Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taking A Stand

I want to share something with you that recently happened to me. If you're looking for NA Thursday, it's at the bottom of this post. 

Just before my book, Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc. came out mid November, I stumbled onto a review site requesting sci-fi stories, both indie and traditional, for the month of November. I submitted my story, and they accepted it for review. I gave them a copy for free, in exchange for an honest review. 

My first mistake was that I didn't research this site better. 

But we all make mistakes, right? I'm a newly published author without a publicist, doing everything on my own to get my book in front of the right readers. 

A couple weeks after my book launch, reviews started to trickle in. There were some really good ones that just gave me a natural high to know others have enjoyed my story. That's why we do it, right?? I knew when I published BT it wasn't going to win any literary awards or anything. It's not that kind of story. It's simply put--a fun story. 

And then I got my first negative review. From that very review site I mentioned. I didn't go looking for it, it popped up on GoodReads and I found myself reading it before I realized it. I mentioned it on the ol' blog here last week, since it was my first experience with a cold review. I got over it, and I'm really okay with a reader not connecting with my book. This reviewer had a right to leave the same negative review on both GoodReads and Amazon, which she did.

This is the nature of the beast, and I accept that. The review felt intentionally hurtful, but I made my peace with it, because that's what we as authors do. My skin is thickening all the time.

But where do we draw the line? Isn't there some point when we deserve to be treated with respect, even though our art may not be appreciated? We are still humans, after all.

A week or two later, after I'd moved on from that review, I get a tweet from the same site who posted that negative review on GoodReads, letting me know their blog post was up with the same cold review.

Great. Thanks for the reminder that you didn't like my book. And thanks for tweeting the link with my name tagged next to it so everyone else could be sure to see it too.

But that's not all. Throughout the day, that tweet was repeatedly retweeted by thirty or more people affiliated with that review site, and every single time, I was tagged so that I could see the 2 star review and the link again and again. Every time, I was reminded that people all over Twitter were passing the link of my poor review around.

And the actual review site (who has over 23k followers I might add) repeatedly retweeted throughout the day.

Now, I'm pretty resilient as far as negativity goes, and I know why authors shouldn't respond to negative reviews, and I believe in that. But there's a time to be passive, and there's a time to stand up for yourself. And this kind of behavior from a review site was unacceptable, in my opinion.

If there's one skill I've learned in my sixteen years of working for an international airline, it's diplomacy. It's an absolute necessity when dealing with cultures from all over the world, as well as sometimes disgruntled passengers. I know better than to fly off the handle, or point fingers.

I may be a new author, and a rookie to reviews, but I also know that when something doesn't feel right, I shouldn't have to take it. Quite frankly, after enduring it for hours, I'd had enough of the tweets. I contacted the one person I knew affiliated with the review site and very politely asked why I was being tagged over and over for a poor review, and if it was necessary. This was via private Twitter message, mind you.

She responded a while later telling me to "calm down," and that a campaign had not been set against me, that the tweets would keep coming because of the original message.

Huh? What? This obviously wasn't going well, and now this person thought I was a ranting author on a tirade. Not what I wanted at all. We've all heard the horror stories of authors going ballistic over bad reviews. And now, here I was being treated like one.

I very politely responded back that I wasn't upset, nor did I have any argument with the actual review, but that the incessant tweeting of it while tagging me was not cool.

She realized I wasn't an irate author and said she'd remove my name from any future tweets, but I'd continue to get the tweets from earlier. I told her I realized that was the case and I'd tough it out, but to please see what she could do. And then I offered a polite suggestion: never tag the author with a poor review.

Now, we can never truly tell the tone of a text by simply reading it, but I could tell the vibe between us in these latter texts was no longer a negative one. This other person seemed to catch on to my feelings, and that I wasn't angry or bitter. She replied back to me a while later, saying that they removed the tweet from their channel so it could no longer be retweeted.

I thanked her immensely. She also thanked me for my previous suggestion and they'd take it into consideration. The evening was definitely ending on a much better note than it had started. Thankfully this person was level-headed and sympathetic enough to realize something wasn't right.

And believe me, I struggled with whether or not to say anything at all at first, because I didn't want to be that author. But had I not, I'd continue to receive all those insulting tweets, which would start to dig a little chip out of my shoulder while I tried to be resilient and pretend it didn't bother me.

So yeah, I took a stand and hopefully this review site will consider their actions in the future. I'll certainly never use them again, and a word to the wise, thoroughly research every review site before sending off your baby. It's one thing to get a negative review, but quite another to be bombarded with it repeatedly.

I won't mention the name of this review site because they have a right to handle their business as they see fit, but I also have the right as an author to share this information with my fellow authors and writers so you can be aware of how some people operate.

