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    11/11/2006
    If you can't take the heat...
    My take on Passion was a largely favorable one. I liked it. With each reread, I liked it more.


    But one thing I noticed she seemed to get too involved with the discussions on message boards. As a reader I like talking about books with the authors. Yes shocking I know *g*. But there gets to be that point where you agree to disagree because you are repeating yourself.


    I think this is a common first time author mistake. You want to talk about your baby. You want people to love your baby. You want people to read your baby! But it is murky water. How much is too much. Where is it okay to post? What will increase conversation? What will be a thread killer?


    And I think you learn as you go. Yes there are authors... many many authors who will give you advice. Listen to you bitch. Dry your tears. And help you call those reviewers bitches! But much like your mother telling you to do things... you still have to learn on your own.


    Which is what *I* think happened with Lisa Valdez and her experience with Message Boards. (please correct me if I am wrong lisa)


    Message boards and reviews are what they are, reader opinion. They are not for the weak. Some are great, some are grand, some are wonderful and some will tell you sucks serious ass (or even great big hairy donkey balls).


    So in that case... I would have to say I agree with Sandy (a reviewer with AAR) in her post Is she a grown-up or not?
    I personally thought that she spent a bit too much time feelin' and basking in the love here. I guess she also felt the sting.
    Well I would agree if that was what I thought Lisa Valdez's point was in her post. I took it like Meljean did:
    she was simply responding to her readers, who were wondering why the book was late, and responding in an honest (and I imagine somewhat embarrassing) manner. How mortifying is it to acknowledge that you let others opinions come between you and your work?

    There was no complaint. She said: this was my reaction, and I've learned from it -- and my book is late, yes, but I've moved on.
    So putting reviews and message boards aside and focusing on 'Hate Mail' I can understand why Lisa had some problems with it. Why would a person feel the need to write an author and tell them how horrid, bad, filthy, wrong, fucked up, name your shit here - their book is?


    That seems some what stalkerish. Reviews are for readers. Blogs and message boards are for discussion. And if an author ASKS you... what did you think. Well email the hell out of them.


    But what drives someone to email some stranger and tell them they are fucked?


    And what makes it okay? Just because as sandy sez:
    I'm sorry that you think I'm being harsh. I think I'm just expecting Ms. Valdez to be a professional.

    Hate mail is a bitch. But complain to your writer's loops -- Ms. Valdez was hardly blazing a trail here, they've all gotten hate mail before. Complain to your editor and your agent. They're there to support you.

    Clearly, Kristie J, her explanation was enough for you. But while I wouldn't call you a patsy for your position, you seem to have no problem calling my earlier post superior. And, honestly, that's kind of insulting.

    But I'm a big girl. I'll smile and suck it up and move on. I respect you and have always respected you, Krisitie (SIC) J, but I think we'll have to agree to disagree here.
    It happens to everyone so authors should just get over it? How do authors feel about it? Is it really something that common? How do you deal with it? Will anyone else admit to it *g*.


    What makes an email turn from Feedback to Hate Mail? And anyone who has ever sent negative feedback to an author they didn't know, what made you do it? What caused that reaction?


    And hey if nothing else... if a person hates a book enough to feel the need to email, couldn't you say you still did a good job as a writer?


    At the heart of it. Like it or not, there is no right or wrong answer as far as Lisa Valdez's post goes. It is how she felt. It is what she did to take care of what she saw as a problem. And I for one appreciate an author being honest. No matter if I agree or no.


    Maybe that is just me...

    And this is always fun:
    You ARE what you WRITE

    Labels: ,

    41 Comments:
    1. I have never written hate mail - to expend that kind of energy must be debilitating to the soul.

      I have written extensively well thought out complaints but they were to businesses who either committed fraud or did not finish the work they were charging for. In both instances I contacted the Better Business Bureau and copied them on my complaints.

      I think what people are missing here is that Lisa Valdez (and yes, this is my opinion) wrote a romance book. She didn't write a scathing treaties on the civil rights or on something that is so polar that you would expect hate mail. She wrote a romance book. Since when did writing a romance book garner hate mail?

      Also, maybe we need to take a step back from the internet. Before this 'instant information' era started, readers would have not known when a book was supposed to be on the shelves. They would have searched the shelves monthly hoping for the next book and when they finally found it they would be thrilled.

      Now we are all up in an author's business and yes, it cuts both ways. Author has website plugging her books and readers have instant access to information they want. I just wonder why some people don't understand there is a line.

      Hate mail has never solved anything.

      CindyS

      By Blogger CindyS, at 11/10/2006 11:30:00 PM  

    2. Wellll, let me see how I can get myself into trouble. :-) I have to say first I was very lucky with my first book because it didn't make much of a splash. All the reviews were very kind and only nice people emailed me. What I had to deal with was being ignored. ("Who is Jennifer Ashley?") This was my dream, I had a book out, and no one knew it. (And if anyone can tell me the name of my first book, they get a gold star.) Luckily my second book made more of a splash and I went on from there.

      I'm also lucky because I write my books very fast. I'd written books 1-3 before 1 ever came out, so if everyone had trashed book 1--no matter, books 2 and 3 were already in the can. No writer's block there.

      Ok, back to the question. Yes, hate mail sucks. Thank Goddess I didn't have any until about book four. By that time I had learned that authors can NOT write to negative feedback. You have to write to positive feedback ONLY. Write for the people who LOVE you, not to please the people who hate you, because you never can. If the people who love you are disappointed in a book, chances are they'll give you another try because all authors have off books.

