This post is about what bad author behavior is and why it should be avoided–not for just new authors, but all authors in general. I will talk about more than just a bad reaction to a negative review, even though that is probably the hottest topic among authors in forums, blogs, Twitter, etc. This behavior is also what gives authors a bad name, and it doesn’t matter it they are indie or traditional. It’s imperative to new authors to know what it is so they never start doing it in the first place.
Why should I avoid “bad author behavior”?
Well, I am so glad you asked!
Basically it will destroy the public image and reputation you have worked so hard to create in a millisecond when your platform/public image can take months or years to build. It will knock you off you author platform and right onto your butt like a little person shooting a .577 T-Rex rifle. People don’t want to work with you in book construction, reviews, or other things. You will land on readers’ never-read list (that’s a reader list you DON’T want to be on!). It all depends where you acted badly, why, and how.
There are subdivisions of bad behavior I am going to discuss with you, but it can all be summed up as tantrums and rude behavior in public, whether it is live or virtual public. Virtual public spreads much quicker than live public unless you’re on camera. Don’t believe me? Check out this post on my book website/blog’s post called Everybody Knows When You Screw Up Online which talks about a real public meltdown to a critical review, and one that was even really “bad”. There are links to the author’s post and another blogger’s post in response to that said meltdown. Read the comments on his blog post and see the enraged reviewers and authors. Quite a few of the commentors are in my network, and so is this author. I’m not going to call him by name here (and I didn’t on my book blog either); his name appears on his blog. The people who really want to know will follow the daisy chain, and I’m leaving it at that.
Indie authors don’t have the buffer of a big publishing house to smooth down the proverbial ruffled feathers. Even if an author does, it would be best to keep a good professional public persona, so avoid ruffling feathers as much as possible. Traditional and indie authors alike can benefit by not behaving badly. Too much bad behavior, and Random House may think you are a liability if you are a PR disaster.
With no further adieu, let’s talk bad behavior.
My Book Is The Only Thing You’re Working On So Snap To It
This attitude is probably geared more toward editors, formatters, cover designers, or self publishing companies’ book construction staff. I have spoken with a few people in book construction and self publishing companies’ staff (the ones who are reputable are the ones that count here), and say that some authors are horrible because of this mindset (no one was ever named). They act like that their own book is the only one that exists and will throw a tantrum if there is a delay or the work isn’t completed on the author’s said deadline of two seconds. There are other authors’ work and quality that is at stake here. They yell and scream at people who are really trying to help them. Once that book designer, editor, or whoever is done, that author may not be invited back, and they may feel sorry for the next person that has to work with them. People talk and bad reputations proceed… This behavior can be aimed at book reviewers too. They want proverbial “ups” in line and act hostile to said reviewer. Reviewers are human and can only do so much and they are usually very busy people with stacks to read and they have a life too. Behaving this way can probably either get you a bad review or your book dropped from their to-be-read (TBR) pile.
It’s Your Fault I Didn’t Read The Contract/Terms of Service/Review Policy
I hope you read that slowly–I italicized the key words to help you. Reviewers, formatters, editors, book designers, and self publishing companies take the time to write these up and post/send them to you for a reason. It is your responsibility to make sure you read, UNDERSTAND, and agree with the terms before working with aforementioned people. Make sure you understand what is going on, what is required of you, or whatever. If you don’t understand something or have a question by all means contact the person! They usually tell you this beforehand. I mention reviewers because they may not accept a type of book and some reviewers have said that some authors beat down their virtual doors and demand a review anyway. This will not end well.
This is a negative review with a side of ulterior motive. There is a such thing as this going on. Most negative reviews are genuine, but that doesn’t necessarily make them suck any less. Authors do this to seek out revenge on another author who left a negative/critical review of their book because they feel that other authors shouldn’t criticize other authors’ work (this isn’t the same thing as a revenge review–it’s an HONEST review), but authors who are giving critique should never trash, slander, or be scathing to another author’s book even if it is the worst drivel they have ever read–they can say that but they explain why they feel that way about the book (i.e. lack of editing, poor characterization, bad formatting, etc), or say nothing at all and tell the author they can’t review it. Authors also ‘revenge review’ because they are jealous of another author’s success and want to sabotage them because they perceive them as ‘competition’ (read: threat). That may be the case (competition not threat) in a way, but trying to work with the successful author and networking with them is actually much more beneficial and makes you look better as a person. You may be able to learn from them why they’re successful and maybe implement some of their knowledge if they’re willing to share (most are willing to help others). If the successful author took a peek at your book and gave you a good recommendation (not guaranteed to take place, but possible), this is a win-win! However, I would let them offer–I wouldn’t pitch my book at them at all–let them volunteer such an act of kindness. Get to know them as people first. You won’t get any of that by behaving badly. You’ll do much better by extending olive branches rather than briars and brambles any day!
