Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do?
Today is a tad of a touchy subject, but in this New year, I want everyone to have a the greatest gift any of us can have…peace. Bullies, in my opinion, are among the lowest known existing lifeforms. I wouldn’t want to insult cockroaches and fleas by drawing a comparison.
Kristen’s History With Bullies
I grew up most of my life being bullied. I switched schools at least once a year and there was always a new gaggle of Mean Girls to make my daily life a veritable hell. I think this is why I grew to love books. I skipped school so much (to seek sanctuary at the public library), that I’m fairly certain I’m the reason for the current Texas truancy laws.
I couldn’t get out of bed. I became ill at the thought of even walking through the front doors of my school. I was poor and these girls in their designer clothes who drove their BMWs to school took great joy in throwing away what little clothing I had when I was at soccer practice. To this day, my ankles are pretty much destroyed because I have very narrow feet to fit.
These bullies stole my expensive Nike cleats that provided proper support, and threw them away. I was ashamed to tell my grandparents what really happened and pointed to the cheap $20 shoes that were far too wide (I have AAA feet). That earned me a massive third-degree sprain and four months on crutches. My ankle has never been the same.
I never really dated. I remember there was a boy (popular, of course) who I had a crush on when I was 15. He kept asking me out, but I knew I was being played. Finally, he seemed so intent and sincere that he did like me, I finally went against my gut and agreed to the date. He was supposed to come pick me up at 6:30 to go to a movie. I dressed up in one of the few nice outfits I had…and waited. 6:30 became 7:30 which became 8:30 and at 9:00 I gave up. I went to bed, then realized what day it was…April Fools.
I cried all night.
The next day theses kids gathered in the halls to laugh and point at me, throw wads of paper at me. They jeered that I thought I was so smart but stupid enough to believe this super popular boy would want to date a piece of trash like me.
I was never mean to anyone. I was oddly quiet, alone and read most of the time. Yet, I was a never-ending target for hatred I didn’t understand. When I went to the school officials, they ignored me. “Girls will be girls.” “Kids will be kids.” I know people love teachers, but my teachers only patted me on the head and benevolently tossed me back to the wolves. They gave “great advice” like ignore them, but it only seemed to fuel even more hate.
No one dared be me friend, and I couldn’t blame really them. They didn’t want to be added to the blast radius.
Bullies Don’t Stay in High School
I’d like to say bullies went away. I worked nights and never talked to anyone on college once I broke my back and lost the one refuge I’d ever had, AFROTC. I made it through the final four years of college never having friends aside from my professors. I had terrible social anxiety.
When I graduated and joined the workplace, I soon discovered bullies just grow older and more cruel. I’m certain Human Resources must have some hidden rule that they must hire at least one tireless jerk to torment their fellow workers.
Yes, part of why I left sales was my health. I threw up on the way to work every day. Why? A bully. She ruled the office and everyone feared her. She’d even once assaulted someone at the copy machine. I was responsible for a 2.5 million dollar quota and this person would make sure my orders were “accidentally” sent to the wrong place, my samples would get “lost in the mail” and important documents would disappear.
I kept having to change the lock on my office because this person thought nothing of helping herself to my personal belongings. One time, I’d worked months on a detailed presentation I had to give at the national meeting. I went to lunch and forgot to lock my office. She deleted the entire thing (though there was no proving it, of course).
Seven weeks of work had to be redone in 24 hours.
We had a major contract that came open. Business we’d had for a couple decades was being offered to our competition. I drove to Mississippi once a week for months to ensure we maintained the contract and won the bid. Finally, I got the green because they liked me. All I had to do was send the samples to a certain location. The office bully deliberately mailed them to the wrong address (yes, she was the only one with the power to send out products). I have no idea how many people lost their jobs because we lost this major contract, and I was the salesperson so the blame was square on me.
And there was NO getting rid of her. I went to my boss, to the plant manager, to Human Resources and they acted as if I was just being sensitive. I left. She won. The factory closed. But what kind of person is willing to go to such extremes to hurt ONE person, that she takes out the jobs of others and then even her own? Why would a company tolerate this?
I’ve never found a satisfying answer.
I think that’s one of the reasons I have been so tireless when it comes to building the WANA Community. I spent so much of my life alone, lonely, afraid and I never wanted anyone to feel the way I had for so long.
Brave New Bullying
Now we live in a Digital Age and bullies abound. The Internet gives them access to torment us 24-7 no matter where we go. I was so thrilled the day I was asked to blog for Huffington, yet unlike here, I have no control over the tone of the comments. There are people who are simply made of spite and hate and they will take it out from the safety of a computer behind the anonymity afforded by monikers. Now when I post, I simply scan and, if anything is hateful in tone? I won’t even read it.