      Another thing that helps me take negative feedback is the fact that I've now seen royalty statements for quite a few of my books. And I must say that feedback/reviews and royalty statements tell vastly different stories (at least in my case). Some books raved about online get relatively low sales. Reviewer shot it full of holes? Ooo, sales are up there.

      Case in point, I have a book with Ellora's Cave as Allyson James that sold very, very well. It's still selling very, very well. The RT review was less than kind about it. But I'd already received phenomenal royalty statements which told me louder than words that readers loved it, so I was able to shrug off the sting of that review.

      My advice to new writers is to stop reading the Internet and read your sales figures. That will tell you better than anything whether you are reaching your audience and keeping them entertained. I guarantee if your book truly touches nobody, the sales will die. But a book that keeps on selling tells you you've done your job.

      Before I shut up, I want to point out authors for whom I've seen horrible reviews: Christine Feehan, Katie Macalister, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Karen Marie Monnig, both by reviewers and readers on reader sites and blogs. I don't think their careers are hurting.

      And also, if you have a book that divides people into vastly polar opposite camps, it means you caught attention in spades! And that's terrific! You sparked emotion, which is what every author should do. If I had been more daring in that high-seas adventure my career might have taken off a little faster...

      By Blogger Jennifer Ashley, at 11/10/2006 11:54:00 PM  

    3. Interesting topic. I've never gotten hate mail, but I've had people post on boards about me. I think someone on AAR once called my writing 'drivel.' That was for my first book and they were probably right, but I cried anyway. lol. These days I just say, "thanks for your 48 cents, bye."

      It still stings a bit, but you have to be practical otherwise you try writing your books to please everyone and then they end up insipid and without any personality.

      Imagine the reaction, however, if an author were to post personally about a reviewer or a reader? What if I went to AAR (or any other site) and started critiquing their reviews and making assumptions about their character based on what they wrote? What if I did that to a reader?

      I mean no offence to the AAR folks, but if I wrote a post questioning whether or not a reviewer was a 'grown up' wouldn't that sound petty?

      We're all on the same side. Both authors and readers love books. Reviewers love books. I don't understand why there always has to be this kind of drama on the boards. I really don't. I write hoping YOU'LL like it and you buy it hoping you'll like it. When that fails to happen we're both hurt by it. Why take it any further?

      I'll stop ranting now. I'm obviously delirious from lack of sleep. lol.

      By Blogger Kathryn S, at 11/11/2006 12:17:00 AM  

    4. What Jennifer said. *G* Seriously, my royalty statements tell a vastly different story from my reviews online.

      What I don't think reviewers understand or accept (and what Valdez was saying?) is that the same sensitivity and imagination that makes writers able to produce great stories also torments them to an excessive degree. We already torment ourselves quite a bit on our own (Oh, God, I have an American hero--will my readers hate him because he's not a lord?), so if we add to it the feedback we get from bbs, blogs, reviews, etc., it is paralyzing, especially since most of the feedback is contradictory (this is well-written; this is the worst written book I've ever read!).

      I'm fortunate enough not to get much hate mail--usually it's just the occasional person saying they didn't like how I handled something. But that, too, can be debilitating in large quantities.

      A couple of months ago, when I found I was spending WAY too much time reading feedback and obsessing over it after my most recent book came out, I put myself on an internet diet until my wip was finished. I had gotten to the point where everytime I went online, my blood pressure rose--for no reason other than fear of what I'd read. My "diet" proved to be the antidote to what was ailing me. What I discovered is that it's much easier to work without that noise in my head.

      So I've just about decided to swear off certain review sites, blogs, message boards, and Amazon reviews entirely. Or perhaps to do what another writer friend does--wait until the book has been out a year, and then read the reviews. By that time, I'm not so invested emotionally, and I've got sales numbers to look at. Then, if I find a persistent problem, I can address it in a future book, but by then it has lost its ability to wound.

      The point is, you can't tell an author to just get a thick skin. If an author's skin were that thick, he/she wouldn't have the sensitivity required to write good books.

      But telling reviewers not to write negative things isn't the answer either. They have a right to their opinion.

      I also have the right not to let it interfere with my creative process by reading it. So there you go.

      By Blogger Sabrina Jeffries, at 11/11/2006 12:26:00 AM  

    5. Wow! Hate mail!? That's horrible! Why did I think this was an isolated incident? In that case I could see cutting myself off from the internet and not opening mail just for self preservation.

      I mean no offence to the AAR folks, but if I wrote a post questioning whether or not a reviewer was a 'grown up' wouldn't that sound petty?

      YES!!! ;)

      You know, PBW can write about reviewers and make me laugh. (Should mention I'm not a reviewer but I do appreciate reviews) Even though I don't agree with every thing she writes, I respect her for knowing where her boundaries are and not letting someone else move them for her. That is definite strength and I only wish I were half as strong in boundary setting as she is!

      CindyS (sorry still up and intrigued by this)

      By Blogger CindyS, at 11/11/2006 12:55:00 AM  

    6. Tricky, touchy stuff here.

      I haven't become popular enough to receive hate mail (and is that a creepy statement, or what?!). But I am an author, so I think I can relate to some of this.

      It's a fine line to walk. If you're too sensitive to responses, you can't help feeling the pain when/if they become nasty. And if you don't give a damn what readers want/think, you're an arrogant bitch.
      And being a writer doesn't give you special allowances as far as 'sensitivity', although that's usually a requirement of BEING a writer. Some people, no matter what their occupations, are more sensitive than others. What makes one person set their jaw and persevere can drive another person to drink, or worse. I admire Lisa's honesty about what happened to her.
      Everyone has a right to their opinion. If someone would write to me and say, "I disliked your book for these reasons, etc., etc.," I would consider that feedback. This is something I can respect. If they wrote and said, "you're a lousy writer and sorry excuse for a person, and you should eat shit and die"--well, that's hate mail. An opinion is one thing. A personal attack is another, and I'd feel sorry for such a person.

