This One is For the Writers Out There

Over at Making Light, Teresa Nielsen Hayden chronicles a thing which you should never ever do. EVER. Go now and be enlightened.

87 Comments on “This One is For the Writers Out There”

  1. That’s horrible and fascinating at the same time, like driving past a really spectacular accident on the Interstate.

    Responding in public to a bad review is probably a bad idea. Doing so with a sock puppet is a double-bad one. Having the sock puppet unmasked, and then engaging in a 20-page comment fight with your critics…that’s Very Bad Indeed. That’s one of the more spectacular public meltdowns I’ve seen.

  2. I followed Teresa’s “short version” instructions, and I have a question, John–I’m assuming her “the editor took over my book and made it sucky” thing is as delusional as the rest of her posts, but is there any truth in that? How much control does an editor have with the actual content (rather than reworking for clarity or what have you)?

  3. I’m toying with the response “Thanks for taking the time to read my book: sorry you didn’t like it. To everyone else, the only way you will ever find out if they are right is to read my book. Perhaps after buying it.” for my predictably bad reviews.

    I’m of the mind that the author’s enemy isn’t bad reviews, it’s no reviews. You know, if a good review is worth, say, one tenth of a sale per viewer, a bad review is worth maybe one hundredth of a sale per viewer. Being a delusional fruitloop selling through Lulu, I’m thinking all I need is a bad review that gets a thousand views, and I can afford a new board game. Or a good review with a hundred views.

  4. Wow.


    I’ve only ever had one author respond badly to a negative review. He at least had the good sense to keep it to private email, but still the exchange made him look petulant and not quite ready for prime time, particularly when he wrote back several weeks later with a nanny-nanny-boo-boo boast (in ALL CAPS YET) about the book’s high sell-through. Like I cared. I just tried to tell him as calmly as I could that if he wanted a successful career as a novelist, he needed to come to terms with the cold hard fact that not everyone on planet Earth was going to like his work. Dem’s de breaks. There’s no rule saying I won’t like the next one.

    On the other hand, I’ve ended up having some very nice email exchanges with some prominent authors who responded, not in an angry or defensive way, to a less than stellar review. While I’m sure these guys were professional enough to be mindful of ABM principles, they still felt an urge to defend the work or clarify points they felt I didn’t get or properly appreciate. Those exchanges all turned out to be a real pleasure.

    So I guess it’s not necessarily an ABM in every instance to respond to a negative review, as long as you remember that you ought to keep your usual sense of professional decorum when you do. One thing I always have to remind people about reviewing is that it ain’t personal.

    But talk about taking it personally! What Ms. Sams is up to is not so much a meltdown as a suicide-bombing of her entire career. It makes Anne Rice look like a model of rationality.

  5. Might I ask, John and others, is it a particularly bad or good idea to even read the reviews? I can’t imagine it’s easy to restrain yourself when it is clear to you that Someone is Wrong on the Internet. Or is reading them more constructive than not?

  6. Leigh:

    I think it depends on who you are. I personally enjoy a good negative review, but then I have also been a professional critic of some sort or another for two decades, so in this matter I have a really thick skin. Lots of people prefer not to read reviews at all, and I think that’s fine, too.


    Hey, everyone loves pie!

  7. I read only as far as when the author noted, “And there you go readers…it’s easy to play the critic…not so easy to take the criticism.”

    There’s only so much unintentional irony I can take this time of day.

  8. What does she know? Just because she’s a professional working for a major publisher, we’re supposed to take her advice? As if…

  9. I remember when Amazon instituted review comments–the response from the pro side of the SFF community was a pretty universal “this is going to go badly.”

    I suggested at the time that it might be good for publishers to add to their boilerplate contract the clause “Author agrees not to make a damn fool of themself on” Not because I want this behavior to end (because I think it’s funny, in that “mmmm pie” kind of way), but because if I were selling books, I would not want to have to compete for readership with Amazon Author Freakouts. They’re too entertaining.

    I don’t know what I’d do if I were a published author with bad reviews on Amazon, but I’d like to think I’d do better than this.

