Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Be Nice"

"Be nice!" It's a phrase being passed around a lot these days. With the whole YA Mafia thing. When ever people list Do's and Don't for social media. We are frequently told of the importance of courtesy and kindness. But what about compassion?

I'm sure many of you have at least heard about the "Author attacks reviewer" debacle going on. If not, here's a link: http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html

Look, when I read the blog post, I was totally shocked at Ms. Howett's behavior. She was unprofessional, rude, childish, and frankly out of control. But there has been a reaction on Amazon that has me deeply troubled.

Starting yesterday, Ms. Howett's book has received 42 one star reviews. (And the number is climbing.) Many of them admit they heard about the book only because of all the buzz. Some reviews only comment on the author's behavior. But almost all of them freely call the book "trash," "crap," and various other hyperbolic insults.

Many claim they read the sample (which is free to download on a Kindle,) "to be fair." But I don't think that was quite the intent. I think they read or claimed to read the sample as a way of justifying their review. When the fact is the vast majority of them came to Amazon straight from the blog with the express intent to give Ms. Howett what's coming to her.

Here is one review, titled "Because you will learn" :

"Without consequences, mankind is doomed to repeat its mistakes for all of eternity.

Look at that, right off the top of my head. No forethought or planning!

But I digress, let's get back onto the meat. I lol'd at the reviews, but the support reviews really got to me. Many people claiming she should be spared the public flogging, simply because "she's human" and "everyone makes mistakes". That sounds like commie talk to me. Howett has to be publically punished and ridiculed for her actions.

It's the only way she'll learn. Bet she won't make that mistake again. "

Really? I mean, really?

Here's the thing, don't you think Ms. Howett probably feels about like a pile of crap right now? Her own actions (or rather, reactions) have done a perfectly adequate job of condemning her. Does she really need dozens of people to kick her while she's down? She has almost 50 one star reviews. Isn't that enough of a slap on the wrist? Do potential future customers really need more proof that the book is bad?

I'll be honest,there's an unsettling glee in those one star reviews. It smacks of bullying.

So back to my original question, what happened to "being nice?"

Ms. Howett had a hissy fit online. She reacted poorly. But guess what? She's a human being. And probably a perfectly normal, decent person. I say, lesson learned. Time to put away the pitchforks. Time to "be nice."

(You have now experienced a rare Renee Rant. Hope you enjoyed. ;) Please feel free to discuss in the comments section.)


Josin L. McQuein said...

I don't believe in being nice for the sake of hollow cordiality, but the pile-ons are unnecessary. It's reaching (and IMO, after reading some of those "reviews" has surpassed) the bar of Cyberbullying.

Now, in a way, she did start the ball with her clipped "F-off" responses, but at this point it's been more than enough. Some of those "reviews" could be considered threats to person.

I honestly don't think the woman had any idea what she was doing, or what she would get, when she sent that book for a review. She honestly believed that the only problems the reviewer had were caused by the formatting mistakes in her first upload. Believed it to the exclusion of everything else.

Beyond that, she didn't seem to understand that the comment thread on the blog wasn't a private conversation between her and the blogger, and was shocked, confused, and angered that anyone else jumped in to support (and at first it wasn't even aggressive) the blogger.

I have a feeling this woman not only suffers from a Golden Word Syndrome flare up, but is extremely naive about how the book-review process works, and it's a symptom of a larger problem.

Not for her - I'm not about to non-medically diagnose someone on a blog - but it's a symptom of a problem shared by many self-published authors. Without an editor in the mix to point out issues with grammar and pacing, the books aren't up to commercial standard in most cases, but the authors have still poured their hearts into their "babies". By skipping the middle editorial steps, there's no callouses over the ego to prepare and protect the writer from negative words.

It's sad all around.

Renee Collins said...

I definitely agree with you. This woman probably self-published a first draft, and got in WAY over her head.

And yes, I think the world will see a lot more of that as self-publishing rises. I mean, whenever I finish a first draft, I'm always so proud of it, and think it's pretty dang close. However, experience and a great deal of study of my field has taught me that I'm just on a high from completing a product I care about, and that it's nowhere near being finished.

Janet Johnson said...

Yikes, followed the link and the whole thing is crazy!

I just don't see the point in all that nastiness. Why can't we all just be nice? I'm totally with you on this.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I totally agree Renee. She made a mistake. A pretty big one in insulting the book blogging community, but I think people have taken it way too far going on Amazon and posting bad reviews. I feel bad for her. Yes, she made a horrible mistake, but we have no idea what she was going through in her life when she read that review, and I'm sure she feels like crap now. It's sad. People need to stop posting things and get over it. I'm pretty sure she gets the picture now. :(

Diana said...

I agree!

You know the old saying "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all"? I would alter that slightly to say that, in a situation like this, "if you don't have some thing constructive to say, don't say anything at all."

Boo to Cyberbullying!

R.S.J. said...

Wow. I hadn't heard about this war of words. Her reactions were like watching a train wreck. And now everyone is sticking around to watch her suffer. Why is that people enjoy that? We'd solve a lot if problems if more people would try at playing nice and extending compassion. Well said Renee.

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...


Renee Collins said...

Janet-Exactly! What are we all really gaining from this? It seems infinitely more helpful to discuss the situation and what to learn from it, as opposed to trampling on the woman's book at Amazon.