I don't believe this review site is out to be intentionally malicious, but I also don't believe they have the author's best interest in mind, so writers beware. And they did remove their original tweets, but the others who retweeted them, still have their tweets out there and I was tagged in new retweets for those the entire NEXT day too.

Two days of seeing that 2 star review next to my name, Over and over.

And now I ask you, how would you have handled this? Do you think I was out of line? What would you have done differently? Thanks for sharing.  

Read on for the New Adult features of the week!

Seventeen-year-old Zelene doesn't believe in magic or prophecies. When she's told she is part of the prophecy foretelling five powerful girls bringing peace to the war-torn worlds, she scoffs. The idea of other dimensions layered on top of the world she lives in is almost as ludicrous as the idea that she might be able to save them. After she is attacked by magic-wielding assassins, she finds she can't argue with reality.
As their enemies strike, the girls are taken back to their world and discover the ties binding them together. Rhaya has always had an uncanny knack for reading people, but can’t seem to unravel the mystery tying her to Isauria, the new friend she bonded with instantly. For years, Isauria has been dreaming of Terrena, a girl living her life on the run in a magical world ripped apart by the tragedies of war, completely unaware that she is psychically linked to the world she was born in.
Zelene views them all with a distrustful eye, familial bonds or no, and can think of a place or two she’d like to shove the crown she supposedly inherited. When she learns that her long-lost twin Ariana has been captured by the rebels, Zelene’s attitude changes. She doesn’t know how she is supposed to go against an army of magic-wielding rebels when her own ability to manipulate the elements is still locked within her. But can she trust the elders to rescue Ariana when it seems their medieval politics are what brought about the war in the first place? With all that is at stake, the answer becomes clear to Zelene.
Screw the worlds. She’s getting her sister back.

Mara Valderran has been coming up with stories pretty almost since she could talk, often commandeering her brother's G.I. Joes to play out her fictional tales alongside her Barbies. Once she hit adolescence and realized playing with dolls wasn't cool anymore, she started putting her ideas to paper. And she hasn’t stopped since.

Mara has worn many different artistic hats throughout her life. She has dabbled in screenwriting, plucked guitars and basses, toyed with singing, retired from acting, and drawn some pretty mean stick figures in her time. However, writing books seems to fit her best as she finds nothing more fulfilling than creating worlds and characters she can lose herself in.

Mara lives in the south with her husband and demanding cat. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or spending time at her favorite local coffee shop.

To enter the giveaway, go to each blog and enter the corresponding code into the Rafflecopter.

This is Blog #16 and the code is MARAPK

Blog #20:

Also celebrating a release is JT Lewis!

Finding an old yet infamous desk, Jesse Flanagan thinks he has died and gone to heaven when he also finds a mysterious old document hidden inside of it. Feeling like the luckiest man in the world, he turns to his old friend Abraham to have the items evaluated and put up for sale.

Arriving at Abe’s shop the next morning however, he stumbles upon the gruesome sight of his friend…murdered!

Removing the items to his own warehouse, he can only assume that Abe has been killed during a robbery attempt until he suddenly finds his own life in peril! 

Accidentally killing the man sent to kill him, Jesse must now go on the run as he tries to figure out who is after him…and why!

Congrats JT!

Find it on sale at Amazon
                           Barnes & Noble

And find JT on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook


Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think you handled this correctly. I often search Twitter for my book title, to see if people are reviewing or talking about my book. Sometimes I see a negative remark, but hey -- I went looking for them.

However, I do not read reviews that I find, unless I am tagged in them. If I'm tagged, I assume the reviewer *wants* me to see the review. So far, any reviews that tagged me have been positive. It sounds like this review site really didn't think that through very well.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I probably wouldn't have said anything, so good for you for standing up and handling it well. That does seem unfair to continuously send out Tweets about a bad review.
Not everyone likes or gets what we write. I'm amazed though when those people still slog their way through the book and write a bad review. If I'm not enjoying a book, I stop reading. And I don't post a review unless I finish.

Sandra Almazan said...

I saw the review you're talking about, and frankly I was shocked by the low number of stars. It seems as if the reviewer was expecting one type of book based on your description and felt he/she got something different than what was implicitly promised. (To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from the book from the blurb either, but I certainly liked it more than this reviewer.) Perhaps it would be helpful to have more about the characters and plot in the book description, so readers can better judge if the book will be a good fit for them.

However, the tweets will give you and your work publicity, something every indie author needs. The review itself will tell more people about the characters and story, and there will be other readers out there that will like the things this reviewer didn't.