Invading Enemy Territory
This is more condemning and more egregious than the “Revenge Review”. This is where you get your fans and readers to act like minions and either trash another author’s work by leaving scores of one-star reviews or to vote down or publicly attack a reviewer on their blog, Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever. If there is either a leak, then people will find out and you’re battleship is now sunk. The purpose of your fans and readers is not to be minions to be summoned to arms at your every beck and call. They are there to consume your work and support you by being there and sharing you and your work.
A cross-breed between this and the Revenge Review is when an author will get their friends and readers to simultaneously downvote a review as helpful like a pack of hyenas. Established reviewers work hard for their status on Amazon, Goodreads, and within a community of authors and readers alike. This too can be sniffed out sooner or later!
Sock Puppet Central
If you spend any length of time on the Amazon discussion forums, you’ll hear about authors’ “sock puppets”. These are fake accounts created by authors under various usernames to look like readers. I personally don’t know of anyone who does this, but it must exist for Amazon users to speak out about it constantly. What “sock puppets” are used for is to trash other people’s work, leave tons of 5-star reviews on their book, or to spam the Amazon forums. This is really smelly behavior, and authors who do this give others a bad name. That energy could be better spent making a good (or better) product or writing another book. If you are guilty of it and no one knows about it, then stop it! You don’t have to own up to the behavior, but stopping it while you’re ahead is great. Dire consequences await when you get busted…
Spamming I Am/Plugging My Life Away
Unavoidable topic. This is basically sticking your book and promo where it is not welcome in discussion forums on book sites, email without permission, or social media (namely Twitter). This is a big turn off and no one will buy or pay any attention to you. You’ll get suspended faster than you can say “my book”. More on spam on “Just Say No To Spam” on this blog.
Stepping on Others to Get Ahead
This can be from elbowing others out of your way to manipulating groups and others to rabbit to the top. Such behavior will come out sooner or later, and is really smelly. Real collaboration will go much further and make you friends and partners for life! More heads make better than one any day! People who do this will teeter and fall once their game is found out.
Feeding the Trolls
You may have avoided more of the smellier behavior, but you have an author or reviewer make a scathing attack on your book or you as a person or writer. Some trolls can be downright nasty and call you names or offensive labels. Of course you want to retaliate. Don’t. You’ll look ugly and then YOU’LL be on the wrong side of the tracks. Ignore them. Their comments have no merit. They don’t know you. Other respectable reviewers will point out that bad behavior. Reviewers have a “straight-and-narrow” to follow as much as authors and they can be almost similar. Let other people take care of the trolls for you, but avoid the “call to arms” mentioned above!
Sic the Offending Critical Reviewer
This is probably the cardinal rule for authors. Reviewers can be other authors (authors are readers too!), book bloggers, readers, or simply reviewers (like those Top Reviewers from Amazon). Once you go public and start charging people money for your work, you are under public scrutiny. Private critique is over and should be done prior to publishing with critique partners/beta readers and editors. Not everyone is going to love your work, so get over it (it is something that has to be learned over time). There is no book under the sun that is going to be loved by 7+ billion people. Readers are a diverse lot–they’ll tell you that. Working with beta readers, critique partners, and editors will help you pound out your work where you’ll get less (maybe much!) of them. They will strip down the work and tell you what sucks so you can fix it before you sell it to the public. They’ll be more respectful and hurt-to-help you than a reader will. Working with these helpful types of people can give you good exercise to toughen your criticism armor and improve your product at the same time.
Reviewers’ reviews are more for the potential readers in mind and may help another reader’s experience. They’ll let you know if you suck somewhere, there was something you missed, whether or not your writing to your target audience correctly, etc. If more than one reviewer makes a critical statement on a certain element, they may be on to something. It’s your choice whether or not to incorporate their advice–they are just opinions after all.
If you attack the reviewer on your blog, Amazon, Twitter, all the above, their blog, etc people will see and think less of you, and even more so if you do this and the “pack attack” and/or revenge review. You have to toughen you skin to criticism. All creative types must. I have a triple creative whammy: artist, writer, and musician, so my perfectionism is killer. Factor in I am a Type C personality, so learning to deal with criticism (even slight) can be stressful and sometimes tough. If I can learn to do it, surely you can. The best advice is to not take it personally; for those who attack you and try to send you in a downward spiral and call you names, call them for what they are: trolls (but not in public!) and move on and do your thing. If you do have a tirade or pity party, do it somewhere else to make yourself feel better, and if you feel depressed contact some of your author friends privately for a pick me up. You’ll have to pick yourself up, dust off, and keep going if you want to be successful.
Avoiding any of these behaviors will help keep up your public image and make people want to get to know you and work with you. Friendliness goes much further than nastiness any day. Remember to extent olive branches instead of briars and brambles even to people who don’t deserve it.