Sad to say, this is why I don’t read reviews before buying any book. There are too many sock puppets and trolls. Goodreads and Amazon are RIFE with bullying. I’ve had friends bullied on blogs and even once had someone start a hate blog directed toward me, “Kristen Lamb The Face of Misandry” which is “Man-hating”, btw. I had to look it up.
It’s sad to say, but when researching for this topic, it seemed most of the information was for kids, schools and teens. But bullies never go away. They often can’t be stopped, but maybe we can make it tougher for them to spread their cruelty.
What To Do
Be YOU—Don’t Let Bullies Steal Your Peace or Your Book Sales
First of all, use the name printed on your books. A moniker or a pen name won’t stop the hate. It’s still you. If someone called me names and ruthlessly attacked my character it wouldn’t matter if it was Kristen Lamb’s Blog or Penelope Fluffernutter’s Blog. It’s still me behind the computer. When we try to hide behind a moniker to protect against the inevitable, all we do is make it harder to sell books. The bullies win. They can steal your peace and maybe even success.
When we get off the Internet because of these cretins, they win. It’s a “blaming the victim” mentality. If your
skirt wasn’t so short blog wasn’t there, you wouldn’t be raped harassed by trolls. This is why I DO recommend a WP based site. There is this marvelous TRASH function.
Illegitimi non carborundum…
If you get hateful, threatening messages take screenshots. Save e-mails. If the troll is motivated enough they can easily slip into an area that can give you power legally. But, proof is what will help your case.
Manage Your Blog
I don’t allow hate. I am always open for respectful disagreement, but if someone gets out of control? I delete their comments. People need to feel safe to comment on my blog (and yours), and bullies will shred the fabric of your community. It’s our job to keep them in check. Set boundaries and refuse to tolerate abuse.
Stand Up for Friends
If you have a writer friend who’s being bullied, gather together and, when Amazon asks if a review is helpful? Click NO. The WANA Community is massive. Let us know. We are happy to stick up for you, and a troll might be able to harass one or two pals who come to your aid, but a few thousand is a tougher challenge.
Report and Block
Report abusers on Facebook. The guy who started the hate blog about me wasn’t just harassing me, he was harassing all my friends who commented on my wall. He was PSYCHO. I went to Facebook and had him banned. I blocked his comments and profile (until FB could take it down).
DO NOT ENGAGE
Don’t feed the trolls. Negative attention is still attention. Often trolls will leave seething comments to upset people SO much that they HAVE to go to their blog/website to see WHO this JERK IS. It’s the only way they can get hits and comments and they feed on negativity. Starve them.
Hire a Professional
If you’re worried about your safety or your family’s safety because someone has gone THAT nutso? Contact Jay Donovan at TechSurgeons. Jay is an amazing human being, a tireless champion for writers and he IS The Digital Dark Knight. He’s a computer genius who can have said troll chasing his own @$$ down a hole of frustrated nothing. There are ways to protect yourself digitally and Jay is a master of security. Even if you want to take some preventative measures, talk to Jay.
Many of you know I am NOT a fan of pen names. What you may not understand is I’m not a fan of pen names, because a different name alone isn’t enough. Worse, it can provide a false sense of security. Writers are locking the screen door thinking that’s going to keep out the motivated ax murderer.
There are sound reasons for having a pen name. I advise against it most of the time because friends, schoolmates and family can be powerful mouthpieces and very helpful. A pen name limits how much of that energy we can harness and dilutes focus. BUT, if you DO need a pen name for safety, security, etc. TALK TO JAY. Again, a different name alone isn’t enough. An eight-year-old with decent Google skills can find who you are without the skills of someone like Jay helping you.
I don’t know if this is helpful, but it is a start and I signed it. It’s a petition to Goodreads to monitor and have a Code of Conduct for reviews. I hate to say it, but if Goodreads doesn’t start protecting writers from abuse, then we can remove our books. Don’t think they would last long with no authors and, since Amazon owns them, they might be more inclined to listen.
In the end, trolls (sad to say) are often a sign we are doing something right. Get ten trolls and I think we are officially a celebrity. Learn to un-see. Focus on those who love you. Join our WANA Community (WANA stands for We Are Not Alone, information here). We are a great refuge and support system. You can join us on Twitter at#MyWANA, on Facebook or even WANATribe (a social network for creatives). I have ZERO tolerance for trolls and have smiting powers.
I know it can feel very defeating sometimes, but a great circle of loving friends who have your back is a great start. Refuse to feed the trolls your peace, success and happiness. They exist, but together we are stronger.
What about you? Have you been bullied? Did you find any tactics that were effective? I am no expert, so I would LOVE any suggestions.
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Will announce December’s winners Monday. I have a lot to go through. Good problem :D.
I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!