Consequences

Dear Authors:

 

I'd like to explain to you a little something called consequences. 

 

consequence:  (noun) the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier

 

Everything any one of us says or does has consequences.  They can be positive or negative, large or small, far-reaching or extremely personal, but they invariably exist.  It's a good idea, therefore, to consider the possible consequences of our actions in order to better manage the outcome. 

 

Unfortunately for you, "author" is a job that makes you a public figure, and people in the public eye are under a lot more scrutiny.  The romantic escapades of Hollywood actors are only "news worthy", for example, because they're Hollywood actors.  Nobody (or at least far fewer people) would care if it was simply Joe and Kylie from down at the office.

 

Thus, one of the consequences of being a public figure-- of being an author --is that you have to be even more careful about what you say and do than the average person.   The public is watching, and under that scrutiny your actions have much more power to change how you are perceived.   If you put your foot in your mouth, everyone is going to know.

 

All of which is to say:  Are you entitled to think anything you want?  Yes.  Do you have the right to say it?  Absolutely.  But unless it's something you're positive won't come back to bite you, it's still probably best left unsaid.  Because people will see it, and spread it around that you said it.  Which may make others less willing to buy your books.

 

This is why readers tell authors not to comment on reviews, or to complain about readers on social media.  It's not that we are trying to "silence" you; we're trying to warn you.  You can certainly still say whatever you want.  We're just telling you it's a bad idea.  It's an idea that has consequences.

 

What you need to consider is whether or not the consequences of letting the review go unmentioned are greater than the consequences of taking issue. 

 

If you don't comment, what's the worst that could happen?  Well, for starters, you'd have to find some other way to vent your spleen.  Presumably, however, you have family and friends who will commiserate.  You'll have to let it go that someone may be wrong on the internet--as if we don't all do that every day.  Otherwise, the worst that could happen is that maybe some people will read that review and decide not to buy your book.

 

If you do comment, what's the worst that could happen?  The original reviewer could respond negatively, and lower their rating.  Their friends could see your comment, and decide not to buy your book because of your attitude.  Strangers could see your comment, and decide not to buy your book because of your attitude.  You could be labeled as a "badly behaving author", further damaging your public image.

 

Biting your tongue and choosing not to exercise your "right" to say something scathing seems like the better choice to me, but of course that's up to you.  Just remember:  you chose those consequences, so you better be prepared to deal with them.

 

Disturbingly, the harsh truth is that the typically "badly behaving" among you are either incapable of dealing with the consequences, or flat out refuse.  They want to have their cake and eat it, too.  They want the right to say whatever they want without it having any consequences.  Or, rather, they want the right to "speak their mind" and somehow imagine that it will miraculously change the reader's opinion.  Which is an unrealistic expectation.  It's highly unlikely that anyone will change their mind because the author told them they "read it wrong".  Human nature being what it is, offense and/or annoyance are far more likely.

 

"But, Three, surely there are consequences for writing reviews, too!"   Of course there are.  So, for the sake of argument, let's consider what those should realistically be. 

 

No matter what you say--whether you like the book or hate the book--someone is going to disagree.  It's therefore reasonable to expect that someone will comment to say so.  On negative reviews, particularly of very popular books, it's probably reasonable to expect some die-hard fans to stop by and call you names.  Mind you, it's inappropriate, but should still be expected.  If you write a lot of reviews, it's not unreasonable to think you might gain a certain amount of popularity.  It's not something you should bank on, but you should be prepared for whatever happens, whether mediocrity or notoriety.

 

What's not expected is that the author will take offense.  The author is supposed to be a professional capable of handling criticism, and is expected to be aware that their book won't be universally liked.  Most readers don't even expect authors to read their reviews--we imagine them to be hard at work writing their next masterpiece, not waiting anxiously for feedback on their current releases.  We don't expect authors--many of whom have no credentials or status, no grounds on which to base their "authority"--to tell us how to read, or what to think.

 

We certainly have no expectation of being labeled a "bully" or a "troll" for not liking a book and daring to say so.  There is no world where that is a reasonable response to a book review.  We have no expectation of being stalked across the internet and harassed on every book-related venue we visit, because--again--that's such an incredible overreaction that nobody should expect it.

 

Or at least we didn't.  Now we do, because it's happened too many times to assume it won't happen again.  But it's not a reasonable expectation, it's a worse-case scenario.  And it's arisen because authors are unprepared to handle the consequences of their actions.  Actions such as:

 

  • Publishing a poorly written, unpolished novel
  • Commenting on reviews
  • Creating sock-puppets to up-vote their own books and down-vote their competitors
  • Making snide comments about readers on social media
  • Buying reviews

 

Actions that should never have been taken, much less taken with such... blind optimism. 

 

They can't cope with the fallout, or with recognizing that it's their fault.  So instead, they try to silence readers.  Not in a cautionary way, but in a threatening one.  As in:  we will scare you or harass you into vanishing off the internet forever.  Not for helpful reasons, but for self-serving ones. 

 

And, again, they're not considering the consequences of their actions. 

 

How short-sighted can you be?

 

Think about it.

 

Sincerely,

 

ThreeRs