I’ve often wondered who the faceless people are behind mean-spirited reviews. Take for instance the vote on Sarah Jessica Parker in Maxim magazine. What they did to Sarah and the rest of the women on the list was just plain cruel and completely unnecessary. Were they getting bored with their ‘perfect’ women? Why did they feel the need to share with the rest of the world their anger and spite for anybody or anything that didn’t meet their expectations?
I don’t get it.
Plain and simple, mean-spirited reviews are bad for everybody. When you’re mean, that negativity gets passed along, spreading just as quickly and destructively as the plague. This isn’t rocket science. Bad begets bad. I can understand why people do it, though. It’s easy to be mean. It’s easy to use cruel, snarky words to get your point across. Putting others down can make you feel clever and powerful. If you’ve been on the receiving end of cruelty, it’s tempting to do the same back. Eventually it doesn’t matter who you’re taunting. Everybody’s your target. But being a big meany doesn’t do anybody any good. It just makes people either very (and sometimes homicidally) angry or depressed and afraid. No wonder people don’t want to leave their houses. No wonder kids don’t want to go to school, or adults to work. Even worse, in this internet age of ours, people can be mean and attack you and still remain anonymous. How scary is that?
I can relate to what happened to Sarah. Not on the same level…I don’t have the whole world looking at me. But my experience was crushing all the same. I received my first bad review on Amazon recently. While reading it, I could feel my face flushing as adrenaline rushed through me. It was not a nice review, and I didn’t like reading it in the least. I can only imagine what she felt like hearing about Maxim’s vote.
My publisher warned me about getting my first bad review. To be honest, I didn’t think it would happen. Stupid, I know. And arrogant. It’s not that I think my book is so great, I just never thought it would inspire such ire. But it seems that I am not immune to getting slammed. Dang.
Of course I don’t agree with my negative reviewer’s words (though I completely agree with those who gave the glowing reviews). Still, a part of me started to doubt my work. Was it really that bad? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Are they all just being nice when they say they like my book? Is this like those people on American Idol who say their friends and family tell them they have a great voice, but who really don’t, the poor things? Am I that person?
What have I learned from this experience? Well, a few things. But one big one…when you produce something for the world, expect it, and yourself, to get spit on. Even the greats have gotten bad reviews, and lots of them. Somehow it makes it easier to swallow my own humiliation to know that people I hold in high regard had their battles with mean-spirited people, too. Misery loves company, I guess. Or maybe it’s just knowing that I’m not the only one.
Throughout the day, bad thoughts went through my mind aimed directly at the M.B. and his/her review. I was angry, but worse, I felt helpless. M.B. is in the driver’s seat and there’s nothing I can do, save write this blog, to make things better. I do think M.B. was being a little unfair and this felt more like a personal attack than an attack on my book (this person has written no other reviews, just one on my book). But then I read some reviews on a current and very well-known author that were just as mean and just as negative and just as personal.
So maybe it’s not me, it’s the reviewer! Ha!
I completely agree with freedom of speech…I think M.B. had every right to express his/her opinion about my book, even if it was a negative one. But to do so in such a vitriolic way, that’s what bothers me the most. And to do it while hiding behind a pseudonym seems rather cowardly and suspicious to me. If you want to give your opinion, if you want to stand up and be counted, then show your face, or at least give your name. If you have the right to express what you think, I have the right to know who you are. I’m putting myself out there, now it’s your turn!
At any rate, I just wanted to relate my experience so that other aspiring authors out there won’t feel so alone if (when) this happens to you. Maybe we should form a support group for Authors Suffering From Reviews. Solidarity is a good thing. Through this experience, I have gained a lot of good wisdom and support from my friends and family, and from some wonderful people who barely know me! It has also helped to write about my experience. At first I thought that maybe I shouldn’t. Why tell the world that someone didn’t like my book? I should just ignore the bad review (and I will with the rest of them - because there will be more, I’m sure), but I promised myself when I started writing this blog that I would deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of getting published. Well, this is the ugly. Anyway, maybe I can save others some grief. It’s something to hang onto, anyway.
After all this, I am reminded of Sarah in the Labyrinth who says to the Goblin King, Jareth, "You have no power over me." Perhaps, in the end, that’s what we all need to remember.