How to Handle Rejection, Reviewers and Trolls
During my ‘start-up’ years, when I was entering writing contests and getting feedback from judges, I learned that there are some people who will respond well to your work – and some who just won’t ‘get it’. On the rare occasion, there will even be a few who downright hate it. But here’s the thing – contests are conducted in the spirit of anonymity. The judge doesn’t know it’s YOU they are reading, so they are responding to the work in front of them, not you as a person. They’re critiquing the work, not you.
Toughen up and get over it.
Then, as I graduated to finishing an actual story and submitted it to publishers, I learned again that the publishing world does not revolve around moi (I know, I was shocked, too). My first book (that I thought was just awesome) got rejected. Actually, I believe I’ve gotten the fastest rejection from that N.Y. publisher for an Aussie writer – ever.
I remember tearing open that tiny little envelope, heart-pounding, to read the “thank you for submitting your work, but…” line. I even tried to cry, then gave up because it felt forced. They hadn’t liked it enough to want to offer a contract. That’s okay. I mean, I was still breathing. The world was still turning. The sun was still shining, damn it. So, I guess life goes on.
I also realised that publishing is a business, they’re making a business decision. A publisher needs some sort of guarantee (however tepid) that the book they commission will sell, and sell well. They know what has worked in the past, what hasn’t, what they are willing to take a risk on – and what they’re not willing to take a risk on. So, business decision, not personal. So don’t take it personally. It’s that particular project they’re rejecting, not you.
Please note: manuscript may not have been so awesome…
Toughen up and get over it.
When I did finally sell my first novel to a publisher, I was ecstatic. And then the reviews came in. Much like a writing contest, there were some reviewers who responded well, others who just didn’t ‘get it’, and a few who downright hated it.
I will admit some of the not-so positive reviews can be hard to take, especially if you actually respect, admire and even like said reviewer. During my working years as an export agent, there was a saying in our department that has become a little mantra for me: Love it, leave it or fix it.
So I employed this attitude to reviews. I could either love it (hey, not so hard when they’re positive!), leave it – press delete, especially if it’s attacking more than the writing, like…me, personally. Or fix it. Yes, seriously, fix it. I found (duck head) that some of those reviewers may have actually had a point. That buried in the “I’m not adoring you right now” blurb, there was a little kernel that I could use to develop and improve my craft.
I’ve also learned that you will never please everyone, all of the time. Life is balanced, you have to have the negative with the positive, the good with the bad, the Yin with the Yang.
My mother used to always say, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. She used to also say “treat others like you want to be treated”. These days, though, there are a rising number of incidents online that show this message has somehow been lost with a minority group.
A troll is a mythical creature, mean, ugly, hiding under a bridge to try to stop others from progressing forward on their journey (think Three Billy Goats Gruff), and it seems the internet version is not so far from that mythical beast.
With the recent cases of Charlotte Dawson and Robbie Farah in Australia (two personalities I have a lot of respect for, they’ve worked darn hard for their success), as well as a close writer friend, the culture of trolling has been spotlighted.
Trolls are people who will say the nastiest of things in order to get a reaction – kind of like a bully. But these special bullies are anonymous, and feel not only capable, but compelled to make comments from a protective distance that is meant to undermine, hurt and possibly even defame their target. Note – they won’t say it to your face, or within physical reach. A troll is also similar to a two-year-old (sorry, no disrespect intended to the two-year-olds!) in that their opinion is the only one they’re interested in. You can’t reason or use logic on a troll, they ignore it in their strategy of inflaming and getting what they want – attention.
Kate Cuthbert, recently-appointed editor for Harlequin Escape and long-time reviewer, stated at the 2012 Romance Writers Association Conference (AU) to any writer dealing with negative comment: “Do not engage. Just…don’t. And if you’re thinking of doing it – don’t.” I happen to agree.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (this is pretty much the essence of any blog!), but I think it reveals more of a person in the way they express that opinion. As the recipient of the opinion, you can choose to respect it, disregard it, or ignore it completely. Bearing in mind that the sole aim of a troll is to either get attention, or cause maximum damage, the only way that can be achieved is by actually giving them attention. When dealing with a troll, take a leaf out of the legend. Be that third Billy Goat Gruff, and push the troll off the bridge. Block them. Delete them. Move on.
Tips on Handling Rejection, Reviews and Internet Trolls
1. Do not respond. No matter how tempting it is to tell that editor that they’ve missed the point, here is what you really meant, or that reviewer that no, your character is really deep, they just glossed over the carefully woven backstory, or the internet troll that they really are rude, wrong, and ridiculous – don’t. Just don’t. You can’t retain your dignity when wrestling with muck.
2. Toughen up. There will be some folks out there who may not like what you do. There will be somethings that are said that will hurt. You can choose to dwell on it, or get over it. Get over it.
3. Respect a difference in opinion. You love your book, that reviewer didn’t. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong, or you are right, or vice versa, merely that you have a different opinion. Books can never be viewed objectively. It’s a subjective material, to be interpreted and received differently from person to person, based on experience and attitudes.
4. Block and Delete. When faced with negative attacks (note: this is different to a negative review!), stop the person from getting to you again, and delete the comment. Don’t give it any attention, as that can quickly become toxic.
5. Commiserate. If all else fails, have a glass of wine, some chocolate, and laugh/cry about it with the friends who realise your true worth, and support you. Let them help you put it into perspective.
And whatever you do, don’t feed the trolls!