Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Recently there have been a couple of flame wars in the blogosphere.

Last month it was a self published author complaining about book review bloggers on her blog. It wouldn't have been as huge a deal if she hadn't named them.

The other day it was a book review blogger who reviewed a self published author's novel on his blog. It wouldn't have been such a big deal if the author hadn't showed up and started getting angry in the comments, literally swearing at almost everyone.

This kind of behavior is unacceptable. It's also rather embarrassing. Look, I get it, it hurts to get rejected. It hurts anytime someone doesn't love your writing. I mean we pour our hearts and souls into our stories and if someone doesn't connect with what we're trying to say ... it stings. Sometimes it stings more than others. Like when it's done publicly.

That doesn't mean you should respond. We need to be above all that. We need to grow thick skins and move on. The fact is: not everyone is going to love our work. There are people who don't like Tolkien. I have no idea what's wrong with them, but they do exist. There are people who don't get Cormac McCarthy. That I can actually understand, even if I don't agree.

There will always be some people who don't like your writing, or don't care for your story, or just don't get your characters. It cannot be avoided. It will happen. We have to accept that and move on.

There are three main things that piss me off about these flame wars and the behavior of these authors (and no, I won't be linking you to the posts, they're beneath this blog, and I'm sure you heard about them already):

First, it gives self-published authors a bad name. I have friends who are self-published, who are incredible writers, and who conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism on the internet and in their real lives. Please stop making them look like hacks. There is a reason people give self-publishing the stereotypical assumption of being not good enough. That reason is these authors taking part in these flame wars.

Second, it takes attention away from positive, uplifting posts that deserve the traffic that these flame wars get. The most recent one got over 300 comments, and brought more visitors to a brand new blog than any inspiring post has ever done. I understand it's human nature to stare at a train wreck, but it's sad, really. There are plenty of bloggers writing posts that deserve that kind of traffic, and never get it.

Finally, well ... I forget what my third reason was, but if I thought about it for a minute I could probably come up with ten more. Just don't do it, it's not worth it.

If you want to know more about flame wars, trolls, and internet etiquette, you can read this Wikipedia article. There is also a proposed Blogger Code of Conduct.

76 comments:

Jess said...

I agree with you~ it's sad to see people get so defensive and start drama. Everyone is entitled to an opinion :) By the way, my favorite lines of this post are: There are people who don't like Tolkien. I have no idea what's wrong with them, but they do exist.

Very loyal of you :)

Shain Brown said...

Mathew, I could not agree with you more and although everyone is entitled to their opinion, we should be not only professional, but also respectful. At some point each of us will have to sit in front of the desk as well as behind it. With that in mind remember the pressures of the bearing down on the other person.

Jami Gold did a blog recently called "Are you Teachable?" and it was not only good but it made me think.

Even though it goes without saying I applaud your position in this matter. Hopefully because of this we will remember how we should respond in the future.

Great post!

Justine Dell said...

Well said, Matt! I read that blog (Sarah sent me the link) and I was appalled at the authors behavior. It is people like that that give self-pubbed a bad name. I've been considering some self publishing myself and it makes me sad. It's an uphill battle to overcome the basic sterotypes that have been developed, AND now all this new flame war stuff.

Sad, sad world this is.

~JD

Sarah said...

Great post, Matt. There's so much to say about this incident (I blogged about it today, too), but your point about it taking away from the positive and uplifting is very, very important. We could all use this opportunity to re-focus on encouraging others, being appreciative of feedback, and attending to what's great about the writing community. Thank you for saying it.

storyqueen said...

The thing is, it doesn't just give self-published authors a bad name, it give all of us a bad name. All of us writers and bloggers come away looking just a little "less." I mean, you can't roll in the mud with a pig and not get dirty.


Shelley

Josin L. McQuein said...

I watched the second one flame out, but thankfully never heard of the first incident you mentioned.

