Holier Than Thou – The Dark Side of Writing Communities

As you know by now, I’m in love with J.A. Konrath’s blog. One of the things he suggested to do a few years ago is to join writer’s groups, particularly ones online.

So, wanting to make use of the advice, I did it.

There is a boatload of information on these sites, especially KBoards. However, one thing I’ve noticed:

Most of the successful authors go by anonymous names. They don’t want you to know who they are.

Why is this so?

A.) A PR nightmare could emerge from one of their posts. See my blog about bad reviews if you want some insight into how this could happen.
B.) Other authors see success on a forum and can get pretty twisted about it. It’s common for an author to get slammed with one-star reviews because of jealousy or something they said. Authors have even hired spammers to make careers go up in flames.
C.) … Aside from jealousy and pissing people off, these forums are wonderful places for authors to see who their competition is and what they’re doing. A fake name adds anonymity.

From what I’ve heard, a lot of great authors don’t even use these sites anymore because they’ve actually hurt their careers. Instead, they lurk in the shadows, taking notes on what people have to say.

I’m really disappointed by this.

I’ve primarily used the #amwriting and #amediting hashtags on Twitter to connect with other writers. I’ve never had a problem connecting with people in positive ways there. The big difference, I think, is that a lot of people active on social media are millennials or very Web savvy. We seem to band together more. I love cheering on other writers and for the most part, we’re a good bunch. I’ve also had some lively debate with people there and come out of it feeling respected and better learned. Moreover, a lot of us just talk about life and non-writing topics because we’re not trying to be sleuthy.

I can get why some writers hate Twitter, though. There’s a lot of self-promotion there. I read somewhere that Twitter marketing is most effective when you self-advertise 1 out of every 10 posts or less. That’s a lot of posting… But no one wants to see the same post 500 times.

Serial self-marketers are really easy to unfollow and never hear from again.

Being a member of a forum can feel like Hell. You make a new post and… Oh! There’s Grouchy Debbie again, saying something to put someone down or start a fight. After a while, you honestly start to wonder if it’s you.

But look into Grouchy Debbie’s profile. She’s never published a book, she’s written thousands of posts, and Google her real name? She works for the IRS doing admin work and spends her nights flaming people.

But yes, my friend. She is the utmost expert in publishing. She’s upset a lot more people than just you. I imagine my Grouchy Debbie sipping tea, cackling over her keyboard as she tries to snuff out posters’ self-worth.

What I’m finding about these claims about writer’s groups is that they’re true. There are wonderful people there who want nothing more than to help you, but these forums can also place a target on your back. In general, the vibe I get is that there is a lot of cattiness and most people are out for themselves. Many people want you to click their signatures and buy their books.

A lot of the people who are using their real names are paranoid about every word they type and every word everyone else posts because it can go back on them and ruin their reputations. In many cases, they don’t even believe what they’re saying. Because of how people used to feel about self-publishing, those who do it tend to be a bit on the insecure side; some take it too far and it becomes a pissing contest in regards to who is more professional. If I was a customer reading some of these threads, I’d probably say, “Wow. What dinks. I’ll buy that new King book instead.”

It’s all incredibly spineless. It reminds me of high school writing club and why I quit that writing group growing up.

In my previous post, I mentioned how some writers got upset with me for mentioning the word “troll.” It’s not a nice word. It definitely refers to a rare, specific kind of customer, and I don’t feel so bad about using it when applicable (abiding to very strict lines) because “trolls” will never buy a product from you again – not because they think you think they’re a “troll,” not because your product sucks, but because they’re not the customer for your product and never will be. An opinion is an opinion and everyone is entitled to that, but there is a line that can be crossed beyond normal negativity and for most people, the line isn’t hard to distinguish. I posted a Twitter poll to prove I wasn’t alone.

Never call a troll a troll, but learn to recognize one.

I was left pretty flabbergasted when the conversation evolved into how the customer is always right.

Huh?

If I walk into a Mediterranean restaurant and give it one star because I don’t like Mediterranean food, is the restaurant to blame?

Sometimes the customer is flat out wrong.

It doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in what they’re saying, but it does mean it’s pretty safe to disregard them and not lose sleep over their review. Sometimes their thoughts aren’t logical or justified. Their reviews will have an impact on star rating, which can be a big deal if you don’t have a lot of raters, but that’s all. We need to use our common sense to prioritize which reviews to actually take seriously. We essentially work our own businesses and there’s too damn much to do to focus on nonsense reviews.

And yeah, if I keep going to Mediterranean restaurants even though I hate Mediterranean food, you can call me a troll. I troll, you troll, we’ve all trolled. Some more than others. I personally try not to.

If you ask me, the writers in these communities who secretly backstab each other and act holier than thou are also trolling.

I’m so thankful for Twitter – I feel like a welcome part of a community there. I’m sure some of you were sent here from a link on my page. Thanks for supporting me and keeping it real!

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