Real Writers Have Thick Skins

Walk it offYou don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media to see plenty of examples of jackassery. This is not especially true of authors, but authors are people, so it is just as true of authors. Seldom does a day go by that we are not exposed to some kind of little drama – petulance, whining, back-biting, or fervent appeals to action over some imagined injustice. What a buzzkill.

When ignorance (don’t know) combines with apathy (don’t care) and arrogance (I’m special), you really have the makings of mega-drama. One of two things is usually at the center when this vitriolic mixture bubbles up to the surface. Either some author did not like a review they just got, or somebody’s book or guest post got turned down.

I have received a few bad reviews. It’s disappointing. I get that. What I do not get are the authors who wilt like a hothouse orchid or erupt like a volcano at a bad review. It is simply a statement of fact that not everyone is going to like your book. That’s perfectly okay, and it is perfectly okay for them to say so.

I don’t know what people get so exercised about. If there was ever a time when a word from a single, credible review source could tank your aspirations in the literary world, that time has long passed. Having a mixture of review ratings is probably helpful. People get suspicious when they see nothing but five-star reviews. After the sock-puppet scandal, who could blame the public for casting a jaundiced eye at such a spectacle? Get this: SOMEONE SOMEWHERE WILL HATE YOUR BOOK. Buck up little camper.

If you are smart and the review deals with correctable issues, you’ll take advantage of the knowledge and make some changes. Isn’t it great that we live in an age when you can easily do that? Even if it doesn’t deal with correctable issues, rampaging all over the internet hurling epithets at your “attacker” is not the way to go. That’s just bad form and it makes you look like an idiot.

I don’t personally do reviews. IU does not do reviews. That means I don’t have to get involved in that particular sort of drama. But that doesn’t prevent bad behavior from landing on our doorstep.

We do a limited amount of book promotion on the site. We run 28 posts per week. Of those, two are reserved for paid promotion. About four spots are used for free promotion (either book briefs, video trailers, or new release announcements). That leaves 22 slots in the schedule. These are filled with staff posts, guest posts, contest announcement posts, the weekly flash fiction challenge, polls, like-fests, an occasional humorous fake ad, and tutorials. The reason I am sharing this with you is to illustrate that we are not primarily a book promo site. We are a writing resource site that does some promo.

Still, when we do promote a book, we want that book to be an excellent example of indie writing and publishing. To assure this as much as possible, we have a vetting process in place to evaluate books submitted for  book briefs, video trailers, new release announcements, or paid promo spots. Not surprisingly, some people are less open to constructive input than others.

The team leader for the vetting process is my partner, K.S. Brooks. Kat is well qualified to guide this process. She has served for many years as a literary contest judge and is an award-winning author and photographer in her own right. Other minions are brought in on an ad hoc basis to assist, so we have lots of eyes working on any given vetting project. It’s like getting a mini-critique that includes input on the cover, book description, and the first chapter. It takes effort, time, and expertise. It has value. We do this for free. We do it to be helpful.

It amazes me how angry some people can get when you point out a few typos or usage errors, or tell them their formatting is messed up, or that their cover text is not readable in thumbnail size. I mean really indignant. Some just never respond at all.

One guy actually wrote, “If you don’t want my money, I’ll take it elsewhere.”

Does this guy think we are his personal promo monkey? Here’s your banana, monkey, now go promo my book!

I don’t have any problem with people taking their books elsewhere. In fact, we have a page that lists a whole lot of book promo sites. We even e-mail the link for that page to people. Again, to help.

The thanks and praise for all this effort is sparse. I feel for Brooks.

Indies Unlimited does a lot of things. Book promotion is a relatively small portion of what we do here. We are happy to help you promote your book if it passes vetting, and happy to provide you some guidance to get it there if it does not.

Writers have to be as open to criticism as to praise. It is how we grow.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

18 thoughts on “Real Writers Have Thick Skins”

  1. Once you enter into the public arena, you better be good at ducking at what’s flying or turn your back. It’s sad that some people can’t comprehend the myriad of gifts bestowed upon them by the IU family.There is so much talent here and unity.

  2. Excellent post, Stephen, and a good reminder for us all. Writing (indeed, all art) is so subjective, it can never be universally adored (or even understood!), and the sooner we get that, the happier we will be. When I read a book that doesn’t grab me, I simply move on, and I expect my readers to do the same if they are not impressed. Such is life. We’ve all got bigger fish to fry.

