Posted in All Articles, Dealing with haters

Blunt truth: readers don’t respect authors anymore. We authors need to get our power back: here’s how to do it.

Today, I have for you another article about the rocky relationship between the author and their readers.

I got the idea after one of my Twitter friends unpublished her book so as to protect it from an avalanche of negative reviews written by a “professional” ARC service.

If reviewers discourage your from writing, and you dread checking your books on Amazon and Goodreads for fear of cruel reviews, please know that you are not alone.

Now, let’s just stop being afraid and say the blunt truth aloud:

  • Readers don’t respect authors anymore.
  • Readers believe they have total superiority over an author’s destiny.
  • Readers feel unpunished.

How do I know that these things are true? Well, let’s take a look at the following situations that every indie author out there is facing:

  • Readers want to read books for free, or 0.99$ – which is an absurd price, if we take into consideration the fact how much money, time and effort it takes to write and publish a book.
  • Readers expect authors to provide free book copies AND PAY FOR THEIR REVIEW. Of course, the positive outcome of this transaction is not guaranteed.
  • Readers have no boundaries whatsoever when it comes to giving negative feedback – their reviews are heavily subjective, dependent on the mood, and often cruel.
  • Readers do not seek to point out the good in what they are reading – on the contrary, it’s like they are scanning the books they receive for what’s wrong in them.
  • Readers consider themselves “ultimate critics” and decide what authors should and shouldn’t write (or publish). They go even as far to point out the “things to correct” in their reviews and wait for the author to apply their advice.

Because of these (and other) things, many authors feel furious, vengeful, depressed and hopeless.

They are tired of working for ungrateful people who can only shit on everyone else’s work.

They are tired of being trash-talked, disrespected, invalidated.

They are tired of hearing that their skills are not good enough, just as tired they are of always selling short the fruits of their hard work.

I have a few theories why readers don’t respect authors anymore:

  • Young teens in junior high schools are encouraged to criticise famous authors such as William Shakespeare during classes. If they aren’t taught to respect the authors of the classics, they definitely won’t respect modern authors (especially indies).
  • Readers know that nowadays everyone can be published and feel excused to criticize all books they didn’t like. 
  • The internet is changing, but it had allowed anonimity for way too long, which had given trolls, haters a feeling of impunity.
  • Instead of advertising their books as luxury goods, authors constantly lower their prices, offer free reads, and beg everyone to take a look at their work.
  • Very often, readers who blog are more popular than authors who have just published. Since lots of authors want a shortcut to fame, they beg bloggers to let them show up on their stage. Bloggers learn that they have power, and they start overusing it.
  • Amazon, Goodreads and other websites do not allow for removal of demeaning reviews posted under published books. This means that these reviews will slowly become chained to the title, and a further description of what the title is about. This is giving the reader the feeling that they can deter the author’s future readers, and it gives them a sense of power.

Now, let’s drop this subject to talk for a moment about teachers’ strike in Poland. It started a few days ago and hasn’t been solved yet. On the first or second day, I don’t remember anymore, only 4 schools in the whole country remained open. The teachers demanded better wages and more respect. They refused to organize final exams, and now everyone who had disrespected them – the students, the parents, the politicians – are in big trouble.

What this is teaching me, my dear authors, is that we should do the exact same thing. Go on strike to regain our power. Here are 10 ways, how we, authors, can do it:

  1. Stop giving out free copies. My arch enemy has told me once, people don’t respect things that they get for free, so, I don’t give anything out for free. I was surprised by that attitude, but now I think that she was right.
  2. Stop pricing your books below 2.99$. 2.99$ is not the end of the world, and the people who want to buy your book will buy it nevertheless. Don’t be a theater that lets just everyone in. Make the tickets expensive, so only the most faithful type of audience can watch the performance.
  3. Stop treating reviews as a must-have marketing equipment for your book. Instead, write a very long description for the page on which it is sold. All readers check the description first. If it’s well written, it will charm your reader and they will make a decision to buy your book. When the reader is decided, the negative reviews aren’t going to deter them.
  4. Stop giving book bloggers so much importance. Celebrities don’t bribe fans to ask their autographs publicly, and they don’t beg journalists to write articles about them. Be like a celebrity. Don’t beg, bribe or pay people to write about your work. If your work is a high quality product, well positioned online and advertised in the right ways, it will get the target audience’s interest – even if there are no reviews under it at all (or if the reviews are negative).
  5. Temporarily unpublish your books if they are under severe attacks. When the page with your book is gone, haters won’t be able to leave any more reviews. This will show them their place: without your book, their mean comments are completely meaningless and wouldn’t even exist. After some time passes and things calm down, republish the book. If the damage is significant, consider deleting and republishing your book under a different title. Problem solved.
  6. Block people from writing comments on your website / blog and YouTube channel and delete the contact form from your website. Don’t let just anyone contact you this easily. Start creating barriers between you and your audience. If they want to get to know you, they will have to buy your books. Be mysterious and available only for the chosen ones. The publisher dying to offer you a 1 billion dollar contract happens as often as Halley’s Comet, and if he wants to find you, he will, even without all doors and windows of your palace wide open. Don’t let the flies to come in.
  7. Build a significant social media presence. If a book blogger can do it, you can do it as well. I’ll tell you more: go to book bloggers’ Twitter accounts and start adding their followers.You will be surprised how many follow back because they are genuinely interested in your stuff.
  8. Show everyone how powerful you actually are. Appearing as powerful, when you are broke and broken, is a book-size topic – and I am an expert on it (haha). To make a long story short: post about your successes and about how much you are enjoying yourself. One of my favorite Law Of Attraction coaches, Melody Fletcher, had once recorded a video where she told anyone interested how she has it all. That feeling in your chest a moment ago – was it a pang of jealousy? Do it to those that don’t respect you. Got a bad review? Post a stock photo of a bright swimming pool with the appropriate caption. Voila! The blogger who had written a bad review is probably rotting in front of their computer, but you are (at least mentally) in Copacabana, enjoying your vegan smoothie.
  9. Defiantly keep doing your thing in spite of what everyone else says. Our parents, teachers and bosses disciplined us to do the things that they wanted us to do. We were conditioned for years to listen to what others say and respond to it in a positive way. While we should be considerate of other people’s needs and wants so we can have a peaceful existence in the society, we aren’t required to follow advice coming from people who don’t have our best interests at heart. Defiantly keep doing your thing.
  10. Don’t forget your other blessings. Yes, it is upsetting to see someone trash your work and the surname with which you are signing it. However, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy a person. Think about all the people that you have helped. About all these people who have told you an honest and heartfelt thank you. Maybe you donate to charity, maybe you helped your suicidal friend get through another night, maybe you gave your last money to someone who needed it. I don’t know. All I know is, writing a bad book is not a crime, and being trash-talked by mean readers speaks volumes about who they are, not about who you are.

We authors need to get rid of the need to please and impress every single reader. This is a task that we can’t fulfill, no matter how hard we try. There are some writers who claim that maybe the negative reviews are right and we need to polish our books. I will never put my signature under that. We authors publish our books only when we are 100% ready that everything about them is right. And most of the time, we get bad reviews because the book wasn’t written according to someone’s private expectations – which is definitely not fair. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to rewrite my books over and over again so as to please every hater out there.

We must learn to love ourselves and our craft, and stay faithful to it. To create something is a miracle. So let’s keep creating – and leave them all behind.

I hope this article has helped you feel a bit better. Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Dealing with haters, Writer's problems

What to do when your readers and reviewers discourage you from writing?

If you follow Always Inspired Writing regularly, you surely know that I’m rather for writing for audience rather than against it. The reason for it is, I believe that if we want to make it as full time authors or bestselling authors (which I guess is everyone’s dream), we need to adhere to readers’ expectations.