It's a sad combination of too much attachment on the writer's part and no attachment at all on the flamers' parts, and it all ends up a big mess.

(Yes, I know it's way more complicated than that, but there's always an emotional component on the writer's side and a pile-on with the flamers as though the context means nothing.)

mmshaunakelley said...

I think it comes down to general adult behavior, and while people stare at the train wreck, it isn't going to build a long, loyal following to your craft.

For example, a to-be-unnamed-but phenomenal writer bashed the Oscars a few years back when the movie based on her story didn't win best picture. I respect her and her writing, and I read all of the back and forth, but haven't been able to but any of her books since. The actions just seemed to lack class, maturity, and dignity, and I have a hard time reading people I don't respect.

The very first feedback I got on my novel was a fellow author declining to provide a blurb because he didn't like it. In the privacy of my own home, I called him a stupid head. I then sent him a very respectful email thanking him for taking the time to read it... and then felt guilty for calling him a stupid head, even in private.

Laura Pauling said...

You know you really shouldn't crack me up in a serious post. I can't imagine what it's like to receive bad reviews. I'm sure it stings. But I also know there are books I don't care for but it has nothing to do with the writing. It's just not the style I read. We have to remember that! Unfortunately, I don't think this problem will go away b/c not everyone reads this blog. I don't know what's wrong with them, but they do exist.

Matthew MacNish said...

LOL. Thanks Laura. Update: my friend Sarah has a post on this same topic, it's even better than mine:

http://thestrangestsituation.blogspot.com/2011/03/when-life-seems-like-cruel-social-psych.html

Steph said...

nicely done. love this: "Finally, well ... I forget what my third reason was, but if I thought about it for a minute I could probably come up with ten more." :)

Jaydee Morgan said...

Great post - and something we should all remember. I get that bad reviews or criticism hurts but that's why we have friends and family. Tantrums and theatrics should be kept private. It hurts everyone when it becomes a big public issue.

M.A.Leslie said...

I don't understand how, after receiving rejection letter after rejection letter for your queries, that you wouldn't have thick skin. I am kind of numb to the, "I don't like this."
It hurts some still, but if you curse at people, not only are they going to dislike your work they will dislike you. Take it, learn from it, and keep writing.

L.G.Smith said...

Right, rage and curse and pound your fist at home all you want, cry with your friends in private, but don't do it in public. You never come out the winner in a flame war.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Oh! Blogger Code of Conduct! Awesome. Of course, the cretins will not bother with such a thing.

I believe in celebrating niceness, which is why I now have a corndog on my side bar. We can't all be as nice as Nate B. but we should all try.

E.J. Wesley said...

Totally agree with you, Matthew. However, there have been plenty of instances where trad-published authors have gone all Charlie Sheen on reviewers, etc.

I think it gives authors in general a bad name.

Why even respond to negative reviews? It's an opinion, even if it might be a poorly stated one. Besides, intelligent readers (the kind we ALL covet) can spot a jaded, ax-grinding review a mile away.

I feel the exact same way about agents who say ugly things about authors on their blogs (even when they don't mention names). They're the ones that come off looking like fools, not the people they're complaining about.

In general, a little commonsense and a dose of humility can go a long way.

Great post!

EJ

Bethany said...

I did a negative review on a self-published book once and got one of those comments. I'm kinda weary of self-published authors now, even though I know some of them are awesome.

If I don't like the book, it doesn't mean I think anything bad about the author as a PERSON. It's hard to stay impartial when I get a comment from the author saying I'm an awful person because I ruined their sales or whatever. It's my opionion on your book, if everyone likes a book, then something is wrong with it.

UGH! I am very opinionated about this topic :P

Sommer Leigh said...

