Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mean People (or, "Why do people gotta be so mean, y'all?")

Before getting into this, my very first blog post (gulp), I'd like to say, "Hello! Uh... Welcome to my blog. I guess." Maybe you're wondering, "Why 'The Reluctant Blogger'?" Because I scoff at the notion that my thoughts and ideas in "essay" form could be interesting or insightful.

So why do it? Because I've been told by people much smarter than me that it's good "exposure" for a writer to have a blog and that people do want to know what fiction writers are thinking and doing between book publications. Okay, then. I'm trusting they know what they're talking about. Actually, I enjoy reading blogs by the authors I like, so it stands to reason that people who read my books would want to read my blog posts.

Oh, crap. I'm already bored with myself. Maybe I should just get on with the topic I've chosen for my first post, instead of explaining myself like a pathetic people-pleaser who needs your permission to start blogging.


Topic 1, in case you've forgotten during my rambling: Mean People (or, "Why do people gotta be so mean, y'all?")

I recently completed a two-day free Amazon promotion of one of my books (The Secret Keeper, which you should totally buy right now). It was hugely successful, and I catapulted to number one on the Amazon Free Contemporary Fiction List (brag, brag, brag; blah, blah, blah), which made me nearly pee my pants with excitement and turned me into a really annoying person to be around for a few days.

Seriously, you would have thought that I won the Pulitzer, or that people were actually paying to download my book. I sat at my laptop and hit "refresh" repeatedly for nearly the entire weekend, taking a break for a family birthday party, an evening out with friends, and church on Sunday morning. Notice I didn't say I broke for showering, eating, using the bathroom, or taking care of my children. Those were non-essential tasks that I, as a newly very important person, could delegate to someone else or eschew altogether. (Yes, "eschew." I am a writer and use fancy words.) Between "refresh" hits, I also took multiple screen shots of the Amazon pages on which my book appeared (see above) and flooded my Facebook page with obnoxious posts about how happy I was.

Where was I going with this?????? Oh, yes! My short-lived brush with success and someone's evil attempt to kill my happiness.

Anyway, while people were downloading (again, for FREE) my book at a crazy rate, I noticed that there was already a new review posted. I also noticed that my previous stellar record of 5-star reviews by the people who had been brave enough to read the work of an unknown like me and had actually taken the time to say they liked it (how nice!) was now marred.

What's this? I thought. Not everyone loves me? What can I do to fix this?

I clicked on the link, bracing myself for the kind of criticism I learned to take in college writing classes a few (ahem) years ago. However, the first sentence of the ONE-STAR review said:

"I have not read this book."


From this point on, I'm not quoting exactly, because believe it or not, I didn't take a screen shot of this review, and it's no longer up on my page (more about that to come). Reading on, the "reviewer" said she was skeptical of my reviews and thought that I either wrote them myself or had my friends and family write them for me. She also said it was pathetic that I had to resort to such [alleged] tactics. There was also a shot at the fact that my book was FREE, so it must not be good. After criticizing my work, even though she hadn't read it, and attacking me, she went on to insult the people who had generously spent their time writing reviews after reading my books. She said she checked their other reviews, and my books were the only ones reviewed by the majority of them, with the exception of someone who also reviewed a children's book, which she then implied made that person a low-quality reviewer. Then she went on to say that if she was wrong about my reviews/reviewers/me, she apologized. And she graciously offered to actually read my book and post another review or revise the original one (it wasn't really clear which she planned to do) when she was finished with it.

At this point in my reading, my blood pressure was pretty high. I could tell by my distorted vision, my shaking hands, and the fact that my actual thoughts sounded like, Wha?! Who...? I mean... Really? What? Why? I sounded like a newbie journalist on crack. I mean, I was prepared for someone to say, "Ick. Not my cup of tea." Or... I don't know. I don't want to put bad review ideas in anyone's head, so I won't say what the reviewer in my brain says when I'm not feeling very confident. Suffice it to say, I was ready for a legitimately bad review of the book, but an attack on me, personally, and my five fans? I was outraged, even though part of me was laughing at the person's bass-ackwards "review."

