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Stay on the Porch: Don't engage!

At the start of my writing career, I was fortunate enough to have experienced authors and small indie publishers take me under their wings and mentor me. They taught me valuable lessons I adhere to today. I'd like to share a few.



Rule #1: Stay on the Porch. This rule was about reviews left for my books on Amazon and other distributor sites. When you put something out for public consumption, you're not always going to like the feedback you receive. I was told no matter whether the review was good or bad, do not respond. Responding to negative reviews only makes the author look bad to readers.

Let's be honest. There are malicious people in this world. People who never learned the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. Belittle someone's book makes them feel good about themselves. Some reviewers make negative comments about the author instead of centering their comments on the book itself. There are all types of people in this world, and when you work in the public arena, eventually you'll have encounters with the less desirable ones.

It's hard not to jump in there and defend yourself or your book baby. Sometimes, as an author, you have questions and may want clarification so you know how to improve your craft. Don't ask. If the reviewer wanted to discuss the book with you, they would have emailed you.

I'd prefer an honest review, even if the reader didn't like my story. What I don't like are reviews that make me question if they read my book (character's names are wrong, etc), reviews left for my book that's clearly advertising another author's work, and reviews that summarize my whole book, leaving nothing for new readers to discover. Even so, I've learned to grit my teeth and bear it because it's part of the publishing landscape.



Rule #2: Authors Behaving Badly. The publishing world is a small one. I learned that right away. Publishers, editors, literary agents, distributors, etc. all know each other and they talk. With social media being as huge as it is, seeking an agent or a book contract is just like job hunting, but instead of employment references these entities view your public profile.

"But I'm an Indie author and have no intention of going the traditionally published route," you may be saying. Ditto for me, too, but that's even more of a reason for me to be as professional as possible with my public profile. A decade ago, the worst thing an author had to worry about was a 1-star review. Now, we have readers banding together to trash your book, your profile, and destroy your business reputation all because they didn't like something you posted online. It's savage out here in these publishing streets. Sometimes the best thing you can do as an author is stay in your writing cave and only come out when absolutely necessary.

For more examples of authors behaving badly, read this interesting article: https://literary-agents.com/authors-behaving-badly/



Rule #3: Keep Your Personal Life Personal. Whew, chile, this one right here! Look, I'm Southern and Black, and for a time in my life, I was on public assistance. Nobody gets up in your business like the government, except maybe readers fangirling over their favorite authors. The first time a reader wanted to know about my personal life, I was like, "Why? What business is it of yours?" I wasn't rude enough to say it aloud, but I sure thought it. Part of it is the generation in which I was raised (Gen-X), and the other part is simply my natural reticence.

When I became active on social media, I had to learn how to balance my public persona with my private life. I still struggle, but I think I've found a happy medium. I rarely, if ever, share my political beliefs. I'm choosy about with whom I share my faith. Not because I'm ashamed of either but because I know they're hot buttons for some. Readers would rather hear about my sex life than my faith, and I don't talk about that either. Instead, I occasionally discuss my day job, my family, and my health.

When I see posts on TikTok and Facebook exposing people's ignorance or entitlement, it's so hard not to jump in and comment. Excruciating, at times, but I know no good will come of it. My intent might be to educate the person, but most often, my blunt way of speaking will offend either the poster or someone else who read the post. Instead, I chant under my breath, "That's their profile. They can post whatever they want. Keep scrolling." The few times I've given into the temptation the results weren't worth it. Maintaining my peace is more valuable to me than putting in my two cents, which is about all unasked for opinions are worth.

What things dig under your skin and make it difficult for you to remain silent? Leave me a comment in the comment section so I know I'm not alone.

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