Suck It Up

It happens. You, the writer, get a critique or a review of your work that makes you want to throw yourself under a bus. Or, throw the reviewer under the bus and set the remains on fire. Understandable, and we can all relate. However, reacting like this is one of the best examples I have run across to argue against a writer ever reading a review of their own work.

The woman done lost her damn mind.

Whoa. That was ugly in the extreme.

Now, to my mind, the review was actually very generous. The reviewer pointed out, very respectfully, that the manuscript in question really needed some help in the typo and grammar area, but the story was basically sound. That doesn’t sound so bad, but something triggered off a public meltdown of epic proportions. Instead of taking the review as constructive criticism, this writer decided to take it to a whole new level and not only ranted and raved, actually dropped the “F” bomb and blew her chances of having any kind of a career right out of the water.

Boom, boom, baby. Boom boom.

It doesn’t really matter that she is self-published. I have witnessed other meltdowns similar in scope from traditionally published authors. That being said, reactions like this from a self-published author only add to the stigma we independent types are trying to dispel. Trust me, we aren’t all like this poor woman. Most of us are well aware of the valuable service dedicated book bloggers and reviewers offer us. We know, as independent writers, word of mouth is imperative and invaluable to our careers and act accordingly.

The question now making the rounds of the ‘net is…do you read your own reviews? Furthermore, what is the etiquette when someone does review your book? Do you comment on the post, contact them privately or just let sleeping dogs lie?

I'm not waking that up.

First of all, if you can’t accept that not every one is going to love your work, you need to find something else to do with your time. When I started in this business, I received some critiques that burned my eyebrows from my very head. Some made me cry. However, I was just grateful that someone took the time out to read my drivel and offered suggestions of how to improve or simply pointed out what did not work for them. It’s not personal — it’s business. The problem for some people is it can be very difficult to separate these two concepts. The truth is, writers invest so much into their work it feels personal when someone has something less than totally complimentary to say.

Get over it.

A review is an opinion. Take what good you can from it and move on. Your focus, as a writer, should be on improving and writing, not weeping and wailing. If you see a trend developing, then it’s likely there’s something there to which you should be paying attention. It’s not a personal attack on your character, it’s an evaluation of your work and how it affects others. Isn’t that the damned point of writing in the first place?

If you absolutely cannot take constructive criticism, then maybe it’s best if you don’t publish anything at all. Or, at the very least, send a minion to read your reviews and only tell you about the good ones, which, in my opinion, really cuts you off from some valuable information. But, the choice is yours.

Second, should you contact the reviewer, good bad or indifferent?

I say if you want to thank them privately by email, by all means. You can always take a look at their blog and see if there is any kind of a precedent, but normally I would keep any correspondence private. It just seems best.

If it’s a bad review, move on and keep your mouth shut. Vent, if you must, to close friends and family, but be careful about that, also. Be polite and take the higher road — one review doesn’t make or break a career, but if your reviews all say the same thing, it might be worth it to pay attention.

Don’t Tweet, don’t Facebook, and for heaven’s sake, don’t show the world you are a psycho-crazy-bitch and kill your career before it even gets started.

And I can’t believe I have to say that out loud.

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A Happy Anniversary, News and Free Swag

I have been busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest the last week, but like a former boss of mine used to say, “Busy is good.” Of course, he was a urologist, so that meant he was seeing a lot of genitals and my job isn’t nearly that interesting. Heh.

Heh. You thought I was going to post a picture genitals, didn't you? Sorry, wrong blog.

But I digress.

Today I’m going to present some free stuff, and who doesn’t like free stuff? First, my cohort Lori Whitwam is sponsoring a contest to help promote a Most Excellent publication titled Living With the Dead – The Bitter Seasons and I can’t recommend this book enough. In addition to the second part of the first year of material, there are bonus stories by the author (and me!) plus a novella by Lori. It’s a lot of bang for your buck, and Lori has provided the perfect way for you to enjoy it and spread the word.

This week is also the anniversary of the e-book (40 years old! Who knew?) and to celebrate, Smashwords is offering acres of free ebooks for the week.

Woohoo! Happy anniversary!

This means for this week only, you can get Not Nice and Other Understatements for free! Isn’t that amazing? I think that’s amazing! It’s available in every format known to mankind (thanks to the efforts of Todd Macy at Mace eDesign, bless his heart) and you don’t need a fancy-schmanzy electronic device in order to read it. There are plenty of other e-titles available as well, so support your indie artists and download! Read! Revel!

There is no catch to this, but I will ask you for one favor. For any ebook you read, please think about leaving a review either on Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble — or all three! — anywhere and everywhere you can think of. If you have a blog, you can even post a review just like author Patti Larsen has done. Word-of-mouth is what fuels the indie publishing engine, and it’s the best thing you can do to support these hard-working, talented people. It doesn’t have to be a in-depth review (although if you’re so inclined who am I to stop you?) but even if you rate the book of your choice using the cute little stars or simply leave one sentence that indicates whether you enjoyed it or not is a big deal to the writer.

We indies appreciate and and love our readers bunches. *MUAH*

So much to read! I’m really excited, and suspect George Senior is about to become totally stuffed to the gills. The bad part is I haven’t had much time to read lately because the non-fiction work has picked up, but again, I’m not complaining.

In other writing/reading news, Jean Auel has finally finished the last book in her Earth’s Children series titled “The Land of the Painted Caves”. I am SO EXCITED about this! Thirty damned years she’s been writing the series, and I have been hooked the whole way. I still have my original copy of “Clan of the Cave Bear”, although it’s held together with tape, and on April 4, the library near me is sponsoring an event. At first I thought Ms. Auel would be attending as well, but on second look it seems she won’t be there. *sniffle* Still, I will definitely go to party down with the other EC fans. Once I have that book in my hands (I might get it for George Senior, too, but this is one book I have to have in the flesh) you will not hear from me until I’m done reading. Heh.

