Is it nice? Of course not.
As the author, should you retaliate and snap back at these people? Absolutely not.
Not only would that be feeding the trolls (which we know only makes them more surly) but it comes off as very unprofessional and as Indie/self-published authors we are already fighting against stigma and stereotype. Don’t give people additional reasons not to “like” us.
I often hear from other Indie authors about how they wish people would take us more seriously and not look down their noses because we opted to go a different route. One of the ways we can help turn that around is to act professional. Not only do you need your book to be well edited, properly formatted with eye catching covers, but you need to be conscious of your behavior and the things you say and do on social media/the internet.
This weekend I attended a Writer’s Workshop at Georgian Court University (more on the workshop in Thursday’s post) and I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a round table discussion on critique groups. The workshop was run by author, Jon Gibbs, who describes himself as a hirsutely challenged British Brad Pitt (EDIT: I didn’t get it quite right! ’A hirsutely challenged British Brad Pitt, but without his looks or physique’.) He reminds me more of the lovely #11 Doctor, Matt Smith, but it might just be the accent and the sense of humor.
At this discussion he shared with us his Critiquee’s Charter, a list of eleven things to remember as your work is being critiqued by others. While it was meant to be used with a critique group, it also works when dealing with reviews. Let’s face it, reviews *are* critiques, just from the everyday reader rather than a group of writing peers.
I’m going to copy & paste the points here, but please be sure to visit Jon’s blog, and follow him as he’s got great things to say and books to share!
The Critiquee’s Charter
1. As the person submitting my work for critique, I understand that people have taken time away from doing other things to provide me with feedback, something which will undoubtedly help me more than it will them. Though I may feel upset by their comments, and may not agree with their observations, or decide not to implement the changes they recommend, I will keep that to myself. I will remember that I am grateful, and take the time to thank them for their input.
2. I recognize that not everyone has the same critique style. Therefore, unless we’ve agreed on a specific method beforehand, I will accept feedback in whatever form the critiquer cares to provide it.
3. I want people’s honest opinions. If they give them in a way that upsets me, I will recognize that one person’s ‘rude git’ is another person’s ‘straight-talker’, and re-read item #1 until I feel better.
4. If all I want is applause and a pat on the back for a job well done, I will not waste my critiquers’ time asking for feedback. If I do, I understand that it serves me bloody well right if I don’t get the glowing praise I expected.
5. If I think the critiquer just didn’t ‘get it’, I will re-read #1 until the urge to say so has passed.
6. If I think the critiquer doesn’t know what he/she is talking about, I will re-read #1 until the urge to say so has passed.
7. If I want to disagree with a critique, I will re-read #1 until the urge to do so has passed.
8. If several people make similar observations, I will at least consider the possibility that, despite my undoubted genius, I may have missed something important.
9. If someone gives me a harsh critique, I promise to remember that I am (in years at least) a grown-up, and will resist any temptation to ‘repay’ them when I review their work.
10. I understand that some people actually set out to critique in a spiteful, hurtful, manner. They like to show off at the expense of others, and have little or no interest in helping anyone improve their work. On those rare occasions when I come across such a person, I will remind myself that idiots like this are the exception rather than the rule. I will learn to recognize and ignore him/her, and remember that (as a certain old gran used to say), ‘It’s better to be upset by people like that, than to be people like that.’
11. At all times, I will try to remember that critiques are just opinions, which, like spouses and children can be embraced or ignored however one sees fit.
Jon leaves a blank for #12 to ask “What would you add to this charter?”
He writes with a tongue in cheek manner, but the points make a lot of sense and I think they are ones you should reflect on whenever people are remarking about your work. I’ve talked before how it’s not wrong to get upset when someone says they don’t like your novel (we’re only human after all) but your reaction to that comment could hurt you and your career even more than the bad review. Take a deep breathe and remember this charter before you end up doing something you’ll regret later.
While I’m at it, I’ll give a quick reminder of some other things you should keep in mind if you want to be taken seriously:
2) When someone follows you, send a direct message telling them you hope they’ll buy your book.
3) Don’t bash agents that reject you. They will find out and yes, they do talk to each other.
4) If it’s on the internet, someone can and will find it, so remember that when you’re putting things out there.
5) Don’t put out shoddy work just to try and make a buck. I’d hope if you’re reading and following the blog that you’re not that kind of person, but I know they’re out there making the rest of us look bad.
Can you add anything to the list?
Ultimately you have to remember, if you want to be treated like a professional then you have to learn to act like one. Let’s give others a better impression of self-published authors. Without them, we’ve got no one to buy our books and enjoy our stories.