  10. If by some miracle I ever do become a Real Live Author, I’d like to find a way to avoid negative reviews entirely. Possibly even positive reviews that might have some undue influence on the process. But I still think it’s kind of important to have some idea of what the reviews are saying… So can you hire a team of minions — er, I mean recruit some nice friends — to read this stuff for you and prepare you a nice digest? “33 percent of the polls say less Mary Sue, more personal agency, but 42 percent believe this is mitigated by the original premise and the fact that Marty Stu is really hot. Oh, and work harder on evening up the pacing in the sequel.”

  11. Be sure to read her last comments. She claimed that she turned the whole thread in to the FBI, and everybody involved (including all future posters) would be investigated.

    I’m a professional book reviewer (programming books, unfortunately). I’ve written hundreds of reviews, and thus-far I’ve only had one author even approach this level of batshittitude.

  12. I’ve had the unfortunate luck of watching this train wreck since post #1. It even worse in true real time.

  13. Saw this on Neil’s site and it’s a hilarious read. Maybe you should make a collection of writer explosions called Your Bad Review Response Will Be Graded.

  14. The thing that gets me is, Amazon has actually had to delete several of her comments. What hasn’t been deleted is bad enough; it really makes me wonder what she said to warrant deletions.

  15. @ Keri — please tell me they didn’t delete “Even a lion has to battle the fleas.” That was WONDERFUL. Really made me want to give her my money. =/

  16. Mac, that comment is still there! Apparently she’s posted several other things that were even WORSE!

  17. I was always told that one should accept good reviews gracefully, learn from bad reviews and only respond to correct matters of fact, such as “I am John Scalzi the writer, not Johnny “Bare Foot” Scalzi the noted hitman.”

  18. I think this sort of lashing out at criticism is about the pain the author feels. Sometimes the need to defend is simply a reaction to what is preceived as attack. Granted, the author should know better, but this kind of behavior is everwhere in the world. This genre does have it’s hierarchy of strange. But that’s normal in with such an artistic bunch.

  19. Read that yesterday and blogged about it. *shakes head*

    The crazy runs fast and deep with that one. The FBI? Seriously?

  20. @Keri: She found the line of civility and crossed it pretty bad. There was some uncouth language and some threatening words as well.

    Basically, she went off the handle.

  21. It’s too bad that my upcoming book is in a totally different market, else I would forward this to my editor with a comment to the effect of “I am terrified that I will have a bad day and do something like this.” Because… well, I am.

    Note to aspiring authors: having a book in print etc. makes you King of the Mountain. Accept this fact well in advance. For many, or at least for me, that’s easier said than done.

    All that said, well, wow. That, and therapy would probably help. In general.

  22. That is the best trainwreck i’ve seen in a loooonnggggg time. She went from 0 to 3rd grade arguments quick, fast and in a hurry. It livened up my day. Thanks for that…..

  23. Here‘s a hilarious example of a response to a (fictional) review. Still not a good idea, but much closer than Sams’, but what isn’t.

  24. Wow. Just…wow. Sad that when some people were trying to give her good advice and telling her to step away from the keyboard to calm down, her paranoia took over her brain. Everyone became an enemy to her.

    I still can’t figure out why she would care about a one star review on Amazon. Nor can I figure out if it was her ego that exploded or if she just has that thin of skin.

  25. Ugh. Gruesome.

    I should have known better than to go look. There’s a reason — several, actually — that I usually make a point of not rubber-necking at accident scenes.

    I don’t get the people who find it entertaining. I think it’s sad and depressing.

  26. Oof. That was ugly.

    The point raised by JD Rhoades over on Making Light really should be added to the What Not To Do list.

    Some self-published author pulled that move on LibraryThing a while back, when someone didn’t care for her YA novel. The reviewer got some chastising emails from one of the book’s enthusiastic blurbers (a freelance book reviewer, IIRC), containing such gems of wisdom as–paraphrasing–“it’s ungentlemanly to give women bad reviews.” According to the reviewer, the only way the blurber/WhiteKnight could have gotten his email address was from the author.

    Instead of the author just taking the little hit to her ego, two people ended up coming off as loony, unprofessional, and sketchy as to privacy.

