To put your work out there and see people enjoying your story is one of the most incredible feelings I’ve ever felt. Another cool aspect of writing is the other authors that you meet while doing events. Many of the fellow writers I have met have been really fun people to get to know. Fantasy and Sci-Fi writers share so many of the same interests that hanging out and chatting as a group is a blast. While this is wonderful and helps to encourage many of us to continue putting in the huge amount of effort that is required to continuing producing our stories for little if any actual monetary returns, there are those that would bash their fellow indie writers. Sometimes this comes from a simple desire to put other writers down in the belief that doing so will help their books become more popular, while other times it’s a simple desire to be king of the hill. Whatever the desire is that drives these authors; you will at some time be a target of these types of writers.
From all of my research into this subject and my conversations with other more experienced writers. The recommended way to deal with negative reviews is to not reply back, but if you do decide to reply back I recommend staying as professional and non-defensive as possible. Also as an author it is important to get positive and negative feedback from people who enjoy reading the genre that you’ve decided to write in. Although that being said, not everyone is going to be a fan. Still I believe it helps to listen to what’s being said so you can determine how to make your writing even better. Sometimes it’s a simple as grammar or word usage, while at other times it’s the flow or consistency of your story. All of which are important to get feedback on. There will also be those readers who do not appreciate your concept or find something about your subject matter that they don’t agree with or cannot accept. Again this will be something that you will need to determine if this is something you want to work on improving or not. You will never write something that everyone will love. There will always be something about your story that some people find offensive or disagreeable. And you know what? That’s okay. If you wrote a story that no one could complain about then you’d probably have a very boring story that no one would particularly want to read.
While this advice works well with normal readers that for some reason do not like your story, this is much more difficult to do when you have fellow writers purposely trying to tear apart your book or take away your authenticity as a writer. Instead of being part of doing business as a writer, these peers who want to drag you down have suddenly made it personal. Although there are many different options available, it’s hard to know which method is the best approach.
One scary truth is that just being an indie writer breaking into the writing scene is enough to piss off some semi-professional and professional writers. Sometimes it’s a competitive issue, while other times these writers believe you’re just junking up the options out there for readers and taking away from their ability to continue to make the money that they want to make. At the same time, I do not believe this is every professional writer. Going to Youtube.com alone will show you many successful writers who try to give back to the writing community. At the same time, there are some small groups of writers who do target their competition to try to knock them down.
Unfortunately the nasty writers who subscribe to this ideology know how best to hurt your novel and damage your image as a writer. A good example of this is my current run-in with Stephen Blackmoore, which sadly enough I’m still trying to decide how best to deal with. I had never heard of his books before now, although I had a couple friends who know his novels as soon as I mentioned his name. I found out about this writer when I had a nasty one star review left on my book called Flight. The review was specifically worded to attack the validity of my reviews and my authenticity as a writer. There was little to no specifics about plot line or concepts discussed, but that my good reviews were faked. Giving “one star” is another way to get people to see your negative review and to purposely drag down the overall rating of your book.
I didn’t recognize the name Stephen Blackmoore, but I did recognize the attempt for what it was; a direct attack from a fellow writer. Unsurprisingly enough, I wasn’t the only target writer. Brondt Kamffer and Rosemary Fryth were on the same hit list. Brondt Kamffer actually had two books out of the same series that was targeted. All three of us were basically given the same carbon copy message. Google is a wonderful tool. One search on the name Stephen Blackmoore brought up who this individual was and the numerous books that the author had written. Instead of hunting down each of his books and leaving a similar nasty review, which is easy enough to do. I decided to take the higher road and simply link who he was in the review’s comments, discussed how sad it is when writers attack their peers and asked readers interested in my own story to simply make up their own mind as to the quality of my book and writing. Interestingly enough, the profile’s name was instantly changed to KM and I was immediately attacked even further. These additional comments I promptly ignored, taking them as I would a normal negative review. Everything I wanted to say was already said in the first comment. What more was there to add?
A twist to the situation that I wasn’t expecting was receiving an email directly from the author Stephen Blackmoore. He was cordial enough expressing is dislike for writers who participate in such actions and swearing that he was not a part of this attack. Kind words said in private, but none the less I am left in the quandary of what to believe. The evidence seems simple enough. Although it is possible some reader was using Stephen Blackmoore’s name, but if that was the case then why instantly change the Amazon Profile name before contacting me? Is my personal blog so wide read that Stephen Blackmoore was immediately aware of my posting about the situation? I would like to believe Mr. Blackmoore is innocent in all of this, but to be perfectly honest the evidence doesn’t quite fit. I can only list the facts as they occurred and let you, the reader and fellow authors, decide for yourselves.
Bad controversy is something that most writers do not want to be associated with. Although in some situations controversy can increase book sales, I believe the message of a simple blog can sometimes shed light on the nasty practices of some writers in the community that they would rather remain hidden.
Is this the best way to handle writers who try to attack you personally? To blog about their misdeeds after you discover their shenanigans? I’ll let you know as the story develops. To simply get a group of friends together to leave nasty reviews on the other writers’ books feels wrong to me. In my mind there can be no winners in such a situation, only a loosing situation for everyone concerned.
Maybe simply ignoring the review like what is normally recommended would have been the highest possible approach, but for better or worse that was beyond me at this time. I do believe people should be called to account for their misdeeds in one way or another by their own community.
Lastly, I hope this helps those of you who run into similar situations. As always I try to share my own experiences in the hopes that it will help those of you facing similar situations.