But wait! There's more.

Scrolling down, I saw that there were already some comments in response to the "review." Amazon customers who hadn't yet read my book but had read the reviews to see if it was worth the price of the download (again, FREE) were lambasting this person and calling her all the things (and then some) that I had called her in my head, once I had figured out how to think in obscenities again. Actually, no one used any obscenities (pity), but one person did say she wanted the three minutes back that it took her to read the most ridiculous "non-review" she'd ever read. Ha!!! That person who stuck up for me, a total stranger, as far as I know, is my hero.

Now I had a decision to make. Did I respond to this mean person and her accusations and criticisms? Or did I do what I've done in the past when someone unfairly attacks me:  turn the other cheek, hiding behind "classy" but really just being a scaredy cat who hates confrontation? I stewed about it for longer than I care to admit.

Eventually, I drafted in my head the perfect response. I'll share it with you now:

I, Brea Brown, the author of this book, posting this comment as myself (as I always would, although this is the first time I've posted a comment to a review on my own Amazon page), accept your half-apology for accusing me of fabricating and/or having other people fabricate reviews about my book. People read my books because they like them. People write reviews about my books--and this book in particular--because they enjoyed the book and want others to enjoy it. I hope you enjoy it, too. No need to correct your original review. Have a great weekend!

I was really proud of this response. For once, I was sticking up for myself. Go me!!! But I didn't allow myself the indulgence of diving into her remarks about the price of my book or how I should vet all my reviewers to make sure they don't know me or like me and that they have plenty of other reviews under their belts so that other customers can trust what they say. No. It was enough to simply let her know that I didn't appreciate her accusations and that when you make what I consider to be a serious charge like that, there are consequences:  namely, the author has the right to set the record straight and call you out.

So, when I made the decision to post my response, I was interested to see the mean reviewer had replied to the people who were critical of her silly review. She said something to the effect of (again, not quoting directly), I said I haven't read the book but to be fair, I will read the book and give my opinion of it, and that if I'm wrong about the author making up her own reviews or having her family write them, then I'm sorry. I'm also sorry you [the other customers] don't approve of my use of the review system.

Well! In that case...

Yeah, I was still ticked off, since she repeated her completely unfounded claim that I made up my reviews. So, I typed out my response and hit "post."

An error message popped up.

Arrggggh! I retyped the entire thing and hit "post."

Same error message.

Noooo! This time, I retyped my comment, copied it (smart girl), and hit "post."

No dice.

What the &*@#$%!^???

So, I went back to my book's Amazon page... only to find out that the review had been taken down. Waaaah!

Not only was I deprived of my forum for posting my response to this witch, but other Amazon customers were deprived of her wisdom, her shining a bright light on the fact that reviews are opinions and can't be treated as cold, hard facts. Oh, man!

Since I'd already been accused of it once, I was tempted to sign in as a fake user so that I could re-post what I could remember of her review to lend some credibility to my heretofore too-complimentary reviews. For good measure, I was going to throw in some insults about my mom (incidentally, NOT one of the reviewers), because she's much too nice a person, and way too many people like her, so she needs to be knocked down a few pegs, too.

Oh, well. Maybe next time.


  1. Hello! I just wanted to say that I have NOT yet read your book, but came across it today on Amazon, downloaded it for my next read, and in looking to see what else you have written (since the Secret Keeper got such high ratings) came across this blog. This blog had me LOL'ing and I'm really looking forward to delving into your book. This blog was so cute, and I hope it's here to stay!! :) ~Melissa

  2. Thanks, Melissa! I haven't read your comment yet, but I'm sure when I do, I'll love it. ;)

  3. I read TSK and TSKC - so good! Can't wait for the third one. No pressure, but could you get on that? ;) (Kidding!) ~ Thanks for the good reads!! Waiting with baited breath to hear how life goes with baby Max!

    1. Glad you liked the books after you read them! Slow going on TSK III (title to be announced later). Real life--including my day job and sick kids--is sort of getting in the way. Darn it! I like life in TSK much better than real life. :(