I saw both of these happen. The first one was about some book bloggers I absolutely adore. The second one I was linked to by someone who thought I'd be interested. Interested? Not really. I don't like reading these insane displays of bad author behavior. But there is one thing I do like to read in some of them- while there is someone and probably more than just the author with bad judgement going a little crazy, there are also beautiful and inspiring people who participate in the discussion with grace and class. I look for these (often it is the person being attacked, but not always) because I use them as role models for my own online behavior and attitude. Sometimes, after a particularly bad attack, I wonder how some of these people can pull together such eloquent and patient responses. That is what I want to learn and internalize.

Amanda said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to ACT like a professional writer. Addressing negative reviews is simply something you DO NOT DO.

C.R. Evers said...

Very well put! Great post.

Melissa Bradley said...

I agree, writing is an art and art is subjective. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you can't stand people judging your writing then you should not publish it.

Michael G-G said...

I have an emergency procedure for whenever I'm tempted to the blogging dark side.

1) Press panic button--this alerts one of my kids (all three, if I'm unlucky) to step forward, grab my megaphone, and bark

2)"Step away from that keyboard, sir. Come out with your hands in the air."

3) There is also a strong cord of rope with which to tie said hands to doorknobs and such. (This is their favorite part.)

This is all because I try never to say, in print, something I wouldn't say to someone's face after drinking several lubricating dark beers.

Your blog is great. And I mean it.

Anne Gallagher said...

I read Sarah's post this morning. I must be in some kind of nice bundled cocoon because I never even knew it played out.

Things you're supposed to learn in Kindergarten -- Play nice, be fair, and don't spit. Good advice no matter how old we get.

Steve Abernathy said...

I can clap rather loudly with one hand. It sounds almost like two hands. I will post an audio file.

phyllis sweetwater said...

I am a self published author who doesn't get enough traffic on my blog. Don't worry, I won't start slamming anyone just to get a rise out of them. I will, however, leaves as many comments as I can on the blogs, such as yours, that I feel have admirable qualities. Good for you.

mshatch said...

I'm glad I missed it all. There's no excuse for that sort of behavior. I love to review books upon occasion or use them as examples of how to do it right but if I really didn't like a particular book - self-published or not - I just don't review it. And no matter who you are or how popular you can't please everyone.

Lola Sharp said...

Matt, I agree with your every word in this post.

Happy Humpday,
Lola

Summer Ross said...

Funny thing is I didn't just hear about it on a blogger level, it was actually discussed at my college as well- when someone reacts badly, it makes that person look horrible in the publics eye and word of mouth travels to many destinations. If you have nothing nice to say- Don't say anything at all- we even discussed how this could happen on both ends- reviewing and authors alike. Though I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Great post.

Jared Larson said...

Great post, Matt. You couldn't have said it better. I totally agree.

Emily White said...

Well said, Matt. I can't say I know, personally, what's been happening, but I have been hearing quite a bit about it. As someone who's going to be taking the self-publishing plunge within the next few months, it really saddens me to see that the image is being tainted yet again.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Matthew .. I've spotted the odd article about the confrontations - not very clever are they ..especially in today's age ..

We really need to keep the positive up front .. as others have said .. thanks - Hilary

LTM said...

I am blissfully ignorant of all of this. (what tha?)

You know I did a post last week about self-publishing and Atwood's restless anchovies. Done. And you also know I read the Hobbit and was done. Cormack McCarthy I haven't even attempted. Nerd~ ;p xoxo

Kristi Helvig said...

You're so right about the train wreck thing...like when people slow down trying to see the car crash in the middle of the road. I think part is morbid curiosity and part is "whew, glad that's not me."

Professionalism goes a long way in any industry...and I always pick the inspiring posts over others. :)

Lindsay said...

Great post.

I always like to remember how the internet is forever. I may glance at the train wrecks from time to time (like Kristi said, it's a morbid curiosity thing), but I'd rather be inspired by the positive posts.

aspiring_x said...

well said mr matt! :)

JM Leotti said...