Chantele-Yes, exactly. She's human! She may have a nasty temper, which she SERIOUSLY needs to learn how to control, but is that really a crime worthy of all this rage? I agree with you, people just need to get over it and move on.

Diana-AMEN, amen, amen. It's so simple, but why do some people have such a hard time following it?

R.S.J.-That's a perfect analogy. It's a train wreck! And people are throwing stones at the bodies. *shudder*
And you know, people in the early comments were frank, but civil in trying to teach Ms. Howett the error of her ways. THAT'S helpful. Trashing her on Amazon is just mean.

Read-My reaction exactly.

Miriam S. Forster said...

What I found rather interesting (going back to Josin's comment) was that so many of the people who posted on the blog were self-published authors saying "Please don't judge us all by this crazy person."

It's true that the quality of self-pubbed books, and the professionalism of self-published authors is improving. (Not everywhere, but there are definitely good ones out there.)

I wonder if much of the anger that's coming her way is a result of her own community exploding at her for making self-publishing look terrible and diminishing the respect they're trying so hard to earn.

Not that it excuses some of the comments, but at least self-publishing community is starting to police itself, and that's not a bad thing.

Renee Collins said...

That definitely makes a lot of sense. I just couldn't understand the rage, but when you look at it from a self-publishing perspective it starts to seem much more plausible. (And agreed, not that the vitriol is excusable, but it's suddenly more understandable as to how it came about.)

That's the hard thing about self-publishing. For every person who works very hard to make a quality product, (my friend Michelle David Argyle self-published a truly excellent novella this last year,) there will be people who slap their first draft onto Smashwords, thinking it's brilliant.

Jenn Johansson said...

I totally agree. Many people were in the wrong here. She should feel like an idiot for responding that way, but all the threatening and hateful reviewers should probably realize they took it too far as well. Great post, Renee!

Candice said...

I ditto your rant. Well said.

P.S. Kasie is sitting next to me (not to be mean or anything) neener neener. And she says "Amen sister!" (to what you said, not what I said, though I'm sure she agrees with that too)

Renee Collins said...

Jenn-Exactly. There comes a time when people have to accept that this whole things has gone too far.

Clearly, the people flaming on Amazon have nothing to do with my reasonable, intelligent writer friends. :)

Candice-What??? NO FAIR! *pouts*

How about you two spent your time doing something useful and important, like planning when the next time we ALL are going to get together. K? Good. I'll expect a full report soon. :) :)

Tara Maya said...

I joined the ranks of indie authors recently, so, yeah, I winced each time I read a comment from a book blogger or reader that said proudly, "And this is why I will never read a self-published book!"

However, I also thought most of the 1-star reviews were unfair. It was clear most of those people had not read the book. Many of them quoted the same two lines Al used in the comments on his review.

When trolls smell blood, they come out to feast on the carrion.

Tara Maya
The Unfinished Song: Initiate
Conmergence: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Jill Hathaway said...

Yep, that definitely turned into a pile-on, as these things always seem to do. Mob mentality and all.

Jessie Oliveros said...

It's crazy what people are willing to say LOUDLY in the quiet of their home over the computer. The author would surely have refrained from responding that way in person, and likewise the reviewers. Just like we sometimes show our best sides on the internet, I think we can show our bad sides, too.

Except for me. I have no bad sides.

Renee Collins said...

Tara-Oh, I definitely don't feel that way about self-published novels. However, I believe that some people do, which is too bad. Because I know there are many authors who work as hard (harder!) on their books as any traditionally published author.

Related note: OMG, your cover is GORGEOUS. Way to go! I'm going to have to buy your book now. :)

Jill-Yeah, it's the ugly side of the internet. It's so easy to flame or jump in on a flame war with vicious words. Ugh.

Jessie-Exactly! People forget themselves, I think. And maybe that's part of the secret, dark appeal of the internet. You can vent all of your repressed anger or disappointment, or whatever. And you don't have to have any self control.

The Words Crafter said...

Wow, wow, wow! I read some of it and yes she messed up. But, who knows what kind of day she'd had? Or week? Whatever....does she have to pay for the rest of her career for this? Assuming she still has one....

This is a whole new kind of cyber bullying....how awful.

I agree, we need to be nice!

Bianchii said...

I started to write blog in English.
I will write about everything, will be a lot of pictures, reviews of books, films, songs etc.
So it would be nice if you visit my blog sometimes :)
(Sorry for mistakes, I'm still learning English)
(you can follow me)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I agree with you. Be nice. You can be honest without being rude and hurtful.

Jettica said...

I don't think Ms. Howett deserves people being nice to her but there's no need to leave a shit load of crappy reviews just because of her behaviour.

If you haven't got anything nice to say then don't say anything at all.

Great rant.

Cyndi Tefft said...

Nathan Bransford just blogged about this, with a similar take to yours. I loved his post and I love yours, too. :)

b & b hotels india said...

that definitely turned into a pile-on, as these things always seem to do.and Mob mentality and all.....

Ru said...

Wow. I read through roughly 200 comments, thinking that the original author was going to comment again and justify 309 total comments - and yet after that second "F*** off," I didn't see anything. I may be wrong, but I think she realized she'd screwed up and resolved to stay away from the thread -- though that didn't stop people from piling on.

There's something troubling about people who feel the need to say, "Yeah! I agree with everyone who says she's a jerk!" long after the issue is put to bed. She was certainly in the wrong, but beating a dead horse much, people?