  3. Great post Stephen. It is sad that some authors just won’t get it no matter how you try to guide them or show them the error of their ways. I guess some authors, of this past week, just love drama and love pulling their groopies in with them to spread their lack of professionalism in their writing arena. And when they make it public, like last week, you can bet I won’t be a buyer of their current or fututre books.

  4. Excellent points. I can understand where that urge to protect your “baby” comes from, though. We as authors create something that at its nature is subjective. Critique is subjective. If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t publish. You put something out there and everyone gets the right to judge. You don’t have to like it, but you need to find some way to deal with it OUT of the public eye. Witnessing an “author behaving badly” gives potential readers, and anyone you potentially want to do business with (and anyone who might have had the inkling to spread the word about your books), a really good snapshot of what you might be like as a person.

  5. I’m with Charlie Ray on this.
    Great post, EM.
    I’m old enough to know I can’t please all of the people (or even some of them) all of the time. Plus I’m old-fashioned. I believe writers like all of us, should be courteous at all times and that means to reviewers, readers and each other.

  6. I am sometimes amazed at authors who expect everyone to like everything they write and yet they find lots of faults in other people’s work. It’s as though egotism were endemic.
    You make very good points ad none of us should get so precious about our work that we cannot learn from the comments we receive. If someone has read my book and then takes the trouble to tell me what they think of it, I’m pleased. If they didn’t like t I’d like to know why, as there are questions I will ask myself that might help me improve my writing. That’s how I learn – from constructive criticism. None of us gets it all right all of the time, but hopefully we try.

  7. I love this article, because it answers the horrible question of, “What if I put myself out there, and somebody (or everybody) HATES it?” Shielding yourself (and by yourself I include your work) from criticism feels good, but does nothing good for you.

    Today’s readers are more sophisticated than they used to be, and I think they can sniff out a hate-rant versus a genuinely critical review. For my part, if I see a slew of hate-filled one-sentence/one-star reviews of a book, it makes me a little more intrigued: what did the author do to make someone and his/her internet minions that upset?

    If your book is good, it can weather that storm. If it needs work, the critics will tell you.

  8. I have received critical reviews that have assisted me in becoming a better writer. I agree with Carol Wyer that many people have lost their manners when dealing with others. We can easily take an additional minute to find words that express our opinion without belittling another author’s product.
    I also agree with Laurie that what we produce comes from our mind, heart, and soul. It is difficult to release it to the world. I have read reviews for books that I read and wondered if I had read the same book. This is, of course, only my opinion and therefore I won’t post a review less than three stars.
    I refer to my books as products. It allows me to distance myself emotionally from them and to remove my ego. Ego uncontrolled will wreak havoc and ruin relationships. It is a better idea to get a thick skin as you suggest and have a sense of humor. Taking yourself too seriously is never a good idea. 🙂

  9. I used to mention (privately, of course – never in a review) any typos or other glitches I noticed when reading other authors’ books. I assumed they would be grateful for a chance to make corrections before someone immortalized those mistakes in a public review. I know I would be.

    I learned quickly that many do not want to hear that their books are anything less than perfect. Now, I don’t say anything unless the author asks me to point out typos.

    Writers who meet criticism with indignation instead of openness are blinding themselves to truths that could land them eyeball-deep in cold, shark-infested waters.

    The last sentence of this post sums it up perfectly:
    “Writers have to be as open to criticism as to praise. It is how we grow.”

  10. I have several quotes for writers I’ve collected over the years, and one of my favorites is, “Those who do not like your work could very well be wrong.” by Andrew Greeley.

    Thanks for all you do, IU folks!

  11. If a writer only wants to hear praise for their work, just who are they fooling? Certainly not the readers. We all love to receive five star reviews, but it is not from those that we find the opportunities to improve. Whilst none of us seek negative reviews, I’m sure all writers worth reading welcome constructive comments.
    Mandy’s last sentence is so right.

  12. Great post. Writers do need to accept that not everyone is going to love, or even like, what they write just as I don’t enjoy everything I read.

  13. Good post but lets face it, rejection sucks. Some people criticize for the sake of being critical, others to help. Those who are inclined to help are much
    appreciated, but to the others, drop dead.

Comments are closed.