Can We Ever Benefit From A Flame War? I Say…Maybe.

By Rachel Thompson | Blog

Jul 05

Is it possible to actually benefit from engaging in a flame war?

English: The Anti-Flame Barnstar:to be awarded...

I’ve always said no. The professional in me says walk away, take it off the net, block or avoid. Negativity doesn’t help anyone. And that’s been my story every since entering the fray back in 2008 when I started my author blog,

Until a few weeks ago. Without giving a particular site more press, I became so infuriated at the misinformation, assumptions, and ridiculously false statements the editor was spreading regarding indie authors, I jumped in. That’s right, I stepped up!

And I inadvertently ended up with book sales and clients because of it.

Let’s deconstruct.


As an author and businessperson, I’m very aware of what I tweet, share, and the comments I leave on blogs. I think any author or businessperson needs to give thought to how they come across in public and their authentic self. Normally I bring my own experiences and thoughts (sometimes snarky. What.) in a way that’s not ever meant to offend and that strategy has worked for me.

So, when I read this post which said indies were ruining literature, do nothing but spam links on social, and that we always pay for reviews, I thought seriously about what my response should be before I replied. It would have been easy to lower myself to the same level this guy did (name calling and the whole bit), but I didn’t. Instead I disagreed  — with facts, my own experiences (using professional services for each book, winning awards, getting a 5-star from Midwest Book Review and several top 10 Amazon hall of fame reviewers for Broken Pieces), and real-life examples.

His response was ugly and I didn’t get into it further. Until I did a little research.


I took a look at this Twitter stream and guess what it was? ALL links. So I shared that. Why? That information is there for anyone to take a look at, so it’s not like I was sharing some big secret. But the main reason I even bothered was not to ‘win.’ It was simply to show him that he was the pot calling the kettle black — doing exactly what he accused ALL indies of doing.


Many people read this article and responded to him in a similar manner  as I did: with facts, experiences, examples. What became an unexpected benefit of this exchange was the number of people who contacted me directly about my reasoned response, asking to learn more about my services and books. My goal to respond to this guy wasn’t to sell anything. It was simply to disprove his outrageous statements.

I did agree that some indies are clueless and need to learn how to market their books, but that it’s not strictly indie authors who do this. Traditional authors spam links also, as do many types of artists or businesspeople.


‘Pick your battles,’ is something most of us live by. We can’t possibly take on every argument, every cause. A former colleague said that it’s what upsets us the most that reveals our insecurities. I disagree. After three books, I’m comfortable with my voice, my vision, and my process to create a professional work. The reaction to Broken Pieces has been nothing short of amazing (it just made the final round for Best NonFiction for the eFestival of Books. Vote here if you’d like!) along with other wins, awards, and great reviews. The best benefit, however, is the beautiful connections I’ve made with other survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

But that’s not what this article is about. On a grander scale, I learned that sometimes we do have to stand up for what we believe in. A well-thought out response wins over schoolyard behavior every single time. And even it has no affect on this guy, so what? It’s the connections I made with others over this whole thing that matters most to me.


What do you think? Are flame wars worth the effort or not? Please share your experiences below!


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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, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…),,, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

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(10) comments

There were a number of lessons coming from that interaction. I’m not at all surprised there were a few more folks interested in you and your works coming out of that. As it should be!

I’ve been commenting on the Huffington Post for about seven years now, and–as sometimes happens with differences of opinion–have gotten into a number of exchanges. I very rarely simply say things on a subject when I don’t know that subject, and when I do, I’m ready to hear an opposing viewpoint, and evaluate that. When someone goes in with an uninformed opinion that they are determined to defend at any cost, they’re failing their own potential to learn. Of course when folks resort to ad hominem attacks, they’re most likely not ready to learn anyway.

Dee July 6, 2013

I think you’re right. As long as you aren’t looking for a battle, people aren’t going to ding you for standing up for yourself…quite the opposite. Maintaining class and decorum, and waging a reasoned campaign to sway a person is a much better “flame” war than mind numbing name calling and haranguing an opponent. Too many folks already do the mockery rather than reasoning and that my friend is why we have a divided country today. Most people would make a rational choice when given a chance. When there’s de-evolution involved between to others the outside folks looking in will walk away…unless one side is reasoned. In that case they will walk your way.

    Rachel Thompson July 8, 2013

    Well said, Dee. I certainly don’t look for battles and I doubt many people actively do (unless that’s their ‘thing’). And while I’m not a ‘unicorns and rainbows the world is your fruitcake’ kinda girl, I do believe that being polite while in disagreement is the way to go.

    thanks for reading and commenting, honey!

Amanda Taylor July 6, 2013

I think the key here was to use facts rather than inane insults. You were only standing up for yourself, and what you believe in but for an entire community. Attacking a community with no or wrong facts at best will spark a protest. That was probably one of the times it was best for someone, anyone to step in in a logical fashion. The same would be true if someone posted or tweeted saying that murder should be legal (an extreme example).

    Rachel Thompson July 8, 2013

    I did let my snark flag fly a bit 🙂 but yes, making the case with facts helped. I certainly could agree with many of his assertions if they had been fact-based, and what he did back up with facts made some sense.

    Agree with your example — if the argument makes no sense, people will react.

    thanks for responding, Amanda!

Laura Hedgecock July 8, 2013

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received: When you’re advocating for yourself, pretend you’re advocating for someone more vulnerable. Last year I ran into a situation about which I felt morally bound to speak out. I gathered my thoughts and told the little Laura that used to cry on the playground when the mean girl made fun of her corrective shoes to stand behind the grown-up Laura. I made my case, though I didn’t sway enough opinions to enact change.

Sure, there were benefits. I gained not only respect from others that agreed with me, but also grudging respect from those that disagreed. More importantly, I could sleep at night. Most importantly, my kids and hubby were impressed with me.

I get feeling non-confrontational. Really. I hate conflict–sometimes I even tear up when my kids argue. But sometimes you have to stand up because it’s the right thing to do, consequences be damned. You weren’t involved in a personal defense. You were advocating for an industry. “Pick your battles” is a wonderful concept, but once you’ve chosen one, sure, bring your metaphoric flame-thrower to the AO.

If you are going to do battle, it’s great to phrase your opening salvo along the lines of “Generalizing that ‘all self-published books are rubbish’ is like saying that all editors-in-chief shouldn’t write ignorant commentary.” You go girl!

Laura Hedgecock

    Rachel Thompson July 8, 2013

    thank you Laura (I did love that opening line LOL).

    So glad you’ve learned to stand up when you need to. As mothers, I think we are much more aware of bullying type situations. Not to say that non-mothers can’t see bullying, but maybe our hearts break a tiny bit more when we see injustices involving others, especially kids!

    Conflict is never, ever easy, but it can be an effective means to an end. That is why I chose to speak up and provide a rational (I hope) argument. Thank so much for reading and commenting!


Janell Rhiannonj July 14, 2013

This was a good thought provoking article. It is hard sometimes to hold your “keys” to yourself, when you read certain inflammatory comments…especially about indie publishing. We all try our best and some are admittedly better than others at doing it… one time I made the mistake of saying something on Amazon… eek gads…within 24 hours I was forced to delete my comment… anyway… I’m glad you did it. Sometimes, you really do have to just speak up and roll with it. GOOD FOR YOU:)!!!!

    Rachel Thompson July 14, 2013

    yea, people can get pretty intense on Amazon, no doubt.

    I don’t normally get involved, but sometimes it’s more important to add realism to a subject instead of not taking a stand.

    Thanks, Janell!


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