On (Not) Cursing Reviewers

Maybe I should have titled this “On (Not) Killing Reviewers” because lord knows that many authors don’t like us. Oh, they’ll use us as part of their promotional plan and if that includes a bit of fawning well, so be it. But the truth is they don’t like us. In fact, I suspect that in authorial circles book reviewers would be as welcome as fleas would be to a cat.

Jessa Crispin, founder and owner of Bookslut, the original and popular online book review/commentary site, recently posted an “answer” to an author who e-mailed one of her reviewers in response to a review of the author’s book. The author was unhappy. The author was apparently not nice in how she expressed her unhappiness. But what really got Ms. Crispin’s back up was that the author asked—demanded, I suspect—that the site run a revised review. They won’t.

Bad mistake. Unfortunately, the author is not the first one to do this. Alice Hoffman didn’t just express her dissatisfaction to the editor of the Boston Globe who ran a review about which Hoffman was unhappy. Instead she repeatedly tweeted her views, calling the reviewer “a moron” in one, stating that “any idiot can be a critic” in another, but most appallingly broadcasting her phone number and e-mail address in a tweet that encouraged Hoffman’s fans to tell her “what u think of snarky critics.”

Alain de Botton went even further, attacking his book’s critic on the critic’s blog, noting that “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make.” (He did apologize later, but his apology is more for the fact that the comment is out there basically forever than for the comment itself.)

Of course Anne Rice ‘s 2004 outburst has yet to be topped. The book that was, unfortunately, edit-free, garnered negative comments among her fans on Amazon. She lost her temper badly, telling them that their “stupid, arrogant assumptions . . . are slander,” and that they  have “used the site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehoods and lies.”

Nasty. And unwarranted. When writers get to the point where they think that they are beyond improvement, beyond criticism, beyond being a decent  human being then perhaps they are beyond needing readers. They are certainly, in my opinion, beyond attention. I would be willing to bet that particular author who demanded asked Bookslut for a revision of the review will never again get a book of hers reviewed at that site. I know she wouldn’t get a second chance at BiblioBuffet. Her reputation would be shot.

Lev Raphael, an author as well as a BiblioBuffet book reviewer, in response to my e-mail about the incident quoted a line from the fourth in his academic murder mystery series, Little Miss Evil: “Stefan had written a witty, angry, insulting letter to the reviewer, which I read on his computer screen and suggested he delete, using a line I’d used before: ‘Do you want to be known as a fine writer or a maniac?’ ”

Good question.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “On (Not) Cursing Reviewers

  1. Whatever happened to the belief that bad coverage is better than no coverage?

    There’s a line in “Pirates of the Caribbean” that I like. Someone said to Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), “You’re THE WORST pirate I’ve ever heard of!” “At least you’ve heard of me,” replied Captain Jack.

    Authors really should be happy to get the coverage. And I’m not just saying this because I’m in public relations; I’m saying this as an artist. It’s extremely hard to get a review – even a bad one.

    • Captain Jack had a good point.

      A friend who had owned a weekly newspaper before becoming a successful author and boutique publisher told me, before I began reviewing for my town’s newspaper, that I would only hear from people if I made them angry. She was right. So this author’s behavior doesn’t surprise me. For me, though, I could not imagine going through life needing to be hailed (or at least approved) by everyone. Ridiculous, to say the least.

  2. Fun post on the maniacs.

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