Yet, if you have published more than just one work, you will quickly notice that pleasing readers is nearly impossible. There is always going to be one, or two, or even more readers who aren’t going to be pleased with what you wrote. Of course, as Andrea Schulman pointed out in one of her Law Of Attraction videos, seeking problems is going to make people find them.

In general, reviewers enjoy “being brutally honest”. The review is not about you or about your work, but about them. The reviewer is usually not a popular person. Shitting on you and your work is often the only way to make them shine. Reviewers are selfish and think about themselves; they seldom think about what the consequences of their “brutally honest” reviews have on the author, their feelings, reputation and sales.

Because reviewers don’t care about the author, we authors also shouldn’t care about the feedback that they leave either. Yet, we do. And this makes us:

  • hate ourselves,
  • hate what we write,
  • look down on our skills,
  • invalidate our progress,
  • invalidate our writing journey,
  • undermine our writing career,
  • get severe writer’s block or give up writing alltogether (in worst cases).

Taking this into consideration, you might ask me, Maria, do you still believe that we should be writing for the audience?

My answer is, yes and no.

Yes, because we need to adhere to some rules if we want to make sales. These rules are e.g. writing according to our chosen genre or writing with our target audience in mind.

No, because writing is about us. We haven’t become writers to read someone’s demeaning comments and get depressed. We have become writers to tell our stories. To whom? To ourselves.

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really — I was alive,” said Walter White at the end of season 5 of Breaking Bad. And if you think about it, it’s what every writer could say as well.

When you focus too much on what readers think about your writing, you need to take a step away. Think about a story that you have yet to write, and are excited about. Feel the passion. Let your characters speak to you. I like thinking about my characters as of real people that are sitting in the waiting room, waiting to play on the stage of your novel. Your characters are your team – and not your reviewers.

When the outside world drags you down by saying this story shouldn’t be like this, or that, find the power to say no.

You are the creator of the story and you are the only one to decide if it is or isn’t perfect. Sometimes, negative feedback might make you reconsider and fix some things. That’s ok. But it’s also ok to reject negative feedback when it brings nothing.

If your perpetually unhappy readers and their highly critical comments bring you down, give yourself the permission to tell them fuck you in your thoughts. I know that the negative feedback affects your sales and your reputation, but you can still prevent it from damaging your self esteem. And you need your self esteem to get up and become victorious in the end.

I would like to leave you with a song at the end of this post, it’s “Save Rock and Roll” by Fall Out Boy. If you interpret the lyrics in the context of being a discouraged author, this song can make you feel better.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Dealing with haters

How to get over haters and believe in your book again?

Winston Churchill said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

You don’t have haters because you are a loser. You have haters because you are the opposite of a loser.

You have them because you are doing something amazing, pushing your boundaries and showing up on the writing ring every single time.

Here is my story, what I have learned about hatred and how I healed from it and continued my writing journey regardless of what everyone thinks about me.

When I was 21, I signed the contract with a (quite unfamous, as it later turned out) publishing house for indie authors. My first book was released in April 2015, in my country (Poland). I felt accomplished, proud and happy. Then, haters started rolling in. They insulted me, my work and even the publishing house I’ve chosen.

In the beginning, I sought reviews as a form of validation. I didn’t trust I was a good writer so I needed someone else to tell me this. And when I heard the opposite – I cried. I felt angry, misunderstood, unappreciated and invalidated as an author. It really sucked.

Later, I discovered that some of my hate reviews were written by a person whom I considered to be one of my best friends. It was an incredible shock. I didn’t know what to feel. I was dealing with three things at once: personal betrayal, lack of professionalism in writing community and hatred. Because I knew who this person was and where they lived, I sued them for defamation. That particular case of hatred was stopped, but in general, my book keeps being trash talked in Poland up to this day.

Do I care? No.

Was it easy, to stop caring? No. But I succeeded. And today, I am sharing with you how I did it; step by step.

