Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brain Donors

Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a lot of really stupid behavior lately.

Here are some of the dumbass characters I've recently run into on the World Wide Web.

THE ONE STAR WHORE - Some folks go on certain review sites and feel the need to bash stories with one-star reviews. Why? I can only deduce some over-inflated sense of self-importance that compels a percentage of the population to see their diatribes on the internets, sort of the equivalent of a giant refrigerator door. Look what I did, Mom! I'm a negative prick!

JOE'S RESPONSE - Negative reviews amuse me. I don't complain about them, or try to have them removed, because I believe rational people can come to their own conclusions about whether or not to read something, and aren't influenced by poorly-worded hate-fests. I particularly love the reviews from people who got the book for free and then feel the need to warn folks against ruining their lives by making the same mistake they did and reading the offending material. I bet your family can't stand you.

THE SPOILING CRITIC - Getting professional reviews is important to writers, and it comes with the territory that a certain amount of them will be negative. But some asshole critics think their job isn't to rehash and rate, but also to spoil major plot points in the book.

JOE'S RESPONSE - Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, critique. Those who can't critique well, spoil. How frustrated a person do you have to be to want to ruin someone else's potential enjoyment? Perhaps we should ask the folks at Kirkus that very question.

THE CONTEST MOANER - I was recently a contest judge, and some folks took exception to my list of "don'ts" I recently blogged about. They feel I'm not fair.

JOE'S RESPONSE - Don't enter contests. If your story is good enough, find an editor who will pay for it. But guess what? If you do the things I mentioned not to do, you won't find an editor. Also, someone is knocking on your door. It's Life, and he's holding a big sign that says "I'm Not Fair." Maybe you should let him in and get to know him.

THE WOE IS ME AUTHOR - We all know the publishing industry drops books and series all the time. They have a myriad of reasons for doing this, many of them impenetrable. But whining about this in public, no matter how much it stings, is asking for sympathy, which is pathetic.

JOE'S RESPONSE - You do not get future book contracts through sympathy. Yes, the publishing industry is often unfair, and sometimes downright idiotic. But airing your dirty laundry isn't the way to fight back. Fight back with great writing. We all get kicked. But we don't have to acknowledge it. After sincerity, the thing all people must learn to fake is confidence.

THE ENTITLEMENT JUNKIE - These folks seem to think they deserve some sort of success, and like to spout the Conspiracy Against Them and publicly wonder why they aren't getting what they're due.

JOE'S RESPONSE - No one deserves anything. There is only luck and hard work. Once you feel you're due something, or that people are keeping you from getting yours, you're on a slippery slope that usually ends in obscurity.

THE GREEN FAIRY - Envy is a disease. It's easy to look at other writers and compare yourself to something they possess; money, fame, awards, print runs, bestsellerdom, talent. It's also easy to take pot shots at these writers, while secretly (or not so secretly) wishing you were them.

JOE'S RESPONSE - Your race is with yourself, not with your peers. Never compare yourself to another writer for any reason whatsoever. Once you start wishing for someone else's career, you aren't tending to your own.

THE ME ME ME - The definition of a bore is someone who talks and doesn't bother to notice if anyone else is in the room. Writers may be more self-absorbed than most, but they shouldn't mistake this for being so fascinating that every other word they speak is "I."

JOE'S RESPONSE - If you're in a conversation and more than half of it is coming from your mouth, it isn't a conversation--it's a monologue. If you're in a conversation and the only questions you ask are directed at yourself, I pity the poor saps stuck in your orbit. At least have the decency to pass out cyanide capsules when you walk into the room.

THE INSULTER - Nothing says "I'm pathetic" like name-calling. Yet some folks feel the need to hurl insults, and direct criticism toward the person rather than the comment. This, like many of the above, is a result of the Internet, which buffers accountability. As such, some folks feel it is okay to be rude little twits, because they're protected from being socked in the mouth.

