I’m not here to talk about whether what author Kathryn Hale (who sought out a book blogger, to the point of showing up on her doorstep!) did is right, wrong, weird, or stalkerish and potentially illegal (okay, I personally would never ever ever do what she did, but that’s just me). I’m here to talk about being a professional author in general, especially with regard to reviews, building relationships with readers, book bloggers, and book reviewers, pre-release marketing, and spending our time writing.
Hale and her guardian.uk article (‘Am I Being Catfished?’ where she confronts her “number one critic”) are a jumping off point for this #BlogTrain, and I encourage you take a look at all the different blogs involved, and all the various perspectives. Today, as I always do, my focus is how authors can connect and build relationships with readers and be professional because let’s face it, we are in the business of selling books, not stalking.
BE PROFESSIONALLike it or not, accept it or not, you — the author — are a salesperson. Most authors HATE this fact (some actually refer to it as a ‘concept’ — yea, right. That royalty check isn’t a concept, is it?), yet they still want to magically sell a shit-ton of books (they also object to doing any marketing, but that’s a whole other blog post). You make money from people buying your product. Most likely you deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage, write off business expenses like coffee at Starbucks (what) and your car payment, airfare to Vermont to see the leaves change and write (I wish). You pay taxes on your royalties, ergo, you are in business. Get over yourself.
Accepting that you are a businessperson (at least for the purposes of this blog post — your accountant can thank me later), you might want to then act oh, I don’t know, professionally. This means you say please, use your inside voice on social media, and hopefully, thank people when they review your book…even if they hate it.
Yes, you read that correctly. See, here’s the thing: we are writers. We create art. Art is subjective. Some will love it, some will hate it. Consumers of our art have every right to love it or hate it, and to share their opinion far and wide, or not at all, about what they loved or hated about it. Who are we to argue with them? We are readers, too. Don’t we have that same right? Again, get over yourself.
RESPONDING TO REVIEWS
How should we as authors respond to reviews, especially negative ones? Well, most people say, it’s simple: don’t. Don’t say a word. Move on, it happens. Not everyone will love your work. It stings, but maybe you’ll learn something (and if you’re not open to learning, what’s wrong with you? Really. I mean that sincerely. Are you really all that?).
Another option: thank the reviewer for taking the time to read your work. Simple, to the point. Be kind. Don’t grovel, don’t explain, don’t ask them to reconsider their review or change anything, just thank them and be done with it. Go write in your journal how much you hate them, or stick pins in a voodoo doll (what), but don’t publicly say another word. Because see, other people will read your response. And share it, And write about what a psycho you are on their blog. Or stick up for you. Hey, it happens.
People are watching. No author operates in a vacuum. Everything is public! Always keep that in mind, dear author friends.
Finally, you can go full-on #HaleNo and show up on their doorstep, risk a trespassing violation and the derision of oh, the entire Internet. Is it worth it? I think about the unprofessionalism of her actions and cringe (okay, I did go there). Maybe she has OCD, I don’t know, but didn’t her mama teach her how to rise above? I worry about young authors who think that her actions are justified. No, just, no.
This is my mantra and I’m sticking to it. Develop relationships with readers, book bloggers, and book reviewers via social media, blogging, etc. Marketing your books is not sell, sell, sell with ‘Buy my book!’ links repeatedly. Not only is that ineffective and annoying, it’s also lazy and ignorant. Authors who use social media to do nothing but hawk their books have spent zero time learning how to build relationships with readers. Where’s the social in that?
When it comes to book bloggers and reviewers, it’s even more important to focus on pre-release activities — follow them, interact, retweet, share, and comment, ask them to read an ARC (advanced review copy), and be open to their feedback — NOT following them on Twitter and saying ‘Hi, will you review my book?’ as if they have nothing else to do, harass them until they do, and then yell at them publicly when they don’t love it as much as your mommy does. How selfish is that?
Relationships, successful relationships, of any kind, are give and take, not just take. What are you giving? In the case of Hale, what did she give to book bloggers and reviewers? I personally don’t have any idea. I’m not here to judge her (truly, despite the snark). She did what she felt she needed to do for whatever reasons. In a bigger sense however, this is a great lesson for writers — when you receive a one-star review (and you will), what are you going to do? Will you learn from it? Will you walk away? Will you disagree with them, itchy fingers wanting to correct them for not seeing your brilliance? Will you actually harangue the person to the point of stalking until they decide to stop reviewing books altogether?
Think about all the time Hale (or you, or another “author behaving badly”) has spent obsessing over a bad review, responding online, writing blog post after blog post, tweeting furiously, freaking out, sticking pins in a voodoo doll, etc. Hours, days, months? Now, instead, imagine they had taken all that time and written their next book. Yea, that.
Keep writing. Don’t let one bad review stop you, nor people who hate your work. They are out there, and they will write horrible one-star reviews just for the sake of writing horrible one-star reviews. Or maybe, because your book sucks. So what? Trust your voice. (That said, work with professionals!)
I know it’s hard to walk away, to not go down the rabbit hole, to avoid getting sucked into the negativity, but you have control over it. You can walk away because you are an adult, you are a professional, and you are a businessperson.
So…act like one.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.