  1. I decided to take some time off from writing and I focused on what was going well in my life. I had an amazing relationship, I was studying in the country of my choice (China), and I spent my weekends sightseeing with people from all around the globe. I enjoyed everything. And I developed the attitude: “Maybe I’m not an amazing my writer, but who cares – I’m still a happy person, and this is what matters the most.”
  2. I understood that people’s opinions on art will always be very subjective. Take “50 shades of Grey”. Some people will be positive about this book, others will be negative. Who is right? Who is wrong? It’s not easy to say. Art is not a mathematical problem. Yes, there are literary critics who can judge the value of the book in the cultural context of a society. But most readers are plain Mias and Michaels who read for fun. Sometimes they like what they read, sometimes they don’t. It’s natural. (Related article: My friend wrote a mediocre book. Should I give them 5 stars just because I like them?)
  3. I understood the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. I wrote more about it in here: When constructive criticism becomes destructive: is your beta reader a bully?.
  4. I understood that hatred is worthless as an opinion and hence, I don’t have to care about it. Receiving hatred is not different from being bullied. I used to be bullied at school. It taught me that people are against me, that I am weak and can’t defend myself. Were those valuable life lessons that enhanced the quality of my day-to-day existence? Not at all. After I graduated, I realized that many people are positive about me, that I can cope with life quite well and also defend myself – if I need to. You are not required to take hatred to heart and think about it, and let it affect you. You can give yourself permission to let it go. If it makes you feel bad, don’t even read it. “Never believe a prediction that doesn’t empower you,” said Sean Stephenson.
  5. I spent time alone with my novel. First of all, I re-read it and let myself fall in love with it all over again. Then, I used all the skills and knowledge I had, to figure out how I could improve this text. I deleted 20-30 pages, simplified unnecessarily complicated paragraphs, rewrote some scenes and decided to get a different cover (still in progress). I made my novel even better than it was before hatred and I planned to re-publish it somewhere else as well as do proper marketing. By designing a better future for this book I felt I was making up for its sad past. And even though it’s still a work in progress right now, the only idea has made me feel much better.
  6. I had a visualization where I talked to my characters about the problem. When you can’t feel the love of your readers, feel the love of your characters. Hang out with them in one of your novel settings and let them comment on the situation instead of you. I assure you that it will make you feel better instantly. I have a visualization to this epic cover of “Umbrella” by Rihanna. “Umbrella” is not really my favorite song, but when I was starting to write “Mermaid Princess Amelia & The Lost Symphony” (Polish Title: “Dokąd teraz popłynę?”), “Umbrella” was played in every radio. It reminds me of the beginnings, and how much love I had for Amelia (the protagonist). When I feel discouraged, I see myself all alone, on a rainy night in a sci-fi cityscape; then, Amelia walks to me and opens an umbrella above my head, saying: “you had my heart, and we’ll never be worlds apart” (part of the lyrics). The bond that I have with Amelia is much stronger than any hater’s words, so it helps me.
  7. I had a visualization where I sat with my past writer self and encouraged her. If you were about to talk to your inner writer, who is feeling completely broken right now, what would you tell them? I never blamed myself for writing poorly. I did my best at the time. I am always doing my best.
  8. I realized that the hatred wasn’t going to stop me from what I love. My love for writing, together with my desire to share the worlds I’ve created, is like an eternal fire in my heart – it will never stop. I told myself: “I’ve overcome so many obstacles on my writing journey and I am not going to let a bunch of haters stop me from living my purpose”.
  9. I asked successful writers for encouragement. A truly successful writer will always try to help you as much as they can. They can suggest you ways which you wouldn’t even think about. (Related articles: What to do if you feel lonely as a writer? and Why dealing with social anxiety is so important if you are an author). If you’ve been hated and don’t have anyone to talk to, you can always send me an e-mail.
  10. I ventured to build a better future for myself as a writer. I started researching the ways of successful writers, especially – Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins. I learned how to build an audience, how to get reviews as an unknown author, how to self-publish abroad. I realized that people will buy anything – if it’s well marketed. And so, I started learning marketing.

