Often when you are standing too close, it’s tough to see things as they really are. This is especially true of authors who unfortunately open the door to both praise and harsh criticism with every new release. Today I’m going to address the issue of review trolls, those nasty little buggers who derive joy from tormenting others. But in order to do this, I need you to back up and look at the situation in a different light.
Picture yourself a restaurateur. The majority of your customers love your food. They praise you every time they come in. They even recommend you to their friends. Occasionally you have a patron who comes in once and doesn’t return. They simply don’t care for the type of cuisine you offer. That’s okay; it’s nothing personal. People all have their personal tastes, likes and dislikes. You can live with that. But then one day, you get a customer who is loud and obnoxious. He makes a spectacle of himself and criticizes the wait staff in a harsh arrogant tone and when you approach his table, he berates you in an even louder voice. When he finally walks out, do you breathe a sigh of relief and move on to serving the other customers who are enjoying their food? Or do you continue to focus on that one unpleasant and ill-mannered individual?
Please tell me that your answer was going to be that you focus on the customers who are there because they love your food!
I pose this scenario because I recently had an author reach out to me. This author told of a friend who had an experience with a Goodreads troll and was heartsick about it. The troll gave her book a one-star review, which would have been fine if that’s where it ended, but it didn’t. The troll was abusive and mocking. He/she even made false statements about the book and the author. Then to push salt deeper into the wound, the Troll added inappropriate GIFs. The review had eighty people like the review and pile on. This isn’t surprising because Trolls are rumored to run in circles.
Abusive reviews should be reported to Goodreads as such, and if they are on their game, Goodreads will investigate and remove these reviews. I encouraged the author to have her friend do this, then after thinking it through I decided to also put on my social worker cap.
Before I go any further, I must remind readers that not all one and two stars are troll reviews. I myself have written one and two star reviews. These are professional reviews given without bias or malice. And yes, professional reviewers who I respect have even attached appropriate GIFs to make the review stand out and entertain their readers. Before deciding a negative review is simply the work of a troll, it is important for the author to take careful stock of that review. A one-star review can sometimes offer advice that will ultimately improve the author’s writing. I have seen instances where the author takes a critical review personally and mistakenly calls it trolling; thereby, missing an important opportunity to improve their writing. What a shame and waste of an opportunity for the author to improve his/her writing. In my experience, it is more difficult to write a one or two star review than it is a glowing one. Most book reviewers will say the same thing. And I might add, professional reviewers most often recognize trolling for what it is and ignore those reviews.
Unfortunately Trolls such as I described above are all too often found on Goodreads and Amazon. With the inception of social media they have found a virtual soapbox from which they can rant and rave to their heart’s content. We can’t silence them, but we can change our reaction to them and thereby cut off the food source on which they thrive.
In the example above, I call that type of troll the “Look at me, Look at me” reviewer. They more than likely have low self-esteem, are immature and have an incessant need for attention. The more negative they make a review the better since the reviewer knows other trolls will flock to it with likes and equally acidic comments. And if the troll can engage the author in a confrontation… BONUS! When the author responds it gives the troll the attention they thrive on and whether it is a victimization or antagonistic response; it rewards their behavior.
I will never forget a situation I encountered with an author friend of mine. The author was arguing with a woman who wouldn’t read his book simply because it was indie published. Her friend had highly rated it and even encouraged her to read it because it was that good. The woman’s response was that she would “never ever” read an indie book. At this point the author got into an argument with her.
The author’s response gave this woman the opportunity she needed to rip into him and call him every name in the book. It escalated from there. Which was when I stepped in. I reminded the author that it was this woman who was closed minded. She was the one who was missing an opportunity to read a good book that had been recommended to her. Why? Because of her closed mindedness. I told him that he was not going to change her mind and I reminded him that this was her loss, not his. Her not buying the book was a loss of one sale for him. That’s it. Her not being open to indie authors however means the loss of numerous fantastic stories, simply because the author chose a different route to having their books published. Most people who are closed-minded stay that way. It is a comfortable place for them. It is their cocoon. You will not change them and you will only frustrate yourself in the process.
In the long run, being an indie author has its pros and cons. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. Unfortunately one of those cons is dealing with troll reviewers. Changing one’s perception about the reviewer will help to accomplish this. It is difficult, but not impossible. Do you see your glass as half full or half empty? Seeing it as half full helps to not sweat the small stuff of troll reviewers and enables you to turn and walk away. When you see a review such I mentioned above, feel sorry for the reviewer. It must be torturous to live in a world where the only attention they can garner is through a malicious review. Feel sorry for them and then move on to focus on the reviewers who have offered words of praise for your work.