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July 23rd, 2006

12:27 PM

Authors, Bad Reviews, Mean Bloggers, Etc

About this matter.

I have to agree with some folks like Robin, I do find it rather disconcerting, if typical, heh, that the authors' response to this aspiring writer who dared to write a bad review is dangerously close to being a Mean Girls' "Watch, We'll Shut You Out, Bitch!" reaction.

Sure, it is not political to mock the publisher that you may be hoping to get signed up with in the future. But instead of letting the reviewer/aspiring author learn that the hard way, we have people Googling up the reviewer's real name to personally launch a public pillory session.

Isn't that an overreaction?

Okay, I have a headache at this very moment so my thoughts may not be organized here but anyway, here goes:

Authors do use bad reviews as a marketing tool. I see at once what the author who was lambasted was doing because I've experienced my share of authors who used something I write in their forums (this was before the community discovered blogs, of course) to drum up hype about the book. It is amazing how word goes around regarding the book when so many people are talking about it. I've seen an author who, taking advantage of a reader's post in a forum that contains only very benign criticisms about her book, launched a massive counterattack that took place for three or four days involving her fans and fellow authors in that very forum going OMIGOD HOW RUDE TO WRITE SUCH A TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE REVIEW all over the poor poster. A fuss is raised, people get curious about the book, and the author gets a few extra change when her royalty check arrives.

Why are so many authors so eager to set an aspiring author straight about the politics of the business? In a public venue? For all the angsts and hand-wringings from authors about how mean folks like Karen Scott, Dionne Galace or Bam, and the Smart Bitches are, it seems like the very same angsting authors aren't above doing the same as well. Why not just get off the high horse and play in the mud like everyone else?

Editors may or may not care about being called on in a manner that is more sarcastic than venomous by our poor aspiring author but I don't think they will care to the extent that they will join in the fray and take part in the witch hunt. Some will, I suppose, but I don't think they care too much about the authors and the petty politics they play, not as much as the fact that the authors keep selling and bringing in the dough anyway. Some editors are pretty sporting and many even have a sense of humor. Speaking for myself, a few have even offered to see any books that I may have in my drawer even when I'm hammering away at the authors they edit, heh, and no, they are not going about in that "Come see how you can write, bee-yatch!" manner.

So, what do I think? My opinion is this:

The author is smart to use that bad review to generate more fuss about her book. Of course, the fuss causes the book to come off like some hamster porn thingie, so I suspect readers may end up being disappointed when the book ends up being just another Blaze.

On the other hand, the other authors that weigh in, fairly or unfairly, come off to me like happy self-righteous people on a witch hunt with personal agendas in their minds. It is as if they smell blood and use this opportunity to dump whatever pent-up emotions they may have on the reviewer. Do they ever pause to wonder why the author will take the trouble to look up the identity of this Amazon reviewer? The author sets the bait and her fellow authors happily take it, giving her attempt to generate hype about her work a "legitimacy" of sorts, so that she can now claim that her public lashout to this reviewer has some higher ground, ie she only wants to let people know never to bite the hand that feeds them.

Should authors tell mean reviewers that they suck? Why not? Reviewers tell them their books suck all the time. But let's not assume that only mean readers and evil reviewers have secondary or hidden motives. A little discretion on both the reviewers and readers part in responding to controversies, scandals, and more would have helped here. The publishing houses don't need defending from a mere aspiring author. The author whose book was slammed by this aspiring author is not going to lose her book contract and will have to spend the rest of her life standing in welfare queues. The editor who edited the book will not run crying into the bathroom before resigning because her life now has no meaning.

Editors don't care about aspiring authors' feelings. They most likely care enough to hold a grudge only when their bestselling author runs off to a rival publishing house without a by-your-leave. They won't look at the name on a query letter and go, "This is Jane Doe who said on an Amazon page that I'm a fool to publish Book XYZ! Death to her!" Maybe it's a nice feeling for authors to have when they believe that their editors love them so much that these editors will gallantly go out and slay all those mean old dragons saying mean things about the authors, but I doubt the editors will go that far in their relationship with their authors. Mostly likely, if the editor believe that the aspiring author's book can sell, she or he will snap up the author even if this will hurt another author's feelings.

So an aspiring author wrote a bad review on Amazon. Big deal. Her only sin, if one can call it that, is that she is not discreet enough to use a pseudonym to spare her the Mean Girls fiasco that she is soon embroiled in. The author struck back. Big deal. Her feelings were hurt and she also saw an opportunity to generate some hype for her book in the process. But for all those people who jump into the fray saying talking about bitten hands and what not, however, excuse me if I doubt that these people only have the aspiring author's best intentions in mind when they talk about how this poor aspiring author is going to be burning bridges with RWA and publishing houses and what not!

2 user comments.

Posted by Bam:

Every time you mention me by name, Mrs. G, my cold dead heart grows and warms a little bit. God bless you, you utterly fabulous woman.
August 30th, 2006 @ 5:52 AM

Posted by book junkie:

Bravo!
August 1st, 2006 @ 4:48 AM