In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
*Fair warning: the opinions in this piece are not meant to bring you to tears, or in any way make you want to quit what you love to do. Remember, they are only words.
Okay, so a few months back, I wrote a piece about people (writers) who have mean things to say about their contemporaries. My beef was with social media-types who went out of their way to tell us that somebody else was terrible or overrated. Now, I wanna talk about the place where people are supposed to give you their opinions. In the past year, I’ve seen quite a few of my writer friends complaining about “trolls”–specifically, the secretive 1-star villains of the Amazon book review world. Even Anne Rice demanded that someone needs to put a stop to them.
Are we really that sensitive? Does it really matter what a small cluster of people write about us? I mean, what are we talking about here? An individual, or tiny armies of assassins, who seek out writers of all levels of success and try to obliterate their series of good reviews by expressing to the rest of us that the work stinks? Does it take a certain amount of ego to consider that this is really happening to you? Or maybe it’s total paranoia. Say the words out loud: This person sought me out and is trying to ruin my sales by saying they didn’t like my book. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Yes, it does.
Let’s look at a couple of the ones I’ve seen…
Some of the common ones are things like “they gave my book a bad rating and admitted that they don’t normally read my genre!” Hey, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I like to read outside of my genre, too. And you know what? Sometimes I genuinely don’t like the writing. Am I not allowed to say so just because it’s outside of my genre (outside of what I guess I’m supposed to know)?
Or how about “they didn’t even finish the book, but still gave it a bad rating!” Yep, but guess what? They put that in the review, right? Everyone can read right in the review that the reviewer didn’t finish the book. Maybe your style was not for them. Maybe they’d seen it before? Maybe they really thought it was awful and they feel the need to warn people against all of your “friends” reviews. I’m not saying that if you have good reviews they’re all from your friends, but chances are a few of them are.
People, it is possible that someone genuinely doesn’t like your work. So you get a couple of 1 or 2 star reviews. Maybe the person’s a jerk with nothing better to do. Maybe they felt the need to tell people their wonderful opinion. Whatever the case, is it really gonna hurt you and your pile of 3,4, and 5 star reviews? No. And it’s not the end of the world. If you think it is, well, maybe you’re a bit too sensitive to be offering up your work to the public.
I don’t want my writer buds that have spoken out against “trolls” to take this as an attack on them, or as me siding with the dark side.I know it can hurt when someone tears apart something that you put so much heart and soul and pieces of yourself into, but it’s going to happen. Just roll with it and let it go. If you’ve seen my reviews you’ll see that I usually try to find the good in a book even if I didn’t like the overall story or writing. If it’s less than 3 stars to me, I try not to say anything. But that’s me. There are a whole lot of readers with a whole lot of tastes and opinions. If you can’t handle the feedback (warranted in your mind or otherwise) maybe you need to just hand out your books to your friends.
Some words of advice from Oasis