JOE'S RESPONSE - If you wouldn't say it to a person's face, don't say it on the net. Ideas and opinions are a lot of fun to discuss, defend, and attack. But once it becomes personal, you've lost control, and lost the discussion, you asshole.

THE SELF-PUBBED MARTYR - There's nothing wrong with self-pubbing. But the majority of the writers in the world won't equate it with traditional publishing, for too many reasons to be discussed here. If you want the respect of your peers, it isn't going to be by logically presenting your points and calmly discussing why their views are irrational, any more than intelligent discourse saved anyone on the Trail of Tears. And bemoaning your lack of respect in the publishing world is just a rally for more people to attack you.

JOE'S RESPONSE - If you want the respect of your peers, get a traditional publishing contract. Personally, I think peer respect is useless, and trying to join a club that doesn't want you is futile. Stop trying to convince the world you're relevant. The world will ultimately figure that out for itself.

THE KNOW IT ALL BLOGGER - This guy spouts advice and opinions like he's God's Gift to the World, guising his superiority under the banner of "being helpful."

JOE'S RESPONSE - Thank this man profusely, and buy all of his books. The latest is CHERRY BOMB, now on sale...


Bobby Mangahas said...

Love your last response there, Joe.

And for the record, I have thanked you before (though maybe not profusely) and I do have all your books (in hardcover yet) including the latest, Cherry Bomb, on sale now...

Mary Stella said...

After sincerity, the thing all people must learn to fake is confidence.

I get the "fake it until you make it" philosophy for developing confidence, but faking sincerity -- ouch.

You left out the "I'm Too Brilliant For You to Appreciate" person. This is the writer whose work is rejected and then proclaims loudly that "These editors aren't smart enough to get my brilliance. They don't know what to do with a writer like me."

Actually, they did know what to do, and they did it. Slamming them in public is not going to get you published either.

PokerBen said...

That's shitty about the major spoilers in the reviews...I mean WTF are they thinking?

PS. Reading CB now and enjoying the hell out of it.

Marc said...

To a hammer all things look like a nail.

Gayle Carline said...

Great post! Since my book is just coming out, I am sort of dreading the one-star, plot-spoiling, freebie-whining whores, but I'll try to take them in the same spirit you have.

Is there a name for the people (mostly family members & suddenly insane friends) who, upon hearing you've gotten your book published, tell you, "You know, I'm writing a book (someday/soon/when I retire/when the bomb hits/etc)"?

I've got bruises from excusing myself to go pound my head on the wall.


Robert Burton Robinson said...

Excellent post, Joe. I particularly liked what you said about reviews.

After reading one of my books for free, a guy gave it a 1-star rating (not on Amazon). His entire review was, "This is the worst book I've ever read."

At first I was hurt. But then I started laughing out loud. If my book is the worst he's ever read, then I have to assume he hasn't read many books. :)

But what insight. What a brilliant analysis.

If you're going to give a lousy rating then you should make the effort to explain the reasoning behind it.

For example, a reviewer gave one of my books 2-stars, stating that she found several holes in the plot, giving details of each one.

But she also said that the book was a page-turner, that the writing was very good and that I was a very talented author.

Give a 2-star rating any day with that kind of review. To me, it's better than a 5-star review that simply states, "I loved it."

Paul said...

Looks like your talking about the trashing that "Serial" is getting on Amazon. Its interesting to note that some people over there have said that this book has soured them on the idea of downloading free stuff from Amazon. So much for the giveaways-for-audience-building business model. Done wrong, it hurts everybody.

Neil Nyren said...

God, I hope everybody reads this post, Joe.

Unknown said...

I hate to admit it, but I do not enjoy your books, although I buy and read every one of them (including Cherry Bomb, but haven't gotten to it yet). Since I don't have anything nice to say, I have never written a review anywhere.

Of all the established writers out there, you do the most to assist the aspiring ones. We should always support each other, even though we might not click with each other's styles or story lines.

Keep up the great work, and I've got my fingers crossed for Cherry Bomb. It's nothing personal; probably just my weird reading taste.

Anonymous said...

