It has been almost a year since I published my first novel, and in that time I have learned a lot about the process of being an Indie author. With my new-found knowledge, I have attempted to improve each story and have even gone back and made modifications to existing stories when I discovered some 'newbie' errors in formatting.
I have also spent a lot of time working with graphic artists to improve my cover designs, and have educated myself on what does and does not work when marketing an Indie published book. The results have been encouraging and the sales and Kindle Select reads continue to climb each month.
One of the hardest things to learn is how to deal with criticism, both constructive and, sadly, sometimes just nasty comments about your work. While participating in author forums, I also heard about "trolls", not the type that live in fairy tales, but ones that live on the internet, and prowl about, trying to make other people's lives miserable.
The author forums offer some excellent advice on how to deal with critics, and also how to deal with trolls. Critics, people who honestly have an opinion that they have taken the time to share with you, are helpful. Some critiques of my work resulted in a re-read and a re-write in order to fix issues had been overlooked during the editing process. These comments, while hard to read at times, were helpful. In each comment, no matter how critical it was of grammar, spelling, formatting, etc., they always indicated they enjoyed the story, which was encouraging.
Then, out of the blue, I received a review from what can only be described as a troll; someone who had obviously never read the story based on their comments, and did not have the guts to use their name. I was annoyed when I first read the 1 star review - it is human nature to be defensive after all; but then I started to laugh as I read some of the comments as they were baseless. For instance, this particular troll stated that I had written about two characters in my book that hated each other, and then passionately kissed. Never happened. Nope, not a chance. The book in question has no characters passionately kissing so I have no idea what they were talking about.
The troll goes on to make all sorts of derogatory comments, sounding very much like Brenda, a nasty, negative character from Cove Point Manor. Maybe this particular troll is someone I know that doesn't like me (hey, it happens!), or is just an unhappy person who takes pleasure from trying to tear down others. The author forums are full of stories of such people, and the pattern fits the review this person left for me.
I don't mind constructive, honest criticism, and I will be the first to admit my book isn't perfect, but I find it hard to believe that hundreds of other readers who enjoyed the book and the story were lying. Why would anyone take the time to rate a book with a 3-5 star rating, or take the time to send an email saying they liked the story, if they didn't?
The author forums abound with advice on how to deal with trolls, and the consensus is "do nothing". Some authors have made the mistake of trying to reach out to the negative commenters for clarity, only to find themselves in a nasty battle with an unknown trouble maker. For some reason, trolls are looking for a reaction, and once they know they have your attention, they feed on it. This is a no-win situation, and as much as you would like to be able to call out the troll, there is really nothing that can be done. However, like a child having a temper tantrum to get attention, if you simply ignore them, they eventually calm down and return to normal (the child that is, not the troll). The troll will eventually move on.
The other thing to consider is that a potential reader who sees a lot of positive reviews, and then 1 or 2 really negative and nasty reviews will probably ignore the negative reviews. People are smart enough to decide for themselves what they will or will not read, and the Amazon "Look Inside" feature will let them read some of the story before making a purchase.
Trolls: they are the plague of the internet, but they are real, and they are out there, searching for YOU!