Sunday, April 25, 2010

Authors (and Publishers) Behaving Badly

Every once and awhile an author has a very public meltdown somewhere on the internet. It can be on Amazon or a blog or a forum. A bad review usually sparks the volcanic explosion that splatters all over the blogsphere and ends up in deleted posts, much crying, and sometimes idle threats.

In December, Neil Gaiman even tweeted about an epic meltdown on Amazon where the author threatened to report anyone responding negatively to her to the FBI. He wasn't the only one to point out the insanity erupting over on Amazon. The author began deleting her comments, but it was too late. She was the talk of the blogsphere.

Even Alice Hoffman, a very famous novelist, had her own meltdown on Twitter when a reviewer did not like her latest novel.

It's rough to see another author basically lose it over a bad review. I always flinch when things like this go down though I do understand exactly how they feel. As I have stated before, its like having someone tell you that your kid is butt ugly. It took a little bit of time for me to develop a thick skin.

So do reviews sting? Yep. But at the same time as an author, you have to let it go and move on.

But what happens when it is the publisher that responds badly?

Recently, a friend of mine posted a review on amazon for a zombie novel. She had never heard of the author, but the premise sounded interesting. As she was reading the book, she even told me some of the things she had liked about the plot and was looking forward to the ending. When she finished, she posted a four star review. Her only complaint? The editing. Which doesn't surprise me, because she zinged me with the same comment long before we knew each other. She's a stickler for editing. In fact, she edited my last novel for Library of Horror Press. She wields her red pen like a saber.

So, to summarize...four star review...only complaint...editing.

The publisher came at her immediately. In fact, he had remembered her from a previous review of his novel where she had made a similar comment. He launched into several attacks (which she edited and reposted....LOL) and he kept coming at her. Finally, he declared full out war on her and said he was going to get her fired. Since she uses her real name in her reviews, he used Google to find out where she worked.

Yes, he actually called the law firm where she works to get her fired.

When she called me up to tell me, she was laughing, but in shock. I felt my own mouth drop open.

Again...four star review...only complaint is editing.

With the help of the lawyers of her firm, she crafted a response, which she posted on Amazon. Since then, he has called on all his authors to write positive reviews for each other and has attacked a blog that reports on his bad behavior (using very nasty homophobic comments). He went back and deleted all his comments on Amazon and changed the screen names to Suzy Q. But, this won't help him. She has all the email notifications from showing his aliases and comments.

So how do I feel about all this?

I feel terribly for the authors. It's one thing to deal with your own professionalism in the business when things are rough, but quite another to have your publisher take a dive into the deep end of the crazy pool.

I'm not worried for my friend. She's got a salvo of lawyers on her end that have been in communication with the authorities and are aware of internet laws. In fact, I think she finds the whole thing rather amusing. Whenever I chat with her on the phone, she's laughing.

But I can't help think about that author, whose book she really liked, and how he must feel. He did thank her for her review and she plans to read his future works. He was courteous and professional and she is his fan. Luckily, the publisher's behavior has not affected that author/reader relationship. But what about in other cases?

The last two years have taught me a lot. One of those lessons is when to shut up and just ignore the crazy. When you don't pay attention to it, it becomes white noise.

So, dear authors, ignore the bad reviews, even if they are personal potshots at you, and recognize its better to move on than get involved in a flame ware (like that publisher).

I guess a second lesson that can be gleaned from this is research the small publishers you are dealing with. A little research could save you some grief.

In the end, it is never easy to face criticism, but it is always better to keep your head up, your mouth shut, and a smile on your face than end up the bane of the blogsphere.

1 comment:

  1. When Alice Hoffman freaked out on Twitter last year over a bad review, I blogged about it a bit.

    I still think Brad Melzer's response to his critics (Youtube video is embedded in the blog post) was one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life.

    THAT is how you handle your critics.


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