Good points, but can I quibble with the "those who can do and those who can't teach"? I taught for a long time and in my experience teaching isn't something that anyone with a specific skill set or subject background can just "do". It's just as much an art as anything because there are intangible qualities that make some very good at it and others - not so much - just like writing.

And choosing to teach over writing full-time gets back to something Trollope said about writers needing to keep their day jobs.

It might seem little and prickly, but I loved teaching when I did it as much as I love writing now. I think the bible says something about time and seasons? I'm a Catholic, so I can't quote it, but teacher prejudice is a pet peeve of mine and it's such a tired cliche anyway.

Ty said...

This post, and the responses, is why I love Joe's blog so much.

And what the heck was wrong with Serial? Now I've got to check out those Amazon reviews. Serial wasn't Shakespeare, but it was a fun little read that kept me entertained for an hour. And on top of that, it was free.

Ty said...

Okay, did a quick scan of the reviews and read about 20 of them.

I almost had to laugh. Of the 20 I read, half or more of them said something along the lines of "this was a sick book full of nothing but violence."

Um ... are ya kidding me? You read a FREE book that tells you right up front it's about serial killers and other rather gruesome topics, and you complain about the violence?

No wonder splatter punk didn't catch on with mainstream readers. Let's all go read some horror novels where nothing "bad" happens.


JA Konrath said...

RJ - Thanks right back atcha.

MS - I've had a story concept for years, about two men. One fantasizes about torturing children to death, but he never so much as jay-walks, and remains an upstanding citizen. The other is involved deeply in charities and social reform, but one day has too much to drink and runs over a child, horribly disfiguring him.

The point of this concept is what makes a person good, thoughts or deeds?

That's what I mean about faking sincerity. I believe our actions, not our thoughts, define us. So if someone thinks I'm sincere, I am. And I say this sincerely. :) And yes, I should add the Brilliant Loudmouth. Those guys drive me nuts.

Ben - Thanks! Yeah, I don't get annoyed at critics--I'm always happy to be reviewed, good or bad. But when they ruin it for my readers, and then my readers email me to complain, it's annoying.

Kmuzu - Would you rather be the hammer or the nail?

Gayle - Haven't you heard? Everyone can write a book. They just don't have the time.

RBR - I'm a blurb whore, and I always give glowing reviews to my friends, but I agree the best reviews impart why something is good or bad.

Paul - SERIAL has had over 75,000 downloads. I think I can live with forty 1 star reviews. But I do find it funny that so many people say the story is graphic when it simply isn't. And they say I suck? How can I suck when my words provoked images of horrible violence and gore when there was no descriptions of such on the page?

Neil - Lots of people will read it. Very few will see themselves in it.

John - Thanks for buying me. All opinions are valid.

Anniegirl - I teach once and a while. But how many college-level creative writing teachers have never sold a book? Shouldn't that be a prerequisite?

Ty - I think the conflicting opinions for SERIAL make for good reading. That story actually made some people really angry. I'd love to give them a big reassuring hug and remind them it's only a story, it's only a story...

T. M. Hunter said...

Is it just sad that I know and/or have seen people that fall in all of the above categories? :-\

Jude Hardin said...

Great post, Joe.

One of the reasons I refuse to self-publish is that I do need that validation that only a traditional deal can bring. I guess there are writers out there who don't care about that, but I do.

Hedgehog said...

The first entry--"THE ONE STAR WHORE"--ruined the rest of the list for me. Joe, you call these people "whore" and "prick", and say "I bet your family can't stand you." That doesn't sound like these reviews "amuse" you.

Joe and others pointing out again and again that the book was "free" is beside the point. Are you saying that free books are above criticism? Readers are still making choices about how they use their limited time. If someone comfortable with other serial killer books (which presumably are the people who downloaded it) found the violence over-the-top, that's a legitimate thing to tell other readers. If they truly despised the book, one star is how they felt about it.

