Unless Your Skin is This Thick, You’re Not Ready Yet.

Some background: Jacqueline Howett, apparently, sent out digital copies of her self-published novel, The Greek Seaman, to various reviewers. One of those reviewers, BigAl, offered his honest assessment which Ms. Howett didn’t agree with, so she took it to the comments and responded with “You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review.” From there it went tobogganing downhill.

I sighed and laughed to keep from crying because one commentator had it correct in saying that she gives all indie published authors a black eye.

It’s a wonder that anyone still agrees to read and review self-published authors anymore when they transform into whackadoodles when told their babies are ugly. Sure, no one wants to hear that her baby is ugly, but it’s best to grin, bear it, and move on, not engage.

Then I thought more about it. Her responses seemed too childish, almost exaggerated (“My writing is just fine! You did not download the fresh copy…. you did not. No way!” and “You never downloaded another copy you liar!” Really?!? Does that strike you as normal immaturity?), and after I nearly clicked on the buy button (to see if the book even deserved such a hot fuss), it dawned on me that maybe Howett’s bad behaviour was intentional marketing. In the past, other authors have enjoyed increased book sales, however temporary, following such buzz.

It almost worked, too, but I stopped myself just seconds from clicking. I told myself that $4.99 is too steep a price to pay for disappointment, especially when you can get it for free elsewhere. I’m thinking others probably had the same idea, too. (Plus, I’d rather have happy readers than readers only hoping for a train wreck, because happy readers mean loyal readers. That’s just me, though.)

As a reviewer and an aspiring author, I take umbrage at Howett’s unnecessarily childish behaviour whether marketing ploy or not. She asks who Al is and where he gets off, but where does she get off demanding that he remove his review? As far as I can tell there was nothing libelous or infringing upon her rights. In fact, the review wasn’t completely unfavorable; he said the story was somewhat engrossing, but the poor editing and grammar detracted from the reading.

When I wear my reviewer hat, I always worry that I’ll be offending an author who’s worked long and hard on his craft, so I always try to temper my reviews with something positive (if available) and pray the author has a thick skin.

Being a reviewer has taught me some valuable lessons for being an author: Authors need thick skins, to know that reviews aren’t personal no matter how much it may feel that way, merely one reader’s opinion, and to look at each unfavorable review as an opportunity to learn and improve, and also that readers don’t like to be told to “fuck off!” in a public forum.

Maybe more authors should be reviewers (and not just of the books they love, either).

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2 Responses to Unless Your Skin is This Thick, You’re Not Ready Yet.

  1. Very interesting theory about the childlike responses. That would be really….just wow, ick. I initially considered them, when coupled with a suspicion that English may not be the author’s first language, a sign of a true emotional meltdown. Human behavior… fascinating, sad, perplexing. Nice post!

    • jdm says:

      Hi Laura,
      I, too, thought English might not have been her first language, but the fact that she’s originally from England abolished that thought. I know the Queen’s English has its quirks when compared to American English, but the two aren’t that different.

      And I agree, human behaviour can be rather fascinating, sad, and perplexing. :)

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