Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Authors Behaving Badly

“What happens to me is that I seize upon an issue in the news—the issue is the moral/philosophical, political/intellectual equivalent of a cheeseburger with everythingon it; but for the duration of my interest in it, all my other interests are consumed by it, and whatever appetites and capacities I may have had for detachment and reflection are suddenly subordinate to this cheeseburger in my life!”–John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
There’s a thread over at Absolute Write that could be titled ‘Authors Behaving Badly.’ I want to look away, but God help me, I can’t, I’m drawn to it like a moth to a streetlamp. I read it and follow links to the sordid underbelly of author behavior. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen one author liken bad reviews (from fellow authors only; they seem to be okay coming from readers) to bad behavior that must be ‘punished’. He responded to a two-star review of his book (and it was actually pretty positive, for a two-star review) by giving her one star, without even reading her book. We’ve seen two or more authors band together and form a website designed to unmask so-called gangs of Goodreads bully reviewers who are apparently conspiring to humiliate writers; and, also from the world of Goodreads, there was a meltdown of epic proportions this very weekend, with the author outing himself as seriously unstable at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. In his case, he tried to disguise the real issue—revenge over a relationship gone sour—with a diatribe against book reviewers.
And me? I read it all. I don’t have a Goodreads account, yet I waded through GR blog posts and hundreds of comments over two days. I couldn’t help myself. Like John Wheelwright in A Prayer for Owen Meany, I found my cheeseburger and couldn’t stop eating it.
I don’t feel good about this, either for what it says about me (and the hundreds of AW’ers who take an almost-unhealthy pleasure in these meltdowns) or about the authors in question, who respond to any sort of negativity with a stomp reflex. I’m going to try to stay away from it in the future. Really, I am.
While I will try to keep out of those threads (or at least not follow the links all over the blogosphere), I’m not done with this topic. There are a lot of issues to explore wrapped up in this. It’s just not firm enough in my mind right now for me to really state where I’m at, except that I really need to stop reading these threads. Only now, I can’t–I have some research to do.

8 Responses

  1. Yes, it's so easy to be sucked in. You know what keeps running through my mind though? I'd never find my favorite writer (who is an international bestseller) on a forum or even blogging. Sometimes the only way to rise above it all is to stay away from it all! I'm not saying I wouldn't read that stuff just out of curiosity but I think the lesson is that sometimes it's best to shut the hell up! LOL. I mean for writers, so they don't risk their own reputations and careers! Can't wait to hear more of your thoughts on this!

  2. I recently had my own bad experience on AW where a couple of writers blasted a company they know nothing about, judging them solely on their name. I got sucked into the vortext for a brief time then discovered no matter what I said, they would just continue to be mean-spirited & hateful, for whatever reason. I've never gotten into a match on Goodreads though I did write a review that commented on the reviews of another & how they might have misjudged the author's intent. But it'll never turn out well for an author who tries to go head-to-head against a commenter out for blood, however misguided. Better just to take your lumps gracefully & move on. Can't please everyone. And while I do agree it's unfair for people to maliciously comment on books they've never read, you're never gonna stop some people from lashing out at those who've achieved what they've failed to do.

  3. Stomp reflex! Yes, that's the perfect way to describe it. As Nancy said, we can't please everyone. In those cases, it's best to move on. 🙂

    I know what you mean about reading the threads, though. They're like slow motion wrecks you can't turn away from.

  4. The mob mentality is something I have witnessed before, where completely sane people get sucked into a situation and turn into crazies.

    I stay out of it. Well out of it.

  5. I know the thread you're referring to. I didn't read them as mean-spirited and hateful; I think they were motivated by concern for you and others looking to sign on with a new venture. That said, some people don't filter their comments very well, and the persistence and insistence exhibited by some can easily get overwhelming, and look and feel like piling on when you're on the receiving end.

  6. I haven't noticed much of this on the threads, but I can see how people could get sucked in pretty easily. Just another thing to try to be aware of in the future where I have published books, I guess.

  7. I'm wondering if I'll even read any reviews of my work. Not everything is for everyone, and that's just the way it is. But it still hurts.

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