If you are a writer, you must accept one cold reality. Some people will hate you and your writing.
They’ll post false reviews, stir up untrue controversy, and try to systematically take you down. So what can you do about these people?
James L Rubart, bestselling author and Christy Hall of Fame winner, has experienced the vitriol spewed by a stranger on the internet. The internet stranger admitted, in the scathing book review he had written, that he had not read the book.
When I created my crowdfunding course, we crowdfunded the course. I posted a link to our campaign in a Facebook group of super-backers, and they hated it! They thought people should have to look it up and research blogs. They were also attacking me, saying “Who are you to teach this information?”
I thought I if showed them the course they would understand what I was trying to do and they’d cool down. So I sent 10GB and hours of video of the course to the first commenter who was so angry. He replied and said, “I don’t expect this to change my mind. Here’s why I don’t like you or what you’re doing.”
Two minutes later, he posted to the Facebook group and wrote, “I checked out the course, and it’s no good.”
Haters are often motivated by jealousy. Any member of that Facebook group could have created this course, but they hadn’t.
What’s the difference between Critics, Haters, and Trolls?
A critic has an educated opinion, but they may not agree with you. A critic will explain what they liked and didn’t like. They elevate quality and try to help people avoid bad films or books.
Movie critics will evaluate a film based on their values. Often, their feedback can be used to improve the film.
A critic can provide helpful feedback on your writing, and if you implement the helpful parts, their critique can improve your writing.
Critics, such as editors, don’t have a personal bias. You can dialog with a critic and you may win them over, or they may convince you to see it their way. If you remain teachable, conversation is constructive.
A troll enjoys arguments and a debates. If you’re writing is controversial, you will probably have trolls arguing against you, but every side of an internet argument has trolls, so you probably have trolls who agree with you as well.
They enjoy the fight for the sake a of the fight. Unlike a critic, they are not concerned with quality or conversation. If you dialogue with a troll, everything you say, whether it’s valid or not, will be fodder for their fight. They have a personal bias and they do not reason or converse.
They may even argue a point they don’t believe just for the sake of arguing, and since they’ve had so much practice, they will probably win the argument.
Many authors are tempted to debate the trolls. Do not do it. I made the mistake of corresponding with the troll about my crowdfunding course, and it was a mistake. I thought he was a critic. If he had been, he would have gone through the course and offered feedback.
A hater is against you because of who you are or what you represent. They are motivated by internal emotional insecurities. They may feel guilty about the topic you’re discussing, or they may be jealous of your audience. Sadly, the larger your audience, the more haters you’ll attract.
It’s always a shock when you encounter your first hater.
The Gary Hoover Matrix of Feedback
Gary Hoover, the founder of BookStop, shared with me his Matrix of Feedback.
He said two kinds of people will give you feedback. People who know nothing about your topic or business he called “idiots.” People who are well acquainted with your topic, experts in your business, and respected in your industry are “geniuses.”
If an “idiot” who knows very little about your topic gives feedback saying they hated your book, you’re free to discard that feedback.
If an “idiot” loved your book, you can be gracious and thankful, but don’t put too much weight on their praise.
If a “genius” loves your book, congratulations! Everyone wants to win the approval and endorsement of the respected experts in their field.
But if a “genius” who is respected in your industry and familiar with your topic hates, your book, it’s hard to swallow. Gary Johnson recommends asking yourself this question: Why do I think they’re wrong?”
Your answer to that question will help you evaluate that feedback.
Your book may be flawed. If you hired an editor and they tore it to pieces, there are likely problems with your book. Editors don’t tear books to pieces for kicks. General speaking, critical feedback is helpful.
One response is to say, “You’re right. That character needs more development. His dialogue is stilted, and I will work on making it better.”
If you disagree with the feedback you can say, “Your argument is valid, but I think you’re wrong. Here are the reasons why.”
The stronger your reasoning for disagreeing with the expert, more confident you can be.
I believed my crowdfunding Facebook group was wrong in opposing my course because they didn’t understand or know the audience I was trying to reach. We were trying to reach first-time crowdfunders who found the process overwhelming. The gurus in the Facebook group had been crowdfunding for years and they had forgotten the fright of being a beginner.
They also don’t know us and our track record of producing quality courses in the past.
When I realized I had strong reasons to believe the “geniuses” were wrong, I felt much better.
How do you get rid of trolls?
There is one guaranteed way to get rid of trolls. It has worked since the dawn of the internet: Don’t feed the trolls.
Trolls thrive on attention. If you don’t engage and give them attention, they will starve and go somewhere else to get attention.
Debating with a troll is like feeding a stray cat. If you keep feeding the stray, it will never leave. If you keep debating with the troll, it will never go away.
How do you deal with the emotional pain of people who hate you?
You maybe tempted to give up. What if the trolls are right and you really don’t know what you’re doing?
Talk to your author friends about how they’ve handled the hate. Most authors have dealt with haters, trolls, or at least negative reviews.
Have Fun with It
James L. Rubart attended Thriller Fest in 2010 where they hosted a contest for the most hateful review. The winning author read a hateful review out loud and everyone laughed because they could relate. It took the sting out of the review.
I used to read my Amazon reviews, but I don’t any more. I don’t even read the five-star reviews. But if someone emails me, I always read and respond. If a reader takes the time to write to me, nine times out of ten, they’re a critic with something helpful to offer. I’ll engage with them.
Keep a Soft Heart
One temptation is to develop a tough skin and stop caring what others think. That strategy can be helpful emotionally, but it’s also risky. But “tough skin” can insulate you from community and from legitimate feedback from the critics.
Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comic. The first three years he wrote the comic, he struggled. Then he put his email address on the comic, and he was one of the first comic writers to do that. He started getting a flood of emails, and the common theme was that readers didn’t like the comics with Dilbert at home.
He took that feedback, retooled Dilbert, made it a workplace commentary, and it became one of the most popular comics of all time. He couldn’t have done that if he had just blown off the criticism.
Go to the Psalms
David, who wrote most of the Psalms, was one of the most iconic figures of the Old Testament. His predecessor was trying to kill him. The Psalms are filled with his prayers and laments about his struggles and reading them can be very therapeutic.
Don’t Hide Behind a Pen Name
Another temptation is to hide behind a pen name. Trolls, Haters and Critics are evidence of people reading your writing. Not everyone will enjoy your writing, but you have a unique perspective to offer the world. Running away or hiding is one way you let the trolls win.
Read the one-star reviews of your favorite book on Amazon. You’ll see that the trolls and haters hate because they can’t do. They can’t write like Charles Dickens, so they criticize in order to feel like they are part of the same creative community, even though they’re not. They may be using the same tools, but they are tearing down the community while writers are building it.
It’s Okay to NOT Read Your Reviews
I’ve worked with many top authors who do not read their reviews at all. The problem with reviews is that the five-star reviews make you think to highly of yourself while the one-star reviews make you think too poorly of yourself. Either way, you’re stuck thinking about yourself instead of your reader.
Picture that Troll or Hater in Your mind and remember that people treat you the way they feel about themselves. Hurting people hurt people.
Jesus said to “love those who hate you and do good to those who despitefully use you.” If you can do that to your haters, you’ll “heap burning coals on their heads,” as another Bible verses says, and that could be a great marketing strategy.