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Marketing a book when the Internet brings grief

When you think of what a writer needs to get published, you probably think that they need good writing skills and a good story. What comes as a minor shock to some first-time authors is the fact that a published author also needs strength and resilience and an unlimited reserve of positivity.

The ultimate reality for authors is that it is impossible to write a book that appeals to everyone, so there are going to be some naysayers. In the old days, before the Internet, this might have meant a few verbal negative comments and one negative review in a newspaper. But these days, it's an entirely different story.

With the anonymity and easy comment-publishing of the Internet, often the author doesn't only have to deal with one lousy review in a newspaper, but lots of comments, reviews and thoughts posted on the Internet. These are often ill-considered, flippantly administered, uninformed comments. But they are still there, and unfortunately stick around a lot longer than that one printed review in a newspaper or magazine.

You may think "but if my book is good enough everyone will like it", but the nature of the Internet has proved this a naive thought.

For people who have never put themselves out there - started a business, launched a new product, or made anything like a film, book or art exhibition, it's impossible to know what it's like to do such a thing. But it would be good if they did. For people wield their negative reviews, flippant comments and cutting remarks with abandon and little or no understanding or empathy.

The Internet has fostered this comment-without-responsibility situation. A derisive comment could come from a 12-year-old, an 'anonymous' competitor or someone who hasn't even read the book, or used the product, for all you know. And yet this 'customer feedback' can make or break a product. Plus, we often only hear from the critical. The satisfied often say nothing.

One way to counteract this, is to encourage people who say they like your book to post their positive comments on the Internet. You could also ask them for permission to put them on your own site.

A word of warning - never ever start a 'flame war' where you criticize a negative-comment writer. It is best not to comment at all in this situation. And, never ever pretend to be someone else posting a comment in response to their negative comments -writers have been exposed doing this and this is far from positive publicity.

If your book is the subject of some negative comments, try to think about them rationally. Are they worthwhile comments from people who deserve your respect? If so, perhaps the feedback is something you can take on board. Then dismiss those that come from anonymous commenters or the obviously uninformed.

Even despite all of this, you can feel proud that your book has gotten big enough to attract attention from the Internet version of a 'griefer'- the name given to a digital game player who plays a game simply to aggravate and harass other players.

Suzanne Male is publisher at Smink Works Books. She is co-author of Get Your Book Off the Ground: What You Need to Know to Write and Publish Your Book, and author of A Year of Writing Inspiration: A Prompt a Day for the Creative Writer.

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Comment by Smink Works Books on January 13, 2009 at 6:49pm
That sounds like a very wise plan

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