I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Internet is pretty awesome. I didn’t step into a single store to do my Christmas shopping, there are boundless opportunities to waste time, we can settle petty arguments about who is right about song lyrics, and any medium that gives us instant access to video segments about drunk monkeys is fine by me.
But there’s a downside to the Internet: it makes people mean.
You know what I’m talking about — the anonymous posters who write horrible things they wouldn’t say in person, the sniping and the trashing, and the general snarky tone that has become the Internet’s stock in trade. We’ve all probably been guilty of it at one time or another – there’s just something about the anonymity of the Internet that makes people lose their minds.
I bring this up because this meanness has become an unfortunate part of the landscape for authors. There have always been bad reviews, and one could make the case that getting trashed in the New York Times Book Review hurts the worst because of the size of the platform (or one could make the case that hey, at least you’re getting reviewed in the Times). But nowadays, because of the Internet, everyone can be a reviewer, and now authors of even well-liked books have to deal with an abundance of nasty reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, and lots of mean comments easily available on the Internet. And some of these reviewers, especially the anonymous ones, say things that would make H.L. Mencken blush.
So while everyone has to deal a lot of rejection even to get into the mainstream publishing game, unfortunately it doesn’t end when you’re a published author. It takes an exceedingly thick skin to be an author these days, perhaps moreso than at any time in the past. And while I’m not an author myself, I work with enough to know that it’s not always easy, and getting sniped at, even when it’s a stupid snipe, really hurts.
I guess I’d like to make a plea for authors to remember the jealousy that’s at the heart of most bad reviews and for everyone to try not to be mean just because no one can punch you through a computer screen.
Of course Longfellow said it a tad more eloquently:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”