Sitting here, staring at my computer screen, and the only word that I can think of is… Wow. And really, really not in a good way.
The source of my amazement is, once again, the wonderful world of writing (wwow, perhaps?). Or, a little more specifically, the writing community. I want to make it very clear – there are some absolutely wonderful, lovely people in the writing community. There are those who will take the time to support others, to give honest, constructive feedback. Those who will share their knowledge and experience, answer questions from new authors, and actively go out of their way to help. There are those who will deal positively with criticism, and discuss it in a mature, polite, professional way. There are those with a wonderful sense of humour – wild, crazy, creative people. There are authors who have taken their time to do their work properly – who have invested in their books, spending time to write, getting proofreading done, formatting, editing, etc.
I’ve been privileged to speak to a large enough number of these people to have faith in them. Whether it be those who run promotional websites, and have bent the rules to help me with a promotion; or have responded positively to my reviewing (even when I’ve had to say some things which haven’t been very positive, in the spirit of honesty); or have sought me out on forum boards after constructively and helpfully answering my questions, and offered some extra tips; or have explained when they’re unable to review my book at this time, but invited me to submit later; or have invited me to Facebook/Goodreads groups and shared their knowledge, or politely explained my ignorant breaking of the rules without making me feel like a complete idiot; or who have discretely contacted me to discuss points I’ve raised about their books; or who have taken the time to sit down with me in a pub and share their experiences with me; and especially those who’ve just made me laugh.
They are the shining stars of the self-publishing world.
Unfortunately, stars shine brightest when they’re surrounded by the black, murky pitch of night. And it’s that darkness that is, right now, making me stare at my computer screen and say… Wow.
The internet abounds with tales of badly behaving authors – throwing tantrums left, right and centre. In some cases, the original reason may be justified. In some cases, the tantrum is based on the ridiculous. Whether it be the author who threw a colossal shit-fit because his post was moved from one forum discussion to another; the situation regarding an author who has allegedly been boosting his own profile (through doctoring photos to suggest he was one a booksigning tour with another author, as opposed to just attending a booksigning, for example); the perpetual spammer on forums; the malicious reviewer; the stalker; the revenge stalker, or any of a thousand types.
I don’t know the details of the situations well enough to say “He’s right, she’s wrong”, or “She’s an innocent victim, and he’s to blame”. There’s a lot of malicious rumour spreading, a lot of malicious forum posting/blog posts etc, and a lot of malicious reviews out there. But, dear lord, there’s some truly appalling behaviour going on in those forums. A quick flick through sees authors – intelligent, creative, talented people – acting like a pack of wild dogs. Savaging one another mercilessly – sometimes dragging in innocent bystanders.
In this situation, poster X has raised a question on a forum board. It’s a variant of a question they have raised several times before, with a fairly accusatory tone about reviews on Amazon and Amazon’s responsibilities to remove fake reviews, especially as they have affected poster X’s sales. A quick look reveals that some of these negative reviews could easily be malicious. Some of them are verified purchases. Poster X may have a point. Unfortunately for poster X, his response to every single negative review is to accuse the reviewer of being the same person, leaving their reviews to support their racism, and then continue with various strong responses to people he believes are responsible on the forum pages. He also engages in a spirited attack in a discussion around his book (on Amazon’s pages) being plagiarised, and the attacks the discussion originator has made on his book. And, in the forum itself, he seems to have had major problems with some other posters – accusations of plagiarism, bullying, malicious reporting, etc.
Again, I don’t know the situation – or a lot of the history – which surrounds this situation. Certainly, it would appear that poster X has been the victim of some malicious actions. However, poster X’s responses – born out of frustration and (real or imagined) persecution do not in any way help him. His multiple posts have attracted the ire of the forum community, and his responses to their ire have served only to fuel their fire. It’s now at the point where posters on both sides of the argument have become overly vicious and aggressive.
Worryingly, some of the comments have mentioned that such behaviour will be attracting more negative reviews to his book. Whatever his behaviour, or indeed, whatever the behaviour of any author out there, a malicious and negative review placed purely for spite is just a very unpleasant bullying tactic. By all means, have your discussions with that individual in the forum boards, but leave it there. Would you go to your boss to raise unwarranted complaints about a colleague who said something a little snarky at their desk one day, and sustain this over several months?
I’m not picking sides. I certainly believe that everyone involved in this particular situation is, at least a little, at fault. But generally, this habit of malicious reviews, flame wars, online abuse, and general bad habits damages the community as a whole. Booksellers are not in competition. There’s no situation where the entire reading world will only pick one book at a time to read collectively. Your book, his book, her book, my book, their book can all be bought and read – sometimes even by the same author.
Just as the internet abounds with tales of bad authors, it also contains a wealth of advice. Behave professionally. Don’t respond to reviews – but if you must, do so positively, and without attacking the reviewer. Don’t rush your work out. Don’t post fake reviews for yourself or for others.
You may have some justification floating around for your actions, or the actions you’re tempted with. But realistically, there’s really no good reason. By engaging in any of these, you create a negative perception of yourself – and you are your product. Be better. Do better.
And if you’re a new author, new to the self-publishing game, and you happen upon this post – don’t despair. As mentioned, there are some truly wonderful people in the online writing community. They’re worth seeking out.