      The trick for me has been to realize that I have no control over what other people think, say, or do. I can only control my responses and reactions to them. And allowing yourself to be beaten down, whether it's intentional or not, is to give away your power, which is self-defeating in both one's professional AND personal life.

      By Anonymous raine, at 11/11/2006 01:29:00 AM  

    7. There are so many voices in a writer's head: agents, editors, readers, critiquers--and often the loudest of all is the voice of insecurity. As a writer writes, all these voices cackle and hiss in her head, all wanting their piece of her available brain. They are exhausting in their demands. Birthing a book midst this din can be severely challenging, and when the voices are shrill, discouraging, or cruel, it can be tough to carry on.

      At times, the reviewer's voice can be the most discouraging of all. But a review is not, or should not, be regarded as the first sally in a debate. It is what it is, the reviewers opinion, and it is best left to stand as such.

      I admit this can be difficult, when as an author, you have the strong sense the reviewer didn't *get* or didn't even read your deathless prose, but leave it we must. The reviewer is, after all, only one voice among the many that craze our writerly minds.

      What really counts is the voice of the reader. It's pure magic when they pop off an email that simply says, "I liked your book." That's like a glass of champagne and a clink of glass between friends.

      EC Sheedy

      By Blogger EC, at 11/11/2006 01:53:00 AM  

    8. Wow.

      I have to agree with ec and Samantha Jeffries here.

      Writing is done in solitude. Nobody helps you (I mean, there are lots of helpful critique groups out there, etc, but in the end, it's just you and your computer, and the characters in your head.) It's an enormous leap of faith to write a book and send it out there.

      We do it not just because we love to do it, but because we hope other people will love it, too. We want to make them happy.

      Finding out we failed in that is just like finding out you failed in any other profession-it's hard. It hurts. Imagine doing a project for your boss, or even for a school committee, or whatever, and hearing back hateful, horrible things. It would hurt. It would affect your confidence, wouldn't it?

      It didn't read to me like Ms. Valdez was complaining. She was just explaining that she let such things get the better of her. She let her confidence get rattled, and that made it difficult for her to focus on the new book. Which it can.

      Honestly, I'm really surprised at the venom aimed at her for the post. Yes, writers must expect some negative feedback. Yes, we mut develop a thick skin. If M.s Valdez had been showing up at reader loops to argue with people who complained about the book, that would be a totally different ballgame.

      But all she did was apologize to her readers, and explain that she'd been feeling a bit rattled. She didn't even blame the people who wrote her hate mail, but herself for letting it get to her.

      As I said earlier, if you'd gotten feedback like that on a project you worked very hard on, from a presentation at work to a cake for the school bake sale, wouldn't you have a hard time getting back on the horse?

      By Blogger December Quinn, at 11/11/2006 05:11:00 AM  

    9. Hmmm...it's too early in the morning for me to be brilliant! :)
      Okay, it's also too early for me to find the keys.
      All I'd like to say is writing is a really hard job. You go it alone, trusting your muse to inspire you to write. When you're done and that story is released, you've shared a part of yourself.
      Then it's time to pull up the big girl panties. Your story's out there, readers and reviewers will love or hate it--or worse, think it's just okay.
      If you're strong and focused, you'll take the criticism with a grain of salt and look for commonalities to fold into your toolbox for the next book. If you're vulnerable and not especially confident of your work, you may be paralyzed.
      If you are the former, keep on trucking and open a new .doc and write away. If you're the latter, stay away from the loops until you're done with your current WIP. Simple as that.
      I can't tell you how to grow a thicker skin or a sense of humor.
      Delilah Devlin

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/11/2006 07:03:00 AM  

    10. I'm not following the incident with Ms. Valdez so can't and won't comment on that. I've never received any kind of 'hate mail' regarding any of my books, but have received reader comments, for which I'm very grateful. That means my books are being read. :-)

      Not every reader will love everything I write. But if a reader writes to me with a question or a comment, either positive or negative about one of my books, I'll respond. Readers have a right to their opinions about books they read. They're the ones laying down the money for books and believe me, I want to hear to what they have to say.

      I have no control over what reviewers will print about my books. What they take from reading my books is their judgement, their feelings and interpretation of the story. Does it drive what I write and does it affect my emotions if it's negative? No. I write for me. My world and my characters are my own and I can't change that based on opinion from anyone, other than valid editorial direction, of course. But I value reader comment, always. And if it appears something isn't working in a big way, I'll take that into consideration.

      By Anonymous Jaci Burton, at 11/11/2006 07:14:00 AM  

    11. I think Lisa's idea about having someone vette her email is a good idea. Weed out the hateful or just silly or meanspirited comments.

      More later......maybe LOL I have basketball.

      By Blogger Amie Stuart, at 11/11/2006 07:39:00 AM  

    12. Personally, I would never send an author a scathing e-mail detailing why I didn't like her book, but there are many different individuals using the internet who may do that...just because they can. Go figure. Hard to take I'm sure, but that might be an unfortunate hazard of the profession.
      As for those message boards, I think there are author friendly boards and boards that are not so friendly toward the author. I have to admit that AAR is not the most friendly toward an author. The few authors I have contacted are very reluctant to post there. It can be a tough board for author and reader.
      I wish Lisa well and hope that she has overcome this problem. As a reader, I get the easy part. I get to read the books, not write them, so I hope she can continue to do that.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/11/2006 10:11:00 AM  

    13. Sybil, The above anon post is from me. Didn't sign my name. xina

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/11/2006 10:13:00 AM  

    14. As a writer, you put yourself out there and yep, people are going to respond. You want them to respond because feedback is important and hey, it makes you feel good about something you made. And you'd better thicken that skin because not everything you hear is going to be nice, LOL.

