all work and no playI have been an author since the 80’s and a professional one since the 90’s. I was never that bothered by how other authors conducted themselves. But now in the age of social media and blogs, authors have the ability to interact on a much more instantaneous and personal level with their audience and potential new readers.

I have to tell you, there are a lot of  current practices that I just don’t agree with. I am going to list my top five NO-NOs, and please don’t take it as anything other than my own personal observations and opinions. If you want to come across with any kind of professional air and you want to be taken seriously, it is my recommendation that you avoid the following:

The Review Exchange- This is number one on my list of NO-NOs. I am approached daily by authors who think we should review each other’s work. And if you are going to engage in this practice, at least try to find an author in the same genre as you. I don’t know how many times an author with a work totally out of my sphere of interest hits me up. This is a slippery slope. If someone praises your work but you can’t stand what they sent you in exchange and you are honest, you will have just made an enemy. And if you soften the review or praise it when you know it was bad, there goes a little of your soul and a lot of your credibility. I don’t publicly review or rate a lot of books (I don’t consider myself a book reviewer) but when I do, I am honest and when some of the writers in my circle review my work, so are they. There are beta-readers out there; people who will read and critique your work before it is published or sent out for consideration.  There are groups of them on Facebook. If you are fortunate enough to find an author interested in reading your work, ask for feedback, not a review.


Let’s Buy Each Other’s Book to Manipulate the Amazon Rankings- Now, this one is a HELL NO. Rankings on Amazon fluctuate all of the time. If your book has nose-dived into the basement, you are in good company. Often a book will come out, do what major business it is going to do, and then it will plummet. It happens. A better way to stimulate the numbers on your title is to offer price cuts or a limited freebie download (the two best features of the Amazon KDP program). Trying to bump your title with a back scratch is just a silly practice, folks. You want to be high in the numbers? Entice people to buy your book. Promote it. Using this artificial way to make your sales appear higher is like spitting in the ocean. There is no shelf life on most books, these days. What is currently swimming in the abyss might re-surge to a top 100 list with a handful of sales. Don’t be so anxious or worry if you aren’t always in the top.

(not so) Professional Animosity- Let me explain something to you: another author’s success is not your failure. If you remember nothing else I have said here today, commit that to memory. We are all on different journeys and we arrive when we arrive. You are not in a competition with anyone. Stephen King is not stealing your readers. There are many writers out there and we all try to grab an audience and build it. It is pointless to get angry when someone makes a little headway. If an author on your level or in your circle starts to build a little momentum and catch some interest, you should take this as a positive example that the little guy can still succeed if the talent and drive is there. We all get jealous, sure. But if your emotions drive you to try and tear the other guy down because, in your mind, pulling on that person means elevating yourself; you need help. Serious help. I have seen many authors bad-mouthing each other all over the Internet and it only makes them look awful. Look at the true professionals out there; the ones who have made it. They didn’t get where they are by holding pubic grudge matches with other authors and defecating on another’s work. They focused on their writing. Let your work speak for you. If you need to release some bile, do it with a close friend who knows, despite the occasional moment of weakness, that you are a good person who is only human. Authors who rant and rave publicly alienate potential readers. Be yourself, sure, but speak reasonably and maturely if you need to air a grievance. The world has enough assholes.

Let’s Talk About Bad Reviews- And here is one that I see ALL of the time: authors complaining about less than stellar reviews. I have seen rants which led me to a review that, honestly, seemed fair to me. Listen, not every bad review is an attempt to make you look bad by a shadowy organization that has everything to gain by your failure. And, sure, some bad reviews do come from people who want nothing more than to tear you down (see section above). You know what I do about a bad review? Nothing. I don’t cry. I don’t comment on it or engage the reviewer. I move on. And, take my word for it, if you try to defend yourself against unfair reviews, you are filling the Troll feeding trough. And they will come. Something else that needs addressing: 3 stars is not a bad rating/review. You are not going to bowl everyone over. If someone liked your story enough to give it three stars, don’t complain.