Terrific post, Matt. If you're in the public eye you're going to get bad reviews and/or comments once in a while. They sting, but not everyone is going to like what you put out there.

A few months ago someone wrote to me that my fantasy art was "blah." Recently, my art has been licensed by a tagging company, so who do you think I'm listening to? I deleted the email and never responded, although I had all kinds of things I wanted to say...

What I did instead was try and decide if the comment was true in any sense, and if I could learn or improve in any way. That's the best way, I think, to respond to criticism. Usually you can tell if someone is just being mean or if there is some value in what they are saying.

Thanks again. Always a pleasure reading your blog!

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Huzzah.

Aubrie said...

Great post! I've had my fair share of bad reviews, but I never argue them. I just go on with my life no matter how it hurts and focus on the positive reviews, which outweigh the bad ones.

Hannah Kincade said...

I agree with but other than that I have nothing to add. I'm still laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Wow.

Candyland said...

AMEN. (that is all).

Lenny Lee* said...

hi mr matthew! wow i didnt ever know that could happen. now i just learned what flaming is and its not so hot for sure. i cant think i could ever do that and i got no blogger friends that could do that and im glad for that. its good you did a post on it. you always got such good stuff to say.
...hugs from lenny

Ru said...

Great post. I think the problem is definitely people have this idea that if it happens on the Internet, it's ok. It's not ok. You would never say these things to someone's face, so you shouldn't put them in an electronic format either.

Faith E. Hough said...

This is an excellent, excellent post, Matt.
Blogs should be a place to foster connections and friendships, and I get really frustrated and angry when that is abused.
Thanks for standing up for the good. (And I haven't figured out what's wrong with people who don't like Tolkien, either...but I still love them. :)

Janet Johnson said...

Amen. I so agree! I just try to stay out of the big mess they always are.

And thank you for not linking! Good call. :)

Shari said...

Great post. I completely agree. It's more important to be professional and gracious. If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all.

Steph Sinkhorn said...

I missed the first one, but I witnessed the recent one the other day. I was cringing in embarrassment. I wanted someone to be there and tell her to just walk away. Ugh.

And I totally take your point about people swarming to the train wreck when there are some really quality blogs out there getting a teensy bit of traffic because they don't attract drama. Bummer.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I must live in a shell or something, because I have no clue what you're talking about. However, I do agree with you completely. Now I'm curious about those posts...but I will resist temptation and go on my merry way, since I have a ton of work to do anyway. :)

PS. I prefer the posts on anchovies and cheese sandwiches.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guess I'm not much for train wrecks - missed both of those!
People don't realize what they write online is in ink - and it's there forever.

Carol Riggs said...

Yes, such a sad story. Never write or say anything when you're angry! Yikes. Or vent to your relatives and friends in private.

I haven't visited lately (just read your blog in Google Reader) and I LOVE the photo of you and the girl! (your daughter? niece?) So sweet. :)

Happy Wednesday, Matthew!

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hey, Matthew,
I missed all of this - but I do find it very interesting.

I know the sting of rejection, and how much negative comments hurt, but I agree with you - it is never okay to respond in a rude, belligerent way. It screams unprofessional and I suspect it will only hurt that person's chances of getting any positive recognition.

Maria Cope said...

I agree completely! I never knew there was a title to these types of online rants. Maybe because I try to avoid any post that has the type of content/comments that make me embarrassed for the person writing it. Well, that and my mama always taught me that if I can't say something nice to put on a good "sweet 'n low smile" and keep my dern mouth shut. :)

Tracy said...

Great post, Matt. I witnessed the second one and after I picked my jaw up off the floor, it reminded me that I'm thankful that I have quite a few writer friends who keep me sane.

There have been times, personally, I wouldn't have minded going off on someone who said something I didn't think was right, fair . . . or just plain hurt my feelings. Luckily for me, I have a good little group of writer friends that I can email and bitch to who will also remind me not to be stupid and respond. :D

Unfortunately, it appears not everyone has that.