I found that first entry especially bizarre when compared to subsequent entries. In Joe's own words:

"Nothing says "I'm pathetic" like name-calling. Yet some folks feel the need to hurl insults, and direct criticism toward the person rather than the comment."

JA Konrath said...

That doesn't sound like these reviews "amuse" you.

Of course they do. Which is my response to these folks is also amusing.

Are you saying that free books are above criticism?

I'm saying people who feel the need to disparage when they get something for free are morons. There's a gift horse/mouth parable that needs to be addressed.

It's one thing to dislike something and post the reasons you dislike it. But disliking something doesn't make it garbage, and only fools make that comparison.

In the case of SERIAL, I found it wonderfully ironic that people are complaining about the violence when it is clearly labeled as violent. That's like going to the desert and complaining about the heat.

If someone comfortable with other serial killer books (which presumably are the people who downloaded it) found the violence over-the-top, that's a legitimate thing to tell other readers.

I agree. Expect, in the case of SERIAL, it was read by many folks who aren't comfortable with serial killer books, and the violence is NOT over-the-top. It is understated, brief, and the details are minimal.

"Nothing says "I'm pathetic" like name-calling. Yet some folks feel the need to hurl insults, and direct criticism toward the person rather than the comment."

Which is why I don't signal people out and call them names.

I'm not quoting reviews and naming the reviewer. I'm not responding directly to critics.

I'm seeing a trend, and calling those who follow that trend idiots.

I don't attack individuals. And yet, many of the reviews I've gotten are direct attacks on me.

Also, this entire blog entry is obviously tongue in cheek. If I were really ranting or upset, there wouldn't be jokes.

Mary Stella said...

The point of this concept is what makes a person good, thoughts or deeds?

Let's debate this the next time we both go to the same conference. I'll buy the first round. A favorite quote, by Heraclitus, says, "The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Only think on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the full light of day."

Love the quote, although I hope that Herclitus didn't mean it too be carved in stone, or I'm in trouble from a lot of impure thoughts. :-)

I want to read that short story if you write it, Joe.

JA Konrath said...

Now that we're on the subject, there are two human behaviors that I find annoying, and it seems more and more folks are subscribing to them.

I dislike the sense of entitlement many people seem to have, but I'm not going to go into that one here. The thing that I'd like to discuss is the casually dismissive attitude of the general population.

We're taught, in the Western world, that we're important, and that our opinion matters. Which is a good thing.

But it seems to have created a world full of "me-centric" people who equate their opinions with facts.

What is particularly troubling about this trend is that few people can articulate why they like or dislike something, except at the most rudimentary level.

This is ignorance, pure and simple.

I don't expect readers to understand the elements of narrative structure. I don't think everyone in a museum needs to know art history in order to appreciate Picasso.

But I do believe that knee-jerk opinions, coupled with the lack of accountability on the Internet, makes a lot of people really act like assholes.

Can someone slam my books? Absolutely. It's a free world, and all opinions are valid, supported or not. But these people won't get any respect from me if they do a poor job with their crits.

This isn't just with writing. It's with politics, and sports, and music, and movies, and TV, and art, and restaurants, and pretty much everything anyone could have an opinion on.

Know what you're doing, and why you're doing it, and what results you expect from it. Then learn from your successes and failures.

Saying "this is too violent" without supporting your case is lazy. Saying "this sucks" without having any understanding of why you're saying that is ignorant.

Cassandra Jade said...

Great post - I don't think that this is a recent rash of stupidity, it seems to have been coming on for a long time and despite a number of people pointing out how silly some of this behaviour is, I don't see it stopping any time soon.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Joe, a couple of points. First, Amazon seeks out reviews from books given out free through their VINE program. Second, a lot of times people respond to things at a gut level--they haven't intellectualized why they loved or hated something, they just know at a gut level how it him them even if they can't articulate the reasons why, and a lot of times these gut level reactions are more valuable than a critical analysis where a critic will have some point they're trying to prove and will make sure he bends all of the facts/arguments so that they do fit.

