Monday, August 17, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough

I have one more point I want to make about how to manage an online presence, and then we'll move on.

Sometimes, no matter how gracious and welcoming you are, someone will say or do something that tests you somehow. These kinds of challenges can take many forms, but regardless of whether it's an unfairly brutal review or a nasty comment -- or even just reasonable dissent -- I think there are probably only three possible responses. (There may be more. If you know of other effective methods, please post them in the comments.)

Option One: Let's Be Friends

Depending on the comment itself, it might be possible to extend a hand of friendship and get past the rough moment. This might be easiest to manage when someone points out a flaw in your great work. Rather than becoming defensive, think about how you might be able to bridge the gap. It's important to appear sincere at such moments. Control your tone. Start off with a gentle expression of agreement, apology, or gratitude, such as,

Thanks for pointing that out. I never thought of it that way.


You might be right, but I sure didn't mean for it to come across this way. Sorry about any confusion.

Your instinct will be to fight. But what would you rather make, an enemy or a fan? Check your guerilla warfare skills, and rely on your team-building skills instead.

Option Two: Use Controversy to Generate Interest

Again, depending on the comment itself, you might be able to use it to generate some interest in your corner of the web. This probably works best when there is some debate or disagreement over a given subject rather than insults or snark. Make sure you continue to aim the controversy away from personalities and toward the discussion topic. You don't want this to be personal in any way. Your goal, instead, is to get people to pay attention and enter the debate.

We have an example of this right here on this blog. Last week, one of the commenters suggested that the recent industry emphasis on authors building a web presence amounted to a form of elitism. This comment was not a personal attack on me, nor on any of the commenters, and I knew it at the time. I also knew this was a somewhat controversial approach to the topic and that it might generate some discussion.

So I tweeted it. I didn't name the commenter or say anything that might seem like criticism, because that was not my goal. (Nor my desire.) Instead, I asked a neutral question:

We've been blogging about designing your web presence this week. One commenter thinks it's elitist. Do you agree?

And I included a link to this blog. Then I tracked our hits for a few hours. We generated quite a few hits from that tweet, and saw comments from a few new folks. (Welcome!) People were able to discuss the subject further, and I hope that my openness to dissent indicated something about our willingness to hear new ideas.

Option Three: Play With It

This one comes courtesy of Nathalie Gray. Talk about a smart cookie. Last week, several behind-the-scenes discussions sprang up as a result of my posts. In the course of that, Nathalie told me a story I never would have heard otherwise because it involved a book she published with another house. I instantly asked her permission to share her story here. It's that good.

So here's how it goes. I'm sure you're all aware that some reviewers are known for unleashing their savage wit -- emphasis on savage -- during reviews. These reviews can be very entertaining if you're not the author. Which is probably why those reviews are so popular. Sheer entertainment value.

One of these reviewers took on one of Nathalie's books. She didn't give it a scathing review -- Nathalie's too good for that kind of treatment -- but she did make a few rough comments and a few jokes at the book's expense. So what's an author to do?

In Nathalie's own words,

I whipped that cream like mad and made a nice dessert. Encouraged readers to offer worse critique than [the reviewer], using all kinds of imaginative words. The most offending critiquer was to win the book in question. What a blast that was! [The reviewer] e-mailed me later to say how refreshing it was to have an author not act like a "snot-nosed baby". She has a way with words, that woman.

Talk about flipping a frown upside-down. Instead of taking offense or challenging the reviewer, Nathalie found a way to work it to her advantage. Her contest generated good buzz and goodwill, and you can't beat that.

(Go check out Nat's books here. You won't regret it. Her newest release, Agent Provocateur, is urban fantasy, but the others are scifi erotic romance.)

So, those are my three strategies. Got any to add to that list?


Maree Anderson said...

The Smart Bitches Trashy Book reviewers review of "Pregnesia" by Carla Cassidy is a perfect example. Clever but very wince-worthy review, with lots of snarky jokes at the author's expense. But the author turned it completely to her advantage!

I blogged about this on my website because I was so impressed by the author's handling of this situation. But you really need to read it from the source to get the full impact. Carla's comment after the review, entitled "10 reasons why I love this review" was just brilliant. She had commenters coming back to say they'd bought her book solely because she was such a good sport.

Her comment was at 8.10am... just scroll down through the comments, and then keep reading to see how attitudes changed.

I only hope I can be as professional as Nat and Carla, in a situation like this.

Great topic Theresa!

Maree (who is off to check Nat's website right now!)

Humans. Cats. Boat. said...

Online persona is the one place where temper should be checked at the door. You can't threaten someone to give them a headlock and make them cry uncle. In person, I can (and do) :P

Nat Gray writes books. She has no life of her own. She doesn't exist except for writing books. So when people don't like these books that Nat wrote, the other Nat (the one who's a mother, ex-soldier, and woodamn renovator) doesn't care all that much because it's already a bit removed from her.

Just like Stephen King said; life is not a support system for writing, it's the other way around.

Edittorrent said...

Maree, I missed that review, but I did hear some of the chatter about it. You make me want to go read it now.

Nat, "uncle" seems a far too mild thing for your victims to cry. "Supreme Ruler of Everything" -- now THAT would make sense from anyone in one of your headlocks. lol


Humans. Cats. Boat. said...

Goodness! Of course! What a lack of vision on my part. Absolutely. "Exalted Being and Supreme Ruler of Everything in Most Excellent Silver Gogo Boots" would work even better, eh. :P

Leona said...

Hello, everybody! I've missed these examples and they sound hilarious. I have a twitter - pizaseven - and would enjoy following anyone involved in commenting on the edittorent blogs. And Theresa or Alicia, what is the edittorent twitter?

Again, thanks for the good advice/discussions, as always.

Edittorrent said...

I think Twitter is an evil alien plot to destroy what's left of logic, continuity, and thoughtfulness on this earth, Leona, so you should probably ask Theresa. :)

Alicia who has been called a luddite, but is actually a royalist

Genella deGrey said...

You go, Nathalie!

And Maree - I hope to be as level-headed when it comes to it as well.

Leona said...


LOL yeah, thats how I feel, but my friend/unnofficial publicist made me start blogging, twittering, and get my own website (insert major groan here)

However, it has been nice when life has kept me from being on-line as much as I'd like to follow certain people by phone :)

Riley Murphy said...


That was a totally awesome way to handle things. Your comment about dessert, made me think of good old Marie A and her quip: ‘Let them eat cake.’ Only difference? You went the extra mile and made sure the offending masses actual swallowed some of it. Damn! I like your style, girl. Way to go!:)