      Do I expect negative feedback? It comes with the program I suppose. Sometimes it's rather helpful when a reader or reviewer points out something that didn't work. I can learn from that or just say to myself that wasn't what I was trying to do anyway.

      And like Jaci, I respond to postive and negative emails as long as the negative stuff is civil. Certainly I'm thankful I rarely get negative feedback but overall, when I do, it's pretty respectful.

      I suppose some folks think it's silly that authors ask for civility when they're contacted or reviewed but I don't think so.

      I think there are some who believe that since it's the internet, we're not real and don't deserve basic manners or civility. But I am a person. I'm a person who wrote a book that you read and as such, you most certainly have the right to tell me what you thought of it, even if you didn't like it. But please ask yourself if you'd speak to someone that way in front of your mother.

      I've received two pieces of hate mail. Both were attacks on my morality and nearly violent in tone. In my opinion, neither of those people actually read my books or erotic romance for that matter. I deleted the emails without replying because I don't have to give anyone the courtesy of a reply when they call me a whore.

      The most basic thing anyone can do when they're online or choose to contact anyone about just about anything, is to remember you're dealing with a person on the other end. You don't have to like them or their work. You don't even have to be nice.

      By Anonymous Lauren, at 11/11/2006 10:36:00 AM  

    15. OK, I kind of feel like this comment might garner me some hate mail, but...

      I think sometimes in this blogland of ours (and I'm not pointing to anyone specifically, it's these long conversations where it happens the most, I think), it sometimes comes off as readers don't really accept the fact that authors are people too. (Please don't hurt me).

      We love, we cry, we bleed, we obsess (God can writers obsess), and we fret. A lot.

      I think these during these long conversations (like the one you referenced on AAR, which I've not read, btw), somewhere along the lines, the conversation starts being about "LISA VALDEZ" while forgetting that there is a human being behind that name on a bookjacket.

      I think the same can be true with hate mail (none of which I've ever gotten, knock on wood). I can't think of many people who could sit down and write a scathing letter to an actual person. A name on a book jacket, sure!

      It's not the first time it's happened, nor will it be the last, but I think it's perfectly reasonable for an author to pipe up and say, "hey, remember, I'm a real person."

      Please don't hate me now.

      By Anonymous Emma Sinclair, at 11/11/2006 10:48:00 AM  

    16. Hmm, maybe I'm exactly the opposite, Emma. I don't expect anyone to consider my feelings when they post in a public forum. In fact, I worry that the thing I'm most interested in -- reaction to my book -- might be toned or watered down if someone considers my feelings.

      But I do think hate mail is something else -- if someone sends me criticism, negative or positive, I'm all for that. But vicious personal hate mail? Yikes. And I will take Lisa's experience as something that I can learn from ... and just delete those suckers.

      Because there's just nothing else to do. Criticism invites a response; flames don't.

      By Blogger meljean brook, at 11/11/2006 11:40:00 AM  

    17. Not sure if I should clarify -- for the most part I don't care what people say about my books. Yes, of course I want all readers to love my prose and think I'm a genius (LOL) but I know that won't happen. Go ahead, tear apart my work. I may mutter under my breath, but I respect the opinion. Just please leave *ME* as a person out of it. I don't want to read that I must be stupid for writing such drivel or that I don't know what I'm doing. There are going to be people like this and I guess that means they really reacted to my work. Maybe that's a good thing too. I'd rather inspire hatred than nothing.

      Every author who has responded to this has made excellent points and I think it really boils down to finding a way to handle the negativity that works for you and getting past it. Like Sabrina said, an author's royalty statements are more telling than message boards.

      By Blogger Kathryn S, at 11/11/2006 12:58:00 PM  

    18. Well as a reviewer (and I have been called "mean"), I will say I would NEVER even consider the idea of writing an author personally to tell them I hated their book. Frankly, this is just rude. Now, I might post on my blog that I hated the book - but I'm not showing up at the author's "house." The author has to go "looking" for any criticism I might level against their work.

      Also, I have never brought the author personally into the discussion - whether I loved or hated the book. My M.O. tends to be focusing on the characters. If the characters behave stupidly, I'll say so. I won't say, "This author is obviously a moron because her characters behave like imbeciles."

      I think Valdez fell into a trap a lot of debut authors do. I'm sure she worked very hard on PASSION, and the fact that people e-mailed her personally to tell her they loathed it must have been a shock. That said, she's obviously learning from the experience. My advice to her is to not only screen her e-mail, but just to stay away from public reader-type forums in general. Hell, I'm not an author and I tend to stay as far away from message boards as humanly possible.

      As authors you can't write for anybody. The minute you do the second guessing comes in. Just write the best book you can, toss it out there, and let the chips fall where they may. Really, I think Valdez should be very pleased with all the hulabaloo. I personally feel that when a book polarizes, it's done its job. Nobody ever remembers the "meh" books. They remember the ones they loved and hated ;-)

      By Blogger Wendy, at 11/11/2006 01:26:00 PM  

    19. God, I know I am a real bitch but at least I am consistently a bitch, right? Let's take, at face value, that the mail was truly haterish i.e., "You're a horrible person for writing such perverted stuff. I can't believe you are allowed to publish and I hope you don't have a child because that child is only going to grow up warped with a deviant as a parent."

