Friday, April 11, 2008

Don't Be a Meanie

Work, obligations, and responsibilities all reached a kind of mind-numbing. brain-boggling crescendo yesterday. I cancelled some plans and tried to cool it. Instead of racing around town trying to do it all in the few non-working hours I allow myself, I just met C at his friend Katherine's author-musician interview event, Upstairs on the Square.

Author Min Jin Lee (Free Food for Millionaires) and musician Mike Doughty were the guests. One question put to them was about how they dealt with negative criticism. Their answers perfectly expressed my feelings on the same issue.

"On iTunes," said Doughty, "I'll see ten reviews. Seven are good, and three are bad, and I'll focus and obsess on the three."

Min Jin Lee said it even better.

"When I read mean things that people write on Amazon, I feel bad. I wish they'd stop."



detroit dog said...

That's interesting. When it comes to my artwork - until now, at least - I pretty much don't care what anyone thinks. I like it that they like it, and if they don't like, well, that's ok, too.

Unfortunately, I'm somewhat neurotic about everything else.

Steve Buccellato said...

We've had this conversation before--This is a real problem with the egalitarian internet; everyone's an expert.

That would be okay, if all things were, in fact, equal. However, a disproportionate number of reviews are written by people who want to bitch & vent about how they feel cheated by something. I totally understand the impulse.

Recently, I had some lousy service at a high-priced, trendy restaurant, and I had the strong impulse to go online and trash the place on one of those restaurant review sites. But then, I've never rushed to write about an exceptionally good meal; I've just been happy to enjoy it. Same with a good book or film--only occasionally will I even mention those things on my own blog.

I guess people feel like it's not their job to promote a product or service, but somehow feel an instinctual duty to warn people against something they don't like. There's a good lesson there, and we who spend so much time living on the internet should take the time to do BOTH. (or neither)

Marie Javins said...

Ultimately, someone's essentially anonymous snide remark can translate into lost sales, thus lost income, and even to where it affects a prospective publisher's opinion.

And yes, it makes me feel like shit. If I am spending all this time trying to make stories, and people don't like them, does that not indicate that I should just not bother? That I'm a failure? Or does it indicate that Person A wanted to read a book about safaris and sunsets and is pissed that they didn't get it, that Person B was having a rotten day, that Person C didn't get that the story was told with love and respect for inconvenience, not with disgust. One person even accused me of inflating what I did, totally missing my theme that everywoman can travel this way, that I try to demystify travel and show that anyone can do it.

The trick is to have faith in yourself and JUST NOT LOOK.

But sometimes you can't help it...

Ana said...

I read a very positive review of "Dik Dik" (just for short) on Amazon.

Marie Javins said...

Like Doughty, I see eleven good, three bad, and completely stress over the bad! I was glad to hear him say that since it means I'm not alone.

Linda said...

Some people review books without reading them! Although this is particularly the case when a book deals with something controversial, but it can even happen with a book that is not intended to ruffle anyone's feathers. I've heard of negative reviews being published even before advance copies were available.

So don't be surprised if you have reviews from people who just glanced at the book and got the wrong idea. Also, be very suspicious of anyone who has never reviewed another book (like the person who gave you one star) - they may have an agenda.

Marie Javins said...

I've seen reviews like that, where people just get so angry about a TOPIC that they don't even read the book. Yeesh. What's the point?

Then there's ineptitude. I have a friend who is quite an entertaining writer, whose books have supported him for years. And one person wrote a glowing review, then gave him one-star. They obviously confused the star system, and meanwhile, his ratings are permanently affected. Uncool.

Ellen said...

I'm sorry I missed it, because I really liked Min Jin Lee's book... and yet I haven't written a positive review of it on Amazon.