Just Give me the Good News- (Another HELL NO) If you are fortunate enough to earn a circle of beta-readers, take their opinions seriously. Don’t just look for a pat on the back. This is your advance screening, and the opportunity to fix things that may not work. Don’t engage readers simply to stroke your ego. Use this precious gift to improve your story. I saw an author once ask his readers not to point out any mistakes or typos, because he just wanted to know how the story worked. Never discourage your readers from pointing out mistakes. For those of you who can’t afford an editor (and even for those who can), this is crucial. I have seen mistakes float by several people and you can’t have too many eyes looking out for the errors. And don’t argue with your readers. Appreciate their feedback, whether you agree with it or not.

Well, the soap box is straining, so I am going to climb off of it before it breaks. Again, this is just how I see things and it is not a swipe at anyone. I think we forget that our main reason behind the keyboard is our love of writing. Don’t let anyone taint what you love to do and be happy with the successes, no matter how small they may seem, and take the failures as part of the process. And celebrate and brag about the good if you want; you’re entitled. There is very rarely an easy accomplishment in the world of publishing.

But most importantly: Be happy and enjoy this life that is really too short for all of the bullshit out there. And remember: real writers never stop writing. They just die.

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7 Responses to THE TOP FIVE AUTHOR NO-NOs and HELL NOs

  1. Thanks for taking the time to put this list together, Terry. There is a huge difference between working with someone who is a professional and someone who is a FB A-hole, trying to stir up controversy and arguments. I prefer a level headed professional to work with and honest opinions over kiss-ass reviews and opinions with ulterior motives. I always try to be honest and truthful in my dealings and hope I would get the same respect back.

  2. Graham Lench says:

    Great post Terry, and I agree with everything you say. I have had several poor reviews and at first they stung, but when I re-read my book they were also valid, leading me to make changes and improve my story. As an author we can be too close to our work and an outside opinion or review can be what we need to see the error of our ways.

  3. Sahara Foley says:

    Great post and I have to agree with each of your points. So many authors are scrambling around, trying to get noticed, get their books on the top 100 charts, they lose sight of what they are really writing for. The readers, not themselves. Thank you.

  4. Gloria says:

    Well said! I hope a lot of people read this and apply your wisdom. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  5. D.S. Ullery says:

    My take on feedback is essentially that it’s all a good thing..I tell people who are kind enough to beta read my work that as long as I don’t get “LOL sux” back as a feedback, I’m good with whatever honest opinion they have. Rich Young wrote me back after reading Afloat and pointed out that, based on how it was written at the time, he wasn’t entirely clear what was going on when the main character looked into the mirror..the version where that scene is more coherent is the direct result of his honesty. One other point you made that I wanted to touch on is this thing where an aspiring author allows envy or frustration to pervert their view of another writer to the point where they end up perceiving someone else’s success as some sort of slight or a personal failure. Ugh. I went through this exact thing this year to a certain degree and it’s a pretty sad set of circumstances (I my case it was part and parcel of why a friendship ended). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people that I never resent the success of other authors in my genre because the more authors we have out there succeeding – ESPECIALLY independent authors – the fresher the genre remains and the better it is for all of us. If someone does happen to resent me for any success I might achieve..well, tough shit. I’m not doing this to fail.

  6. Robin Dover says:

    Great post, Terry. Too many people stirring the pot, trying to sneak through backdoors, shouting holier-than-thou incantations, and looking for love in all the wrong places listening to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tell Me Lies’ over and over again. I saved this post in my ‘Great Advice For Writers’ document. I always love it when you step up to the plate. . . especially when you wash it. Thanks, brother!

  7. Vitina Molgaard says:

    This is a great thing that you have written here. Coming from both a beta reader and reviewer’s point of view, this gives me great pleasure to read. I have been on the side of that coin where I have displeased the authors I have reviewed because of a 3 rating or a bit of honest opinion. Never have I attacked a writer out of jealousy or the desire to make them feel less than great. Honestly, as you pointed out, sometimes there are just some issues that need to be addressed…Or at the very least considered by both the reader and writer. It is a good thing here to see and read your honest thoughts. Thank you. It is nice to read that you take so much into consideration when dealing with this very public forum and issue. just me..Vitina

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