  27. I confess that I sort of enjoy the spectacle of a creative type flipping a wig like this, whether it’s comics types condemning fans who live in their mothers’ basements or self-published writers threatening to let slip the dogs of fandom/the FBI. My pleasure is juvenile, of course. I suspect it has something to do with the jarring contrast between the few bad apples and the general run of creative types who, if they engage the audience at all, have admirable, if predictable, models of bloggin’, LiveJournalin’, meme-respondin’, con-attendin’, editor-thankin’ well-adjustedness to imitate. It’s nice to live in a pleasant town, but a fistfight every now and then at the meetinghouse provides teachable moments and anecdote fodder.

  28. I think all these people have way to much time on their hands!! What does it say about me when I spent so much of my time reading through the e-mails!! :)

  29. such gems of wisdom as–paraphrasing–”it’s ungentlemanly to give women bad reviews.”

    Wow. That’s amazing. I think it’s ungentlemanly to give women bad reviews in the same mental universe where it’s unladylike to write books.

    I do not live in that universe, and neither does anyone I know.

  30. Bearpaw, because people like to see other people fail! It’s human (maybe demonic) nature! But then, some people thrive on drama, and the bigger the mess the better they feel. What would the craft be without all those egos and their handlers? Probably less interesting.

  31. Wow.

    As an amateur writer, I think this is an excellent lesson on everything completely and utterly wrong to do when receiving criticism. I mean, yeah, I don’t think most people exactly “like” it when someone doesn’t like something they wrote, but when you publish something, you have to understand that not everyone is going to like it. And that’s not a bad thing, because most people who don’t will at least say why and a lot of them will probably have some good points on things you can improve on. I’ve never had anything published as of yet, but that’s thee way I’d always thought of it.

    There are a lot of ways to take bad criticism and actually learn from it. And saying you’re going to call the FBI because someone said they didn’t like your book is not one of those ways. I would consider that something of a faux pas.

    Just remember, everyone has a right to their opinion. You can’t go through life getting mad everytime someone’s opinion of your work isn’t great because, frankly, even if you’re a really good writer, you’ll never be perfect and there will always be people who don’t like your work. It’s better to just learn from the constructive complaints instead of pulling stupid stuff like this. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble that way.

  32. I didn’t think I’d read most of it, but after 19p, I’ve only got 7 left. This is an amazing, epic failure. I just wonder what this crazy woman is thinking. Wow. To get into a flame war with a reviewer and then just continue one like some madwoman.

    Currently, I’m a few pages after she said that she contacted the FBI. I wonder where it will lead?

    BTW, her novel sounds so bad, though I have to admit, I don’t like romance novels, but this just sounds so corny.

  33. Wow. Batshitcrazy. Wanna bet this author never publishes again? I wonder why the author thought she would get away with responding and no one would know who it was. All the reviews I read on Amazon have never been this entertaining. Of course, it’s usually a review on some piece of electronics.

  34. I am defying all good sense, and should just stay out of this mess — but let me say this much about her editor blame game:

    We have the same editor. And, in my experience, he’s been excellent, very responsive, and does his best with every book. He has never attempted to ‘take over’ anything.

    Just sayin’, that’s all.

  35. Crayonbaby:

    “Wanna bet this author never publishes again?”

    If she never publishes again, it won’t be because of this. What publishers are really interested in are sales numbers. If she has them, she can be as crazy as she wants to be. If she doesn’t, it wouldn’t matter if she were the nicest woman in the world.

    Marjorie Liu:

    I don’t think most people reading that thread would think the editor is the problem, there.

  36. I read Teresa’s post but did not go over to the meltdown site. Why? I can see the flashing lights of the accident just fine from here.

    Besides, from the comments here, I’m getting a pretty good picture of the scene. I don’t think I need “film at 11” coverage today.

    I’m going to remember “ABM”. Not just for authors though.

  37. When someone criticizes you, remember that success is the best revenge. And that revenge is a dish best served cold. Gazpacho is also a dish best served cold. So go have some soup.

    Hmmm. Perhaps I should check my meds before posting.

    I recall that Michael Caine, when asked about the cinematic road-kill that was Jaws 4, said something along the lines of “I haven’t see the movie. By all accounts it’s terrible. But, I have seen the house it built. It’s terrific”. *That’s* how to respond to negative criticism.

