Monday, April 4, 2011

Why Are Trainwrecks So Popular?




Before I begin today’s rambling rant, I want to welcome our three new blogging buddies—the absolutely fabulous Mia Watts, Cari Quinn, and Allie Standifer. And I also want to remind everyone that Three Wicked Writers Plus Two has a Yahoo group and we’d love to have you join. This week we’re launching Wake Up Wednesdays! Members are asked to post their favorite hot hunk pics. This week’s theme is COWBOYS! Giddy up! Here’s the link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/threewickedwriters
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Last week the publishing world witnessed a major trainwreck. It was on a review site which is where most of the trains seem to derail. Sometimes it’s about a publisher and what that publisher has failed to do, and a lot of times it’s about an actual review. I’ve come to expect these runaway trains and the carnage they leave along the tracks.

But this particular derailment got my attention in a different way. First, the review was not a bad review overall. Let’s face it, most of the blood-spilling is the result of the way the review itself is presented. Think about that. If you’ve got to get a bad review—and you will—shouldn’t it just be an honest review, well thought out, and WITHOUT the snark? I think the vast majority of authors can handle that kind of review. It’s the snark we can’t deal with and that makes us breathe fire.

My lungs are still charred from one I received a couple of years ago in which the reviewer thought my book was back dropped against a blue screen—no real setting. HUH? I had coral-hued sunsets, Texas dust, trees galore, sex amongst the wildflowers, wild mustangs, faded green pickup trucks, etc. etc. etc. Then the reviewer was concerned about my 2007—contemporary novella—and why Indian rights were never considered when the matriarch of the book died and left the will up for contest between my hero and heroine. Oooooooooooookay. But! The reviewer thought the book was well-written. Ooooooooooooookay.

Now like I said, the review this particular author received was not that bad. The reviewer was not at all snarky. Very polite. An honest review done in a nice way. Personally, I could have swallowed that review and just never pointed it out to anyone, knowing that in a couple of days it would have been buried well enough that not too many people would come across that low rating. LOL If there is one thing that the reviewer could possibly have done differently, it would have been to give the author a bit higher rating. He seemed to like the story and thought the author was a good storyteller evidently. But he took off right much in the way of rating because of editing issues. Mostly grammar, I think. But then again, I haven’t read the book and won’t (more on that later). It seems the reviewer thought that the issues with grammar and editing in general made the book too difficult to hold a reader’s attention. And if that’s the case, maybe that two-star rating was indeed warranted. I think all of that is very very subjective.

So basically, the author commented, telling the reviewer he hadn’t downloaded the right copy of the book. Apparently she’s self-pubbed. Nothing wrong with that. But it came out in her comment that she had emailed him a note on downloading the right copy, and he commented later that he had done just that. The author also posted some reviews that she had received on Amazon.

And that, my friends, is when the train rounded the bend a little too fast and the wheels came off the track.

Others started weighing in with their opinions—against the author. A lot of them were commenting anonymously, as was their right, and some weren’t. But if you look at those comments, you can see just how venomous they became. It was like each commenter was throwing a cup of gasoline onto the author. And honey, did she ever go off. Like a rocket. NASA could use her on their launch pad.

Did she deserve what she got? Some of it. Yes. Did she really go too far? Absolutely. But did she deserve in excess of 300 comments that all said the same thing roasting her over and over? No. Now before I go any further, let me say there were a few commenters who very nicely gave her some good advice. Commenters who were NOT trying to fuel the fire, but get her to listen to reason. I even recall one commenter pretty much saying enough was enough and it was time to shut down comments. But comments did not shut down until there were about twice as many--finally.

And the number of followers for that review site just kept ticking away. UPWARD.

When I first saw the site, the number of followers was sitting at 371. And as I had gotten offline pretty early the night before and didn’t check email before I went to bed (which is why I didn’t see all of this until the next morning), I’m sure there were even less followers on that blog initially. I could honestly sit at my computer, click refresh, and see five or six more followers every three or four minutes. Still can, though it’s not quite as fast and furious as it was a couple of days ago.

As of this posting the blog has 974 followers—up 19 from when I checked late yesterday afternoon. And all because of a trainwreck. An author had a meltdown. Comments were allowed to race like wildfire.

So the blog has enjoyed some success that I would relate directly to this fiasco. Do I begrudge the blog benefiting? No. Actually, it seems to be a solid review site. Like I said, no snark. So maybe authors and readers recognized this and decided to follow the blog. And maybe some of them just followed as a show of support for the reviewer. And maybe some of them are just hoping for another trainwreck.

