By Jason Menard
To paraphrase Jon Lovitz, back when Saturday Night Live was good, we all just want to be loved, is that so wrong? And the answer, of course, is no – but it’s learning how to deal with those who aren’t your biggest fans that helps to define who you are.
For one author, her behaviour has made her the definition for What Not to Do.
It’s not easy to be criticized. It’s easy to snap back at a negative comment. Compounding this is that, as a writer, it’s all-too easy to fire back a witty salvo that would show the world how intellectually superior you are.
Unless, of course you’re Jacqueline Howett.
Before I continue let me state two things:
- Although it’s easy for most writers to write scathing responses based on literary allusions or historical references, you should avoid doing so at all times. No matter what you write, it always translates into “I’m a big douchebag”;
- and I really, really, really hope this is real. I find now that I’m suffering from a huge case of a condition that I’d like to call Kaufmanitis. It’s more modern-day variation is known as Failed Joaquinism. Essentially, it’s the belief that anything this outrageous must be fake – that this spectacular flame out is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Further examples? See Sheen, Charlie.
Now, back to the story. Howett is a writer who self publishes her work. Her latest piece is the 13-year-old-boy-giggle-inducing “The Greek Seaman.” Writer publishes book. So far so good, right? Well, that’s until it gets reviewed by the spectacularly named site BigAl’s Books and Pals (I feel BigAl missed an opportunity by not switching the “and” for an “’N”).
Click here to read the review. Then take some time to read the comments. I’ll wait.
In all, I thought BigAl’s review was pretty solid. He seemed to be OK with the story, even recommending it despite the flaws that he noted. But it was the noting of those flaws that seemed to set Howett off.
As you progress through the comments, you see the usual suspects: badly constructed and misspelled posts defending her spelling and grammar; a couple of F-bombs; and non-sequiturs (what ‘ball’?) sprinkled through the posts.
Anyone who has written a column, posted a blog, or shared an opinion in a public forum has experienced this type of response. You get the entire range from “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” despite evidence of research and proof, to my personal favourite – “Your an idiot!” (just a note, my spell check automatically kicked in when I tried to use the intentional misspelling ‘your’. So that may mean that people are actively ‘correcting’ a correction… amazing).
Let me share a little secret: I want you to agree with me. When I write something, or form an opinion, I think I’m right. And if you disagree with me, then I feel it’s my responsibility to present arguments and facts that may sway you to my way of thinking. I’m not perfect and I’ve made mistakes; I can also be swayed if a compelling counter-argument is presented. That said, I wouldn’t write about something unless I feel strongly that I have something to add to the conversation.
That’s why nobody likes to get the “You’re an idiot” comments. And your natural reaction is to fire back and say, “Why?” or try to prove the other person wrong. But as we’ve seen with Ms. Howett, all that does is damage your reputation.
There’s always room to engage in a good debate, but you can recognize which people will give you one by the nature of their comments. Fighting flamers like the “F-you!”s and the “Your an idiot!” types is a waste of time – and a waste of your reputation.
The simple truth? Sometimes the action that delivers the greatest impact is actually taking no action at all.
Had Howett simply sat back and refrained from responding, nobody would be talking about this issue. The adage that all publicity is good publicity just isn’t true in this case. This isn’t a Rebecca Black situation, where going to see how bad her video may be is only a free click away. Howett is asking people to give up their hard-earned cash to buy her book. And by the comments both on BigAl’s site and Amazon, that’s not likely to happen.
Her five-star rating on Amazon is down to a 1.5. Her name is likely mud amongst the more reputable (and even semi-reputable) publishing houses. And, for her, is this attention really worth it?
BigAl, somewhere, is sitting back and revelling in the attention his site has garnered. He’s come out as the sensible hero and, likely, will earn a paying book review gig by some entity looking to benefit from the notoriety.
Howett? She’s just another example of What Not to Do.