I recently had a reviewer who didn't get Lyon's Legacy (more concerned about the romantic subplot than the main relationship conflict between Jo and Sean), so, yes, it hurts to see a review like that. It's very difficult to handle negative reviews, whether giving them or getting them. It sounds as if this site will rethink their policy now. Hopefully they will be more sensitive in the future. In the meantime, the best thing to do is focus on the sequel. There is a sequel coming, right?

Pk Hrezo said...

Dianne, I appreciate that. Thanks.

Alex, thanks. I dont see the point in posting over and over either when a review is so negative.

Sandra, yes I'm working on the sequel. You're right in that she was expecting a different story, and my blurb doesn't tell about the story in that way--it's a sales pitch that I tested out and had rave feedback on. Something fun and different. But yeah, I've since wondered if others will be so put off by the actual story and their expectations. Thanks for your feedback!

Karen Walker said...

Pk, that is horrible. And of course you weren't out of line. I probably would have become one of those authors who go ballistic. People seem to be just mean these days. Some of the reviewers of Carrie Underwood's performance in Sound of Music live on NBC were extremely nasty. I am so sorry you had to go thru this, but I think you took the high road and it's a good thing you did.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I would have curled up in a ball and sobbed. You did the better thing. It's fine to give negative reviews, but it sucks to be reminded of them, again and again and again.

I think it's a great idea to include the author's Twitter handle in a positive review. Then she'll be more than happy to RT it. She's not going to do that for a negative review.

Julie Flanders said...

I was thinking the same thing as Stina, I would have curled up and cried. I am still working on developing a thick skin and I can't deny I would have been totally crushed by this. Not because of the review, but because of seeing it over and over again. I'm impressed with how you handled it!

Andrew Leon said...

I suppose the real question is whether that is how they always handled reviews.
And, in the scheme of things, 23k really isn't that many.

Johanna Garth said...

I had a similar experience with a review site that hated my first book. Although thank goodness they didn't Tweet it for two days.

I think you handled it really well. It's such a tricky line to walk. You don't want to be crazy mama bear author and don't want to be walked all over either.

William Kendall said...

Getting bombarded by the same tweet over and over again is kind of like rubbing salt on the wound. You handled it right.

I will have to get into your book... when the post gets it to me!

Jess said...

Wow, I think you handled it incredibly well, and with a lot more serenity than most of us would have. I don't get people drawing the author's attention to negative reviews either--what the heck is the point? To be openly rude? For what it's worth, my life has been crazy lately and I've only gotten a few pages into BT, but I LOVE it. Pulled me in immediately :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think you handled it just right. I would have been very upset by the tweeting. It's such a difficult call to make.

Tammy Theriault said...

Holy Toledo!! PK!!! Sorry you had to endure the worst and I mean worst of being reviewed and then reminded of that review. Good gosh!! You know BT and I are pea pods. I loved everything about that adventurous book. You do the absolute classy and right thing to talk to someone and offer a very good suggestion. This is why I love you. You have always been so graceful!! Can't wait to see you soon and give you big big hugs!!!

shelly said...

Hey, PK:

I think I would've done the same. Currently, Seconhand Shoes more 5 star ratings than any others with a one 1 star. Now that 1 star review was insting and literally mean spirited and poorly written to top it off.

Sorry about the misspellings. On the iPhone.

Pk Hrezo said...

Thanks Karen. I wonder too how critics can ignore people's feelings. Guess we're all guilty of it at times.

Stina, I agree. Every writer likes to know someone appreciated their work. But not that someone hated it. And I'm still being reminded of it daily.

Julie, thanks. It was a rough two days.

Andrew, I was wondering that too. And I should've checked into it beforehand. if their policy is to multi-tweet every review regardless and I agreed to that, then I can't complain. Even so, it seems like a negative way of handling things.

Johanna, thanks. Yep just as I was feeling peaceful with it, it gets tossed at me over and over. lol Go figure.

William, the post should've had it to you already!! Maybe it takes longer in CA. It's on the way anyway. And thanks!

Jess, thank you so much! I don't get the purpose either. Or the purpose of adding reviews everywhere possible when it's negative. But I'm still new to this game so I'm learning.

Susan, thanks! It was very upsetting.

Tammy, thanks girl! Hugs back!

Shelly, isn't it funny how we can have more good reviews than bad but still that one bad one nags at us?? It's cuz we want to please others by nature, and when we dont, it's disappointing.

Annie Cosby said...

I would have been so embarrassed to tag an author in a bad review of his or her book! What a terribly strange thing to do!! In your position, I would definitely not have said anything because I'm a major wuss, so I'm really impressed that you did. I think you handled it wonderfully - especially addressing them in private in a very business-like manner. Like you said - not addressing negative reviews is a good general strategy, but there's certainly a line. We'll see what people have to say next week at #indiechat!

Kittie Howard said...