      (and no, I never wrote to Lisa Valdez because I never finished the book). Why would you allow that to affect you personally? There have plenty of comments on the dearauthor blog that are hateful, but you just laugh it off because you know you aren't that person. Lisa V knows (I assume) that she isn't warped, she isn't a deviant, she isn't out to ruin the world. To allow those comments to affect one's writing seems a bit. . . ridiculous.

      Further for Ms. V to write that she didn't expect this type of response also seems a bit ridiculous. Her book was filled with extreme and provocative sex scenes (sex while breastfeeding?). Of course, there was going to be negative responses. I suspect Jaid Black get hate mail constantly for corrupting the morals of the world.

      I don't have a problem with an author saying she doesn't want hate mail but I do understand why people send emails saying that they don't like a book. I sent a very frustrated email to Eloisa James. I told her how much I loved her writing but that I really thought she missed the boat and that by writing the spoiler trail she was essentially saying that I just didn't see the obvious signs in her book. Is that stalkerish? Is that hate mail? Maybe to some authors it is. But I felt like I had the right because a) she says on her webpage that she "loves" to hear from readers and b) because I had spent the money and time to read the book.

      I really find distasteful the idea that the internet has created an avenue for this type of attitude. I am sure that hate mail was sent to authors long before email became popular. When you become a public figure, you are open to public criticism. To fail to understand that and to cope with that seems to spell a short lived public life.

      If an author only wants love letters, I suggest not having any email contact. Anne Stuart doesn't. I haven't found one for Morgan Hawke. Set up a message board, have some ardent fan moderate it and you'll only get love like at JR Ward's place.

      If you want to have intimate connections with the readers, you can't always control those.

      By Anonymous Jane, at 11/11/2006 01:41:00 PM  

    20. As I was driving home I was thinking more about sandy's point that this happens to all women suck it up...

      well she didn't say that it was more like But I am getting very tired of the "writers are a special breed and must be treated delicately" mentality. They aren't any different from any other working woman.

      Every woman who goes to work every day and manages to keep it together is an artist in my book.


      and well lets say:
      I am a sales rep for company X. Company X decides to put up a billboard with 'name your insulting thing here'. You write a horrid letter to me calling me a whore, slut, will go to hell for working here, whatever.

      What would that be called? Would that be ok?

      Or say I am a woman. I am young(ish), attractive and smart (no I am not lydia joyce) The company I am a rep for puts out an sexually provocative mailer (as happens in marketing more often than not). Women and men send me emails with sexual comments, remarks and offers.

      What would that be called? Would that be ok? If one of those people did it repeatedly to the point I felt threatened... what would I do?

      Why is it in the 'real world' and 'real jobs' people could be held accountable for stalking me, threatening me and or harassing me - butfor writers they wouldn't be. And if that is so... how it is the same thing?

      Jane you are a lawyer. If you take a high profile case and have your name and picture all over the news then start getting hate mail for defending her or him (or whatever) what do you do? Pay it no mind at all? Throw it out? Just learn to deal with it?

      And if it is just learn to deal with it... well I think that is what Lisa is doing/did.

      Would it be different because you aren't an 'artist'? I mean either way you are putting yourself out there.

      Just wondering... not really agreeing or disagreeing with this yet *g*
      (for the record I have noooooo clue what type of work jane does)
      I might be missing the point...

      By Blogger sybil, at 11/11/2006 02:40:00 PM  

    21. I don't think your first two examples are very analogous but your third is and yes, if you represent someone that is highly distasteful, be prepared to get hate mail and awful things written about you. That's part and parcel of the job you take on. I.e., I had a very good friend represent a person accused of killing witnesses. The very good friend had death threats leveled by the group of people associated with his client. So did the judge and the prosecutor. The judge's children were monitored during the trial by federal marshalls.

      So, yeah, I think that when you take a provocative stance or even when you are part of one by chance (ie the judge), you recognize that there are going to be distasteful parts of the job.

      And there is a difference in the law between a private citizen and a public one and generally those individuals who make money off the public (ie, newspapers, movie stars, singers, writers) are held to a different legal standard in certain instances.

      By Anonymous Jane, at 11/11/2006 03:04:00 PM  

    22. I'm breaking one of my rules never to post on reader blogs because I think this is a very important topic. I’m an author and hold down a FT day job as a writer, and have experienced harsh criticism in both. When I worked as a reporter, a reader wrote to me ripping to shreds an article I wrote and said I should be boiled in oil. That worried me. I didn't know if he just hated the article or if he was a cannibal who thought I'd go nicely with a side dish of penne pasta. The nasty letters and comments went with the job. Did it hurt? Yup. Affect my writing and reporting? Yeah, sorry to say… I had to learn to deal with it or I’d lose my job. I gave it a couple of days, expressed my feelings to friends, and went on. Same is true for the negative reader feedback and reviews for me as an author.

      Negative reviews and negative reader feedback come with the territory. Readers have the right to express their opinion and say what they please and let’s face it, at least we all have the right of free expression. Some countries throw you in jail if you dare to criticize a public figure. As authors, it hurts us most when we let it get to the point where the doubt demons creep in and destroy our writing. So you do as Anne Stuart says, you protect the muse at all costs. You can try to avoid reviews online but email is harder because much business is conducted via email.

      I hope Ms. Valdez has someone open her email and sort it out so she can protect her muse, and keep writing and publishing books. And I hope that when she receives that first royalty statement, she laughs all the way to the bank.