Suzie F. said...

Well said, Matt. I missed both of these too.

I love your second point. There ARE so many wonderful and positive blogs that don't get much traffic. And we put a lot of time and yes, heart into those posts. I won't be searching out the train wrecks because of this reason.

Suzie
(who refuses to believe that there are some who think Tolkien is less than brilliant)

Nicole Zoltack said...

It is so much better to say absolutely nothing when you receive a bad review. That's what I do. And everyone gets bad reviews. It's the nature of the beast of writing and putting yourself out there.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

There's no excuse for bad manners in a professional setting, but I just don't think that a lot of people realize blogs can be professional settings. It's the internet, how can it hurt?
Yeah, it's only the fastest spreading information phenomenon of our lifetimes. No damage.
Great post, Matt, and definitely true. :)

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

yeah that was one whole FUBAR mess.
Slightly off topic - i can totally clap with only one hand.
True Story.

Christauna Asay said...

Man, I watched that train wreck. Both entertaining and horrifying at the same time. It's always good to learn through other people's mistakes.

Bish Denham said...

I didn't know about this Matt and glad I missed it. As writers it should seem pretty obvious...not everyone reads mysteries, or SciFi, or horror. Not everyone reads biographies, or romances, or historical fiction, or self-help. The list of genres is looooooong.

It may be hard but the truth is we simply cannot satisfy everybody all of the time. It's just that it's us as writers who have to swallow that bitter pill, not the readers.

Old Kitty said...

I'm terrible - the first thing I thought of was - ooooh please someone send me the links to these nastiness in blogworld - I wanna read!!!!! LOL!! Bad bad bad voyeuristic me!!

:-) Off I go to hang my head in deep shame...! Take care
x

Marsha Sigman said...

What a huge waste of time those flame wars are. I totally agree with being mature and moving on if someone doesn't like your work.

Remember not everyone liked us on the playground but we got over that, right? Sure we punched a few of them but that's neither here nor there and defeats our point.

The only way you can hear the sound of one hand clapping is if you're smacking yourself in the face.

JM Leotti said...

@Old Kitty - You're not bad. It's why we all read novels, and what we are all trying to get into our novels - drama. It's just too bad that this author mixed up real life with fiction and crossed the streams. NEVER cross the streams!

(I actually feel sorry for her and hope she learns from her mistakes.)

@Marsha S. - OMG, so funny!

Austin James said...

I must say, this certainly has stirred up some controversy... and may be proof that not all attention, is good attention.

Sara B. Larson said...

I heard about both of these, but stayed far away. I agree with your points completely - be professional and courteous, in all of your posts/comments/etc. If common decency and maturity isn't a good enough reason, there's always the you never want to burn a bridge mode of thought.

Clarissa Draper said...

I totally agree. I don't know who the first person was but I'm aware of the second incident. In fact, the issue has hit the guardian.co.uk.

I have never read Tolkien--don't hate me! However, I know people who bash Jane Austen on amazon. How sad is that!?

Lydia K said...

I so rarely see the writing blogosphere descend into that kind of chaos. I also am not sure about the first incident. Not sure if I want to now!

A Backwards Story said...

That second scenario went completely viral. I was appalled at the unprofessionalism.

This is why, as a blogger, I've chosen to never leave a bad review. Not for flame wars, but because it's not necessary. If I don't like a book, it doesn't mean someone else won't. What if the book I rake over the coals would have been your favorite book in the entire world, but you choose not to read it b/c of me? That's not fair to you--OR the author who poured his/her blood and tears into the work. If I dislike a book, I keep that opinion to myself. I'll only ever review books I enjoy.

Myrna Foster said...

I quite agree.

Ted Cross said...

I keep hearing about these incidents, but somehow I have managed to refrain from taking a look. I admit to being one who has had only bad experiences with the few self-published books I have seen, so I am now in the contradictory position of not wanting to give self-published books a chance until I can see a few done really well.