What about the author?

Well, the number of followers on her blog didn’t go up. But the number of hits she received on her blogger profile now number over 70,000. She’s only been a blogger since October 2010. I’ve had blogger since June 2007 and have only had 1933 hits to that profile page. Nobody loves me! LOL

Is she selling books as a result of her meltdown? I can just about guarantee it. Is that a good thing? In the short run, money is always good. But what about the long run? Is she going to have to change her pen name? Was that a real name? Lots of unanswered questions. So why am I not buying the book? First, it’s not erotic. Lol Kidding, just kidding. But really? It would only be a curiosity buy for me. While I am a bit of an impulse buyer, there’s something just wrong about buying a book as a result of a trainwreck.

And that’s the end of that particular story.

So what do you think of the popularity of trainwrecks? What fuels them? Why do we stop and gawk? And what about that author? Did she really commit career suicide? Or will anyone even remember her name six months from now?

This week’s featured author video is from Casey Sheridan for her new release from Breathless Press. I love the bluesy music. The images are ohhhh sooooo sexy! Great job, Casey! You can find Casey here: http://casey-sheridan.com


45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Trainwrecks are Popular because we are the ones not in it.

Tess MacKall said...

LOL Yep, I get that. Sure as hell wouldn't want to be in one.

Rhiannon Mills said...

Train wrecks are popular because people are curious and sometimes nosy lol... I read the blog post that you are talking about and the review was well written and well thought out. I'm a reviewer, too. I know that the reviewer didn't mean to throw acid in the author's face. He just wanted to write an honest review. That author acted like a spoiled child. I've half a mind to review it myself just to see if his review would have been accurate to my own standard (as far as reviews go).

I felt complete and immediate sympathy to that reviewer after reading all the comments that the author made towards him and others. No reviewer should be treated with such disrespect. She should have just thanked him, said she was sorry that he didn't enjoy the book, and went on about her business-even though her ego was hurt a bit.

Ugh! I hope that it doesn't hinder the author from writing future works or the reviewer from keeping up with his reviews. He did a great job and wrote a very honest review.

Karenna Colcroft said...

I read this particular trainwreck, and I think the author did end up under an unnecessary dogpile. On a forum I belong to, a thread about this review was closed by the mods, for much the same reason the comments on the review were closed (albeit later than they probably should have been). On the other hand, the author definitely didn't behave professionally.

I don't know why trainwrecks are so appealing, though I think Anonymous has a point. It isn't us, it's someone else. But it's also the same tendency that causes us to look at wrecks (train, car, whatever) in real life.

Tess MacKall said...

Yes, I agree, Rhiannon. The review was well written. No snark. And maybe you should review the book. I see there are some additional reviews on Amazon now as a result of that fiasco, but I don't really trust them. So a second legitimate review might be a good thing.

I sympathized with the reviewer for a while there too. But those comments really should have been closed at some point. That's where I started to shake my head a little. But all in all, the author had no right to jump on the reviewer that way. If everything he said in the review was true? She got off easy. Very easy.

If a reviewer posts a review without all the snark and it's a bad rating, authors will normally thank the reviewer or say nothing and be done with it. But if it is a bad review with snark? That's where they seem to butt heads.

The other issue is when you get a review and the reviewer questions things that were clearly answered in the book. And you look at other reviews and no one else had that same problem. So authors will question whether a reviewer skimmed a book. I tend to leave any review that I'm not exactly happy with alone. lol

Thanks for commenting, Rhiannon.

Tess MacKall said...

Oh yeah...I had to go out of town the other day and got on the Interstate. About five miles down the road, traffic slowed to a grinding halt. Why? Everyone was rubbernecking at the accident. Cost me about fifteen minutes. And while I felt badly for the people in the accident, gawking was not the thing to do. So I didn't. I never do because I don't like looking at accidents. Upsets me.

But a blog trainwreck doesn't really upset me. lol I mean it does, but not the way looking at a car accident does, of course. I suppose it's part curiosity and part need to be on the "right" side--maybe.

You seem to think the same way I do--that comments weren't shut down soon enough. And yet we both believe the author was completely unprofessional. I wonder how long she's been writing and publishing. From the reviews I read on Amazon, it would seem that she is a novice writer, having issues with not only grammar, sentence structure, but also with tell vs. show---if those reviews are to be believed.

So if she is, it's quite possible she hasn't had the benefit of learning what she needs to know yet too. Oh well...she definitely has to deal with all this. Move on or quit.

