Writing – You Can’t Please Everybody / Author J.A. Jance

Bestselling Author J.A. Jance

Bestselling Author J.A. Jance

Let’s face it.  Writing isn’t rocket science.  You can’t count on a set number of chemical chain reactions to send a book on its way, roaring into the stratosphere.

After all, books are written by people.  Earlier this week, a woman, claiming to be a great fan of mine, who is disappointed in one of my series, wrote to say that I must be a: senile or b: have hired someone “untalented” to do my writing for me.  It didn’t help her case that she MISSPELLED MY NAME in the body of her e-mail.  Talk about untalented!!!  I seem to remember my mother saying something about motes in eyes, but let’s not go there.

I write my own books and I write my own blogs to the best of my ability.  The books and blogs are published as I wrote them.  Complaining about a book after the fact doesn’t accomplish a whole lot.  It’s not as though I can go back to the computer and rewrite the 100,000 words contained therein to satisfy the complainer’s inner editor.  (I believe there used to be a set of books like that.  Wasn’t there a series once called Write Your Own Adventure, where the reader could make choices along the way and have the book end HIS way?)

But most books aren’t like that.  My books aren’t like that.  And people who are readers–who are the bread and butter of my business–get to have their own opinion about my books.  And they get to let me know what they like and don’t like.  Most of the time I can be philosophical about the critical comments.  Here’s my mother again:  You can’t please all the people all the time.  And I know that’s true.

I usually try to respond promptly and politely to all e-mails–good, bad, or indifferent.  My standard reply to critical e-mails is to say that I’m sorry they were disappointed–because I am.  But if they send me a second e-mail with even more vituperative complaints, I have no compunction about deleting that one without even reading it.  (Note to readers:  If you’re complaining about a book, be sure to take all your best shots in the FIRST e-mail!)

Occasionally, however, when someone sends me a note like that–an e-mail filled with the kind of stuff that no one would have nerve enough to say to someone’s face–I can’t shrug it off.  I’m reminded of the e-mail correspondent named Melissa G, who wrote to me years ago, telling me that since I was so incredibly ugly she hoped that when I went on tour I would wear a bag over my head so I wouldn’t frighten people.  Yes.  That is what she said–verbatim!  And those of you who are close readers of my work may recall that I used that VERY e-mail in one of my books.  (This is how writers make revenge!)

I’m afraid that the lady who called me senile the other day got my goat, too, very much like Melissa G.  It happened that her note arrived at a time when I was having a particularly bad e-mail day.  I suspect that I responded with a bit more heat than I should have when I suggested that sending insulting e-mails to complete strangers might be an indication that she has some possibly age-related mental deficiencies of her own.

"Left for Dead" by J.A. Jance

“Left for Dead” by J.A. Jance

Yes, next time I’ll take a deep breath, follow my mother’s very good advice about motes and eyes, and stick to “Sorry you were disappointed.”

We’ll all be happier that way.

J.A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ali Reynolds series, the J.P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, and four interrelated Southwestern thrillers featuring the Walker family. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington and Tuscon, Arizona.  Find out more about J.A. Jance and her novels on her website at http://www.jajance.com/jajance.com/Welcome.html.

(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/).  To be a part of this series, contact Beth at beth@killernashville.com.)

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About Clay Stafford

Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com) and founder of Killer Nashville (www.KillerNashville.com). As a writer himself, he has over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages. Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.OneOfTheMiracles.com) and the music CD “XO” (www.JefferyDeaverXOMusic.com). A champion of writers, Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” throughout “the nation’s book culture.” (PW 6/10/13)
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5 Responses to Writing – You Can’t Please Everybody / Author J.A. Jance

  1. radine says:

    I have met and chatted with J. A. Jance at writers’ conventions/festivals. She’s a delightful person, who, like many, has had a lot of grief in her life. She is also a terrific writer, and I have enjoyed most of her books. If there were one I started that didn’t appeal–for probably personal reasons–I’d simply put it aside and that would be that. I would no more send any author a personalized rant against her/his work than I would say to a mother cuddling her baby, “Gosh, your kid is ugly.” I know readers sometimes comment on book review listservs and elsewhere that they don’t care for a specific book or author and say why. That’s impersonal, and okay. But personally directed, badly worded, slashing diatribes? Sheesh!

  2. J.A., must say, I enjoyed your rant! Smiled a couple of times, laughed out loud, too. I have been known to ask my readers that after they read the book, to let me know if they liked it. And if they didn’t like, not to bother. We usually both get a chuckle out of that. My mother’s voice echoes in my head at these times when she’d say, if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. And then enjoy the silence…

  3. The advantage of the Internet is that readers may contact authors personally. And the disadvantage of the Internet is that readers may contact authors personally. Ages ago, publishers would forward “fan” letters, generally skipping those of “the typo on page 68” kind, and authors were not expected to respond. Senders of email messages expect a reply. Like you, we answer all email messages as nicely as we can, but sometimes we do so with gritted teeth. Thanks for a great blog.

  4. K.B. Gibson says:

    I’m afraid my mouth dropped open at the incredibly rude e-mails that J.A. Jance speaks of because I heard my own mother…if you can say something nice, don’t say anything at all. With my first book coming out this summer, I only hope I can be as graceful as she with bad e-mails and bad reviews. I may have to tape, “Sorry you were disappointed,” on my computer screen to remember, but I think “writing is the best revenge” will remain with me always!

  5. I was flabbergasted by some of the emails cited in this post. The sheer scope of such rudeness is just . . . stunning. K.B., my mom drilled that saying into me too, along with the golden rule.

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