Monday, June 15, 2015

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of negative things lately that pertain to authors and readers/reviewers. The first was about an author attacking reviewers on Goodreads. I read part of it, then had to stop. It was insane. What the author was saying bordered on harassment and threats. Despite the harsh treatment, the reviewer replied beautifully. 

This wasn’t the first time an author  attacked a reviewer for their opinion on a book, and I highly doubt it will be the last. It’s good that these situations are brought to light and other authors can learn from them. Otherwise, the cycle will never stop. And it needs to.

I love getting reviews—whether they are good or bad. It means that people are reading and reacting to my work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read reviews, I do, but I honestly don’t do it very often. If I’m sent a link to a review, I’ll check it out. Every once in a while I’ll go to Amazon or Goodreads and check out what’s been written there. But I don’t do it every day.

In addition to the main article, I read a lot of different reactions to how the situation was handled, and I totally agree that every reader and reviewer is entitled to their own opinion—even if I don’t agree with it. There have been times when I’ve wanted to defend my work and respond to a reviewer, but I didn’t. (Well, not directly. I probably passively aggressively replied to it on my blog or to one of my friends, which may not be much better.)

Some people argued that authors shouldn’t have any contact with reviewers at all—not even thanking them for their review. That seems a bit extreme, but at the same time, I understand where they’re coming from. I liked the reviews I received on Goodreads for some of my books (not all), but maybe that was going too far. I liked them all, good and bad, but since I don’t read them very often, how does it look if I don’t go back and like the new ones? Maybe it was better for me to just stay away.

As for the thanking, again, if I’m sent a link and the review appears on their blog, I’ll thank them in the comments. They took the time to read my and give their opinion, it doesn’t take much to say thank you. And I’ve done that for both positive and negative reviews.

So that dealt with an author being a jerk, but the other one I read talked about readers going to the extremes.

The article talked about fandom and the reactions to two specific authors’ work. In it, they talked about how fans can get mean with each other and with the author, sending them threats and telling them they aren’t worthy of owning the characters.

I get this. I really do. If I like a character or world, I become obsessed with it. I think of them as real people, and I get emotionally invested in what they do. Sometimes I get upset and angry if a character is killed off.

The point of writing is to evoke emotions in our readers, and authors love when that happens. It reinforces why we do what we do.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love our readers and our fans. You are amazing and wonderful people, and you’re the reason we do what we do. But if you want us to continue to do it, don’t be violent and hateful. Don’t threaten us.

It scares me to think the lengths some of these readers go to.  (In reality, it’s not a huge amount. But you know the saying: One bad apple ruins the bunch.)  I mean, sending threats? How is that okay? It reminds me of Misery by Stephen King. Which he may have written because he had the same types of run-ins with his fans.

Interestingly enough, years ago when Coming from Nowhere first came out, I asked Piers Anthony (who is one of my idols) to read and review it for me. Much to my surprise, he agreed. But he told that reading his fans’ novels was difficult for him because if he didn’t like it, he could lose a fan and make them angry, which could, in turn, cause them to bad mouth him.

I understood that. It’s definitely a fine line. And he didn’t particularly like the book, but that was okay. He was entitled to his opinion, and I still like him. He’s still one of my favorite authors and made an impact on my writing. To this day I’m still thrilled he actually read the book!

It makes me sad to see this much negativity floating around. And it makes me really anxious. At this point I’m not well-known enough to have these issues, but they make me not want to get to there. They make me want to stay in my small bubble and unknown to the world. They make me want to become invisible.

As authors we put ourselves out there with our work, and we open ourselves up to criticism. Most of us know this and can handle it. It’s part of the game. But there’s a difference between creative criticism and being hateful. And no one—neither readers nor authors—should be subject to the vitriol.

I love the passion that both readers and writers are capable of, but keep it civil. We’re all humans, we’re all imperfect, but we can still be nice to each other.

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