I’m a writer. I’ve been one for 20 years. So you think I’d be used to criticism. But the Internet has opened up a whole new can of nastiness. It’s why I stopped reading Amazon reviews (why bother, when people criticize a book that they admit they haven’t even bothered to read…but don’t like the premise of the storyline?). The worst had to be, however, when a man started posting horrible comments on my website message boards. At first he just criticized my books and my lack of writing talent. Then he began to comment on my looks, my weight—things that have nothing to do with my writing at all. It got to the point where other people on the message boards were defending me, and saying they didn’t want to go to my website anymore because this guy was so offensive. Eventually, my webmaster banned him…and he reappeared using a different name. Finally, I had to appoint two longtime wonderful fans to prescreen posts on the message boards—just to make sure this guy wasn’t turning up again. You’d think that someone like a writer might be “above it all”—but let me tell you, we’re just like anyone else. Our skin is thin. We bleed a little when you write in an Amazon review that our writing is horrible and predictable; that you wish you hadn’t wasted money on a book. We know that you have bad hair days too, but maybe not on a night when 500 people are taking photos of you with cell phone cameras—pics that wind up online for everyone to comment upon. Constructive criticism is one thing…but blanket negativity is another entirely. Just remember that when you write that nasty review or comment on a photo, the author is probably reading it. And feeling just as badly reading that as you would, had it been said about you.
Jodi Picoult is the acclaimed author of 20 novels. Her newest, Lone Wolf ($28, amazon.com), will be out on February 28.