I have been sharing my writing with people online since I was about fifteen. I have been selling my books for money since I was twenty-two. I am now twenty-five, and while I am still naive about many facets of life, publishing and author professionalism are not among them.*
*Although this is not to say that I have not done stupid things in the past. I have had moments of unprofessionalism, but they are nothing I am too ashamed of. I think of my mistakes both as a learning experience and as an exercise in humility: none of us are above making asses of ourselves.
Recently, however, there have been a lot of authors making asses of themselves. And they are spewing all this shit into the blogosphere like they think it's Chanel No.5 and we should be grateful for having their virtual stink thrust upon us. Um, yeah, no thanks. As an independent author, I am already at a distinct disadvantage career-wise without having other authors try to authorsplain* to the world about why they are entitled to act like stalkalicious* jerkmobiles*.
*These are all totally real words by the way. You can look them up easily in your Neniapedia.
Some authors say that their books are like their babies. I think that's a bad analogy. I think a better analogy is that macaroni picture you made in kindergarten. You may think it's great, and of course, your parents (and friends) are going to think it's great, but this egocentric bubble of unconditional positive thinking has no bearing on what the world at large is going to make of your work.
I write books. They are not me, and I am not them. Some of the characters may be reflections of various things that have happened in my life, but that doesn't make them autobiographical. When I write, I tend to write from a point of being emotionally removed. This way, my own thoughts and feelings and morals and beliefs don't get in the way of the characterization.
Because I. Am. Not. My. Characters.
I won't lie and say that negative reviews never hurt, because they do -- sometimes a lot. I'm at a point where most of them just have me scrolling past. I don't need to know what they say particularly, because I've seen it all before, and I know that they usually aren't written for me. I've been revenge-reviewed, I've been spite-reviewed; I've been attacked by sock puppets; I've had people lie, threaten, and deride; I've even received negative reviews from my friends. And we're still friends.
Here's why. Because I am always grateful when someone takes the chance to read one of my books. If they didn't like it, that's unfortunate; I really do feel bad when someone feels like they've wasted their money after reading one of my books. But it's not something I have any control over, so I don't focus on it. I don't interrogate them, or demand a follow-up because I know that reading is personal, a matter of taste. Sometimes there is no explanation, and it's certainly not my place to demand one.
Because I. Am. Not. My. Books.
Reviews are not personal attacks. They weren't even really meant for me to read (although I read them anyway). Reviews are for other readers -- and often, they were written as a cathartic release for the reviewer who wrote it. I know that when I write my reviews, they were written to remind me of my thoughts and feelings during the reading process to refer to again later when making purchasing decisions. I comment on reviews to thank, and I only do it for reviews higher than two. I used to thank everyone, but too many people felt uncomfortable or thought I was being sarcastic when I thanked my one-star reviews, which really wasn't the case. I am genuinely grateful for all feedback, because any sort of response is better than being doomed to a life of obscurity.
Most people who read my books seem to enjoy them, and that makes me happy. Yes, there are people who read my books and don't enjoy them, but that's okay, too. It means my reviews are honest. It means that the people writing me negative reviews (presumably) feel safe enough to leave them for my books, because they know that I'm not going to commence Operation Stalk and post personal information on the internet, or maybe show up at their house demanding answers (or blood). It means that someone, somewhere, is reading my book, and that it's not sitting on the shelf Forever Alone.
Readers, I will not be stalking you, and here is why.
Because it's unprofessional. I conduct my behavior with the understanding that I represent not just myself as an individual, but also myself as a brand.
Because it's unkind. I am not an asshole. (At least, I try very, very hard not to be.)
Because it's not fair. An author, with her fans, severely outnumbers a lone reviewer or a small group of bloggers. I don't want to be a leading a mob.
Because it's ungrateful. If someone takes the time to read what I write, that is amazing. Most people work and have very busy schedules (kids, spouse, pets). A book is a huge commitment. A lot of people don't realize just how serious a commitment this really is.
Because it's cruel. I've been stalked and bullied. And no, not in the "boo hoo someone gave me a 1-star review" sense. I had to be put on watch by my school because I was receiving threats daily. I am empathetic towards people who undergo the psychological torture -- and yes, it is torture -- that is bullying. I went through it myself, and would never wish it on someone else. It is terrible and Wrong.
Because it's too much effort. I'm a writer. I also work about 30-35 hours/week. When I'm not working, I'd rather be reading, or out with my friends, or playing with my cats. Life is too short to spend dwelling on the negatives. Why poison your mind with what you cannot fix?
Because it's not who I am.
I am twenty-five-years old.
I am author of 15 books.
I work in customer service.
I like cats.
I consider most of my readers friends.
And I am not a stalker.
If you reviewed my books, thank you.
If you have read my books, thank you.
If you reviewed them negatively and read and hated them, thank you for being honest.
This is what should happen.
Nobody should be afraid to be heard.
Nobody should be afraid to be anything less than honest in their reviews.
I am an author, and I support readers' rights to review as they damn please without fear of retaliation.
...And you should, too.