Call-out

call-out

when you are criticized online for a harmful portrayal in your novel

Someone (or a lot of someones) called out my book on Twitter. What do I do?

Wait–I know you want to defend yourself against a call-out. I know that you did not intend to write something racist/sexist/otherwise harmful. But please take my advice: Do Not Defend Your Work. Do not attempt to explain why you wrote what you wrote, or what you meant or didn’t mean by it. “But my work is being treated unfairly. People are misunderstanding it. It’s being taken out of context. I didn’t mean any harm.” Even so: Do Not Defend Your Work. When someone calls you out, they are not looking for you to clarify your intentions. They are looking for “I’m sorry. I will find a way to redress this.” Any other response will prompt your critics to call you out again, this time on your defense of your work. Your defense might also cause further (unintentional) harm. This isn’t what you want. Trust me, I have seen all kinds of responses to call-outs; when someone responds by trying to explain their work, the situation becomes worse for everyone involved. If you don’t feel you can say “I’m sorry, I will find a way to redress this” then don’t say anything at all right now.

Okay, you’ve told me what NOT to do, but what should I do?

1. Get offline. Read the criticism when you are ready, or have a trusted friend relay it to you. You don’t need to delete your account; just step away from the computer for a while so you can reflect before you react.

2. Make sure your supporters know not to defend you, because well-meaning defenses can make the situation worse. And some defenses will not be well-meaning at all and will be quite hurtful.

3. Consider tweeting something like, “I’m listening and reflecting right now.” Otherwise, do not respond at all right now. Above all, do not contact the person who called you out.

4. Contact your agent and let him/her know what’s going on. Your agent will definitely have some wise perspective. Also, your agent needs to know about this stuff.

5. Do not announce that you are receiving hurtful messages from a third party as a result of a call-out, even if those messages are vicious (e.g. suggesting self-harm). It is truly terrible that someone would send you such a message, but bringing it up publicly deflects from any pain your work may have caused others and puts the focus on the pain you are feeling, which won’t resolve the situation. Give a trusted friend your twitter password and have them mute accounts that are tweeting vicious things at you.

6. When you are ready, reflect on the criticism. Ask somebody who understands the criticism to help you understand it. (Again, do not ask anyone calling you out to do this.)

7. Figure out how you can redress any harm you have done. This harm was probably unintentional on your part, but even unintentional harm must be redressed. Consider making changes to your novel pre-publication, or if it’s too late for that, ask for changes to be made in future printings. There are other ways to redress harm, but I leave that to you.

8. Do not defend your work. Do not explain why you wrote what you wrote. Don’t try to tell people that you never meant any harm.

But why do I need to do any of those things if I never meant to hurt anyone or if I don’t think my work is hurtful?

This is a topic I cannot adequately address here. Please check out the Helpful Links for longer thoughts on this topic.

Helpful Links

Misa Sugiura’s blog post on “When Your Book Gets Called Out…” Part 1

Revisions

revisions

improvements you make to your manuscript under your editor’s guidance

What steps make up the revision process?

  1. Edit letter. Your editor will send you a list of big-picture changes s/he thinks you should make to your ms.
  2. Revisions. You turn in a revised draft, get more feedback from your editor, and repeat until your ms is good and strong.
  3. Line edits. Your editor will mark up your manuscript, focusing on line-level writing. You’ll make the necessary changes and return the draft.
  4. Copy edits. A copy editor will mark up your ms, focusing on typos, grammatical errors, unnecessary repetition, inconsistencies, etc. You’ll make the necessary changes and return the draft.
  5. First pass pages. A proof reader will go over a mock-up of your book’s pages, checking for any more typos or layout errors. You’ll also review the pages and point out necessary changes. Sometimes you’ll need to do second pass pages as well.
  6. ARCs. Your manuscript will be made into a paperback Advance Review Copy.

 

When will I start the process?

You will probably receive your edit letter about six months or so after signing your contract. This varies so, so widely.

How long will the process take?

Several months, once it gets started, depending on how quickly you and your editor both work. Often, revisions take longer than expected, either because you miss a deadline or because your editor is swamped with other work and can’t move the process along as planned. Very often, publication dates get pushed back. So don’t get too attached to your publication date!

What if I don’t like the revisions my editor suggests?

