Some Author Don'ts for a Tuesday

Oh, what a day, what a day. Where shall I start?

1. Authors – it is possible to have a back and forth on a blog without pimping your own book unless you were asked to. An example of what I mean:

“Oh I totally agree with you! I need to have vikings in my romances and Polly Petty’s pirates are not the same! When I wrote viking buttsecks I and viking fourway III I had such a great time – my mom and dingleberry reviews think so too!”

Or in the discussion about viking romances you could say:

“I love viking romances! Reading Susie Vikinglover’s Viking Sunday is what made me want to start writing. I love the sense of adventure, the brawny men, the history. Have you tried XYZ author or book yet?”

Do you see the difference? One is not a discussion. No, it’s a slap at another author (which folks, seriously, STFU) AND a pimp of yourself while also bringing your mom and some random site run by your next door neighbor where all the books get a 5 viking raider ship review.

The second is an author who is a reader too. Many of us are, you know. You don’t have to shove your book in everyone’s face every thirty seconds. Try just being you for a while, it’s far preferable, IMO.

The internet is not private. If you get involved in something and start talking shit about another author, you’d best be owning your words when you get caught. I’m not going to respond in kind in public, but I will remember who did it and when that person asks me for a favor, as it happened recently, they can go to hell. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t try to make your cred on the backs of someone else and think it won’t be seen because it will. And when you do get busted, be an adult and own it. Don’t backpedal, don’t try to pretend you didn’t mean what is totally obvious you did mean until you got confronted and then punked out like a third grader. It is entirely possible to say, “I like X too and I’m so glad you liked my book.” without also adding, “and I totally agree with you about author Y and her lack of this story element.” and then follow up with more about your book.

Have some dignity and some class. And while you’re at it, have a cup of STFU.

Another thing? Authors who claim to be bestselling authors on everything, their myspace handle, online all over the place, their sig line – without actually being a bestseller in the accepted meaning. By this I mean, if you are Nora Roberts, you are not only a best selling author, you’re also a NYT bestselling author, etc. And yet, she doesn’t wear a t-shirt all over town with BEST SELLING AUTHOR on it.

If you have made the best seller list at your very small pub, you are not a ‘bestselling author’ in the understood meaning. I know this seems harsh, but it’s such an overstatement and everyone else knows that too and it’s just not dignified.

I know these days everyone gets a ribbon just for showing up for the race, but IMO, it takes away from the achievement of those who win when those who simply show up claim the winner title. Also it’s just a huge disconnect.

And while I’m in that neighborhood, sigh, okay, here’s the thing – everyone gets bad reviews. EVERYONE. Go look at any author you consider at the top of her game and check her amazon pages. There will be at least a few reviews talking about how awful she is or the book, about how she has no talent or ripped off another author’s style.

BAD REVIEWS SUCK but they come with the territory. Whether or not you have thick skin, they exist and how you react to them does make a difference.

Every time I see an author arguing with a reviewer or saying their mom really liked it or how some other review site liked it, or, god help us all, the “laughing all the way to the bank” reply – it makes me nauseated. It makes me pissed because the rest of us are painted with the same brush you’ll be. AND YOU WILL. You will be judged as a whiner, as a thin skinned cry baby and why would you want that?

1. Bad reviews happen (say this a few times)

2. So what? I mean, it’s an opinion. Everyone has an opinion. Reviewer A loves it, Reviewer B hates it. That’s a fact of life. People read books with their own filters, with their own likes and dislikes. It’s not about you, or how awesome your mom thought your book was, it’s about who is reading it. In the end it does not make your book better or worse because it’s just an opinion.

3. There are ways to deal with reviews. If they’re really bad, I ignore them. I have thick skin but I’m not dead. Reading someone say my writing sucks and they hate me and my voice, hurts. Doesn’t mean I’m going to flip out, but it means you have to find ways of dealing with negatives or you will go insane or do something stupid like:

4. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE DO NOT RESPOND TO A BAD REVIEW WITH A REFERENCE TO OTHER SITES THAT LIKED THE BOOK. I’m totally serious. First of all, what do you hope to achieve with that? Do you think people reading will say OH! Well then, this reviewer is all wrong and I must have the book! Or do you think they read that and say, “what the hell? Who freaking cares? That author is an idiot” I’ve been doing this for a while now and almost exclusively I’ve seen the latter reaction. The author just presents herself as a rightful target of mockery. hundreds of comments later, after all your friends have shown up to say how awesome you are, and nothing has changed except you’ve become synonymous with some web kefuffle. Keep moving.

