Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'm not sure whether to laugh...or hide

Bad reviews, even tepid reviews, are a fact of life.
I'm convinced anyone who doesn't love every single book by every single one of my clients is a witless nincompoop.

But I'm not sure witless nincompoopery is actually a federal offense.


Stephanie L. McGee said...

Oh, man. I can't wait to see what this does to the author's career. These sorts of incidents test the adage, "No such thing as bad publicity."

Thanks for posting.

Munk said...

I just wish someone cared enough to interrogate my arrogant assumptions from the wrong perspective.

Ronda Laveen said...

Crikey! I'm just happy to learn the correct spelling on nincompoopery. Some people just can't leave bad enough alone.

Thanks for the point to Neil Gaiman's blog. I didn't know he had one.

Heather said...

I read these posts before she deleted them (or maybe it was just on another site, where it was indexed), but I couldn't bring myself to keep reading long enough to get to the part where she actually said she was reporting people to the FBI. Her "comments" made "no sense" and her "use of quotation marks" was both "annoying" and "grammatically incorrect." Still, I had to just laugh at the whole situation. Obviously no one ever prepared the author for the possibility of bad reviews.

therese said...

Great words, Munk.

From a writer who's been told I don't put enough conflict and drama in my books, well, this new internet potential makes me wonder. Do I dare face the conflict and drama of publication. LOL!

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I'd have thought that by the time you get to the stage of getting a bad review, you'd have learnt to not take rejection and criticism personally.

Gilbert J. Avila said...

She had to alert the FBI to a conspiracy to discredit her writing.

Tina Lynn said...


Aetheric said...

I read through most of the thread on Amazon before she deleted her posts, and I have to say you couldn't make up the stuff she was saying.

I've commented before on authors taking criticism (of the personal, hateful kind, which really bothers me) but this wasn't the case here. The reviewer just didn't think much of the book, and said so - at which point the author began attacking her directly under a pseudonym, and things escalated from there to threats of F.B.I. involvement.

You can say that any publicity is good, but this has several kinds of stupid written all over it.

Technolustmaxx said...

The Guardian would have you believe that every day was Halloween. I pay no attention to it!

Merry everything.


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Pixie Warrior got some wonderful reviews, and two really nasty ones. The first appeared on a SF/Fantasy blog. The person who wrote it can't spell which is something this typo inclined pixie sympathizes with usually. In this case I was just as happy he couldn’t...

The other was a review of the kindle download version. They downloaded a faulty file (it was awful!) and hated it (of course). The file was withdrawn almost immediately, but this luckless listener (it was the audio version) left a nasty review.

That produced an ongoing discussion of the problem. She was offered the fixed audio version (very nicely done by Maggie Mustico). Last I looked people were still leaving comments on her negative review. Me, I keep my little mouth shut! What am I supposed to say?

Not everyone will like what you write. Live with it.

Of course, calling the FBI might make you feel better:

FBI: Agent G. Mann speaking.

ME: Hey, G. It's me again! I got this review and I don't like it. I need you to investigate them ten ways from Sunday and check for cavities in their back teeth!

FBI: Just the facts, ma'am. Who wrote the review?

ME: Umm it was unsigned. Tapped to my front door. It's on unwatermarked foolscap. They sell that type of paper at charring cross station. I think the person who left it was wearing men's size ten shoes, but was really a woman. The rolled their own; you can tell from the ash. And they like Oreos. Their right thumb has a dent from pushing door bells. ... And they either have green hair, or they haven't brushed their clothes off since last Easter.

FBI: Got it. Sounds like a case for S. Mann, my brother. I'll phone him. He'll get back to you. Take two lithium and get plenty of sleep!

Gary Corby said...

How very cool. The ultimate conclusion of this trend will be when outraged authors eliminate anyone who writes a bad review, thus making it relatively safe to diss romance writers, but risky to criticize crime writers.

jdcoughlin said...

We all feel that way, want to say those things, but put our hands across or mouth, sit on them, or drink ourselves silly until forget how to use either. Anyway, that's my plan.
Happy Holidays!

laughingwolf said...

oh man!

merry christmas to you and yours, janet...

Laurel said...

I can't help it. I feel bad for her. I know she shot herself in the foot, I know what she did was extremely ill-advised, starting with reading her Amazon reviews, but at some point during the whole debacle she must have realized, "Uh-oh. Crossed a line."

Maybe not until Neil Gaiman tweeted about it, and maybe not until after she issued a Facebook plea for positive reviews to counter the thread, but somewhere in there was that horrible, terrible, no good, very bad "Oh $#!*" moment. (Apparently not before she called the FBI, though.) And now she is a cautionary tale for authors everywhere.

Susan Quinn said...

I think witless nincompoopery is its own reward.

Ricky Bush said...

I've reviewed a ton of blues recordings for various publications and always call it like I hear it. I try my best to find something positive to say with each review, but sometimes the negatives out weigh anything nice that I could possibly say. Reviewers must be honest in their assessments or they lose their credibility. Where this writer puts some blame on the editor, some musicians shove it off on the producer. Since I started my own blog, the CDs that I review are ones that I have bought myself for my own enjoyment, and ones that I know that I'll like. So, my reviews tend to be more positive, and that can lead to criticism also. I had one commentator wanting to know just how in the world I could have possibly recommended what he called "a dog of a blues release". He bought several CDs based on my reviews and now called my tastes to task. Oh, well.

A. Grey said...

I'm with Munk. Not that I long for bad reviews, just A review...

That said, Scalzi posted on this some time ago, when most of the author's responses were still up... I went and read it all.... wow is all I can tell you.

