My entire philosophy regarding nasty comments from readers referring my works comes down to the following three statements:
1) You can’t please everyone. Ever. Period.
2) Sometimes reviewers hate you, sometimes they love you. They are entitled to their informed opinion.
3) (insert the sound of a “raspberry” here.)
Sometimes, however, you might feel the need to respond. My advice? Don’t. Below are a few articles regarding the basics of WHY you should not respond. They come down to one word: Professionalism. I’m here to write stories, sell stories, and hopefully, make a living, the rest of it is just part of the business. I DO actively look at reviews. Now and then they are useful. Sometimes not so much.
I’m going to go over one of my favorite subjects yet again. Oh, we’ve visited here before, you and I, assuming of course that you bother to read what I write here. Still, some places need to be seen more than once, don’t they? Some subjects seem to need a fresh viewing from time to time.
Not all that long ago a few of my peers were talking about one of the big boys. Mostly what they had to say was pleasant enough. A few people seemed puzzled by the gent’s actions, but not shocked. The person in question had turned them down for blurbs.
Yes, you in the back with your hand held high? ‘What’s a blurb?’ A blurb is that little sentence or two that writers ask their peers and those they admire or envy to give to them regarding their latest books. Just what their value is seems to be a very serious question to a lot of people, but the basic notion is that these little quotes could potentially help sell books. As a point of fact I’m exceedingly fond of selling books, so I recommend that if you can get blurbs, you do so.
Now, I’d like to put this into perspective if I may. If we work under the assumption that the level of popularity and sales attained is a quantifiable issue, and we then work under the belief that this issue can be studied and used to our advantage, then it’s safe to assume that someone like Stephen King, Dean Koontz or J.K. Rowling are likely to get substantially more requests for blurbs than someone like yours truly. Why? Because they are household names. True, not every person on the planet knows who they are, but millions do and that says something substantial. Thousands might know who the hell I am, which means that using the earlier assumptions, the aforementioned authors probably get (to keep with my so far scintillating numerical analogy) butt loads more requests for blurbs than I do. I get enough that I have to regretfully turn down far more than I can accept. It’s become a necessity. I have to write, you see, and I have a day job, and a family and, well, a life. I can’t spend all of my time reading, much as I might want to, and I insist on actually READING anything I might be asked to blurb. Damned rude of me, I know, but there it is. My point here being that the folks who do the asking of some of the bigger names run the same risk of getting a “so sorry, no time right now” as anyone else.
But I digress (maybe). We were talking about politics.
Oh, now I remember.
I made a comment amidst the very small and private group. I pointed out that I was fairly certain the author they were discussing pretty much didn’t like me. A few others clarified who they knew that this author likes and doesn’t like.
And here we go. According to most sources, there is only one other writer that this particular writer actively dislikes. Examples were given. I nodded and listened.
Now, I bet a few of you are annoyed with me because I haven’t mentioned a single name regarding this conversation. In fact the only names I’ve mentioned at all were three that I used to show the difference in magnitudes between my success and that of authors who have become “name brands.”
Guess what? That’s the best you’re going to get out of me.
I don’t like them. I never have. They merely make things murkier than they need to be. I may not like an author. An author may not like me. It doesn’t matter. We don’t have to collaborate on a novel any time soon and even if we did, I think the professionals would set aside egos and differences long enough to get the job done.
See? There I go again, pointing out that this is my job. My career. Like that should make any difference at all.
It does, of course. I’m in it, as the saying goes, to win it. Yes, I love writing. Yes, I would still write if I never sold another piece. I will, however, do my damnedest to sell every piece that I write, or barring that, I’ll figure out why I couldn’t sell it. Just like other professional writers do. Just like comic artists and actors and even the occasional poet does. It’s called professionalism.
There are probably a lot of people who can say things about my writing that are negative. Hell, a lot of them already have and unless a miracle occurs, a good number more will in the future. There are a lot of folks who could probably debate my personal grooming habits and whether or not my deodorant fails in the height of the summer should they be bored enough.
Most of the time, however, what they can’t legitimately accuse me of is saying anything nasty about my peers. (Hey, I’m not a saint. I’ve slipped up a few times).
So, while skimming over my usual haunts on the internet, I ran across a header that referred to “hating your readers.” I was between paragraphs and composing the next part of a YA proposal in my head at the time and I decided I’d go ahead and look it over. The board in question was Shocklines.com and the subject was, for a change of pace, exactly what it claimed to be. A writer who believes that if you don’t hate your readers, you are somehow doing it all wrong.
Actually, to be fair, I’ll quote the writer in question: “Hating the reader means not writing to/for a favourite group of people. Hating the reader means not writing to his/her expectations of your current saleable standing or reputation. Hating the reader means writing from your very centre.” Mike Philbin
Okay, fair enough. He redefines a few times, but I can see where there might be a seed of logic or two in the argument. It’s the hatred part that gets in the way of this making sense to me.
I can’t hate my readers. First, they help pay my bills. Second, while I fully believe in writing for yourself first, even if I didn’t I have to tell you, the reader doesn’t really come into the equation until the book is done. Oh, and third, some of them send me e-mails and tell me that my writing is fun. That alone would guarantee a certain level of affection, believe me.
I write for me. I always have, and I always will. Let me explain that to you. It’s my story I’m telling. It’s my imagination that I’m using. If I start second guessing what other people might think about how I’m telling it, I can guarantee it’s going to fall apart long before I’ve finished telling the tale.
As I’ve said before, writing is a business for me. that means that when it’s all said and done, I want to sell my works to a publisher who will kindly pay me money and take care of all of the uglier parts of the job, like making certain that everything is just so and spending money I certainly don’t have on advanced copies for reviewers, and maybe even a little actual advertising.
My job isn’t finished, not by any stretch of the imagination. There’s proofs to read, edits to go over, arguments to be had about the format, etc. That’s all part of the work part of being a writer and all of that, like worrying about the readers’ desires, comes after I’m done writing the story.
First, however, I take care of the fun part. The initial tale to be told. Again and with feeling and possibly even with apologies to a few who might be offended by the notion, when I’m writing, it’s all about what I want. Do I want the protagonist to get the girl? Maybe. Will my main characters all come out of the conclusion unscathed/ Not bloody likely. Those decisions have to be mine when I’m writing. Otherwise, I’m not writing for me anymore and something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I understand what the man who started the thread was going for, but even with the decision to leave the initial draft of the book in my own hands, I can’t fathom the notion of hating the reader. That’s like loathing your parents for giving you a roof over your head and nurturing you for the first part of your life. And yes, I know there are a few exceptions out there, but for the most part, the average parent doesn’t abandon us at birth and leave us to manage on our own at the age of two, or beat us black and blue and lock us in closets. If yours did, I’m rather surprised you have the time to read this between therapy sessions.
I write for myself. I don’t try to predict the market, or choose my subjects based on the latest growing trend in paperbacks. Dear Lord, what a waste of time. You’ll never, ever get it right. By the time you’re aware of most trends, it’s too late to catch them, and even if you do, I don’t honestly believe you’re doing yourself of anyone else a favor by trying to catch up on what was written two years ago.
At the very least, calling the idea of writing for yourself “hating the reader,” is a poor choice of words. At the most, it smacks of preposterous arrogance. That’s just my two cents.
James A. Moore
On a side note, I just finished the signature sheets for this one. Should be a LOT of fun! And since October is almost here, it seems appropriate.