and comment. I've always tried to be very solicitious of my readers, thanking them for every comment, and I even thank those who lurk, as well.

When you get angry in real life, you're supposed to count to ten. When you want to rage about something on the internet, it might be a good idea to wait ten hours.

At 3/25/2011 9:27 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Great post, Julie. Sometimes the urge to respond to a bad review is strong--especially if you feel the reviewer was unfair and overly harsh--but I think Melanie nailed it: if you want to say something, keep it to "thanks for reading and reviewing." Dignified silence is also something you'll never regret. Angry or defensive responses just don't do you any good at all.

At 3/25/2011 2:18 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

I just find them and throw dog poop in their shoes.


At 3/25/2011 2:19 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

oops, that is supposed be "on their shoes"


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