Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review Trolls

Continuing last week's discussion about Amazon and reviews, Ana posts (with permission) Deep Story Instructor Carol Hughes' comments about Review Trolls. 

I love that term - "review trolls"!

Besides the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion - there is another point to keep in mind - there are a lot of stupid people in the world. And a great many of them seem to have nothing better to do than spend their time confirming their stupidity to the world at large via the Internet.

Stupid and mean people each have their own reason for demonstrating their personal failings to the rest of us. To them their actions make sense. To the rest of us - all we can do is scratch our heads and wonder how truly miserable their lives must be that they feel the need to taint the waters around them like they do.

Every time I see a nasty review I'm fascinated - both by the person who wrote the review and the work of art they are trashing. In fact, my curiosity is such that I usually buy the book because I want to understand how a person cannot respect the hard work an author puts into turning out his or her book.

Every single time I have done this - I've fallen in love with that author and their work.

So I love the trolls for introducing me to so many great authors I more than likely would have missed without them directing my attention to the object that the troll feel compelled to trash.

But about the trolls themselves - I find them really interesting because they make me wonder about what is driving them to spend their time trying to destroy another person instead of trying to do something constructive and worthwhile with their own lives.

Now, that is not to say that their reaction to a particular book is not valid - for them. Because, maybe it is. But then again, maybe it isn't. Maybe there is something else entirely at work concerning.

It is that mystery that interests me in their action.

There's nothing wrong with not liking a particular book - for whatever reason exists that makes you not particularly like a book. But to spend your time and energies trashing another person's hard work - what in the world do you gain by doing something like that? You ending only hurting yourself more than you hurt that other person.

I'll give you a good personal example. When the Deep Story book came out it quickly became the leading crafting book worldwide - according to the lovely note that the folks at Amazon sent to me after its release. Now the reason that they sent me that note was due to the fact that they had been so kind to hold my hand all the way through the entire process of releasing my first book. And they just wanted to encourage me to tackle my stack of pending projects.

That was a really nice thing for everyone on the team to do - especially given the number of authors they work with on a daily basis.

That whole incident was something I never mentioned to anyone before. However, about a month after the book's release I was at one of my chapter meetings and someone mentioned that the book was then on the best sellers list and they were kidding me because I hadn't even told them that I'd released the book yet.

Later during the meeting one of the really big name writers in the group, whom I am in awe of due to her incredible talent at a writer, and who had always been very friendly to me for years, suddenly started to really trash me to the folks around her. And, of course, I overheard all of her incredibly vicious comments.

To say I was surprised by her actions is an understatement. But, instead of being hurt by her comments, I was curious about what had triggered such a vicious, unprovoked attack by her. Especially in light of the fact that we had always been on very friendly terms for a number of years.

Now it turns out that we are in several chapters together, so this behavior of hers played out for months at every single chapter meeting. Despite her nastiness I never altered my behavior towards her in any manner. And when numerous chapter members commented to me about the situation, my response never wavered from "I have absolutely no idea what in the world set her off." And, "Maybe she's going through a bad time and just needed to vent on someone.

With each passing month her behavior became more and more vicious and open - to the point that at an annual retreat she walked up to the guest speaker after the event and made a complete fool out of herself in public. Our guest speaker and her husband and I were having coffee when this writer arrived and interrupted us to talk to the speaker and her husband. Now all four of us had always been very good friends - and the speaker and her husband had moved out of the state, so they were completely unaware of what had been going on for more than 6 months when this occurred.

They were so stunned by the woman's rudeness towards me that they literally sat there with their mouths hanging open in shock. And after she walked away to get herself a cup of coffee - the speaker demanded to know "what in the hell is going on here?"

When I explained that I was as clueless as she was about our friend's behavior - naturally she wanted to go charging into the store and drag her out by her ear and make her apology for her rudeness. Then she got mad at me for not being hurt by what was going on with our friend.

I ended up having to calm her down and explain that I found the whole situation to be very interesting because I could not figure out why the woman had turned on me like she had. And since she insisted that she hadn't done or say anything nasty about me when I had initially attempted to ask what she was upset about - that left me with a mystery on my hands. And since I happen to love mysteries - I was finding the entire situation to be "interesting”.

This behavior pattern went on for almost 12 months. Then at one of the chapter meetings she was forced to actually speak to me about chapter business. Now, keep in mind that I had never altered my behavior towards her no matter how nasty she became.

In the middle of being forced to speak directly to me she finally revealed the source of her problem.

This incredible and highly successful writer - had been unceremoniously dropped by her New York publisher after more than 10 years of turning out top-notch books. Despite the fact that she had sold more than 1,000,000 books for this publisher - they called her up out of the blue and told her that they had decided to drop her completely. And they gave her no explanation whatsoever for their decision. [Later, I was able to help her understand that it was due to the fact that they had decided to replace her with a "cheaper" writer. Due to her success, she was earning more than what it would cost them to replace her with a newer writer who could not command the same percentage she was getting.]

Because she had just been dropped by her publisher a few days before the chapter meeting where she learned that my very first book had made it to the best seller list - all of her anger, hurt, and rage over her situation found an outlet. By attacking me, she could vent all of those negative feelings.

Now understand, she didn't sit down and lay this all out for me. Nor did she even apologize for her behavior. Instead, as she was being forced to speak to me about the chapter's business she suddenly demanded to know why I was "always so decent towards her"?

My response was simply - "Because I have always considered you to be a friend. And I remain in awe of your writing talents."

That broke the dam for her. "But my publisher dropped me and you made it to the best seller list on your first book!"

She was so hurt by their betrayal that all she could focus on was that another writer, in a completely different genre than her, seemed to be better off than her. She had worked very, very hard for her success and it seemed to have disappeared overnight, in her mind.

When she finally revealed the cause of her strange behavior, it never occurred to her that at that point she had signed up with 3 new publishers and had multiple book deals in three new genres for her. All she could focus on was the pain of her former publisher's betrayal.

So, when I see the review trolls on line - all I can do, and urge you to do, is not waste your time or energy on being angry or hurt by their actions. Because, believe me, you are better served by focusing on your next story.



  1. People are motivated by strange demons sometimes, I think.

  2. I had a couple of interesting comments as a result of the link to this post appearing on my Facebook page. I could wish they'd leave their comments here instead of there but ...sigh!
    One said that she had a 2 star review from someone who said she hadn't had time to read the book yet! Another said she got a 1 star from someone who hadn't been able to download it to her Kindle!
    Obviously those are different from trolls, but one comment on FB said she is one of a group of authors who are all being stalked by someone who once belonged to a forum where they all met.
    The author that Carol talks about had her reasons for feeling bitter, but I don't think that applies to all review trolls. Some are simply that - trolls with nothing better to do than be obnoxious!

  3. Karma will catch up with those trolls someday.

  4. I think that's an admirable piece of advice and I hope to be able to carry it out.

  5. An interesting reason for nastiness to be sure. What a great example Carol set for not getting sucked in to the nastiness and treating her friend with respect.

    I agree with Paula that sometimes people are nasty just to be nasty.

    Carol's comment about what drives the trolls to be trolls reminds me of my views on internet hackers and virus makers. Why can't they use their smarts for good instead of evil? Someone who has the time to come up with something that complicated and nasty surely could come up with something that could benefit society rather than harm it.

    Ugh. I hate stupid people.