No Authors Allowed (Here’s Your Sign)
That is sort of a contradictory title because I made this sign just for you 🙂
This is really about reader feedback and what NOT to do.
Negative reviews don’t tend to bother me either, keeping in mind negative is not always a bad thing.
Those reviews can actually be quite beneficial. A negative review might alert the author or their representative to unknown errors, loose ends or confusing plots.
Readers are a good thing and many have a wealth of expertise to offer, so writer don’t get hoity toity and remember this:
Authors are expected to overlook bad reviews as part of this chosen profession. It is considered taboo and unprofessional for an author to respond to any review. Reviews are for readers.
I truly believe in that philosophy and for the most part have upheld that belief.
I said for the most part. However…
First in my own defense let me say (that means I know I screwed up)
I have deleted many emails without replying that were riddled with crude remarks. I have even laughed at a few. Especially those that have nothing to do with my writing. Some people are way too comfortable sitting in their boxers behind a computer screen and a screen name.
A lot of them are rather funny and a few are just… heck. Take Rita Fay for example. She (if that is her real name and she is really a she) was kind enough to send me an email that said “You have a big Irish head.”
I don’t know what that has to do with anything I’ve written, but okay.
Honestly I thought it was one of my sisters pulling a prank. Sadly, it was not. Even sadder, it is true – I do have a big Irish head. Rita was only making an observation. 😦 I know. My response? Delete.
Do I get a brownie point to offset what followed? No.
A few days ago I received an email that read:
Dear Janet Hill,
In reading your book I have made the following observances: you are unlearned, unladylike, your vocabulary is foul and you are grammatically challenged to say the least. I suggest you return to your nursing vocation where less cognitive thought is required.
Boing! Ouch! I’m not sure why that stung more than the remark about my over-sized cranium but it did. It really REALLY struck a nerve. I had typed as much as “bite me you hateful bastard. You don’t have any idea what it takes to be a nurse and by the way my name is Janna, not Janet you dumb ass!” before catching myself. Delete. That would have certainly proved his point, wouldn’t it? So I took a deep breath and a long walk. Occasionally I paused to
smell the flowers kick-box the air and walked farther until I had re-composed my normally genteel demeanor. When I was completely calm I walked back to my desk and replied.
Dear Mr. X,
It was quiet generous of you to spare a moment of your time and share your thoughts on my authoring abilities. Please accept my utmost apology if I have offended you, that was not my intention. You may also rest assured I have given much consideration to your observances while reflecting upon my personal faults and have come to this conclusion: you sir, are not qualified to read my book.
I know! That was a totally self-saboteur smart alack response. But que sera, sera y’all. There was no looking back; it was too late to detour. I had hit send, spilled the milk, broke the glass and lit the match. In the ashes of after thoughts I knew I’d messed up and wondered is this another bridge burned? “Time will tell” I assured myself.
Well I am delighted to tell you I have found a fan and a friend in Mr. X. He promptly replied with an apology and an obvious chuckle. I could almost hear him laughing at his own mischief when I read:
My sincerest apologies for ruffling your lovely feathers. I enjoyed your book. Actually I have enjoyed several of your books and wondered which persona might be closest to your personality. Every author breathes their own life into the cast; whether or not an author will admit that is a different topic. I was curious as well to know if you were truly southern or merely using that as a selling point. I am satisfied that you are genuine. Please forgive an ornery old man for having a wicked laugh at your expense.
P.S. A thing you must learn for your own well being is this: commentators have individual motives, some write simply for the sport of it.
Whew! I dodged my own bullet.
So, have I changed my belief that authors should not reply? No! This turnout was a rare example. A short note saying thank you to a compliment? Sure, for me that is considered polite. But to respond to ridicule (in a public forum or private e mail) is bad practice. My retaliation could have had dire consequences especially for an unknown indie trying to build a fan base. Word spreads quickly among reader communities, especially if you anger someone who has 4899 followers. I was wrong to reply.
What was I thinking when I said “you sir are not qualified to read my book.”? I wasn’t! Even though I thought I had calmed down, I hadn’t. If I had been calm and rational I would have never hit that send button.
Staci Troilo’s recent blog It’s Up To You New York, New York got me to thinking. I know I’m not supposed to do that without the proper adult supervision but I promise not to make any decisions, only reflections.
In January of this year (2012) I decided to become an Indie aka independent author. The decision was fueled by several factors but the main one being I tend to rebel against [what I perceive as] unfairness. The thing about perceptions is if you take a few breaths and calm down they sometimes change. The trouble is I forget to breathe until I’ve already tossed the match. Yep, I have burned a few small bridges in my day. The last little causeway went up in flames when I refused to write anything that didn’t have my real name attached to it and said kiss my _ _ _ (let’s use the word grits instead.) Ahh, I can still smell the singed hair.
** Bobby Bare’s Winner and Frank Sinatra’s My Way are now overlapping in my head**
I whole heartedly expected to struggle as an independent, that’s what real artists do, right? Right! But if I am honest the struggle is a bit more than I anticipated and the road I am on is not the soft sandy path I saw in the distance. Nay! It is a deep rocky rut filled with tar pits and sharp objects that must be overcome. Here there are few if any bridges for burning.
Oh yes, I am guilty of being a pissy little pyromaniac at times. Though I sincerely try not to burn other people’s bridges it occasionally happens.
Twelve years ago we (my youngest son, daughter and I) worked on the set of a local television series. We never had more than a minor part that usually ended up on the cutting room floor but it was fun. The locations varied, the food was always good and the people were so warm and friendly that every assignment felt like a family reunion. Never mind the pay and meeting a few celebrities I would have gone for free chuck wagon. Rib eye, meatloaf, tacos, pies and pastries…
(Oops- memory lane digression)
As I was saying the people on set were great but there was this one agent who shall remain nameless and unemployed if God answer’s vengeful prayers. In my own defense I did take a deep breath and wait for the perception to change. It didn’t happen. Greedy is as greedy does.
#1 If you agree to fifteen percent and you take twenty that is stealing.
#2 Everyone knows a speaking part pays more. Only a thief would pocket the difference and issue a separate check with a cockamamie excuse.
#3 Never mind.
It wasn’t only my money or I probably would have said “okay, no prob just point me to the catering truck.” No, it was my child’s money and it is bad business to mess with another woman’s child. Amen? I didn’t just strike a match to that conduit I set a freaking bonfire. Score one for me. Boo-yah! Start doing the victory dance… Um – yeah. I think my son is still mad at me for that one. You’ve heard the old adage ‘you’ll never work in this town again’? Well I am here to tell you that can absolutely be true.
My only regret is the series ended the following year before I could build a new bridge.
So what does this have to do with Staci’s blog other than basic inspiration and the fact that we are all trying to make it? I’ll let you read her blog and decide. I’m really okay with the fact that I will probably never make it in the New York she speaks of; I don’t have the temperament for it. But I feel the burn, the stretching of ribs and triceps as I reach for a brass ring of my own and reflect on the burnt bridges of my past.