Wednesday, April 28, 2021

You’ve got hate mail

When a reader takes the time to find your email address and compose a letter telling you they don’t like your books, how do you respond? How would you like to respond, if that’s different?

by Dietrich

I haven’t had anyone write and tell me they didn’t like my books, although I’m aware they’re out there. But, like most authors, I have received those one-star reviews along with the unkind comments. As far as responding to such a letter, I guess it would depend on its tone. If it’s meant to be constructive, I might write back, but if the letter was rabid and mean, I probably wouldn’t finish reading it. What would be the point of responding with:

Dear stalker,

You had me at talentless boob. And how did you get this email address anyway? No, please don’t answer that. Okay, I understand you don’t like my books, which makes me wonder why you would read them all the way through, or better yet, read more than one. That’s just rhetorical too. But seriously, have you tried another writer, or a different genre, comic books maybe? Again, please don’t answer that either, just think about it, okay?

Stay frosty.

Yours, TB

I think writers are better off not to lash back at unkind comments the way a comedian might handle a heckler.

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Orc.” — Brendan Dodds

Commenting back would likely just encourage another letter or have the whole correspondence go online and quickly downhill from there. 

"There's loads of problems with social media. People say things they would not say to your face. They're braver. They're anonymous. It's not a real conversation, it's a terrorism. Trolls or hecklers, which is what they are, don't want a conversation. They want you to have as bad a day as they're having.” — Ricky Gervais


Like any writer, I’m aware my style is not for everyone. If someone doesn’t like my stories, that’s fine, but it doesn’t require a letter of retaliation on my part. There’s no need to switch the ego to self-righteous mode; it’s better to just get back to whatever I’m working on. Nothing messes with the muse like an ego on fire.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” —Theodore Roosevelt


Brenda Chapman said...

Good post, Dietrich. Your response to a pretend-nasty email strikes just the right tone :-) I particularly like the Roosevelt quote.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Brenda.

Author Kris Calvin said...

Good timing, thank you Dietrich! I haven't received emails from readers criticizing my work, but this morning another debut author in my genre (thrillers) posted an 800 word review on public sites tearing apart my novel! As you note, not everyone likes every book, but taking that much time to criticize my writing (over and over again ALMOST led me to respond, and ALMOST caused me to read his debut to see whether it merited similarly scathing commentary, since pretty clearly he and I don't agree on what constitutes good plot structure, pacing, etc! But instead, I will take a breath, and keep your wise counsel in mind.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Those kind of comments are hard to swallow, and you're right, Kris, you just have to ignore them. I read your book and I loved it. It's smart and well-paced and I know its going to do well.

Susan C Shea said...

Stay frosty, indeed! And poor Kris. I used to do some book reviewing (not crime fiction - this was eons before I started writing) for a weekly newspaper, and the editor who assigned me books had a policy: If it's really crap, just forget about it; if it's interesting but flawed, say so and say why; if it's great, it gets 600 words!

Catriona McPherson said...

Hang on - you've never had this, Dietrich? Huh. I was thinking it was them but maybe it's me. I usually respond with "I hope you've found something you're enjoying more now. Happy reading! C" which is a blistering put-down because . . . no kiss! Take that. Cx

Leslie Budewitz said...

"Nothing messes with the muse like an ego on fire."

This is gold. And the point about people feeling free to say anything on social media SO JUST IGNORE THEM is worth tucking under the pillow in hopes that it will sink in. Although people will say astonishing things in person, too, like the woman who came to a library event to tell me my first book was too slow and she didn't finish it, or the people at the local art festival who make a point of telling me fiction is a waste of time. "Why did you think it's important that I, a novelist, know you think that? News flash! It's not!"

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks Susan. I like what you shared about the editor's policy — that's good advice.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks Catriona. That's a great way to send them running — no kiss! Take that.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for your input, Leslie. I think a person's negativity often says more about them than what, or who, they're criticizing.