5. I’ll either say nothing, reply or send an email thanking them for reading and move on. There’s no battle to be won here, either people like it or they don’t. There’s no right or wrong there.

6. Even if it is personal, shut up. I’m not joking. I hear complaints about how it’s a double standard with regard to what we can say online. And you know what? There is. Get over it.

7. Let me repeat, shut up. Dont have your friends rush over to the blog in question. Dont’ have your fellow authors rush over. This NEVER works. It only makes you look worse.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is just close the window and move on. Call a friend. Eat some chocolate. But don’t throw away your dignity by giving in to temptation and responding. Think. What will this do for you? Will it give you a better review? Will it make more people read you? Will it make you look bad? Do you even have the time to get involved in some huge drama?

Some people will like you, some won’t. End of story. Running over to a blog and hurling insults won’t help anyone. Just step away from the keyboard.

In closing – just use some common sense. Storms will pass. Bad reviews will pass. There will always be authors more read than you, paid better than you, who get better covers than you. Just accept that now and as long as you do the best job you can on your book, that’s all you can do.

Civility goes a long way. Stupidity lasts forever on the internet as long as google cache exists. RESIST TEMPTATION.

21 comments to “Some Author Don'ts for a Tuesday”

  1. Shiloh Walker
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:10 pm · Link

    I ♥ Lauren.

  2. Megan
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:14 pm · Link

    Seriously, it amazes me that people are so personally defensive about their business. And, duh, ineffectual in their personal defensiveness. I have one wife of a friend who says she’ll start running when she sees a smiling runner; I’d add, I’ll start being an online ass when I see an author get someone to change their minds about their work through this kind of behavior.

    (And I always try to smile when I run now, just in case she’s around).

  3. limecello
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:15 pm · Link

    Heh. Hello brain twin. I wrote a similar rant last night, but deleted it because I couldn’t articulate as well as you did in this post.

  4. Jennifer McKenzie
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:18 pm · Link

    Funny. It’s not MY reviews that have been the hardest not to respond to, but the reviews of my friends.
    It also doesn’t help to get involved in THAT mess either.
    Excellent post.

  5. Emma Petersen
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:21 pm · Link

    This is excellent advice. Shelli (who has saved my big mouthed self more than once) once told me if I wouldn’t do it at my 9 to 5 job I shouldn’t do it in my writing one either and that professionalism is the key because this industry has a very long memory.

  6. laurendane
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:23 pm · Link

    Jennifer – It never helps to get involved in any sort of rush to defend your friends in a review. You want to, I know, I’ve been there before too. But it’s only going to hurt your friend.

    Certainly you can say, civilly, I loved that about the book, I thought XYZ was amazing and authorbuddy really outdid herself.

    But even that is iffy I think. In the end, I may do a review myself or maybe give away copies or send my friend a little pick me up.

  7. laurendane
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:25 pm · Link

    Shi – LOL, thank you

    Megan – that’s hilarious! I gotta say I just might adore you for that comment about you smiling when you run

    LC – I bet it was even more articulate than mine, LOL.

    Emma – good rule. I will open a window to post sometimes, say all the stuff I want and then delete just so I can get it all out without doing any damage.

  8. Rob Charron
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:27 pm · Link

    Hi 😀
    Great blog. Great advice. I hope the ones who need it will take it.
    PS Love the books to the right. Relentless looks & sounds awesome, I’ll be reading it.
    Love From Canada

  9. Will Belegon
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:30 pm · Link

    Nicely said, Lauren. If we want to be treated like professionals, we need to act like professionals.

    Yes, it is hard sometimes. Our writing is very personal and it’s hard not to get defensive at bad reviews or do the “Yay me!” all the time.

