Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Last year I gave birth to an alien...

Last year I gave birth to an alien.  It was a freakish little thing delivered after about a year of pain and sweat, so naturally we were both at a bit of a disadvantage when I gave it its first outing.  It might have been odd, but it was my creation and I loved it and was hypersensitive to certain types of criticism about it which seemed designed to be nothing but cruel. 

I was happy enough to receive constructive advice from well-wishers telling me what I'd done wrong, but there were some troll-like characters whose comments bordered on insulting.  They would (effectively) say things like 'I can't bear to look at this because it doesn't fit in with my beliefs or expectations' or point out the obvious i.e. that it had three eyes and was therefore alien.  I didn't find those kind of comments helpful, but then they weren't intended to be.  They were only intended to be destructive.  So I started comparing notes with other creators of aliens.

Okay, yes!  You've worked it out.  I'm rabbiting on about reviews again.  The shores of the mighty Amazon (that's the shop, not the river) seem to be infested with certain barbaric, troll-like creatures who gather in tribes in certain forums to plan attacks on unsuspecting authors.  And I've heard some horrendous stories about their war tactics.  These marauding troops roam the kindle bookshelves, self-appointed troll-police, searching out writers with too many positive reviews in order to try to destroy their reputations by posting or up-voting mean-minded negative comments, that often bear very little relation to the work in question.

This behaviour can make a writer feel like the story he or she has tried so hard to produce for the pleasure and entertainment of others is some freaky little alien that should never have been born.  The warring armies will almost certainly not have read the book and are therefore in no position to decide whether a negative comment is helpful or not, but that doesn't stop them.  They are exempt from normal scruples.

A solitary author up against such an army can feel demoralised and worthless.  He or she has been accused of cheating - of enlisting friends, relatives and worse - far worse, other authors to write positive comments about the work in question.  We all know other authors are not expected to be readers with their own opinions.

But there is a solution - and it came from the mouth of the mighty Amazon itself.  The lone writer should join forces with other writers and beat the trolls at their own wargame by up-voting the positive reviews to such an extent that the nasty negative one becomes less prominent.  Dirty tactics?  Possibly, but then if all's fair in love and war, arguably the same could be said about reviews as these relate to one's love-child - even if it is an alien.

Have you been 'trolled', and if so, how did you deal with it?


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