by Niall Doherty

A couple of weeks ago I published my new book. One of the first reviews on Amazon wasn’t very pleasant. The reviewer gave my book a one star rating and wrote the following (click here to read on Amazon.com):

I was expecting so much more from Niall Doherty and his second book. This was meant to be a book with untold stories, behind the scenes and uncensored stories about his life while travelling the world. The reader is disappointed to find that the “book” merely contains numerous stories directly from his blog or mentioned in his memento series. They are unoriginal and have already been told on his blog, many are just not very interesting and do not warrant being made into a expensive electronic book.

The positive reviews here are surely as fake as the boring stories in his book.

Do not waste your money on this “book”. Niall, you speak of always providing value to your clients but this book sorely disappoints.

That was the first thing I read one morning after booting up my laptop. At first I felt my heart sink. I was angry and disappointed and I felt the review was very unfair. But that feeling quickly passed and I realized there was an opportunity at hand.

I gave myself a few hours to mull over how I wanted to respond to that negative review, then sat down and replied with the following:

Hi Max,

Thanks for taking the time to read the book and leave a review. I appreciate your feedback.

I’m disappointed that you didn’t enjoy the book. I offer a full money-back guarantee for anyone who buys it through my website, but even if you got your copy here on Amazon, email me and I’ll refund you the full cost. I’d rather you didn’t pay $10 for a book you didn’t like.

I will answer some of your criticisms here, and I welcome your response.

First, you say that the stories in the book are unoriginal and can be found for free on my blog. I’d counter that 50% of the book is about my experience on the cargo ship, which I’ve not written about elsewhere. I also have plenty of untold stories in there, such as the chapters about my experiences in Bucharest, Kathmandu and Bangkok. I may have hinted at some of those stories in my Momentos series on the blog, but the most you would have read there was a short paragraph or two about each experience. I have shared some of my stories from Amsterdam, India and Iran before on the blog, and I have chapters on those places in the book as well, but pretty much everything is written afresh, with plenty added that I’ve never shared before.

All in all, I think it would be fair to say that at least 80% of the book consists of stories that I’ve either never shared before, or I’ve never elaborated on before, while at least 90% of the book is written completely anew. I can think of only one story in the book (the bit about the train station in India) which is taken almost word-for-word from my blog. I spent almost four weeks working on The Cargo Ship Diaries, writing for an average of three hours per day while at sea. If all that came from that time and effort was the impression that I simply recycled or copied stories already told on the blog, then I failed miserably.

As for fake reviews, I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. I have certainly emailed people who bought my book and asked them to leave an honest review on Amazon if they enjoyed it. If that constitutes as soliciting fake reviews, then I’m guilty as charged. Please email me and share your reasons for believing the reviews are fake (or share here in the comments here if you prefer), as I’d love to address this issue properly. Fake reviews are worse than no reviews. People can see right through them.

Lastly, I’ll say that I checked out your other Amazon reviews, and I see that you also gave 1-star reviews to books by two of my favorite authors: Karol Gajda and Mike Hrostoski. Given that, I’m inclined to consider your opinion of my book as a high compliment 🙂

Thanks again for your time.

– Niall

I then posted a link to the review (and my response) on Facebook, which resulted in a “reach” of approximately 4,000, along with lots of support and encouragement from friends and readers. I’m pretty sure I sold a handful of books from all that attention, too.

Should you respond to trolls?

It’s worth noting that whoever left that review on Amazon used a fake name and never contacted me for a refund. He (or she) clearly holds some kind of grudge against me. Some would even label him (or her) a troll. And you know what they say: Don’t feed the trolls!

I agree with that for the most part, which is why I ignore many of the comments I receive on YouTube (aka. Troll Central). But I believe there are occasions when you should respond to trolls. Not for their sake, but for the sake of others who may come across the harsh criticism and think it justified.

This carries over to life offline. If a random person runs up to you on an empty street and accuses you of being a lying scumbag, the best course of action is to simply ignore him and move away quickly. But if that same person interrupts your sales proposal to a bunch of business execs with the same accusation, well, you can’t really run away and ignore it. You have to speak up and defend yourself.

Freeloader?

Here’s another example of me responding to criticism online. This happened just today, in the comments of an article about my trip around the world on an Irish website:

Murph11: Diary of a freeloader. Must be great to have the time

Niall Doherty: I wouldn’t consider myself a freeloader. I paid my way to travel on that cargo ship and it wasn’t cheap: €3,200 including banking, exchange and insurance fees.

I’ve been working online for the past 2.5 years as I’ve traveled around. It’s like I have a full-time job, but my office can be anywhere. Not quite the prolonged holiday you might imagine it to be, but I definitely prefer this lifestyle to my old one stuck working in a cubicle.

For anyone curious, I track all my income and expenses and post them online. You can see exactly how much I earned and spent last year at this link: http://ndoherty.com/2013-finances/

Murph11: Niall, just want to say sorry for the freeloader comment. The article was very vague. On reading it I got the impression that you just hopped on a ship and travelled the world for free. You gave more info in your two posts than the article did. I raise d paw and say sorry for any offence caused. Best of luck with ur travels and look forward to d links u posted.

Niall Doherty: Appreciate that, Murph. I agree that the article was a bit vague, so I don’t blame you for jumping to conclusions. I posted my response to your earlier comment as I felt many other people might also be wondering how I’m able to afford my travels.

No offense caused. All the best to you 🙂

How to keep your cool and respond appropriately

The main thing I want to share you with here is an effective mindset for handling criticism. Whenever you’re faced with harsh words, repeat to yourself:

  1. This is nothing personal.
  2. That person is in a lot of pain.

Try really hard not to feel angry or resentful towards the critic. The vast majority of the time, their criticism is nothing but a projection of their own issues onto an external target (i.e. you). You should feel sorry for them that they’re experiencing that pain and couldn’t find any better way to express it.

When responding, try to take issue with the accusations and not the accuser. Consider each point they made and reply as as respectfully as possible. Keep in mind that people are rarely 100% wrong. As such, try find and agree with whatever small truth may have been expressed in the criticism. This gives you more credibility when politely disagreeing with other points.

I don’t want to repeat too much of what I’ve written on the blog previously, so I’ll wrap this up by pointing you towards an archived article entitled, Becoming Unoffendable. Lots of handy, stoic-inspired tips in there for keeping your cool and responding appropriately when someone likens you to a donkey appendage.

Oh, and one more thing, that being another shameless plug for my book, The Cargo Ship Diaries. There are twenty reviews for it up on Amazon now (.com and .co.uk combined). Fifteen reviewers have given it a five-star rating, four have given it a four-star rating, and then there’s our aforementioned friend who gave it the lonely one-star rating.

You can buy the book either through my site (audio version available there, too), or on Amazon.