  38. I think John took it very well from me, when I met him after Zoe came out, and I mentioned that I’d been less than enthused with Last Colony. Of course I was mentioning that in reference to being very grateful for Zoe filling in some of the holes that made TLC so disappointing. He was gracious, and signed one of the books with a comment along the lines of “whoops, you caught me”. All in all, a very good experience with a very funny, enjoyable author.

    The whole spectacle of the other approach on Amazon, is pretty horrifying. Makes a good old Slashdot flamewar seem pedestrian for sure.

  39. Do you wonder if

    a) It isn’t really Candace Sams, but is her worst enemy instead?

    b) She knows what she is doing and thinks that this might increase her sales?

    That first one is especially interesting me. What a way to humiliate someone. Does she ever say right out that she is the author? I didn’t see it in any of the bits I read, but I couldn’t bear to read much. Could one get away with impersonating the author in a thread like this? If she never actually says she is the author, is she doing anything other than offering her opinions on a website?

    How, if you were impersonated, could you ever convince people that it wasn’t you who wrote those comments?

  40. Alan @45,

    Bruce Bethke has a bibliography on his web page. It includes commentary on his novelization of the movie “Wild Wild West”. The commentary has a picture of his house, and says something like:

    “This is my house. Notice the new roof. Any questions?”

  41. John Scalzi@42:
    If she never publishes again, it won’t be because of this. What publishers are really interested in are sales numbers. If she has them, she can be as crazy as she wants to be.

    *cough*Anne Rice, Laurel Hamilton, Patricia Cornwall, Harlan Ellison *cough*

    In the end, I think critics can only respond to authors and publishers who don’t get the distinction between reviews and advertorial like this: “Attached are the contact details for the advertising department. They’d love to hear from you.”

  42. I learned that lesson from reading Fandom Wank. It’s a rare* event when an author’s internet leavings show up there without a nice serving of mockery, scorn and waffles (or was that pancakes?).

    *Rare, but it does happen. Never for wanking about your reviews, however.

  43. If she never publishes again, it won’t be because of this. What publishers are really interested in are sales numbers. If she has them, she can be as crazy as she wants to be. If she doesn’t, it wouldn’t matter if she were the nicest woman in the world.

    Well, when you think about it John, if she never publishes again, it could very well be because of this. Public flameouts, especially those of shark-jumping — hell, blue-whale jumping — propertions such as this, tend to alienate the public. When Sams’ next book comes out and that public goes, “Oh Christ, is that psycho bitch still writing?” and declines to waste their money on a copy, well, there go the sales numbers.

    A very similar thing led to the demise of Sinead O’Connor, if you recall.

  44. If she never publishes again, it won’t be because of this. What publishers are really interested in are sales numbers. If she has them, she can be as crazy as she wants to be. If she doesn’t, it wouldn’t matter if she were the nicest woman in the world.

    Not that I doubt that, but forgive my ignorance here. Won’t some editors have a problem with working with her seeing how freely she threw hers under the bus? I know not all editors are perfect, but it seemed to me that the problem had to do with everyone but Candace Sams. Frankly, I was surprised that was the first excuse she trotted out.

  45. Craig Ranapia @50-
    Man, you are taking your life in your hands when you reference Harlan Ellison… Just saying.

  46. Bearpaw@32 – I’ve got to agree with you. I don’t find these kind of meltdowns entertaining either. I just find it embarassing and uncomfortable. That said, it’s certainly instructive.

  47. Let’s face it. Some authors are just thin-skinned and cannot tolerate not being liked. Their work is them, and they are their work, and someone saying, “I didn’t like this,” equates to, “I don’t like you!” And then it’s on.

    Because in our 21st century narcissistic culture, it’s considered constitutionally illegal for creative people to not be fawned over and adored 24/7.

    Me? It’s been almost 30 years, but I can still remember when the light bulb went on for me, as a young man: the best way to get people who don’t like you off your back, is to simply ignore that they exist and stop taking what they say seriously.

    I suspect a lot of artistical-types don’t ever figure this out, even into adulthood, hence the severe allergic reaction to bad reviews.

    If I never got a good review, but had great sales, I’d consider that comment enough. In fact, I’d prefer it to the inverse.

    Money talks.

    When people talk… Just close your ears.