Casey Sheridan said...

Interesting topic, Tess.

I didn't see this particular train wreck, but from what you say and the comments here, that particular blog should have shut down the comment section way before it reached such large proportions.

If the reviewer acted professionally in his review of her work, he doesn't need to treated badly or called names anymore than the author does.

Yes, she should have acted more professionally, but she certainly didn't deserve to be doused in lighter fluid and torched.

I can't figure out why train wrecks are popular. Maybe because it makes some people feel better about themselves when they see how badly another person is doing. Look at Charlie Sheen! He's going down like a flaming bag of doggy poop and everyone just stares waiting to see how far charred dog poop splatters. I find stuff like that sad.

I don't like to gawk at car accidents either.

Casey Sheridan said...

Thanks Tess, for showcasing my book video!
I'm glad you liked it. =D

Savannah Chase said...

I think people just don't think sometimes when they post stuff...Also even with a trainwreck you get bad press and you know people will want to check it out. Bad press is more attention to you...

By the way read Casey's book this weekend and loved it...

Judi said...

I, too, am embarrassed to admit that I followed that train wreck and even went back the next day for more. I think wreck-watching is the "thank god that isn't me" syndrome. And the "maybe I can learn something from this" syndrome. It was crazy entertaining in an I-can't-believe-this-is-happening sort of way.

By the way, love the trailer for Ruby Red Metallic. Great job.

Regina Carlysle said...

Great post, Tess, and I visited the site too and watched this awful train wreck. People can't avoid watching this stuff. The thing was all over the loops and we all looked. My first thought was about the unprofessional behavior of the author. She totally went on the rail and overreacted here, in my view. Authors, if they choose to comment on a review at all, should simply say "thanks for taking the time to read' and leave it at that. It does no good to argue about various points. That she was enraged was obvious.Too bad she didn't have a calm friend who could settle her down and convince her to back away from it all. Obviously that didn't happen.

anny cook said...

Perhaps...it's the sense of disbelief. We just can't wrap the author's behavior around our minds. Having said that, why choose to participate in the wreck? I have a hard time justifying the commenters who added the fuel.

Why SHOULD the blogger/reviewer HAVE to shut down the comments? Just because we use "anonymous" does that release us from culpability for our actions?

I think a lot of people were responsible for that train wreck...perhaps the commenters most of all--especially once it was clear the author was out of control. If everyone had walked away at that point, it would have been a non-event.

Lily Harlem said...

Gosh, I've never been involved in a train wreck as a spectator or a passenger I'm pleased to say. Fab blog though Tess, I'll know one when I do eventually see one now - because I am bound to in this crazy business.

Fab video Casey - your book looks great :-)

Lily x

Marguerite Lafayette said...

I think trainwrecks are popular because we know that we are one breath away from being in one ourselves. Often times it is a scene like the one described above that keeps us from instantly reacting to a bad comment/review. It helps to remind us would could happen if we shoot off that knee-jerk response to the comment that just crawled under our skin. It saddens me to see so many rising to the bait instead of stepping back and letting go of a perceived slight.

Oh well, there but for the grace of God go I

Tess MacKall said...

A kind of "there, but for the grace of God go I" syndrome, Casey? Sounds like that might be part of it. For sure.

Charlie Sheen. Oh God. That poor guy just keeps melting, doesn't he? Sad to watch this stuff. Really is.

I just think that a lot of what went on was just plain mean-spirited. That some people took perverse pleasure in twisting the knife a bit deeper. It was obvious as hell that the writer had gone off her rocker.

I tend to feel badly for people who act a bit???? Hmmm...what's the word? Anyway...I felt badly for the reviewer initially. But then it looked like he was doing just fine in all of it.

I'll be rooting for Butler tonight too! LOL Anytime the scrawny pup is getting his butt kicked, I'm there to cheer him on! LOL

Tess MacKall said...

And you're welcome on the video. It was damn good!

Tess MacKall said...

Yep, Sav. I agree. I do think people rush in, mouth on fire, before they stop and think. Been there, done that. Yep, I'm guilty.

When you feel passionately about something, it's hard not to lose it. Really is.

Tess MacKall said...

Don't be embarrassed, Judi. I kept watching with my mouth wide open. WOW...just WOW! Then I got involved in watching the number of blog followers climb and that was another WOW. lol Then I heard that the author's profile hits on blogger were going through the roof and that was another WOW!