And here is what happened less than a year later: the number of my followers rocketed from 5 to over 8000, my newest novel got reblogged 70 times, and I started receiving compliments from strangers. Now, when I see I get negative reviews or hatred, I just shrug my shoulders. I really don’t care about this anymore. Because I know my worth. I know what I am doing. I believe in my success.

Haters gonna hate.

But writers… Writers gonna write.

Don’t let anyone stop you from what you truly want from your life.

Stay inspired!

* * *

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Posted in Dealing with haters

20 things to tell yourself after receiving a bad review, to feel better

Bad reviews happen. And they can’t always be deleted. It’s easy to feel disheartened and depressed when you receive another one or two star rating, especially if it’s going in pair with poor sales. Before I write you an article on what can be done to reverse the bad luck of a particular work, here are 20 things to tell yourself after receiving a bad review, to feel better.

  1. “I wrote this book for myself and I will always love it, no matter what others say about it. I saw value in the ideas I had, so I wrote and published them.”
  2. “I did my absolute best when working on this book. Only I know how much I really sweated writing it. I refuse to feel ashamed and regretful because of a bad review. I am proud of my work, no matter how flawed it is.”
  3. “Even if there is anything in this book that should be corrected, I had the right to make that mistake. I am human, and I am allowed to be wrong at times or do things less than perfectly.”
  4. “I work on my writing craft all the time. I am wiser than my younger self who was writing this book. I know that my next book is going to be so much better than the first one.”
  5. “This is not going to stop me from writing. I will always be a writer, regardless of what kind of feedback I receive about my books. I can choose to do what I want in my life, and if my desire is to write, I will write.”
  6. “I am hurt and frustrated, and it’s normal that I feel this way. A lot of authors are going through the same experience. I am not alone.”
  7. “Everyone has fans and anti-fans. Businesses, services, products, pop-stars… I live in a world of polarity. There is good, but there is also bad.”
  8. “People have the right to express their opinions, no matter how negative they are. This is the freedom of speech, for which I am grateful.”
  9. “Even if those people really didn’t like my book, there is a chance that someone else will. I must not lose the faith.”
  10. “My most faithful readers will read, love and promote my books no matter what haters say. The negative reviews don’t cross out the positive ones.”
  11. “I can choose not to take the negative reviews to heart. They are only opinions written by readers. I have been working on writing craft for so long. I have the right to reject advice if it comes from a person that doesn’t seem to have my best interest at heart.”
  12. “I can choose not to read the negative reviews at all. There are different ways in which I can learn how to improve writing rather than read things that make me sad.”
  13. “A wide range of ratings, from five to one star, is making my book appear more real.”
  14. “Readers can only comment on me through the prism of my book. This book is just a fraction of the person that I am. Even if I get criticized, it’s just about this one aspect of my life, and not about who I am in general.”
  15. “In this moment when I feel so unloved, I should do something for myself, that will cheer me up. What would cheer me up in this particular moment?”
  16. “In this moment, when I feel like nobody believes in me, I must stand up for myself and for my dream.”
  17. “I can turn this situation around my writing a review about my book on my own, where I myself comment on strengths and weaknesses. I can turn out to target audience bloggers and ask them for reviews. I can gather more followers. (If self published:) I can withdraw the book, correct it and release it again, so that I don’t have any more doubts about it.”
  18. “My characters will always stand up for me. If I imagine them standing in front of me to protect me, and laughing at the haters, I will feel better. My characters are grateful to me that I create them and they will never abandon me.”
  19. “In the long run, this situation only going to motivate me. I will write a book which will astonish everyone, and publish. Just watch me. I won’t give up!”
  20. “The sooner I focus back on my writing routine, the better. I can’t allow myself to be distracted by someone’s negative comments. Staying sad and doubting myself is not going to help me become a better writers anyways. I must focus on what I am doing now so that I can build a better future for myself.”

Stay inspired.