    But in the long run, the effort is worth it.

  10. nightsmusic
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:35 pm · Link

    *sigh* I’m not quite there yet. Published, I mean. But this I think applies to aspiring authors as well. Readers have very long memories and the occasional debate when done civilly and with some intelligence is fine, going in and lauding your friends, other authors, etc. etc. are not going to win you many readers when you finally are published and those readers remember what you said.

    Great post.

  11. Ann Aguirre
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:39 pm · Link

    The notable exception to this, I think, is when said bad review of your book is using your work as a platform to espouse some ridiculous view, such as, “Stupid people read romance novels” or “Women don’t think about sex like men do.”

    I use these specific examples because negative reviews of my work have made such sweeping statements, and I did mention the reviews on Twitter, not because of their criticisms of my work, but because, Hey, I love romance novels, and I don’t think I’d ever get my hand stuck in a can of Pringles. (Can you name that film reference?!) I detest blanket statements at the best of times, and I’ll freely mock someone, not because they disliked my book, but because they think “All people (in this social subset) behave a certain way.” I’m all about enlightened thinking and when I run across such throwbacks to the Cretaceous period it winds me up.

  12. Savannah
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:45 pm · Link

    Hot damn! I used to love the adrenaline rush of a good e-war… when I was 14. All very, very excellent advice.

  13. Vivi Anna
    June 9th, 2009 at 2:56 pm · Link

    Word Lauren. Word.

    I cringe every time I see an author acting a fool online. Get over yourself and move on. Authors reacting to bullshit like bad reviews or whatnot just gives too much power to those people expressing said bad review or debaucle.

  14. HelenKay Dimon
    June 9th, 2009 at 3:43 pm · Link

    Yes. God, yes.

    It’s so easy for an author to look like an idiot in blog comments, but it’s even easier for an author to decide not to engage. Back away from the computer.

  15. Meljean
    June 9th, 2009 at 4:52 pm · Link

    Yes to the infinite power.

  16. azteclady
    June 9th, 2009 at 6:45 pm · Link


    Have you considered doing a nice little workshop at RWA one year, Lauren?

    I have two topics for you: online presence/professionalism, and “what it means to be epublished: the money facts”

    I have a feeling you would have a nice attendance guaranteed the moment you announced them.

  17. Lori
    June 9th, 2009 at 8:35 pm · Link

    To quote Meg Ryan… yes… Yes… YES!!!!

    Standing O. Clapping.

    I cringe for authors when I see them behaving in such a manner. It then makes it very difficult as a reader and lover of books to separate the author from the book, which I normally do without hesitation.

  18. Joy Roach
    June 10th, 2009 at 2:37 am · Link

    Lauren Dane rocks. lol

    The moral I get from this post is most of the time it’s better to STFU. Love it!

  19. Christine
    June 10th, 2009 at 6:36 am · Link

    Excellent blog and good advice. When you are an artist you need a thick skin or you won’t make it.

  20. Taige Crenshaw
    June 10th, 2009 at 12:14 pm · Link

    Preach it Lauren. You so rock Lauren. And speak such truth.

    Talking shit about other authors online or in public is a huge no no. One of my biggest peeves. And that favor thing after. Yep. Been there. I kept my mouth. Practiced that old adage silence is golden. Then when they had the gall to come later for a favor I shook my head and laughed at the audacity. Wow.

    In the face of whatever controversy be it bad reviews, disagreements or whatever. Silence is golden. Behavior plays a big part into how you are perceived. Be professional and polite.

  21. Michelle
    June 10th, 2009 at 3:44 pm · Link

    I know that writing and being an author tends to be more personal because you put so much of yourself into your work.

    I write very dry and boring Business Requirement Documents for my job and I can even get defensive is someone doesn’t like my style or my work. LOL. I can’t imagine being so passionate about a book that I woud have written all to have it crumbled down that someone didn’t like it.

    Kudos to you for your outlook and for just plain writing this blog. Amazing advice.
    (I always wondered if authors go on to Amazon and read their reviews. )