I’ve seen several instances in the news and on various forums recently of authors behaving in a truly reprehensible manner, and realized that it never ceases to amaze me how easily some authors forget that they are presenting much more than their books in this day and age.
Gone are the days when an author could put out a book, but remain, for the most part, a faceless entity. In this age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other social media outlets where what you had for breakfast is as easily accessible as your current playlist, it’s boggles the mind when people forget that everything you put out there will be viewed by someone. While an author may not have the fame of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence or Tom Cruise (though we all wish we did!) they seem to think that this means they are anonymous, and without risk of persecution should they behave badly.
Well, I’m here to tell you anonymity is dead, folks. If someone can hack the cloud and download naked pics of JLaw, someone can definitely find an example of an author publicly losing their shit and getting into a flame war with a critic who left them a bad review.
We’ve all heard the horror stories, and maybe even rolled our eyes at the spectacle of an author who has fallen down the rabbit hole of responding to a bad review, only to end up vilified and ridiculed for their lack of control. While we may chortle, and even add a pithy comment admonishing the author for their childish behavior, we have to ask ourselves, could we curb our own feelings of outrage if someone gave our work a bad review?
I’d like to think that I have enough sense and self-control to refrain from responding to something like this (even if I can’t exert any self-control over ignoring that last cookie in the packet), but thankfully haven’t been in a position yet where I’ve had to test that theory. Whenever I do contemplate receiving the inevitable bad review (because everyone will get at least one), I remind myself of some very wise advice I heard earlier this year at Denver Comic Con. I don’t recall the name of the panel session, but I believe that it was local artist Kathryn Renta who said that as an author/artist you are always “on.” You are a walking, talking advertisement for your brand at all times. This includes your interactions with other professionals, potential readers, etc. at conventions, workshops, and online. It’s true that the countless people you meet at a convention may not remember you or your book, but you can be sure that they’ll be a lot more likely to remember you (and tell their friends) if you’re rude, or if they hear you bad-mouthing another professional. It sounds like such a simple piece of wisdom, so obvious that it should be common sense, and yet so few people seen to adhere to the mantra “If you write it, they will see it.”
It goes without saying that the old adage that even bad publicity is good publicity is simply not true, especially when everything you say and do online can be tracked and viewed by anyone, but I’m going to say it anyway.
Leave trolls to their bridges and harassing billy goats. Treasure the good reviews for the little gems that they are, and ignore the bad ones. After all, as the saying goes, opinions are like assholes – everybody has one. And everyone is entitled to theirs. Even trolls.