There are several definitions for "alchemy". The one that fits what I want to write about here is "a power or process of transforming something common into something special".
Almost all published authors, no matter how famous or successful, will attract mean-spirited, one-star reviews on Amazon.com or elsewhere. In the past, the advice was to ignore such reviews but today authors have other choices that if used properly may harness the Internet in ways that traditionally published authors from that out-of-date publishing world never had.
Instead of being defensive, upset and/or angry at mean-spirited, one-star reviews consider these types of reviews as an opportunity to promote an author's work in a positive way.
The fact is that not everyone is going to enjoy every author's work no matter how many years he or she spent bleeding ink while researching, revising and editing the work being criticized.
In addition, there will be no way to change the minds of people that enjoy being negative and mean spirited. No matter how an author responds, the mean-spirited person will see this as another opportunity to push the blade in deeper (if allowed).
Almost every famous and successful author I've researched on Amazon has a few of these reviews.
For example, I selected one of Steven King's books that had 951 customer reviews. There were 732 five-star reviews and 19 one-star reviews for this book.
Here's one if the nineteen: "The book needed a lot of editing. The endless dialogue and sub-plots become tiresome really fast. I could only make it half way through."
Then I looked up J. K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone".
There were 5,644 customer reviews and 76 earned one-star. Four-thousand-seven-hundred-and-fifty (4,750) were five-star reviews.
One of the 76 one-star reviews said, "I love reading, and this is probably the most boring, unoriginal and derivative story I have ever read. It is not interesting and was a waste of my time. Can someone please respond to my review and tell me why people like these books?"
What do we call individuals that search for opportunities to be mean-spirited and negative? I found two sites that may answer this question.
In The Psychological Vampire, Lynn Koiner points out several traits that may fit individuals that enjoy writing mean spirited, one-star reviews. The Psychological Vampire that writes these types of reviews:
1. is a narcissistic, self-absorbed victim
2. is an argumentative bully who absorbs energy through initiating discord
3. enters our psyches be instilling fears and doubts (if we allow it)
Some causes of BPD Vampires are “Adults shamed as children that often feel angry and judgmental towards the qualities in others that they feel ashamed of in themselves. This can lead to shaming others.
"Being mean, cruel, or cold-hearted; verbally, relationally, or physically abusive; humiliating and demeaning of others; … active and open belligerence or vengefulness; using dominance and intimidation to control others (if we let them).”
The Mayo Clinic says of individuals with BPD, “Relationships are usually in turmoil. People with BPD often experience a love-hate relationship with others.… This is because people with the disorder have difficulty accepting gray areas — things are either black or white.”
BPD Vampires may also have trouble accepting that anyone else has an opinion the opposite of theirs.
If you want to see more examples of BPD Vampires at work, I suggest visiting Amy Chua's memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and read the comments left by two of Chua's most ardent critics, JLee and Mandy Wu — both fit the profile perfectly. Since these two BPD Vampires have left many comments, what they have to say will not be difficult to find. If you read enough, you will discover that both JLee and Mandy Wu were shamed as children and the result is the judgmental anger of a person suffering from BPD.
As I see it, authors promoting their work in the virtual world have several choices when being criticized by a BPD Vampire:
1. become defensive and counterattack with meanness, which is futile and will only feed the BPD Vampire, or
2. ignore the BPD Vampire (old-world advice before the advent of the Internet) or
2. (my choice) Interact in a positive way that demonstrates the BPD Vampire is not getting to you. Smile while writing your responses. Be positive. Without malice of anger, point out that everyone has a right to his or her opinion and provide one or more examples of a positive review of the author's work from a reputable source other than the author's family, friends or other anonymous reviewers to demonstrate that not all opinions are the same and the world isn't just black and white.
iLook China currently averages 243 views daily and that post is available 24/7 for anyone in the world to read.
Another BPD Vampire was Eastside Girl who responded to my reply of his or her one-star Amazon review with more meanness, "It is the first time I've felt strongly enough about a book (strongly disliked in this case) to post a review. Personally, I find your comments to mine and other unfavorable reviews about your book to be defensive, insecure and a total turn-off."
I ignored the bate and replied in a positive manner pointing out that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion then provided examples of five-star review from sites such as "The Midwest Book Review". If you want to see how I handled it, click on the Eastside Girl link.
There are reputable review sites that practice old-world social etiquette and good manners such as "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all," which is good advice for all BPD Vampires.
However, since we cannot rid the world of BPD Vampires, my advice is to seek reviews from as many reputable sources as possible that will be the garlic used to counter the BPD Vampires allowing authors to turn lead into gold.
That does not mean these sites automatically review every book sent to them. Many books that are not considered up to industry standards are rejected and due to the numbers involved, the site does not have the time to respond. Books that are not reviewed by these sites may indicate the author has more work to do.
In the world of traditional publishing before the Internet and Amazon.com, it was considered a sign of insecurity for an author to reply to a negative review and the most common way an author could do that would be to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper or TV station where the critical review appeared.
In those old days before the Internet, the unwritten rule was to ignore negative reviews, because soon those reviews were old news, often forgotten and difficult to find.
Today, almost everything posted on the Internet will still be available (24/7) years and decades from now, which means the unwritten rule has changed.
In fact, the art of turning a negative review into publicity for search engines and "normal" readers that do not see the world in black and white is worth considering.