When “how not to act” becomes “what not to read”

This is textbook Professionalism 101.

Authors, when encountering a review that is not as glowing or complimentary as you would have liked, there are two things you should do:

1 – Don’t respond
2 – Really, don’t respond

Natural inclination is to jump in defend your baby with your last cutting word, however, authors get bad reviews. It happens. You acknowledge the review (silently), thank them  for reading (silently, or maybe a quick *private* note thanking them for their time), and work on your next book.  Maybe you can even think about what they said – was it grammar, punctuation, mis-spellings? Weird sentence structure? Maybe with new eyes you can look over your work and avoid the same missteps.

Or, you can do what Jacqueline Howett did, and in a few comments, utterly destroy her reputation. I’ve heard the argument that art should be based on the merit of itself, not the behavior or personal life of its creator. In this case, it’s still a fail because by her own admission, the art wasn’t very well done.

In all of her ranting and cussing, she missed the point of the review – it’s a good story if you can get past the errors. I think that’s fantastic to hear,  because means the mechanics need work, and we can all use a refresher in mechanics.

Instead, she attacked the reviewer, blamed an “emergency copy” and then proceeded to act like Tyson in the grips of roid rage.  This is how not to get taken seriously as an author.  If you can believe it, there are people out there who believe that authors are civilized – dare I say erudite, professional people who get paid for having active imaginations.  It’s the perfect Peter Pan Profession, building castles in the sky on paper, and when we do it well, we’re admired. When it’s done poorly, there isn’t a patron in the world who wants to support a brat who’s just going to sit around all day and mash ants into mud. 

It really is a nice review, and the reviewer went above and beyond, providing a critique of the work and why it had flaws.  If someone wanted to take a chance on a good story about hope, beginnings, and isolation, it may have been worth a quick read.  However, Ms Howett pretty  much solidified her chances of never being read by anyone, ever, not even as a joke.

It also compounds the lingering perception people have of self-published works and the writers who try to circumvent the “gatekeepers” – poor writing, poor grammar, and then the personal attack.  It’s hard to see the gems in a bucket of costume jewelry it it’s easy to be lost among the paste.  No one wants an author coming after them over an honest opinion (and yes, even professional writers forget the rules), and in an age of social networks and point and click insults, this happens far too often. This is  not how to get noticed in a way that makes people want to root for the underdog.

I tip my hat to all reviewers out there willing to take the bullet for the rest of us. Your service to the profession is commendable.

BigAl’s Book and Pals, The Greek Seamen/Jacqueline Howett