Is it possible to actually benefit from engaging in a flame war?

English: The Anti-Flame Barnstar:to be awarded...

I’ve always said no. The professional in me says walk away, take it off the net, block or avoid. Negativity doesn’t help anyone. And that’s been my story every since entering the fray back in 2008 when I started my author blog, RachelintheOC.com.

Until a few weeks ago. Without giving a particular site more press, I became so infuriated at the misinformation, assumptions, and ridiculously false statements the editor was spreading regarding indie authors, I jumped in. That’s right, I stepped up!

And I inadvertently ended up with book sales and clients because of it.

Let’s deconstruct.

PUBLIC PERSONA

As an author and businessperson, I’m very aware of what I tweet, share, and the comments I leave on blogs. I think any author or businessperson needs to give thought to how they come across in public and their authentic self. Normally I bring my own experiences and thoughts (sometimes snarky. What.) in a way that’s not ever meant to offend and that strategy has worked for me.

So, when I read this post which said indies were ruining literature, do nothing but spam links on social, and that we always pay for reviews, I thought seriously about what my response should be before I replied. It would have been easy to lower myself to the same level this guy did (name calling and the whole bit), but I didn’t. Instead I disagreed – with facts, my own experiences (using professional services for each book, winning awards, getting a 5-star from Midwest Book Review and several top 10 Amazon hall of fame reviewers for Broken Pieces), and real-life examples.

His response was ugly and I didn’t get into it further. Until I did a little research.

WHAT DID I FIND?

I took a look at this Twitter stream and guess what it was? ALL links. So I shared that. Why? That information is there for anyone to take a look at, so it’s not like I was sharing some big secret. But the main reason I even bothered was not to ‘win.’ It was simply to show him that he was the pot calling the kettle black — doing exactly what he accused ALL indies of doing.

REACTION

Many people read this article and responded to him in a similar manner as I did: with facts, experiences, examples. What became an unexpected benefit of this exchange was the number of people who contacted me directly about my reasoned response, asking to learn more about my services and books. My goal to respond to this guy wasn’t to sell anything. It was simply to disprove his outrageous statements.

I did agree that some indies are clueless and need to learn how to market their books, but that it’s not strictly indie authors who do this. Traditional authors spam links also, as do many types of artists or businesspeople.

LESSONS LEARNED

‘Pick your battles,’ is something most of us live by. We can’t possibly take on every argument, every cause. A former colleague said that it’s what upsets us the most that reveals our insecurities. I disagree. After three books, I’m comfortable with my voice, my vision, and my process to create a professional work. The reaction to Broken Pieces has been nothing short of amazing (it just made the final round for Best NonFiction for the eFestival of Books.) along with other wins, awards, and great reviews. The best benefit, however, is the beautiful connections I’ve made with other survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

But that’s not what this article is about. On a grander scale, I learned that sometimes we do have to stand up for what we believe in. A well-thought out response wins over schoolyard behavior every single time. And even it has no affect on this guy, so what? It’s the connections I made with others over this whole thing that matters most to me.

What do you think? Are flame wars worth the effort or not? Please share your experiences below!