      By Blogger Bonnie Vanak, at 11/11/2006 03:29:00 PM  

    23. Now that I think about it, I have a very good analogous example. About two years ago we took on a valuable insurance loss claim for a local buinesswoman. We should have known that we would have problems as we were her third set of lawyers. I dealt with her for almost a year and during that period of time she constantly questioned the legal decisions I made on her behalf. Why did I take certain depositions, why did I hire certain experts, etc. It got to the point where we recognized that we had lost the trust of this client and couldn't adequately represent her.

      We asked the court to allow us to withdraw. In open court, in front of a judge I respected and several opposing counsel, this client leveled really awful accusations about my ability, my firm and my personal integrity. Those accusations were personal and hurtful, not to mention embarassing. She subsequently filed a complaint with the state ethics board which we had to defend and was dismissed because it was baseless.

      I could have allowed something like that to bring me down, but I am a professional. I had other obligations to meet. Other clients to represent. You do have to move on. You can't say to your other clients "hey, I can't serve you like I was able to before because of my hurt feelings. I'm sorry but my emotional state is such that I can't quite meet my obligations. Thanks for understanding."

      Authors, I guess, because they are creative types don't have to act as professionals. They can allow deadlines to pass; they can insult and mock their customers; they can blame their inability to meet their obligations on customers. All that is excused because they are creative. And to question that is to make the reader seem cold, heartless, rude, immature, and that they just don't understand.

      That's true. I don't understand. I do know that there is a certain Darwinism in the world. You have to be strong to survive. Maybe retaining or gaining strength means eliminating things that would bring you down. I know we are much more careful about taking on clients that have a history of firing their lawyers!

      By Anonymous Jane, at 11/11/2006 04:21:00 PM  

    24. As an author, I invite all readers the freedom to express any and all opinions. Yep, us authors need to have thick skins and accept the truly negative with the wonderfully positive and everything in between. My big girl panties are firmly snapped into place.
      I've personally never received hate mail and I can't imagine ever sending any to an author. I'm not sure what the point would be unless you were just truly pissed that you spent money and you wanted to cause some pain in return.
      Negative comments hurt - I mean, hell, we are human beings just like everyone else. We are like any other artist, and I expect the opinions to be varied.
      Tell me you think my book is worse than horse shit on your shoes or my characters suck like straws. However I don't believe anyone should talk smack about an author. No need to call anyone names - I thought we all left that behind in sixth grade.
      Take the high road because the mud gets all over you if you don't.

      By Blogger Beth Williamson, at 11/11/2006 06:28:00 PM  

    25. Well, hmmm. This one took off in an odd direction, didn't it? Or maybe not. I haven't actually read the entire thread over on AAR, so I can't be sure.

      I will say this, however, if I ever got hate mail - real hate mail that made me feel unsafe on some basic level - due to something I'd worked on, I would try to move on, sure, but I'd also be documenting it, probably in triplicate, and letting any pertinent parties know about it. For published writers I wouldn't pretend to know who that would be but I'd assume it would include agents and publishers and possibly attorneys.

      The point I'm getting at is that real hate mail is a whole other level from someone sharing a simple rant or rave about a book. For that matter, mail that goes to extremes in the opposite direction could also qualify as being in the same category cause too much love isn't always a good thing either. Either one of those is potential stalker territory that I wouldn't take lightly regardless of what my day job was.

      I suspect the question we're all dancing around is just where that line is crossed. Let's face it, though, there's politeness, there's rudeness, there's snark and then there's downright psychotic. I prefer dealing in the first, I'll try to ignore the second, I can tolerate the third, to some extent, but the last would and should scare any rational person.

      So, I would seriously hope to God as in a prayer for everyone's safety that authors do take the real thing seriously because there is more than one way to protect oneself than simply growing a thick skin.

      By Blogger Bev (BB), at 11/11/2006 08:44:00 PM  

    26. I don't know...I have a hard time understanding the reader that e-mails an author when they are unhappy about a book. Do you also e-mail a cosmetic company when your mascara clumps or a shoe company when those shoes hurt like hell after 6 hours? What satisfaction can you gain from letting them know how unhappy you were with a story? I don't get it. I'm sorry, but I just don't. Money wasted on a bad story. Oh well..life goes on. xina

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/11/2006 09:17:00 PM  

    27. I don't know Lisa Valdez, and haven't read her book. Thankfully, I've never been in her position with the hate mail, either. But I am a fairly new author, like she is, and I can see where she's coming from in some respects.

      When you write a book and send it out into the world, yes: you have to know some people are going to hate it, are going to post on message boards and blogs and rip it to shreds. An author who can't accept that will not last long. Some of those people will probably email you as well, just to feel they've gotten their money's worth by venting directly to you, and that is also something you have to accept. Hopefully there are many more flattering letters to soften the sting of the negative ones.

      However, when the email and letters are extremely personally insulting and harsh, it can get into your head. Why? Because if one person, or two, or ten, feels that way about your book--strongly and negatively enough to write to you and call you nasty names, question your morals, and say you shouldn't be writing books at all-- then perhaps more do. Perhaps there are so many of them, and perhaps they hate your book so violently, that they'll tell everyone they know NOT to buy your next book(s). No author wants that word of mouth. You start to fear that it will drive down your sales, which will make your publisher nervous. They might not want to publish any more of your books. Perhaps no other publisher will want to deal with the hassle of publishing an author who gets hate mail--because if people are sending it to the author herself, they might also be sending it to the editor and the publishing house. Maybe it would be wiser to dial it back a little...retreat into the safety of a more commonplace story...wait until you've established yourself a bit more before you blow the doors off the hinges. Whether it's rational or not, these are real fears. Valdez herself said the hate mail made her afraid to write certain scenes for fear of the response. I've seen many readers lament on msg boards that certain authors might be changing their style to accomodate a particular market trend or publisher, and how terrible they think this is. Is it any less a shame when an author feels pressure from her ultimate judges--her readers--to change? And if accomplishes nothing. The people who loved her first book will be disappointed that the second isn't as daring or sensual or (fill in the blank). The people who hated her first book probably won't be buying her second book no matter how she writes it.

