Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Let's see...lessons... How about lessons I've learned while doing publishings of things?

1. Don't respond to reviews. Don't try to clarify. Don't even say on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere how you feel about bad reviews. If you do say, keep it very general, so you're not inciting any of your readers to attack the  bad review - I've seen this happen too, and it's just as bad as you criticising the reviewer yourself. I've never done any of these things, but I've learnt the lessons from those people who have. And I've also learnt to just generally stay away from reviews full stop - it's the reader's space. Even saying thank you can be intrusive, so I don't do that anymore, either.

2.  Don't fake five star review your own work. Do not do this. The temptation may be great. But it's a horrendous mistake on so many levels. I've seen people get found out, and it's mortifying. But even if you don't get found out, it doesn't help you and it simply creates a huge false impression of your work. You can't look at those fifty fake five star reviews and feel proud. You didn't earn them. One truly earnt five star review from a stranger is worth every single one of those fake ones. And soon, strangers will start buying your book and woe betide you if it really isn't a five star read. Readers will be pissed at being conned, and they won't be kind in their reviews.

3. Don't fake one star review other people's work. As passionately as I feel about the opposite end of the spectrum, I feel even more strongly about this. Never, ever do this. You might want to. You might convince yourself that this person's work truly is terrible, and deserves it. Maybe you tell yourself that you're providing balance, because they have so many five star reviews, and the book really isn't that good. But if you feel the need to strap on a pseudonym and create an Amazon account or a Goodreads account just for this one person...if you've got any doubt in your mind as to why you're doing it...don't do it. Again, it won't help you. It won't boost your sales. It won't make you feel any better about your own work, or your place in the industry. And most importantly of all: it's cruel. It's unkind. And if I've learnt anything through these past four years, it's that kindness is the most sacred and important thing to hold onto. This industry will make you bitter. It will try to make you jealous and hateful. Don't let it. If you get the urge to be cruel, do the opposite. Trust me, you will feel much better than that one star review will ever make you feel.

4. Stay cool. This is a more personal one for me, because it's a lesson I've never been able to fully learn. I'm neurotic. I'm a hot head. If people do something, I'll just say something about it. If I think someone's being snide, I'll come right out and ask if that's what they meant. If I think you're being cruel, I'll wonder why - out loud. It's just the way I am, but it's cost me more dearly than I can ever say - mainly in my real life, but in this writing life too. I've never been able to master the ability of keeping quiet and staying cool. I've never been able to not care. But I wish I could learn that lesson every day of my life, and if you're reading this...always try to learn it better than I have. Be cool on Facebook, on Twitter, in forums and on blogs. If someone bugs you, just walk away. If someone says summat shit, ignore it. Don't put yourself through the bollocks I put myself through constantly.

5. Keep writing. Obvious, right? But I stopped for a long time because I felt so stuck. So rubbish and unworthy of every opportunity I had. I rewrote every paragraph, I cut every scene and started again. Nothing I did seemed right. Everything was hard. And then gradually, I re-learnt how to write. I stopped worrying. I switched to other stories when this one wouldn't work. I wrote longhand, without thinking of doubled words and clumsy phrasing. I learnt not to care so much, when banging out the first draft. And sometimes that hurts. Occasionally I go back and read the first draft and hate it so much I cry. But at least I have the words. There's the lesson: having the words is more important than deliberating over every single fooking one.

And that's it. Those are the lessons I've drilled into myself. Some I've managed to learn completely, some not. Some I will never learn. But the important thing is: I keep trying, every day. I won't ever stop trying.


  1. Thanks, Charlotte,

    I agree 100% - except that I sometimes will thank a reviewer for a positive review. That seems like common courtesy to me, plus it makes other readers realize that you're a human being.

    I understand what you mean when you say that reviews are the readers' space. But I'm a reader, too.

  2. Kathleen - Thanks!

    Lisabet - I felt the same way you did, until I started reading reader's blogs and forums. A big section of readers and bloggers really disagree with thanking, and find it intrusive. I think it's just about being polite too - but I simply don't want to run the risk of making a reader or reviewer uncomfortable. If they tweet me directly or email me, no problems. But ever since I saw these comments I'm really wary of thanking.

  3. I explain your last point to high school students who hate writing thusly: Barf it out quickly, clean it up later. They always laugh. But I tell them that if you write quickly, everything you are thinking about, you have words to work with. Editing and changing can then occur. If you try to self-edit as you write, the block will grow so huge you'll have trouble writing your own name!

  4. That's especially true what you say about first drafts. We have to give ourselves the freedom to write crappy first drafts knowing that we'll go back and fix them. I've always found writing to be mostly about re-writing.


  5. Good advice, Charlotte. But I hope you sometimes thank reviewers privately. (As a reviewer, I love that, esp. when a writer tells me I understood her message-in-a-bottle, flung into the vast indifferent ocean of public space.)

  6. Fiona - you're absolutely right! But it's a hard lesson to learn. My mind constantly resists it. Awareness is 90% of the problem, tho. Be aware of it, and it helps.

    Garceus - I hate that, tho. I hate it being about the rewrite, because lately I hate everything I write. But I'm starting to get better.

    Jean - see, this is the difficulty! I know some reviewers love to hear from the authors, but how do you tell which ones? I would always thank ones I knew, but the ones I don't...they're an unknown quantity. They might hate it, and then tell their other reviewer friends...look what Charlotte Stein did! And I find that idea too terrifying to get around. I don't want to offend people, and I definitely don't want to get a bad rep.


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