The revision process requires a lot of back and forth. Your editor needs to know when his/her suggestions are not in line with your vision, and you need to seek to understand why your editor is suggesting the changes s/he is suggesting. If you absolutely don’t agree with a suggestion, you don’t have to follow it. But as often as you can, try out the suggestions before you reject them. If things get really dicey, get your agent involved to smooth things over. This also goes for when you think your editor isn’t suggesting enough revisions, which can be disappointing when you feel there is more work to be done and you need more direction than you’re getting.

Lead title

lead title

a book that receives a ton of promotional support from its publisher, more so than the publisher’s other titles

Is my book a lead title?

Probably not. Unless your editor told you it is, and you’re hearing about lots of promo plans that involve tons of money from your publisher–tours, paid ads, conference panels, pre-order incentives, etc.

But when my editor offered on my book, she said it would be a lead title and that I’d get lots of promo.

That means nothing if it’s not in your contract and you’re not seeing follow-up. Publishers’ plans change. Ugh, sorry.

My book is definitely a lead title! What should I expect?

Er, lots of promo. That’s all I know. Maybe someone will comment with more helpful info.

Sophomore novel

sophomore novel

your second novel, the little so-and-so

Will it be easier to write a second novel after publishing my debut?

I suppose it would be if you could just “find and replace” the character names and a few key details. Alas, many debut writers say that writing a second novel is very difficult. If you already have a second book under contract, you will be subject to deadlines, which can be brutal for an author who wrote his/her first book without such pressures. If you don’t have a second book under contract, you might feel pressure to quickly write and sell another novel in order to keep up your publishing momentum. Bad reviews or lack of promo for your first novel might have lowered your confidence by the time you start writing your second novel. Conversely, good reviews and positive attention for your first book might make you feel like your second book won’t be able to measure up. If you’re doing a lot of promo for your first novel, especially if it involves traveling, you might not find much time to write that sophomore novel.

Is it possible for the second book in my two-book deal to get canceled?

Yes, but I’m not sure how often that happens. Sometimes a sequel will get canceled if the first book doesn’t perform well, but I think a cancellation occurs more often with a third book than with a second book. Don’t quote me on that.

Any tips for how to get through the sophomore experience?

Do what you can to release pressure. Try not to rely on book sales for your income; that way, if it takes longer than expected to publish a second novel, you won’t be living on saltines. Ask for your deadlines to get pushed back if that’s what you need–everyone will be happier to have a good second book at the expense of having a speedy follow up. Stay in contact with other writers who can remind you that most sophomore novels are cheeky brats.

Helpful Link:

S. Jae-Jones talks about Writing Under Contract on Pub Crawl.

 

Envy

envy

a monster with a bitter venom

How will envy affect my debut experience?

I’d like to tell you how to avoid envying other (debut) authors during your debut year, and I could make a tepid effort by relaying the quote “comparison is the thief of joy,” but the truth is that you will probably experience envy at times during this process, and it will be painful. You will envy people who get bigger advances and print runs, who get smaller prints runs that are easier to “earn out,” who get more promo, who go on tours, who get to avoid touring and spend more time writing, who get better reviews, who get more followers on social media, who get on award lists, who rub elbows with other authors, who get on bestseller lists, who get to avoid the pressure of high expectations, who get new book deals, who get more or fewer deadlines, who have cuter pets, who look good in hats… “Oh, I’m not petty in that way. I shall eschew envy AND endeavor to look good in hats.” Wonderful! More power to you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

How can I kill the envy monster?

Does the advice “keep your eyes on your paper” help? No, I didn’t think so. It’s pretty hard not to compare yourself to your peers, no matter how hard you try. Even if you try to avoid everyone else’s announcements, some well-meaning person will probably get the info to you anyway. But here are my top tips for minimizing envy: 1) When you are going through a tough situation, like dealing with a harsh review of your book, minimize your exposure to other writers’ good news by spending less time online; you can come back and join their celebrations at a better time for you. 2) Remind yourself to take a long view: your debut novel is only ONE book, and you will have other opportunities to enjoy whatever it is that you are currently missing out on in publishing. 3) Cultivate interests outside of publishing so that you can bury yourself in those interests when you need an escape from the publishing process. 4) Make friends with other writers, especially debut writers; it’s much harder to envy people you truly care about, and with any luck you will actually enjoy helping them promote their books and celebrate their successes. 5) Take joy in writing a new manuscript; writing is a truer source of joy than is publishing, anyway,

WorldCat

WorldCat

an online resource that lets you search the collections of thousands of libraries across the world

Do I need to use WorldCat?

