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Taming the Haters: How to Handle Malicious Online Comments About Your Work

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Please welcome guest author Emilie-Noelle Provost to Writer Unboxed today! Emilie-Noelle is an accomplished editor and writer, having held editorial positions with four magazines and written hundreds of articles over the years. She has a published book of middle-grade fiction, The Blue Bottle, and her first novel of adult fiction, The River is Everywhere–about a 16-year-old who must overcome doubt after his best friend’s shattering death–will release on March 14th.

“Provost’s writing is vivid, and her pace is swift. Readers of all ages will be drawn to this moving coming-of-age tale.”
– Paul Marion, editor of Atop an Underwood, the early work of Jack Kerouac

“Ernest Benoit’s odyssey begins as a search for some meaning that can help him better understand his best friend’s tragic death. But his, at times, dangerous journey quickly becomes a search for his own roots and soul. Provost is a gifted storyteller. The River Is Everywhere is well worth your time.”
– Stephen P. O’Connor, author of The Witch at Rivermouth

Though The River is Everywhere has not yet released, Emilie-Noelle has unfortunately already experienced online harassment over it. Today, she shares that encounter and some advice on how to cope with it.

You can follow Emilie-Noelle on Twitter and Facebook, and learn more about The River is Everywhere on her website: emilienoelleprovost.com. Welcome, Emilie-Noelle!

The day I signed the publishing contract for my second novel, I wrote a post about it on LinkedIn. I tagged the book’s soon-to-be publisher in the text, and included an image of their logo. The small press publishes just ten books a year. The fact that my book would be one of them was tremendously validating. I was delighted to share my good news.

Within minutes of the post going live I received a comment from a writer I was connected with on the platform but didn’t know very well. “That’s a vanity press!” he wrote. “Don’t publish your book with them. You’ll ruin your credibility. Everything you’ve worked for will go down the drain!”

Thinking this person was simply misinformed, I replied. “You must be confusing them with another publisher,” I wrote. “These guys are the real deal.” As proof, I added the link to my new publisher’s website. Believing I had settled the matter, I logged off.

When I looked at the post again later, I was horrified to discover that the same person had gone on an all-out digital tirade, posting multiple comments about how the publisher I had signed with wasn’t legitimate, and that as an author, neither was I. I realized then that, for some reason I still don’t understand, this complete stranger was trying to publicly discredit me and my work. I reported his comments to the site’s admin, removed him from my connections, and deleted the post.

The feeling of accomplishment I’d had that morning evaporated. I was sad and confused. I’d worked on that book for years. Why would a person who knew nothing about me or my work put so much effort into casting doubt on my achievement? Why would anyone be so mean to someone they don’t even know?

Some people get their sustenance from tearing apart others’ creative work. Over time, I’ve learned not to let these jerks get to me. I ignore their comments, or delete them in cases where they may be spreading falsehoods. Like most bullies, they lose interest pretty quickly if I refuse to acknowledge their cause.

Any writer with an online presence is bound to have meanspirited comments lobbed at them at some point in their career. I was curious to know how other writers deal with it. So, I asked a couple of authors I know about their experiences.

Liz Michalski, whose second novel, Darling Girl, was published last May, has had multiple adverse, unhelpful comments posted about the book—a dark retelling of Peter Pan—on a variety of platforms.

“My book is out there in the world, and everybody gets to have an opinion on it,” Michalski says. “Their opinion is none of my business, so I never respond to negative comments or reviews. In fact, I’ve pretty much given up reading reviews unless a friend sends me a particularly good or funny one.

“I’m also more careful which social media pools I swim in. I’ve had some really lovely fans on TikTok, but that’s also where the really meanspirited comments have been, so I tend to just not hang out there.”

Author Tara Lynn Masih’s book, My Real Name is Hanna, is a young adult historical novel about a Jewish teenager in Lithuania set during the Holocaust. Although the book has enjoyed critical praise, or perhaps because of it, the novel was singled out by a group of Holocaust deniers online seeking to discredit it.

“My recent Holocaust novel became the target of an organized two-star [rating] campaign,” Masih says. “Very inappropriate reviews that excoriated me personally were left on one site, which refused to take them down, even though some other sites would have. I even got worried for my safety when some angry emails started coming in, and someone attempted to get my cell phone number. For a few months, it affected me mentally and physically, and I did consider giving up writing. Is it really worth it, you have to ask yourself, when you are the subject of this kind of hate campaign?”

But eventually, Masih says, the trolls moved on to some other writer.

“The dirty dust settles, and you have hopefully reinforced your passion for creating stories, understanding that your writing has power and no one should ever be allowed to silence your voice.”

Have you experienced this type of negative behavior over social media or heard of similar stories? How have you or others handled the situation? Points for positive creativity.

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