It was damn fascinating to watch for sure. I didn't leave a comment. I think everything that could have been said was said. A friend of mine joked that I was anonymous. LOL But I wasn't. Wouldn't touch that trainwreck with a ten foot pole.

I can sometimes see a flood of comments if there is a good discussion going on about the industry. But a bashing either way---toward the reviewer or toward the author---is just a bashing. And there is nothing positive coming out of it.

Tess MacKall said...

No, Reg,she didn't seem to have anyone that could talk her down from that ledge. And several of the commenters tried. I applaud them for doing that too. When she finally went off for real and used the four-letter word, I could hear the applause. Odd really. Then they commented some more. And it felt like everyone was hoping she'd come back for more bashing. And she did, duplicating the four-letter word.

True meltdown. And a real mess overall.

Tess MacKall said...

Yep, Anny...and I think that is my point in all of this...When do we become responsible enough to simply walk away? Anonymous or not, we still have to live with ourselves, don't we? When all is said and done, we answer to ourselves and to a higher power eventually.

So anonymous is no protection from yourself or that higher power for sure. The author deserved some, maybe a lot, of what she got. But where do we draw the line?

Tess MacKall said...

LOL Lilly! I've commented to a trainwreck or two in the early days of my career. But it was always one about publishing in general. I got screwed over by a couple of publishers and trust me---it's easy to bash away when someone keeps your rights and your money. And that! Might very well be justifiable for bashing! LOL

Tess MacKall said...

Margie! Hello, hon. So nice to see you on the blog. I think this has all been a good reminder to everyone to take a step back and think before they post.

It was indeed a sad reminder, but maybe it's helped some too.

Fiona McGier said...

I don't look at crashes, ever. I run way from fights and don't watch. I did read the comments on the site the day it only had about 100...then I figured I was done. It's been said that no publicity is bad publicity, so there's that part of it. Maybe it was all done to get attention, which it did? In that case, Bravo!

But there are an awful lot of people who sit and comment anonymously from their computers. I imagine them to be pasty-faced doughboys, sitting in their parents' basement, home from their minimum-wage job making fries, typing out venomous spew with one hand, and congratulating themselves for their "wit" with the other hand. They are the really sad, pathetic ones in this whole debacle.

Cindy Jacks said...

I think it's all too true that there's no such thing as bad publicity. For all we know, the author could've fueled the fire on purpose. Planned or not, that kind of grandstanding isn't for me. I try to conduct myself as a professional and hope my writing will speak for itself. I feel reviewers are entitled to their opinions, but they are just that--opinions :) It's all about perspective.

Tess MacKall said...

LOL @ pasty-faced doughboys, sitting in their parents' basement, home from their minimum-wage job making fries, typing out venomous spew with one hand, and congratulating themselves for their "wit" with the other hand.

I suspect those anonymous commenters were far more dangerous, though. Authors who frequent the same groups/forums that author frequents/ed. There are a lot of snakes in the grass in the publishing world for sure. You never know who is literally wearing more than one face. Anonymity through pen names and just plain anonymity is kind of dangerous when you think about it.

No one can be held accountable for their actions.

Tess MacKall said...

A planned trainwreck, Cindy and Fiona? Hmmm...someone else suggested that a few days ago too. That in itself is scary. But, ya never know, do ya?

I'm like you, though, Cindy. That would not be something I could do. I don't care how many books I could sell by doing it, or how many blog followers I could get doing it---I just couldn't. Not my style.

Marguerite Lafayette said...

Glad to have caught this one. I was one of the ones thinking "Oh please hun, stop responding."

I think a problem self-published face is they don't have the same safe guards as those who go through a publisher. I mean the editing process is a sobering experience for any writer. It helps ground you and makes you a tad more inclined to be humble.

I would be surprised if this author had any previous experience with reviews. I just find it difficult to fathom how an experience author would get this out of control.

Reviews are subjective anyway. I think I have only responded to one negative review and it was for another author. The reviewer clearly had not read the story. I will never forget her talking about the Native American rights when that had nothing to do with the story. Other than that one time, I tend to just let those things slide.

Shoshanna Evers said...

Interesting post. That whole thing was most definitely a trainwreck, ugh.

P.A.Brown said...

I think train wrecks like this happen partly because the nature of the Internet. Anonymous posters can deliberately throw fuel on the fire by getting nastier and nastier.

They've actually done studies that show people will do things to other people when there are no consequences and there may be an award -- in this case watching the author go crazy.

If something like that happens, perhaps the blog owner should put comments on review so malicious attacks can be stopped. And that's not a matter of censoring, the commenter who wants to have their say are free to do so anywhere else online they want.

