The Professional Troll: They Exist




Last week my friend Rachel Thompson posted a blog on her site called, Are You a Writer? Then . . . Write, where she tells us about an author friend of hers who stopped writing after an industry “professional” dished out highly critical comments that were in no way helpful or intended to improve this author’s writing. Rachel encouraged this woman to get back to her writing.

My heart broke when I read about this. Since I began The Author CEO, I have either been really privileged or just really dang lucky to be surrounded by a network of highly supportive authors and publishing professionals who took me under their wing and helped me out in any way they could. I had never even considered that what happened to Rachel’s friend could have happened to me. Then I read comments by fellow authors on Rachel’s Facebook page who had experienced the same thing.

So what should you do when you encounter a troll who is being hurtful, unprofessional, or just plain wrong? Ask yourself: Should I base my entire writing career on someone who may not have my best interest at heart?Here’s what you can do instead.

  • Surround yourself with cheerleaders. When I started writing The Author CEO I had many days where I thought that what I was doing useless. But I have several cheerleaders who encouraged me and reminded me that my work was making a difference. Their support kept me going and boosted my confidence.
  • Surround yourself with critics who have your best interest at heart, not their own agendas. A critic can be other authors, friends/family, beta readers, etc. They can be the same people as your cheerleaders, but a critic must feel comfortable in offering constructive criticism of your work. Critics, unlike trolls, want you to be successful in your writing career simply because they have your best interest at heart and not because they have something to lose or gain as a result of your success. Their motivation is to help, not hurt. They will offer legitimate feedback and suggestions to improve your writing. Their advice is intended to help you be a better writer, NOT to make you feel bad. Nor will they EVER tell you to stop writing altogether.

I call the people in the groups above my inner circle. I am constantly in touch with them and I trust them wholeheartedly. Which isn’t to say that everything they tell me is peachy keen or that I am sometimes frustrated by their advice or suggestions. But I know that their feedback is intended to help—not hurt.

Family Friends Neighbors Co-Workers Support System Gears

Other Words of Advice

  • Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to trusted peers when a professional troll strikes. Don’t just withdraw and keep it to yourself. The author in Rachel’s article had supporters who could have helped her through the sting of the incident, which may have led her to a quicker “recovery.” At the very least, their encouragement would likely have meant a lot.
  • Bring in professionals where your strengths are not. I will never forget my wonderful editor, Jessica Swift, returning a post I had written and sent to her to edit—it was covered with red marks. I was beaten down; I had thought the post was really good when I sent it to her. I emailed her telling her that I would never be a writer. She responded with a “point-on”   remark that also added some humor to my mood. “You are already a writer. You will never be an editor,” she wrote. This was absolutely a BAM moment for me. After laughing at her insight, I realized she was right. My strength is not in editing. Not only do my posts look better after she works her magic, but she catches and improves on areas I might have missed. I agree with Rachel who discusses the repercussions of not putting money into areas that require improvement leading to a loss of sales and/or negative reviews.
  • Keep your ear to the ground. Listen to what others have to say about industry professionals. I’m not talking about gossiping, I’m talking about assessing professionals for the quality of service they deliver. Don’t you ask around and get referrals for other types of service providers, like a plumber? The same is true when you’re looking to work with professionals in the publishing industry.

Think about the author mentioned in Rachel’s blog post. She trusted her writing career to one person and, as a result of a negative situation, she stopped writing. What she didn’t know was that this particular professional doesn’t have the best reputation in the industry and, in fact, has a history of doing to other authors what she did to this one.

Here is the bottom line: DON’T EVER LISTEN TO SOMEONE WHO TELLS YOU TO STOP WRITING. NEVER EVER! Instead, develop your network; create an inner circle of trusted peers who want you to succeed and aren’t afraid to give you the constructive advice necessary to help you get there.

Comment here!


  1. I particularly liked the “bring professionals where your skills are not”. I can only edit my own work to a point – even though I can edit the work of others. The other thing I can’t see wasting my precious time on is formatting. I have a pro do it for me. It saves my hair and prevents me going bald.

  2. Hi Naomi!

    You know me – not one for comments…just had to say thanks for sharing, though! I think that we need to get the word out about unethical and nasty people. They exist and they, sadly, aren’t going away. Don’t know how they can live with themselves…

  3. Great article. Applause, applause. This is good advice for any and every author.

  4. Thanks for this article. When I received my first bad review I was crushed. I did share my feelings (which is rare for me) on Facebook and was amazed at the amount of support that came my way. If a 1* or 2* has decent critique, I’m okay with that; but NOT for the people who say – “don’t bother” for instance. I never give less than a 3* to an emerging author because I know how it feels to receive less.

  5. I took a creative writing class in college. The teacher tore my writing (and that of everyone else in the class) apart. I didn’t write again for almost twelve years.

    Now I’ve got six books out and am about to publish a seventh. I get good reviews.

    That teacher was Wrong. I wish I’d known that back then.

  6. Loved this. I’ve been lucky or I just have a strong hide because the critics do not get to me. And there will always be nasty critics. On what Carol White said, I sometimes review on Goodreads and Amazon and I am with you, Carol. Don’t even put up a review if you can’t give it a 3 or higher. When I reviewed professionally, I had to do that and I hated it. So now that it is casual and I don’t do it often, why go out of my way to bash another author? Especially a new one!

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