Build Relationships With Readers, Don’t Stalk Them #HaleNo

By Rachel Thompson | Blog

Nov 05

HaleNoBlogTrain

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.

Let’s deconstruct.

BE PROFESSIONAL

Like 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.

BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

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?

WRITE, WRITE, WRITEcomputer

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.

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All content copyrighted unless otherwise specified. © 2014 by Rachel Thompson, author. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.
 Photos courtesy of Kriss Morton and unsplash.com

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About the Author

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.

Leave a Comment:

(19) comments

Pavarti K Tyler November 5, 2014

Well said! At the end of this day, all this energy would be better spent writing and moving forward in a positive way instead of wasting your resources on this stalkery obsession.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Thanks so much, Pav! Honestly, I don’t get the mindset, it’s kind of ‘newbie writer 101’ a little bit – attack the dissenter for not loving our books.

    There’s no grace in that. As artists, we must learn to accept that we are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea (thus the cliche). It does apply to all of us.

    hugs!

    Reply
Helen Hanson November 5, 2014

Wow. I expected to see the term “big girl panties” at some point in the post, but it reminds me of good advice I was given early in my career: You only get so many arrows in your quiver. Don’t squander them on matters of fleeting consequence.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Haha, it’s basically that, Helen.

    And that’s excellent advice! I may have to quote you. xo

    Reply
Will Van Stone Jr November 5, 2014

How is this not so glaringly obvious that Ray Charles would see? Have we not witnessed enough public meltdowns thanks to Hollywood’s stellar example to know that public spats can have serious, career ruining consequences? Hale created her own personal Streisand Effect when she went beyond the realm of rational response and then tried to paint herself as the poor, persecuted soul fighting for her right to be right.

This sort of nonsense makes it harder for everyone trying to hog tie their dreams and beat them into submission. When one author (or any other public(ish) figure, for that matter) acts like a spoiled dictator crying foul over being told to stop gassing their own people (extreme but I think it makes my point), everyone loses. Forget getting along. Can we all just grow the fuck up?

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    so well said, Will! And how she rationalized it — definitely cray. And even beyond that, that she says she misses obsessing over the whole thing. I mean, WTF?

    Listen, everyone has their weird foibles. None of is perfect. Far from it. But if we are going to be in business (and we are), we need to be professional. Showing up on someone’s doorstep just oh, IDK, doesn’t seem to scream professional to me.

    xx

    Reply
Christine Nolfi November 5, 2014

Fabulous post, Rachel! Catfish notwithstanding, I found the Hale incident bizarre. As an author, I have one down and dirty rule: whether a review awards five stars or one, thank the reviewer for kindly taking the time to post a review.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Thank you, dear friend. It’s funny, I used to never thank reviewers — a ‘mentor’ said to never say anything. But I’ve found that it’s important to be grateful and thank people for taking the time to read my work, even if they hate it. They’ve spent money and time on my work — how can I not be grateful for that?

    Thanks for weighing in, C. (and yes, the entire incident was bizarre!)

    Reply
Barb Drozdowich November 5, 2014

Thanks for sharing Rachel! You have a way to cut to the chase. It really is about walking away and getting on with writing. When this story first broke it was like watching a train wreck. I couldn’t seem to walk away and go back to work. There was something about the people who agree with Hale’s behaviour that I found deeply disturbing. I hope that this round of posts gives us all the opportunity to put a period at the end of this sentence and go back to writing 🙂

Thanks!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Hi Barb! thanks so much. I do have a tendency to not sugarcoat things LOL. I do understand the tendency to want to lick our wounds — it stings when someone tells us we’re bad. That’s just our human instinct. But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned — as a long time salesperson in soul-sucking Big Pharma and also as a writer — is that what people say is often a reflection of them, not of us.

    That said, the onus is always on us, the creator of the art, to make it the most amazing it can be. If we don’t take the time to work with professionals (editor, proofreader, graphic artist, etc), then we deserve all the criticism we get.