BTw. You might like to know that a NY editor sent me Serial excited by the pace and structure of it.

Dena said...

Hi Joe,

I'm interested in reading Serial there a way to get to the story without a kindle?


Ty said...

Dena, Serial is available for free at this link:

What continues to baffle me about some of the responses to Serial, is that potential readers are told, quite explicitly in my opinion, what they are getting into before they read the ebook. I could maybe understand if the responses were "I didn't like it" or even just "it sucks," but most are more like "it sucks because of all the violence." That would be like picking up The Hobbit, reading it, then complaining by saying "it sucks because it has too many short people."

Aimlesswriter said...

Love your views, Joe.
Just finished reading Cherry Bomb and it was great!
I couldn't put it down. And I'd like to say something about the end of the book but I don't want to spoil it.
Let me just say--Thank you for a great read.
I'll be blogging about it later today.

Lee said...

'Those who can't do, teach.'

Really? Ever read any Marilynne Robinson?

Aimlesswriter said...

You've been blogged by the aimless writer

Brad R. Torgersen said...

Joe, I still need to send you $20 for the Newbie's Guide. Terrific stuff, that. Got me off my ass last year.

One thing I've noticed about a lot of writers who blog -- the host excluded, of course -- is that they are chronic pedants. Ergo, "I am very educated, smart and published. Therefore I am very right. About everything!"

Mariana said...

Uh, you're very acid. I like it, but you do sound angry. Is is really true that you're amused by bad reviews?

Ty said...

Brad, I guess it beats "I'm uneducated, stupid and unpublished." ;-)

Erica Orloff said...

I don't know that the free/gift horse argument is valid. I think there's two different issues. One is some people will give a one-star review and like someone else mentioned, it's some gut level knee-jerk response. I find those sort of responses stupid myself. They're USUALLY over the top, as if even reading the book burned their eyes and was a crime against humanity. I ignore them.

From people who are genuine critics, people trying to write USEFUL reviews, I think an element of their own honesty has to come into play. As you know from your blog tour for AFRAID when you were on my site, I don't read your kind of thriller, and I am really honest about it. I debate you on the violence thing or the "torture porn" issue and you and I both (I assume) see it as a chance to debate in a forum where we respect each other. But there is no way it would be fair of me to go and post a review bemoaning violence in your books---if I know going in it's not my kind of book . . . what purpose does it serve. Honest critics need to separate that personal bias from the outset. It's like going to a popcorn flick and bemoaning it's not Fellini.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Joe, I'm from Argentina. I got to your blog thanks to this page called StumbleUpon and ever since I enjoy reading your posts-especially the "do's and dont's" in short story writing.
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that if I had the chance I would really like to read your books, but it's quite difficult from here haha

Susie McCray said...

I have bought all of your books except AFRAID and I thank you so much all of the advice.


WOW! YOU MUST BE AN EXPERT IN GUIDING THE WRITERS for having to write all these memos. I wish I have my own printing press so that I could have my wacky short stories written and published into books. That's what it takes.Money can move mountains and can make the world go round. Without it you'll forever be dreaming and wishing. With lots of money you can even pay the media to uplift every ones ego and pay those people who would praise you for all the good things that you've done in this world. Life is so unfair did you know that? Anyway, GET A LIFE! Everyone needs it.

Unknown said...

OMG!!! LOVE.THIS!!! I have printed this and will have it in my writing binder for quick access forever!!! Hahahaha!

If you don't mind, I would love to direct a few 'boo-hoo haters groups' back to this post. A good dose of reality check would do them some good methinks...


Wendy Roberts said...

OMG thanks for the great post. Had my chuckle for the day. Now off to read reviews ...

Morgan Mandel said...

Did you have a rough day, Joe?
It sounds like you needed to vent.

Anyway, even a bad review has at least a phrase or two which you can use. That way you can put a positive spin on it.

Morgan Mandel
Killer Career Coming Aug 15

Documentaries said...

OMG thanks for the great post. Had my chuckle for the day. Now off to read reviews ...