I think train wrecks tell us as much about the character of commenter as it does the author attacking back.

In the end no one looks good.

Melissa Bradley said...

Trainwrecks are fascinating like gapers' delay. We're glad it's not us. I followed this for a bit and was stunned by the author's comments, plus a number of posters' words. They were just as bad. Then the author's book at Amazon received tons of bad reviews simply for the outburst. And most of them had never read the book. I'm sure the author probably regrets her actions, but unfortunately, the internet is forever. Trainwrecks just have to run until they burn out. They're loud, furious and fast so you can't get in the way.

Great post, though and I love the new look of the site.

C. Zampa said...

Why are they popular? A question of the ages. Same reason we'd rather know what Paris Hilton or Lindsey Whats-her-name are doing than what everyday heroes are up to. The same reason there's nothing on cable anymore except reality shows with worn-out stars and the Kardashians. LOL. Why indeed.

Jen B. said...

I don't have any idea what author or review site you are talking about. I missed all the fun :) Trainwrecks are fun to watch because you can't believe it's happening. I know I keep hoping that people will come to their senses and stop.

Samantha Gentry said...

Tess: I've been down with the flu and/or bronchitis (or something equally deadly) for over a week now so didn't become aware of this trainwreck until it had already garnered over 300 comments. To tell you truthfully, I normally don't read these kinds of fiascos and don't become involved in them. But, as other have noted, the review was polite, well thought out, sincere, and positive as far as the story itself was concerned.

I was absolutely floored by the total lack of professionalism on the part of this self-published author, even to accusing him of downloading the wrong copy of the book. Huh? That's really reaching to disassociate yourself from any responsibility. Why did she even have the "wrong" copy of the book available for download?

Got a bad review? Ignore it and get on with life. Got a good review? Use it in your promo. What's so difficult to understand about that concept?

I think she has done herself irrepairable damage. What editor/publisher is going to be willing to take on an author so unprofessional and locked into the concept that each and every word she writes is golden and carved in granite so that it can't be changed?

Tess MacKall said...

Your observation with regard to self-published authors is probably right on target, Margie. If an author is self-pubbed only, they don't have the benefit of learning everything we do.

However, what happened to civility? I realize a reviewer can get it wrong? And hell, when they do you want to scream and just start slapping away. LOL It's hard NOT to say something. Really is. Been there, done that. And even then, I was not venomous like this gal was.

And yep! My lungs are still charred from the fire I breathed over that review! LOL I was cheated that time. Really was.

Tess MacKall said...

One of the worst trainwrecks I've seen, Shoshana.

Tess MacKall said...

Moderated comments would have worked, Pat. I really think so. But I believe the blog was enjoying runaway success and let the comments run away!

And you're right. I, too, believe that a lot of comments at these trainwrecks are deliberately designed to make things worse.

Honestly? I don't think anyone ended up looking too good after that mess.

Tess MacKall said...

We love the new look of the site too, Melissa.

And those "one" ratings at Amazon? That was just plain mean. No way around it. Those people hadn't even cracked the book open. Ridiculous.

And even in some of those reviews the author was once again attacked for her behavior. Sad.

Tess MacKall said...

You mentioned several trainwrecks, Carol. LOL Reality TV itself is a trainwreck as far as I'm concerned.

Tess MacKall said...

Yep, Miss Sleeping Jen...lol...you missed it all. Fun? Well, I have to admit to snickering just a bit when the author told them all what they could do...and it was NOT pretty. lol

She really blew a gasket. TWICE!!!!

Tess MacKall said...

Oh Samantha. I am so sorry you've been sick. I hope you're better now. I've had bronchitis twice in the last four months. Not good.

And I agree with what you say about reviews. Promote the good ones and forget about the bad ones. Or as I say: hope they get buried! LOL

Samantha Gentry said...

Tess: Agree with you 100% about Reality TV itself being a trainwreck. LOL

Tess MacKall said...

Ohhhhh yeah, Samantha. I hate reality TV. lol

Melissa Bradley said...

I so agree about those ratings at Amazon. They did not have to do that at all, but they get caught up in virtual mob behavior.

Tess MacKall said...

I kept imagining pitchforks and torches in my head, Melissa. Really did.

And I owe you an email. Will send now. lol

Mia Watts said...

Yeah, I read that post and shook my head. That's definitely not the way to demonstrate class. Train wrecks--sometimes you have to put the blinders on and keep walkin'. LOL.

Thank you for the welcome, Tess!