We’re all readers here, right? And I think it is safe to say that we’re all willing to read new-to-us authors. But let’s pretend for just a few minutes that we pick up a story, start reading, and find errors. Oh, no! What do we do?
We can choose from a range of options. We could:
1. Notify Amazon’s quality control.
2. Send emails or messages with screenshots directly to the author.
3. Write a negative review from an anonymous username complaining about the lack of editing.
4. Stop reading and pick up something we’d enjoy more.
Which is your natural inclination? Which do you think helps the author more? (Is being helpful your goal?)
Friends, you may not be aware of what’s happening in authors’ worlds right now. I’m in quite a number of author groups on Facebook. Some are full of Christian authors, some are secular. Some of these authors are newbies with one or two books out, and some are New York Times bestsellers with dozens of titles… and incomes I can’t even dream of.
But more and more, I’m hearing about authors being bullied. Yes, I know that’s a strong word.
Authors are receiving more and more AND MORE notifications, either from Amazon or directly from readers about perceived errors. I cannot tell you the percentage of those that are not errors, but it’s way, way more than half. Some readers are basically saying, “I don’t like the way you wrote that sentence. You should write it like this instead.” Friends, we don’t write by committee.
Once upon a time, not that long ago, I would have been the first to tell all readers, everywhere: “If you find an error or typo in one of my stories, please let me know directly. I want to know so I can fix it.”
It’s gotten way out of hand.
Now, it seems as though there are many wannabe writers and wannabe editors who delight in tearing an author’s work to shreds. Please don’t. Ask yourself if you’re reading for pleasure or to be nitpicky. If you’re reading for pleasure, please relax into the story. If you’re reading to nitpick, please stop. If you think you’re doing an author a favor by reading every book she wrote and sending her reports of every possible error you find… stop. It’s not a favor. It comes across as harassment. Maybe even passive bullying, whether you mean it that way or not. Or… active bullying.
Are my stories perfect? Nope. I do try. I go over them multiple times myself. I ask several beta readers for any and all feedback. I pay an editor and take her advice. I ask my review team to message me with any spotted typos. At that stage, from those people, I definitely want to know. After that? Not quite so much.
The four possibilities I gave at the top? Let’s break those down.
1. Notify Amazon’s quality control. This is the worst possible choice. I have no idea why Amazon thinks it is a good idea to provide this “service.” Authors have checked their email to discover dozens or even hundreds of notifications. They are required to address each one, individually. If they don’t, the book may be blacklisted or even removed from sale. No one checks the validity of these notifications before they are forwarded to the author. This is resulting in hours, days, and weeks of derailed writing time as authors are forced to address each complaint. Please, please, friends, don’t do this.
2. Send emails or messages with screenshots directly to the author. This sounds much better, and it is. But generally speaking, these emails aren’t as appreciated as you might hope. True, ignoring them doesn’t result in a book being literally blacklisted. I’ve received well-meant notices about the use of a specific word. The word, as written, is absolutely correct. The would-be editor gave inaccurate advice. Don’t be that person. Just don’t.
3. Write a negative review from an anonymous username complaining about the lack of editing. Honestly? This is a better option than either of the above. It pains me to say that. It’s not because authors don’t care. We do care. A LOT. But the harassment is beyond belief these days.
4. Stop reading and pick up something you’d enjoy more. This. If all you see is an error or a typo or a sentence you don’t like when you read my books, then please go read someone else’s. Stop buying mine. Stop borrowing them.
But may I suggest that if EVERY book you read brings out the inner editor in you, the problem might be with you, not the author? Grab a cup of tea. Head out to the hammock. Read for enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy a book, simply set it aside. Find one you will enjoy. Or take up crocheting instead.
Wow, I never thought I’d be THAT author. The one who gripes about reader feedback! But this is a problem that’s exploded in the past few months, and I’m seeing it in my own inbox as well as hearing about it from dozens and dozens of authors I know and respect.
Let’s be readers who read to be taken away to another place, time, or experience. Who post positive reviews. Who send encouraging notes to authors we love. Who are generally kind and thoughtful to everyone we meet, authors or anyone else.
In the immortal words of moms through the ages: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Here’s the Canadian in me coming out: I’m sorry to be the author posting this. I love readers. I really, really do. But someone needed to say this. Out loud. In public. As the owner and chief admin of this website, I decided to do it myself.
Do you have questions about how to offer legitimate criticism? Comments? Scenarios? Today’s your day! Let’s talk and clear the air!
I’m offering a $5 Amazon gift card to someone who comments before. Friday May 15. To qualify, you need to have a .com or a .ca account. Winner will be notified by email and posted on the next Sunday Edition.
“Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.”