Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Four Ways To Fight the Review Trolls

How to Cope with Negative (or Even Cruel) Feedback

By Katherine Rivas

"It is advantageous to an author that his book should be attacked as well as praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If it be struck at one end of the room, it will soon fall to the ground. To keep it up, it must be struck at both ends."-Samuel Johnson



Authors, understandably, are hurt by bad reviews. A book is a vessel of effort and emotion, a labor of love, practically like one’s own child. Editors and agents have always advised authors not to respond to (and sometimes not even to read) reviews, unless there was some particular and easily corrected factual misapprehension.


The Internet has given writers and readers a powerful and usually constructive tool to engage with one another. At the same time, the anonymity, or at least detachment, the Web offers has helped to foster a widespread culture of meanness. Though many responsible outlets (this blog, for instance) do their best to uphold high standards of civility among commenter, if you publish widely enough, the day will come when you receive feedback that is not only unappreciative, but even hateful.
There’s also the one-star/five-star problem to contend with: people who take to the Internet to write a review of anything, be it a hotel or a poem, typically do so either to boost the product, or (probably more often) to trash it.

So if you’re looking over your pride and joy on Amazon.com, and suddenly you see a review that hurts your feelings, what should you do? Here are a few pointers:


1. Don’t feed the trolls.

After you receive a harsh or vindictive review, your first instinct may be to fire off an angry response. Refrain. This is exactly what such people feed off of. You will be sucked into a vicious back-and-forth that will do nothing but deplete you emotionally, and perhaps also make you look unprofessional.

2. Try writing the response...on paper
And don’t send it. Composing letters in anger can be purgative, but sending them is almost always a bad idea. This way, you can achieve the emotional catharsis of a “comeback” without extending the nastiness.


3. NEVER pose as a reader to defend your own writing.

You may think this is a clever workaround. But it’s dishonorable and dishonest, and people have ways of finding out your identity. That’s what happened to romance author Candace Sams in late 2009, setting off a literary sideshow of the highest order. Don’t let it happen to you. Your true fans will stick up for you, unbidden. Stay above the fray.


4. Avoid your own reviews in the first place.

Abstinence is the best policy. Take it from William Faulkner: “The artist doesn't have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews. The ones who want to write don't have the time to read reviews.”


~Katheryn Rivas is a regular contributor to Online Universities.com, a leading online university student resource for those interested in pursuing a distance education. She welcomes your comments at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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