You can use WorldCat to search for your book; the results will show you which libraries have your book in their collection. You might like seeing the results, but be aware that not all libraries are connected to WorldCat, which means you won’t get the whole picture from this website alone. There are more copies of your book in libraries than WorldCat reports.

Link to WorldCat.

Goodreads

Goodreads

a website where readers review books

If I’m in the mood to feel utterly despondent, should I visit Goodreads?

Yes. Goodreads is the perfect site for authors who enjoy despairing of their career or of life in general. Many authors report feeling shock and depression upon reading harsh Goodreads reviews of their books straight from readers who don’t hold back on their opinions. An author who mistrusts his/her high confidence in his/her work can rest assured that Goodreads will obliterate all illusions of success.

Who uses Goodreads?

Readers use it to review books and enter giveaways. Reader reviews are meant for other readers, not for authors, and are sometimes snarky or otherwise harsh. Some Goodreads reviewers are impressively prolific; you’ll see reviews by the same reviewers on the top pages of many books’ reviews. These reviewers tend to have a large following of other Goodreads reviewers who “like” their posts, pushing them to the top of the results. The most popular GR reviewers seem to be the snarkiest, so don’t take it personally if one of them trashes your book. In fact, just don’t read your Goodreads reviews unless you have some super-strength emotional armor. Whatever you do, you should NEVER COMMENT ON A GOODREADS REVIEW. This rule is carved in the bedrock of all authors’ sanity. I’m serious–don’t do it. GR reviewers hate it, and they will respond to you not only on the Goodreads website but on every other website where they can find you. “But I’m just going to politely point out that the reviewer got a fact wrong.” No no no. You cannot respond. It’s carved in the bedrock! BEDROCK!!

How can I put my book on Goodreads?

A Goodreads librarian might put your book on Goodreads for you soon after your book deal is announced, or you can do it yourself using your author account. If you want to make changes to any details on your book’s page, you can use your author account to do so. It’s pretty easy!

Should I make an author account?

Yes, if you want to answer reader questions that are posted on your book’s page, or if you want to make any changes to your book’s description. No, if you don’t want to be tempted to read your Goodreads reviews or (heaven help you) comment on reviews of your book.

Should I rate my own book on Goodreads?

Some authors do. But some people find this distasteful. As another option, you can always post a little note about your book as a review without giving your book any stars.

I got a negative review on Goodreads!

I would say that I feel sorry for you, but this is just your due. And I also have to point out that everyone uses Goodreads differently–some people give 4 or 5 stars only to books that have made them weep diamond tears or otherwise changed the fabric of their reality. Some people give a book 1 star simply as a way of noting to themselves that they don’t plan to read this book, and not as a reflection of the quality of the book. And so many wonderful books on Goodreads have low ratings. Who can say why? Look up your favorite books on Goodreads and scroll through the reviews–I promise you’ll find opinions that you just can’t give merit to. Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait here.

I got a positive review on Goodreads! I’ll just leave a comment thanking the reviewer–

What did I say?? Don’t respond to Goodreads reviews! Honestly, some reviewers find it creepy to know that you are reading their reviews. It’s hard for them to share their honest opinions with their friends on Goodreads when they feel you are watching them. Just back away from the keyboard.

Should I review other author’s books on Goodreads?

Sure! They will be so happy to see their review number go up. But keep in mind that authors are your colleagues and seldom appreciate your criticism. How awkward will you feel when you are sitting on a panel next to an author who remembers that you only gave her book two stars on Goodreads? Honestly, don’t give another author less than 5 stars unless you want to strain your connections. If you can’t do that, don’t rate books on Goodreads. And if you have already given books low ratings, delete those reviews. You’re free to disagree with me on this, but if you’re the kind of author who’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to networking, take my advice.

I ignored all of your sage advice and responded to a Goodreads review!

Apologize to everyone. Step away from your keyboard. Disappear into the ether.