I'm not much of a reality TV watcher, although I've been following Survivor this past season, and my sister's family religiously watches American Idol, so while I've been staying with them I've been getting a full dose of the show.
And it got me thinking. Tonight, I watched as Kristy Lee Cook was voted off the show. Simon hadn't had high praise for either of the bottom two. He'd called Kristy's performance whiny and said that Brooke's was like ordering a hamburger and getting a bun with no meat. Ouch.
Here's where authors and singers are alike: scrutiny is part of our reality. While you have to work hard, hone your craft, learn the business to make it in music or in publishing, all you need is a mouth and a willingness to state your opinion to be a critic. You can go on amazon and rank our books and albums, or on forums and blogs and share your views with all who'll listen.
And here's where authors and singers are different: authors don't have to stand on a stage and get that kind of criticism thrown in their face, and take it publicly.
I'm starting to think that authors should be required to watch American Idol and Survivor. Really. Every time you think about throwing yourself a pity party because you got a bad amazon review, start thinking about how harsh it would be to stand on a stage and be criticized in front of millions.
I'm not saying that I think it's easy to get bad reviews. In fact, I know it sucks. But what I am saying is that if we put it in perspective, we can at least appreciate that it could be worse. We can take our lumps in the privacy of our own home 99% of the time, and don't have to put on a brave face when we feel like crying.
Another thing I've learned from American Idol: opinions are subjective. Okay, I didn't learn it from the show, but it's been drilled home. Look at Jason's performance. Randy was not down with it this week, but Paula and Simon loved it. (And how often does that happen? Randy's giving the thumbs down while Simon's giving compliments?) In fact, with most of the contestants there was a difference of opinion. Syesha is a great example. She was fantastic this week, absolutely impressive if you ask me... but Simon didn't think so.
Then I think about Survivor, and last week's tribal council. I think about what Alexis said about Eliza's social game, and there's a lot to take from that. Not everyone finds it easy to gel with large groups. Some players who may be strong and smart end up being eliminated early because they can't navigate the political waters or form alliances with the right people.
What does that have to do with the bad review author blues? It goes back to that point, that opinions are subjective. We all have different personalities, different tastes. If you're like me, you've had a moment when you've just seen someone and known instantly you'll get along, or that you won't. We connect to people in different ways.
It's the same with art. Music and writing... these are things that can be taken on two levels. I can appreciate that some contestants on American Idol can sing, and sing incredibly well, but their style isn't to my taste. I can respect their technical ability, but I won't be out buying their album. I'm not saying they can't sing; I'm saying what they sing and how they sing it isn't a style I prefer.
Does that sting? Yes. As an author, I appreciate that it stings, but we do have to come to terms with that.
I know as a reader, I wouldn't want someone stripping me of my right to like what I like, and I have to afford the same courtesy to others.
Now, amazon reviews are something that's been done to death. I don't want to go see my page filled with nasty one star reviews. I'll admit that... but I also trust in the intelligence of the majority of readers. If those nasty reviews are filled with personal jabs or unsubstantiated criticisms like "it sucks" and "can't write to save her life" or things of that nature, most readers will see them for what they are.
And in my experience, most people I know want to make up their own mind about books, and don't trust in the random comments of a stranger online to decide what they will and will not buy.
For those of you who haven't heard already, an author went to war with a reviewer on Amazon. I learned via Tess's blog, which gives more of the details about the situation. It gelled with what I'd already been thinking about during American Idol, because I think the author went way too far. Essentially, the author assaulted that individual's right to have an opinion.
Like I already said, I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt. It's one thing to vent on your blog and say you feel a review comes off as a personal attack. Let your readers decide for themselves, and if they agree you will have their full support.
But I don't care what this person said in their review - bringing their children into it is not acceptable. I've written about internet bullying before, but this is a particularly disturbing case to me. It seems as though this author has made what I'd consider to be threats, and if I was that reviewer I might consider my legal options.
After all, if a review really is "abuse" why not file a civil suit against the reviewer?
Unless, of course, you know the truth that the rest of us can plainly see - you're a bully, using legitimate disappointment to justify extremely inappropriate behaviour.
(Now watch me get my first bad review tomorrow after posting this, so I have to eat some crow. Meanwhile, if you want to read the latest wonderful review, check out Lenore Howard's take on Fresh Fiction.)