      I'm not claiming authors need to hear nothing but love, or that any less-than-glowing remarks should be delicately phrased for fear of upsetting an artistic ego. Readers are entitled to their opinions, and nothing will (or should) stop them from posting a scathing review on Amazon or torching the book on message boards. I do think she had guts to make it public; who really wants to tell the world, "hey, a bunch of people really REALLY hated my book"? And it was considerate to her fans, because now they know what's behind the delay for her next book. It sounds to me, from her post, that she was responding to an inquiry, and explaining what's going on with her. Maybe it was TMI for some people, but it's not like she went around and posted a long sob story, unsolicited, on a variety of message boards.

      So, to answer your original question...*g*... I hope she has "gotten over it" and can write again in the way she really wants to write. I also hope the people who wrote the hate mail try to be more civil, because honestly-- it's a romance novel, not something advocating the end of civilization.

      By Anonymous Caroline, at 11/11/2006 10:21:00 PM  

    28. Great post, Syb—and so many thought provoking comments. I just want to state, again, that my problem was not with reviews or message boards, but with hate-mail. Yes, sometimes the boards seemed to magnify the hate-mail, but they were nothing compared to it (for me). I mean, the message boards are public and open, and though people can be ridiculously rude there, that’s okay. They’re showing their true colors and I can vent my own righteous indignation there if I choose to (which, I might add, is as much my right as anyone’s). But hate-mail is like a knife in your back. Unlike reviews and message boards, which are destinations that can be visited or avoided, hate-mail seeks you out—it comes to were you live. And it IS stalker-ish. I’m not talking about a reader that writes to critique you—or even one that says, you suck. I’m talking about a person who attacks you with their anger, calls you names, and spits on your character. This is strong poison, and while I agree that one must learn to deal with it, the notion that anyone, especially a first-timer, should be expected to just shrug it off without affect is laughable. Sorry, but my skin isn’t that thick yet—and I hope it never is, because crocodiles just don’t write good romance.

      And since when does “professionalism” spring like Athena, fully formed, from the head of Zeus? Professionalism grows with time and experience. I mean, when I got my paycheck for PASSION, I didn’t magically acquire all the strengths of a seasoned author. I have to get there on my own, in time—and one rarely does get there without a few bumps along the way. We’re all human beings with human failings—I was just admitting some of my own. I did so because a.) my post was solicited, b.) many readers have been very generous with me and I thought I owed them the truth and an apology in return, and c.) I thought it might help some other writer avoid the same pitfall. That’s all…

      Finally, why some people feel compelled to “complain” about my post is beyond me. I was answering a question that was posed to me about what happened to me, and I was apologizing for my weakness. It’s my answer, and, much to my chagrin, it’s what happened, and it can't be changed. So there’s really no right or wrong about it—and there’s no agreeing with it or disagreeing with it—it simply is. Now, people can, of course, accept it or not. But don’t try to tell me my answer is wrong, or silly, or that it should have been other than it is. It’s my answer, not yours.

      Which brings me to the message boards. I’m not sure if I need to correct you or not, Syb—maybe I should just clarify. The lesson I learned about the message boards is that it’s best for me to avoid them (I haven’t been in a very long time), or I’ll be tempted to get on my soap box and bask in my own righteous indignation—which is very easy to do there because there are so many people who spur my indignation. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain satisfaction in basking, but it also exhausts me (and everyone else, I’m sure). And, yes, I will run a point into the ground if I feel strongly enough about it (or until I get bored with it, or bored with myself). But that’s just me. Did I say too much on the boards? Maybe, for some—maybe not, for others. Could I have said more? Heck, yeah—but, as you said, there comes a point when there no longer is a point. But whatever the case, at the end of the day, I’m very grateful to the boards. Many readers came to PASSION through them, and I don’t forget that. Ciao, Lisa

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/12/2006 12:34:00 AM  

    29. But ya know, Jane, in Sybil’s third example, she didn’t say “highly distasteful.” She said, “high profile.” You see, I didn’t think I had written something “highly distasteful,” or even “extreme.” I thought I had written something beautiful—raw and explicit, but beautiful.


      "Further for Ms. V to write that she didn't expect this type of response also seems a bit ridiculous. Her book was filled with extreme and provocative sex scenes (sex while breastfeeding?). Of course, there was going to be negative responses."


      But Jane, your awful client clearly surprised you with her rant. It seems a bit ridiculous that you didn’t expect it. I mean she had fired two sets of lawyers, and was difficult to you for almost a year. Of course she was going to be awful.

      So, tell me, does my saying that to you now change the fact that she managed to “hurt” and “embarrass” you? Does it change the fact that you needed to learn from your experience with her, and beware in the future of taking on clients who have a history of firing their lawyers? Does it tell you anything, Jane, that you don’t already know by now? No, I don’t think it does—because it’s rather after the fact, isn’t it?

      But I don’t think your incident with this horrid client is really analogous anyway. Not because she wasn’t awful to you—she obviously was and I’m glad you moved on from it so successfully—but because, when this happened, you were clearly an experienced lawyer, with the support of a respected firm behind you. This client was difficult and your firm knew it. Her rant was public and over-the-top, hence it said more about her than you. –But, giving you this example, would you, I wonder, have handled it so well if it had happened to you when you were a rookie lawyer, standing alone, with no reputation, and working your first case? Was there ever a time in your early professional life when you dropped the ball, or handled something badly?