    As for the Hale situation, it was rather like a car accident. We didn’t want to look, but we couldn’t help it. It was such a hot mess, as well as having far-reaching consequences. Not all authors are psycho (because really, what normal sane person DOES that?). It’s really fucking scary.

    Reply
Laurie Boris November 5, 2014

Thank you, Rachel. You really get down to the core of it. I feel like I want to stick an “I’m not crazy” affidavit on my website. But I think I’ll continue with the next novel instead.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Thank you, Laurie! I totally get that feeling — I wouldn’t mind an “I’m not a crazy author’ sticker at this point, either. Or at the very least an ‘I won’t stalk you’ widget.

    But how sad that we have to consider (even jokingly) something like that, right?

    Reply
Lynne Cantwell November 5, 2014

Rachel, I agree with everything you’ve said (except for commenting on reviews of our books, although I do see your point). And I too was struck by how much time and effort her obsession took away from, oh, I dunno, maybe writing another book or two. I just hope she’s getting some help.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Thank you, Lynn. I respect you so much, and appreciate your feedback.

    I didn’t comment on any reviews for so, so long, but I found that thanking people sincerely (not in a snarky way) is a way to at least recognize the efforts they’ve made to read my work. But it’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.

    I hope also, that she’s getting help and will continue to focus on writing. xx

    Reply
Jess Alter November 5, 2014

“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.”

I keep reading how writers behave badly, and it disturbs me. This line in your blog, though not highlighted, sums up the nature of writing as our business, not as our magical gift to the world which must be loved unconditionally if our wrath is not to be faced. While a bad review is disheartening, it’s also a kindness. We learn our weaknesses and can adapt and evolve. Chasing down an individual (like from “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back!”) is not sane behavior. In fact, acting like extreme fictional characters in real life really is nuts and should be called out–as was done here.

Excellent entry. I appreciate learning what not to do as much as I enjoy learning what to do. Thank you.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 5, 2014

    Thank you, Jess! There’s no doubt, it’s hard to here that our baby is ugly, especially when we think it’s the most beautiful baby ever born. But there you go.

    Love the Jay and Silent Bob reference, haha! Sanity is relative, I suppose, and I’m not in any way making fun of mental illness. What Hale did isn’t the action of a ‘normal’ individual, and she readily admits that her behavior was obsessive and outside the norm of sanity. I give her props for recognizing that, at least. But I suppose there’s a difference between thinking about it and actually doing it.

    Regardless, thank you for the feedback!

    Reply
Scarlet Darkwood November 5, 2014

If an author has a huge following or lots of positive reviews to offset negative ones, that’s one thing. But when an author starts out with a review that is bad, it potentially, if not actually, kills the sales for that book, and maybe their career. Depends on where you are in your body of work. That sounds extreme, but I think that’s where authors get upset. That’s still no excuse to stalk someone. If you think bad reviews are destroying your work, unpublished the book in question, revise it, and republish it with a different cover and new title. Or ignore it and keep writing. There are lots of ways to be productive, that’s for sure. Stalking someone isn’t one of them.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson November 6, 2014

    Hi Scarlet — thanks for weighing in!

    I do agree that reviews are critically (hehe) important, but it’s also just one of many factors that matter to the success of a book. Snooki can sell crap, critically panned crap, yet because of her ‘celebrity’ it still sells. Maybe a bad example (sorry to bring her up lol), but the point is that having a name can make a book sell and reviews may have little to do with it.

    That’s why I always suggest building those relationships. People need to connect with us on many levels, in many places. Stalking, gaming, assault, and other tactics will never pass muster as marketing techniques. Plain old being friendly and writing good work does wonders, truly.

    Reply
jaklumen November 22, 2014

Here as the ever dear Bobbi tweeted this article.

I said in reply that I think so many of your posts apply very well to all social media users. I would think that it’s part of good “netiquette”– manners, common sense, respect, etc.

Reply
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