Carrie said...

Well said. There is nothing to be gained for yourself or the community by being unprofessional. It also makes you look like a moron.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I totally agree. I've heard about this but not all the specifics.

Talli Roland said...

Very well said, Matthew. Negative reviews suck the big one and they really hurt, but you should NEVER respond. Rant and rave in private.

Carrie said...

Great point. It is so important for people to remember to act professionally and be positive especially when negative behavior can be tweeted and shared about so quickly.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Somehow I made it all the way to A-Z challenge without realizing any of this. I guess I've been too busy with other things. But you're right. This is no way to conduct ourselves, not just as writers but as people. I see too much drama at the day job. Hopefully I'll navigate past most of the drama in the writing world.

February Grace said...

So, it sounds like I picked the best possible month to have stitches in my eye preclude me from reading blogs? Cause wow.

You're right- the pros out there in the Indie field deserve so much better than to be lumped in with that kind of stuff. Not cool.

~bru

The Writing Goddess said...

Hi Matthew - new follower here, came via Nathan Bransford, and liked what you had to say.

I also blogged on this subejct http://writinginflow.blogspot.com/2011/04/going-postal-and-viral-what-not-to-do.html

And am both feeling sorry for the author, and thinking it will teach, perhaps not her, but others some valuable lessons about the way the Internet works.

Looking forward to reading more of your work.

Geoff said...

This whole thing is fascinating to watch go down.

That being said, I'd take this approach to it. Writers like the second one mentioned don't give self-publishers a bad name - we already have a bad name! Face it! And its not just those evil Big 6 reps or "snobby" reviewers. It's other WRITERS. I can't tell you how many times I've seen other writers cannibalize those who try to go it alone. We, too, are quick to dismiss the self-pubbed author. So if this authorial "united front" - this cohesive community we all want to believe is out there - can't get on the same page, how can we expect anyone else to take aspiring authors serious, no matter what publishing route we want to go?

I argue that it isn't so much the authors guilty of the flame-outs that are to be blamed for bad press, its the responds of others towards these flame-outs.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one's around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a writer leaves a short-sighted and idiotic comment on a relatively low-key review site and no one is there to comment on it, does it even matter? The writers or readers COMMENTING on these things seem more at fault to me. We're feeding the flames. And nothing about it is constructive. We are being unprofessional (the collective "we", not this post, Matt. Nothing you've said has been off-base by any means.) The one-star reviews from people who obviously have never reviewed anything on Amazon and probably didn't even read the book... that is far more unacceptable in my mind than an author's emotional defensive of their work.

So what do we do when an author puts their foot so stunningly and completely in their mouth? Ignore it, maybe. Let them sink or swim on their own. If they haven't figured out how to conduct themselves in public, harsh comments and one-star reviews aren't going to shape them up. All that leads to is making us all look bad, not just as writers but as human beings.

Kay said...

Oh. My. God. Did you finally pick a pen name?? No more Googling you and finding wikepedia sites dedicated to adult film stars???

Sorry, had to tease you about that. :-)

How the heck are you? I haven't checked your site in a while, but I saw a link to "Matthew MacNish" on one of NB's blog posts, and I was like, "Hmmmm."

Sooo... What's the scooby-doo? Did you get signed after WriteOnCon? My crit partner just signed with D4EO -- you remember Yoshima from NB's forums, right? So pumped for her.

Great blog post. I wonder why the author didn't just post as an anon or something. Weird, 'cause you'd think they'd want to hide their identity while on a rant. Maybe he/she didn't put too much thought into it.

Anyway, hope all is well and that you're getting lots accomplished these days. Looks like you are, so proud of you, Matthew!! You have a huge following on your blog, and you're all over the place with interviews. I'm betting you'll write back with tons of good news.

Take care!

Kay
www.kayemevans.com/blog