Inherently, I'm someone who says 'you're entitled to your opinion' and doesn't get offended. Now it's safe to say that even if I AM offended mum is the public word. This along with having met authors like Kristin Cashore who take even horrible comments and find a way of turning them into something useful, or at least harmless on a personal level, has been a great way to learn how to act, and how NOT to act!

Sarah said...

Wow. Just wow.

Gotta 'love' Sam's 'use' of quotation marks in her comments.

Furious D said...

Wait a minute... where is my file?

Come on! I'm an arrogant internet know it all who drops his opinions about the rich and powerful like they actually matter!

I criticize, I annoy, I aggravate!

Where is my FBI File!?!

Damn, where's J. Edgar Hoover when you need him?

Margaret Yang said...

A long time ago, a writer I respect recommended the following response to a bad review.

1. Open your window.
2. Shout out at the world, "Ha, ha, asshole, I got the gig!"
3. Close the window, secure in the knowledge that you are a published writer, and that counts for a lot.
4. Get back to work.

Anne-Marie said...

Ouch. Someone needs to have Santa deliver a thicker skin for Christmas.

On that note, have a wonderful Christmas, Janet, and thank you for keeping this blog in 2009. It's one of the best reasons I can give for not finishing my most recent novel.


Wilhem Spihntingle said...

This little piece of advice from the the article has served me well many times.

"it's a salutary reminder of why some things are better written in anger and deleted in the morning."

Malia Sutton said...

I never comment on any reviews, good or bad. If you thank a reviewer for good comments it looks like sucking up, and if you blast a reviewer for bad comments, it looks like sour grapes.

But I do have about fifty never-been-published blog posts, regarding a few bad reviews, that were my therapy posts. I also have voodoo dolls, evil eyes, and a great psychic friend who knows how to hand out some serious Sicilian curses via the Internet.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I read through most of the insanity as it was going on and from the comments there, all the author got out of it was:

* a 60,000 slot drop in her ranking on Amazon in one day

* multiple calls/emails to her publisher to explain how horribly unprofessional one of their writers was

* multiple calls/emails to her publisher to explain that one of their authors was explaining how her editor ruined her book

* a lot of negative publicity via an author people actually like (many showed up because of Neil Gaimon's blog and Twitter) and promises of "I'd never even look at a book you wrote now"

The last I looked there were around 40 pages of comments, and the writer disappeared around page 25, so her publisher may have reined her in. Who knows?

The weird part of it was, that the review that set her off wasn't the 1st one star review she had for the book. She focused on that one review so exclusively that she was blaming the reviewer for her inability to get another contract.

And a couple of the commenters saved all of her posts and put them on their blogs, so they're still around even after she deleted them. She had absolutely no idea of how Amazon's reviews worked and was under the impression that she owned and controlled her "pages" there.

Rebecca Knight said...

I, too, saw this on Scalzi's blog and went and read the whole thing. I was horrified, then morbibly fascinated, then kind of sad.

I feel really bad for Sam's editor right now :(. Hopefully she gets a nice box of chocolate for Christmas. Or maybe some booze.

Merry Christmas, Janet!

A. Grey said...

Sicilian curses. Freaking. Love. It. Got Italian fam, including a great grandmother who collected everyone's hair from combs and nail clipping so the gypsy stregas couldn't curse the children... :)

_*Rachel*_ said...

Gary Corby--Hahahaha! And it'd be safe to anger SF writers (phasers don't yet work), but not high fantasy writers (especially members of SCA)!

Laurel--she shot herself in the *font.*

Thank GOD I'm not her editor, or her publisher, or her agent (if she has one), or even a relative.

Merry Christmas, tout le monde! M'a salaama!

Jemi Fraser said...


CNU said...

A bad review is a bad review. What disturbs me is when a reviewer tries to make inferences into the author's personality/life based on the narrator of a story. Remember the 'speaker' is NOT the author...

(Ex: Wow, I didn't know Jonathan Swift was a baby eater!!!
I am shocked to learn Franz Kafka enjoys transforming into an insect on the weekends...)

Having said that reviewers are obviously entitled to their opinion. Keep in mind a bad review can reveal some wonderful things as well (like who your target audience is *and is not!* for example.)

Authors need to chill and not take the review so personally. Taking a bad review in stride requires grace and shows a lot of class. Besides eventual success is great revenge.

Don't believe me?----->


Laugh at yourself and others- You'll live longer!


Whirlochre said...

Sticks and stones...

MaureenHume said...

Bad reviews are a total bummer, but responding in an aggressive way unfortunately makes the criticism echo so much louder.
Margaret Yang's advice is the best I've come across...yell out the window and then move on.
It's probably a good thing I don't have any close neighbors.
Maureen. www.thepizzagang.com

Sean Ferrell said...

My favorite paragraph of 2009:

""Authors," she wrote, "rarely have full editorial control; rarely do they have even 'scant' control over their covers or the language used in dialogue or even sequencing of scenes: love scenes, kissing scenes, scenes of violence, etc. These are ultimately controlled by editorial staff…very rarely the author alone.""

No wonder Gabe is so tired. He had to write my novel for me.

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

I'm with Malia and A. Gray on the Sicilian curse thing. Hysterical! And great advice from M. Yang.

Thanks for the ever entertaining and thought provoking blog, Janet.

Southern Writer said...


I loved a couple of the comments in that blog--the one about "never argue with a pig," and "never argue with an idiot." I'd never heard either before, but now I will never forget.

eihlin said...

A cautionary tale in many ways.
While federal offenses may not be indicated, defamation is always a potential risk in this kind of poppycockery.