NO, you weren't out of line, PK. Not one bit. You handled a really nasty situation with grace. My first reaction was that that site has bots specifically designed to create problems.

Hold your head high and move on. Those people at that site aren't worth the time of day!

Roger Lawrence said...

You coped with that better than I would have done, which would have resulted in the tweet going viral.
I hate bad reviews but must remember that not everyone will like my writing.

Pk Hrezo said...

Annie, thanks for your thoughts. And you may surprise yourself in a similar situation.

Kittie, thank you. I was wondering the same thing. It's possible they weren't even aware, but if so, that's something needs to be changed.

Roger, thanks. It's a given not everyone will like it, but not necessary to share it. It's distasteful IMO. :)

Denise Covey said...

Hi Pk You handled this very diplomatically. It must have been very hurtful. I'm glad you took some action although I would have taken it earlier. I haven't had time to read your book yet, but I will and I will review it.

Meanwhile I'm in Paris and heading for Prague tomorrow night. Yay!


Richard Hughes said...

I'm sorry that happened to you. This social media is a two-edged sword.

spajonas said...

I'm super proud of you PK! Because it's one thing to post a bad review, it's another to continuously throw the review in the author's face on Twitter, FB, etc. The thing I don't get about this situation is that reviewers always say "Authors shouldn't comment on reviews" but yet they can go ahead and taunt authors with it? Tagging you in the tweet is a version of taunting for sure, and quite and unacceptable. I'm glad you said something! There is a line, and they crossed it.

Nas said...

You handled it beautifully PK. I wouldn't have had the grace to handle it like that. And yes, you have the right to share with us.

I had one 3 star on a book I published under pen name-in it the reviewer is more concerned about the whys and wherefores of the secondary characters. And it did say at the end about the coming soon sequel!!!
We can't win!


I'm So sorry you had such a traumatising experience.
I can't imagine having your baby that you worked so hard on constantly thrown in your face as a piece of rubbage. I hope you all the best your sequel.

Lexa Cain said...

I wouldn't have said anything, but you should always stand up for yourself if you feel you're being treated unfairly - it's like protecting the child within you so it doesn't feel worthless and abandoned.

I love both Mara's and JT's covers. I'd definitely pick up those books. :-)

Misha Gericke said...

Kudos to you! I think you handled it very well. So far, I haven't really received negative reviews (didn't really focus on reviewers for my marketing), but if I do, I hope I can follow your example. :-)

Anonymous said...

I probably wouldn't have said anything, but I think you handled it with finesse. If this ever happens to me, I'm calling you ;-)

Cathrina Constantine said...

I also asked a fellow author for an honest review. I trembled angrily after reading her review. She didn't like the main character and she totally misunderstood the book which blew me away. I did email her and remedied her misconceptions on the characters. She wrote back, " I get it." Duh, I was upset. I hope I've grown stronger. Once our book is published, it's out there and we have to duck the punches.

I read the review, and I didn't like what she wrote. The reviewer sounded crass. You handled it well. I would've cried seeing all those tweets...

Norma Beishir said...

PK, you handled it with professionalism. We all get bad reviews. I've been in the business long enough to be immune to them for the most part. But this would have ticked anyone off.

I got one a while back--it wasn't all that bad, but I was angry because the person who wrote it didn't just post it, she emailed me first--I guess to let me down easy. I would of course be crushed that SHE didn't love it (even though Publishers Weekly had given it a stellar review), so she wanted to be "nice."

She even asked me where she should post it. My son suggested a place where a colonoscopy would be needed to read it....

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how I would have handled the situation, but it sounds like you handled it well. I would hope that people would read a book before just retweeting a bad review.

Pk Hrezo said...

Denise, thank you. And wow have fun marauding Europe!! I'm so jealous!!

Richard, I agree. People don't always think before posting.

Steph, I agree that line was def crossed!

Nas, thanks! You said it. We just can't win sometimes.

David, Thanks! I won't let it break me.

Lexa, it's debatable for sure, but sometimes we gotta go with our gut.

Misha, thanks for your comment!

Jamie, here's hoping it never happens to you!

Cathrina, thanks! It was crass indeed. I thought it was just me cuz my work is personal, but good to know it really does read cold.

Norma, LOL! That's exactly where it belongs!

Susanne, I think they have so much automation that they don't even pay attention anymore to what goes out. Sad.

SC Author said...

My mom ALWAYS says that being nice will solve so many problems you thought were unsolvable. I think it worked in your case too :) Good job!

Robin said...

I have nothing new to add here... but, yes, I think you handled this situation very well.

DMS said...

It sounds like you handled the situation professionally and rationally. I think that is why the person you contacted was willing to work with you, because she saw you were okay with the negative review but not the retweeting. This shows that being nice will do more for our cause. :)