Until then, it’s back to work. I hope you all have a fabulous, readalicious week! Remember, spread the word 🙂

See? Even Darwin knew what was coming.

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Rant-O-Rama Follow Up

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

Okay, maybe not so much. Believe it or not, that was probably as painful for me to write as it was for you to read. I’m not apologizing – I meant every word. Part of it was because although this subject has been spoken of on other blogs, it’s in hushed terms like the straight truth is going to break something. And really, I know I took a big risk letting it all hang out like that.

I’m about to take another one.

I know I shouldn't play with these but I just can't help it.

In conversations online and off; in comments, blog posts and private messages I’m hearing the same thing coming through loud and clear. People, meaning writers AND readers (sometimes one and the same), want to know what they can do to help promote their favorite writers and to cut down on the amount of crapola floating around out there. They’re sick of it, too. I’ve already covered things you can do to help your authors, but what if you run across one of the types I’ve mentioned in my last post?

Simple. Don’t buy their shit.

With a printed book, this is easy. You read the dust jacket, the author bio, hell, you can sit and read the whole thing if you want, right there in the bookstore (until they shut down, that is. RIP Borders. *sigh*) You can check a book out in a library, borrow it from a friend or pick it up at a discounted price in a used book store, if you can find one. You can buy on the cheap at garage sales or thrift stores, and you’re out nothing more than a quarter if it sucks. Or, you’ve seen the book reviewed in the newspaper or on TV.

You can stick to your favorite authors and never try a new one again. But that sucks. Reading is about EXPANDING your horizons, not limiting them.

For the growing e-reading population, it’s just as easy. Same principles apply. Check out the author’s website or Facebook page. Read reviews by people you trust. READ THE SAMPLES on Amazon or Smashwords. If they don’t let you read a sample, well then, you have to wonder why, don’t you?

I said we are Gatekeepers.

See those pointy things? They'll come in handy later.

Until now, the Big Publishing Machine has had control (a lot more than you think. But, that’s another subject). Now it is directly in your hands. Like Spiderman said, this is a lot of power, and with great power comes great responsibility. This is the hard part.

Say you do your due diligence, and find something that looks appealing, but when you pay for it and download it, it’s not all that and a bag of chips. The formatting sucks. You can tell there’s no editing of any kind, or the whole package is unprofessional. The story REEKS. What do you do? What can you do?

If you’re a reader and not a writer, you pretty much have the freedom to do anything you wish. You can write a scathing review, send the writer a message, demand your money back, bitch about it on Facebook, your blog or your Twitter stream. Have at it. Whatever you feel like doing, go ahead. More power to you. And thank you.

For a writer in the business, it gets a lot trickier.

You will seldom see a writer trash another one in public, no matter how much they deserve it. It’s not professional courtesy — it’s fear. Yes, you heard me. FEAR.

“Why, Netta,” you may say. “I’m not scared of that silly face. I’m not scared of anything.” Bullshit. Yes you are. You’re scared that if you write an honest review and it’s negative, it’s going to impact your writing career. And you’re right to be scared. You think I wasn’t scared posting that last rant? Or this one? How easy is it to sabotage a writer’s work or really fuck them up in this day and age? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. It will explain a lot should your sales tank and people spit through their fingers when you walk by. (Which is disgusting, if you ask me.)

So for writers, you have to walk a fine line. As much as you would like to write a review along the lines of, “You suck like a Hoover and I’m initiating legislation making it a felony charge with the death penalty should you ever go near any writing implements ever again in this Universe,” you can’t say that. Not only is it rude and unprofessional, it’s probably career suicide.

Or maybe I’m overstating the situation, but I don’t think so.

I’m not telling you that you can’t say what you want. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I preach being kind, professional and…well, kind. I don’t see any reason to be cruel or nasty. That just doesn’t fly with me. And people will judge you, like it or not, on the whole way you approach this sticky situation. But I will give my honest opinion, oh yes I will.

You’ll notice I did not single out one person in my previous post, although I’m sure we can all think of examples and in fact, it was one person in particular that sent me over the edge into Rantville. I’m happy to report that even though said person was not targeted in any way, they fixed their problem. I have no idea if they saw my post or not, but I still call that a victory. Now, I like them.

This is for you, Anonymous Writer. I heart you!

When you write a review of someone’s work, you can get your point across without being an asshole. If it’s a book or novel you just cannot recommend, well, you have a choice. What you do is up to you. My mother used to say if I couldn’t say anything nice I should probably shut up, but she was THE most outspoken woman I have ever known, so I take that with a grain of salt.

Don’t click a “Like” button of any kind unless you genuinely like that author or their work. And please, please don’t ever recommend something that sucks. This does so much damage — if I trust you, and you recommend something to me, and it sucks, I WILL NEVER TRUST YOU AGAIN. See how that works? In addition, I will question everything you say, everything you write, and I most likely will not buy your book, your story, your anything. You’re killing yourself here.

If I don’t like the material you’ve recommended, that’s different. We all have different tastes and I say, “Yay for diversity!” But if you rave about something and it really and truly sucks, especially because of LAZINESS, you’re in big trouble. And so is your reputation.

One thing is for certain. If you ask me for my opinion, you will get an honest answer. That’s how I roll. But I’m not mean or cruel, and I won’t call you bad names like “coochieface” or “buttmunch”. Promise. And I won’t recommend crap. That’s also a promise.

It’s a fine line, but we must walk it. Now, take the pins out of the voodoo doll, please. My ass is killing me.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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