      We all have to learn, Jane, and we all make mistakes. I never “blamed” my readers. Quite the contrary, I have apologized to my readers. And I have taken full responsibility for my embarrassing lapse in creative confidence. If you want to refuse to “understand” that, or accept that, then okay. But I hope that when you undertake something new, and you’re less than perfect at it, that people are more “understanding” of you then you have been of me. Best wishes, and I’ll see ya in the jungle, Lisa



      Okay, and will someone please tell me what the big deal is with sex while breastfeeding? Why is that so shocking? Sex made the baby, and it’s not as if the baby knows what’s going on. I think it’s weird that people think it’s weird. Sorry, that’s off topic. Forget I asked.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/12/2006 01:43:00 AM  

    30. "...because honestly-- it's a romance novel, not something advocating the end of civilization."


      *lol* so true, Caroline!
      Good luck with your work, Lisa

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/12/2006 01:50:00 AM  

    31. Negative mail is unpleasant. It's also a reader's or reviewer's right to write about a book they didn't care for. We who write them learn to deal.

      Hate mail is horrible, and it's personal and can, in fact, be a little bit scary.

      I've been damned to a fiery hell countless times in hate mail. This isn't a comment on my work, but a judgmental finger (and a whacky one) pointed at me. I've been accused of all manner of sins and crimes over the years. Mostly, I've learned to be amused or just baffled by the viciousness of some individuals. And if their rants push my creepy button, I turn the mail over to my publisher's legal department.

      Negative mail can hurt your feelings--but most of us get over that with a bit of time and experience. Hate mail's a different animal, and can leave you shaken.

      By Anonymous Nora Roberts, at 11/12/2006 06:48:00 AM  

    32. hey, I do have something to say after all. Bam seems to give bad reviews to books written by people who turn out to be incredibly good sports--and a few of them are putting out their first books, too. (those are the hardest to watch get trashed.) Kimberly and Wiley are examples of some class acts. I read their responses and think they deserve wider readership just because they are so cool.

      However I don't read hissy fits by authors and think they should get punished--except if they keep up the ranting.

      This is not based on any kind of intellectual process, mind you.

      By Blogger Kate R, at 11/12/2006 06:37:00 PM  

    33. (and I'd rather get hate mail than a bad review.)

      By Blogger Kate R, at 11/12/2006 06:38:00 PM  

    34. ...making a note to read Kimberly and Wiley...

      Wow, Kate, I love a good hissy fit. They can be so entertaining--not every day, mind you--but a few times a year I'm up for a good one. ;-)

      I'm curious, when you got your bad review, was it for the same book that garnered the hate mail? And why did the bad review bother you more? Because it was public? I'm so sorry that happened to you, by the way.

      Ciao,
      Lisa

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/12/2006 09:47:00 PM  

    35. Wow, Syb--your questions have inspired so much comment. It's been great to read the opinions of readers, and the thoughts and experiences of so many authors, from the rookies to the ultra seasoned professionals.

      Nice job, doll... Lisa

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/12/2006 10:45:00 PM  

    36. "But don’t try to tell me my answer is wrong, or silly, or that it should have been other than it is. It’s my answer, not yours."

      I didn't mean you, Syb. I meant you/general you. :-) Lisa

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/13/2006 12:42:00 PM  

    37. I would never send an author hate mail. Even if I think a book is really bad I wouldn't do it. It seems like a waste of time and I wouldn't like it if someone did that to me. People should live by the golden rule.

      By Anonymous Mandy, at 11/13/2006 04:28:00 PM  

    38. After reading a lot of the posts at AAR, I was ready to be p*ssed off at VAldez. But now that I actually read her explantation, I can't be. She took responsibility and she said she was sorry. That's good enough for me.

      I agree with her comments on being a professional too. I own my own business and I made a lot of mistakes at first. No one's perfect, and sh*t happens. Sounds like she worked it out.

      Sometimes I've wanted to tell an author her book was crap. But I never did it.

      By Anonymous Charleen, at 11/13/2006 05:49:00 PM  

    39. Brava, Ms. Valdez!

      I'll read your hissy fits anytime. Take it easy, Sharon

      By Anonymous Sharon, at 11/14/2006 04:11:00 PM  

    40. I'm a little late in the conversation, sorry Sybil, and I'm not going to comment on the specific situation as I don't know what exactly happened, but I can comment from the reviewer perspective as I was one for 2 yrs.

      I have read many books that just plain suck, that make me think "What the hell was this person thinking" and then I have to try and write a professional review when all I really wanted to say was, "this is Porn on paper and it stinks..."

      Now that I'm an author and editor, I try to keep my criticism constructive because I know what it feels like to have someone say your book is less than stellar.

      As far as responding to hate mail or public rants, it's hard not to, it seems like a personal attack, but one thing to keep in perspective, is these people that do this don't know you. They think they know you because of your book, but not really, so even though your book maybe your heart and soul, it's not really, so think on that before you respond.

      By Blogger Tina, at 11/15/2006 01:20:00 PM  

    41. Sybil, I have enjoyed this thread. Good questions and great answers. I don't think we'll ever understand what drives a person to write cruel or hateful mail. It's just a mindset that's . . . set to mean, I guess.

      I had someone suggest to me that I amble on over to TMZ.com--me being a mad thing for entertainment news--and what I found there in the comment section following the news *snippets* really shocked me. I never knew so many people could get so mean, angry and downright foul about certain celebrities. After reading a few, I decided, as authors, we get off pretty easy.

      Again, great thread,
      EC Sheedy

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/16/2006 12:20:00 AM  

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