believe that everyone will like what I do. Point of fact, there are more people in the world that most likely will not enjoy it. That’s not saying I don’t think
I’m any good. It’s simply a recognition of reality. If every single person who likes to read ordered my book, I’d be one of the richest, most famous names on the planet. It’d be pretty damn cool, however unlikely. Hell, even the biggest names have heir haters. Stephen King, Shakespeare, Twilight… popular and well known as they are, there will always be folks who just don’t get it.
I’ve wanted to be an artist my entire life. Make something lasting and important to other people. Even if only one other person’s life is touched somehow by what I have made, I consider that a success. Of course I’d love to make a good living at it too. Sell some books or cd’s, buy a big house, pay for my kids college tuition, etc. Icing on the proverbial cake.
It used to be that musicians and authors were given time to develop their voice in the public eye. Time to try new things, experiment, take some risks. Sometimes the attempts would pay off and hit big. More often than not, there'd be mountainous piles of unsold collecting dust in a closet or garage. Commercial failures. A select few voices would speak out from newspapers, magazines and TV shows to discuss their opinion about higher rungs valiantly reached for and not achieved by said artists. Or maybe nothing but screaming silence would follow the release and nobody would talk at all.
The Trolls were respected then. Their opinion meant something to developing artists and their audience. If Troll advice was followed, the Troll played a visible hand in the next level of growth in the work. If ignored, their role still weighed heavy on the shoulders of the creators admittedly or not. The days of Siskel and Ebert are long gone. The balcony is closed. Rolling Stone Magazine and the New York Times Book Review still fingernail tightly to their ever fleeting influence in the marketplace. With their dwindling sales and the rise of Social Media outlets, most folks rely on the opinions they find voiced on the internet. Though a well timed good word from those famous sources hurts less than a steel toed kick in the crotch.
Anyone with web access or a cell phone can post a glowing five star review or ruthlessly rip a new one into someone’s lifelong dream. At least when Roger and Gene gave two thumbs down, they held themselves accountable to their opinion. Whether you agreed with their review or not, it carried weight. Now any Joe or Jane Schmoe can skip their daily dose of meds, log on Twitter or Facebook and scream their keyboard raw in ALL CAPS about how big their hate is for something.
With the digital divide standing tall as the great barrier to feeling any sense of personal responsibility, the modern day Troll attacks from all angles with sharp teeth and claws. Never a thought given to how much time and work went into creating the thing they relentlessly scream HATE about. The disconnect between people is widening even though the possibilities provided by this technology to grow closer together are more easily achieved than at any other time in human history. Does it really make us feel better about ourselves to make someone else feel worse? What a sad state of being we’re in if that’s true.
Sure, there are books that I don’t like. There are certainly songs I can’t change the station away from fast enough. But I feel no need to spread vitriol and show my raised hackles to the world about it. Where does that desire come from? Frankly, I’m not a well so deep and bottomless that I don’t feel the shallowness of jealousy and envy from time to time. Debasing another person’s efforts doesn’t make those feelings go away. It only sinks the razor sharp talons of those feelings further under my skin to draw more of my own blood.
I’ve received tons of advice on handling reviews. Both good and bad ones. Honestly, I’d love to be able to ignore everything that anybody else has to say. As an indie, I’m not afforded such luxury. Reviews are the largest part of how we get noticed these days. A handful of good reviews might convince someone to spend the $.99 and download a copy. A bad review could send them to the 7-11 to buy a candy bar with that same pocket change instead. So I guess the Trolls still have their weight after all.
Recently I experienced a personal milestone. My first novel “the Key to everything” reached it’s first anniversary of publication. So, both to celebrate and to promote the book, my publisher and I decided to make free downloads available on Amazon for a couple of days. I was excited. A bunch of my writer friends helped plug it and I got some nice feedback from strangers which was really cool. It even climbed all the way to #15 on the Amazon Horror Chart! Not too shabby.
Then the Troll crept into the party, pants dropped and prepped to drop a turd on my happy.
Of course this particular individual had nothing nice to say. Rather than keep it to themselves and let me enjoy the day, they posted their negative opinion about the book and how much it was HATED. Nobody likes to be picked on. I grew up with red hair, freckles and was overweight. So it happened to me a lot. Doesn’t mean I ever got used to it.
I have to credit my wife and my friends for being so great when they read the Troll's words. They threw themselves between me and the bullets with no hesitation. Almost instantly I felt better. Instead of letting this one, mean spirited person bring me down into the mud, they reminded me how high I’ve climbed because of that book. Not only did I write a novel, it is out there for the world to read. That’s huge! More importantly, I’ve made so many new friends in the process. So many great people that I would have never come in contact with otherwise.
Of course not everyone is going to like my book. That’s okay. It’s never going to feel good when a Troll spits their venom in my direction. But, what that does say to me is the book affected them in a way that they felt something powerful enough to make them need to lash out. I can deal with that. My thicker layer of skin is slowly growing to absorb the punches.
To create is to let go. Once it’s out there, how other people respond is up to them. How I react to those responses is up to me. I don’t claim to be the Great American Author. I’m not even the best writer who lives in my house. But I throw my heart and soul into what I do. I stick my neck out. Unfortunately that can sometimes open the window for my head to be cut off. Hopefully it lands in the bucket with a sense of humor.