Friday, June 17, 2011

No, Not That!

There are times when an author's life is not interesting, usually when editing and rewriting endlessly to make a book just right. I think of Goldilocks and what having everything just right did for her and I cringe. It's hard for a perfectionist to get past the need to keep tweaking a book. An error might have gotten through numerous edits, even from someone else's eyes, and when they pop up later, usually after the book has gone to print, the groan and gnashing of teeth can be heard at least half a continent away, if not all the way to the next continent and beyond. At least with ebooks it's easier to change things and upload the new version, and somewhat easier with print versions as long as you self-published and have already gotten through the first print run, which usually isn't all that big a deal. There is, of course, the issue of cost because printers tend to charge you when you make too many changes and approve the proof. Into every life and all that.

I suppose the worst thing to deal with is bad reviews. I expect them. One reviewer actually emailed me to tell me she couldn't get into the book and therefore would not publish a review. I heaved a hearty sigh of relief since any review she would have written would have been horrible. I can handle bad reviews if someone actually bought the book, but I am ready to ignore pointedly any bad reviews from people who got a book for free. After all, I review books and there are times when I have to write bad reviews, always doing my best to point out something positive, even if it's a nice font. It's something nice, so give me a break. I don't do cleaned up reviews. You pays yo' money and takes yo' chances. I expect to get what I give so frequently.

However, when a bad review seems to have been written about your book that in no way resembles your book, it's hard to forgive and forget. Mostly, it's hard to forget. It haunts you in the night and creeps up on you unawares at the worst possible moments, like in bed with your husband/boyfriend/lover/whatever. You sit up and scream (mostly just scream), "What book did s/he read?" It takes all of one's might and discipline not to hunt the person down and demand an explanation and a diagram with colored markers and bullet points.

Too many authors have gone head-to-head with reviewers in wanting to know why and where and how dare they. It's a bad idea that ends in tears and public ridicule the likes of which one can only imagine given the Internet and the speed at which ugly gossip flies. It's best to take a no comment stance as though walking up the stairs to jail or to the courthouse where you're being arraigned for heinous acts against humanity -- and wearing fur. This is a wired world where everything is connected. Even if you make a snide comment in Outer Mongolia below your breath, someone will hear you, snap a picture on their phone and record the video to show on You Tube where someone will mention it to someone else and in a matter of nanoseconds you have gone viral with a big red sign painted on your forehead that reads "IDIOT." There is such a thing as bad press when there are too many cameras, phones, video recorders, and other devices to foil any attempts at denial, and the nonchalant (not that it's too late) shrug of the shoulders or a saucy wink will not make the situation better.

You have become a joke. An obsessive author with delusions of adequacy. And your books will be avoided -- by most people who don't want to be associated with someone who can't keep their professional cool. Not a good idea at all. Avoid at all costs.

I look at reviews, all reviews, and smile when they're good, frown a little (makes wrinkles) when they are marginal, and hide all sharp objects and projectile firing instruments just in case the reviewer crosses my path at a convention or at the grocery store where I've tracked him (or her) to have a quiet word.

When it happens to you -- and it will happen eventually -- smile and find something else to do, like write another book and give more people more chances to sling mud and fire pot shots at your children books. Keeping busy is a good thing. I think that's where the old adage, Idle hands are the devil's workshop, came from. It must have been an author out to scalp, torture and dismember someone who gave a bad review.

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