I’m an amateur writer.
I’d certainly like to call myself “professional,” and a part of me feels as if I ought to (I have been paid to write before…I mean, if we’re to stick with conventions, right?). However, I never feel quite confident enough in my own abilities to claim the “professional” title. After all, I’m still learning. I tell my students this, too, that the day I stop learning is the day I probably die. My writing is Just Okay. It isn’t good. It isn’t great. It could always be better. I have ideas.
(I make a horrible salesperson/marketer of my own work, I know, and that’s my biggest weakness.)
Anyway, it seems as if there is a collective of authors out there these days, what with the popularization of the DIY-publishing movement (which is awesome, by the way), who all would love to be discovered; they’d love a fanbase. Nothing wrong with that at all, I realize. I would, too. Who in his or her right mind wouldn’t?
My problem with this bunch is that so many of them seem to be folks who just woke up one morning and thought, Hey, I think I’m gonna be a writer. I mean, I can do what (insert name of giant money-making machine of an author with the last name ending in something like Patterson or Rowling) does and make a ton of bread while doing it! For those of us who’ve been working at it for a long time because we really want to be good at the craft itself, it’s so goddamned infuriating to watch them when they churn out a piece of Blatant Ripoff that’s been sloppily constructed (some even lacking in any editing at all) and advertise their pride and joy everywhere.
These authors post all over the internet, soliciting followers and friends, a surface fanbase, but they’re unsure as to how to attract an actual readership. Real readers, in other words. I realize I am no expert in obtaining readership either, but hey, I don’t sell myself well, and I own the hell out of that (it stems from childhood and a steady stream of parental criticism causing my own bag of insecurities). Anyway, these particular authors tend to collect 5-star reviews en masse on their Amazon and Goodreads pages and pointedly use those numbers to encourage more followers, more “readership.”
However, their “readership” (and 5-star reviewers) consists of friends and family (all with good intentions, of course) and fellow backscratchers.
All fine and dandy. That’s certainly okay.
But what happens when these authors obtain a critical readership, people outside of their friends and family, who’ve seriously read their work? Even worse, what happens if there are those in that readership who didn’t like their work?
Now I’m not talking about the trolling one-star reviewers who don’t provide any sort of specific feedback about the content and context of the work itself — the ones who gripe about typos, political agendas, and general asshattery. I mean the readers who are carefully critical about the work. In other words, what of the ones who don’t like the work and have strong feedback to give that’s specific and well-intentioned?
I’ve noticed that the best books out there (subjective vantage in mind, of course) all have mixed reviews, and their authors — with the exception of a notable few or even, perhaps, their loyal spouses — tend to handle criticism of their readership with dignity and professionalism in the public eye (how they react in private is none of our business, yeah?).
Other authors out there, on the other hand…well, they tend to go a bit batshit barmy whenever someone dares post a detailed negative review (or even an average review — oh, the horror of “average”) or flat-out rejects their magnum opus.
There are those who may advise fellow authors that a “dialogue” will always get you the end results you want, even if the “dialogue” is simply defensive outrage. (It may also garner you cushy treatment at a Grand Hyatt)
There are those who may stupidly attempt to sue their one-star Amazon reviewers for libel.
There are those who publicly declare they’ll get revenge by blatantly doing in kind AND enlist aid in doing so. (You give me a bad review? Back atcha, and I’m bringin’ an ARMY!)
There are those who feel the need to spew all of their ego-butthurt to the masses who follow them on Twitter. (Didn’t make the NYT Notable Books list this year? Don’t worry. The WAAAAmbulance is on its way.)
There are those who take it upon themselves to respond to the reviewer (on the reviewer’s own site) by way of insult. (Oh, you adorable, little “illiterate” peon who cannot comprehend the brilliance of my dirty take on Japanese poetry form.)
There are those who reveal their maniacal stalker alter-ego for all the interwebz to see.
There are those who pitch their obviously carbon copy work to an agent whom they think must be a total idiot. (Gotta admire agents who respond so well to a nutbag author who obviously can’t take rejection and learn from it.)
Oh, there are just so many more examples of authors going bonkers when the best way to handle bad reviews of any sort, or even rejection, is to either just
A) bite your tongue and learn from it. (Good criticism always offers something you may have missed altogether.)
B) rant to friends, laugh it the hell off, and move ON.
I tend to do both with my feedback. Once in awhile, I’ll get pissed off, sure, but no matter what, I don’t go ballistic. That solves nothing, and it makes the writer look like an asylum escapee.
(Keep in mind that, amidst all of this lunacy, I’ve not forgotten all the bigwig mainstreamers behaving like utter douchepizzles to everyone else. What wonderful role models they are, eh?)