Since taking to Twitter over the last several months, I’ve seen a lot of blog posts on what is, collectively, known as Badly Behaving Authors (BBA from here on). There are different uses for the term, but I’m referring particularly to authors who respond to negative reviews and social media criticism. I wasn’t going to write a blog post on this, mainly because I didn’t want it to seem like I was complaining. But after seeing this topic enough, the urge to put in my two cents is just too overwhelming.
I debated whether or not to name names. Of course I don’t want to start partaking of this BBA phenomenon myself by calling out offenders. But at the same time, if I stick to vagueries, the point of what I’m talking about might be missed. For that reason I’ve decided to give a link to one key example. (A disclaimer: I do not condone the one or two personal remarks this blogger makes about the author in question. Just saying …)
To view link to PocketFullofBooks blog, click here.
One of the most important lessons about self-publishing that I’ve taken to heart is “don’t respond to negative reviews and criticism.” By this I don’t mean, “rise above,” or “turn the other cheek,” I really mean “don’t respond.” Why? Two reasons:
1. Most importantly, readers have a right to share their opinions and feelings about whatever they read. Someone doesn’t like my book? They have every right to voice that opinion loud and clear, wherever and whenever they want. If I don’t like it, I probably shouldn’t have written a book and put it out there for people to read in the first place. Goodreads and Amazon especially are reader communities, established to help readers recommend and engage in discussions about books. As a writer it is not my place to engage in discussions about my own work. Period.
2. Even if a review is obviously malicious or unfair (a competing author or a factually inaccurate criticism), responding to it does the author no good. As an example, I refer you again to the link above which clearly demonstrates the fallout of this ill-advised engagement. At the end of it all, it was the author who lost out; she only succeeded in making herself look really, really unprofessional.
The thing with indie authors is that so many of us are new not just to the industry, but to the business of writing, marketing and promoting our own books - and it is a business! We do not have a team of experienced individuals to advise us along the way. Because of this inexperience and lack of mentorship, we might tend to be a bit more sensitive than established, traditionally published authors who have been dealing with the constant flux of praise and censure for decades.
Does that excuse BBA? No, absolutely not. The other thing is that, because of lack of experience, indie authors may tend to continue behaving like the regular, ordinary people they are in their daily lives. Regular, ordinary people snipe at each other. They speak their minds. And they stand up for themselves and the things they believe in.
Unfortunately, if you’re an author, indie or not, being a regular, ordinary person is not a luxury you can afford. At least you can’t afford to show that part of yourself to the world if you want to encourage readership (unless you're making a platform of it). The face we present to our readers is sometimes more important than the books we present to them. Ask yourself: have you ever been put off reading certain books as a matter of principle because of a BBA?
I can’t speak for the entire indie community, but I sure know I’m invested in my career as a professional writer. It is disheartening to see that the BBA-ness of a handful of authors is often perceived as a condition of the entire indie community - of which I am inextricably a part. I am very cautious about what I say online, what I reTweet, what I promote, etc. And when it comes to not-so-glowing reviews, well, I’ve maintained from the get-go that I respect the right of my readers to express their opinions about my work. If they have something to say, good or bad, I appreciate and want to hear it.
Am I alone out there? Are you an indie author who has an opinion either for or against what I’ve said? What about readers? How do you feel about BBAs responding to your reviews?