  48. Wow. The schadenfreude floweth.

    Perhaps all writers planning on releasing works on the internet should be provided a free seminar by their respective publishers on the social workings of said internet.

    Or at least spend a good hour on 4chan to better understand the powers waiting in the shadows hoping for fresh prey.

  49. KenS, Harlan isn’t a monster. People have survived disagreements with him, including ones that happened face-to-face.

    Mind you, picking an unnecessary quarrel with Harlan is just plain stupid. Harlan won’t necessarily win, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that the other guy won’t have fun doing it.

  50. Tim Boerger’s comment #53 has a point. John is right that selling a lot of books will get you a lot of forgiveness for, what’s the word, erratic behavior. But slack isn’t infinite. The publishing industry is made up of people just as human as everyone else. All other things being equal, the writer who isn’t incredibly hard on their publisher’s in-house staff will get better treatment than the one who is. This is hardly surprising.

  51. Category romance editors are maybe a little more hands on than most because certain elements may need to be or not be in the story for it to fit a particular line of books. But a good romance writer is able to craft an interesting story and characters with those elements.

    I do wonder if they are absolutely sure it is the author posting and not some prankster because it is so extreme, although if it was, I would assume the author would have shown up by now and complained. I didn’t read much of this stuff, but if she’s thinking she can get the FBI to investigate people, then that does seem indicative of mental distress. And yes, someone who is hysterical, who is unreliable and who alienates her readers — that’s not likely to bring in good sales numbers or induce a publisher to keep working with her. On the other hand, if she sells okay and gets some therapy, they might give her another chance.

    But yeah, the only response to a negative review is no response. The only response to an encounter with someone who dislikes your book is to say, “sorry you didn’t like it. I’ll try to do better next time.” It’s really not the author’s place to judge those judging him, even if the judgment seems unfair. And it never leads to anything good. Even Anne Rice, I think, hurt her sales some with her outburst.

  52. KenS@55:

    I wasn’t calling Harlan Ellison a monster, but think Teresa is absolutely right. I’m sure Ellison would be first to admit that he’s not shy about defending his corner in any argument and if he thinks you’re being dishonest or wilfully dumb, he’ll call you out on it at the top of his lungs. I respect that, but sure wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end for any length of time. :)

  53. Patrick Nielsen Hayden@60:
    Tim Boerger’s comment #53 has a point. John is right that selling a lot of books will get you a lot of forgiveness for, what’s the word, erratic behavior. But slack isn’t infinite.

    Indeed, and without trying to sound like I’ve got anything to teach you on the subject, would it fair comment to say editors are human and professional enough to know when an author is just having a bad day, or is really invested in something about the work you’re more dispassionate about?

    P.D. James has worked with the same editor for the whole of her 47 year career, and she’s said they’ve had some spectacular rows over that time, but they’re such close friends (and James respects her judgement so much) that it’s never personal.

  54. Hope at 47 asked how people know Niteflyr is Candace Sams and not an impersonator. This isn’t definitive, by any stretch of the imagination, but before this debacle broke, Niteflyr signed one of her own reviews as Candace Sams. (Click on her profile to read her reviews. Incidentally none is below a 4.)

  55. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Harlan Ellison. I have a podcast radio play of “I have no mouth…” with H.E. speaking one of the parts, too cool!

  56. @65 – Editors will certainly understand having a bad day. Generally, I’ve never run across a (good) boss/editor that isn’t willing to let something cool for a bit so that things don’t get out of hand.

    Referencing the topic, it’s impossible to say what Candace Sams had in mind when this began. Maybe it really was just a terrible day. Maybe she just didn’t need to see ‘I didn’t like your work’ at that moment. Maybe the editor devastated the original manuscript in endless revisions. We’ll never really know, and we can offer her our compassion for a book that didn’t turn out the way she wanted.

    That said, compassion evaporates quickly in the heat, and running farther and farther from the well (the infamous page 17 FBI invocation) is counterproductive for all parties.

    At VP the instructors really did hammer this lesson into us. It was referenced in and out of classes more than once.

    In the end, you have to know yourself, know your tendencies, and know how to let things slide when they’re beyond your control. Reviews are what they are: Out of your control.

  57. I must be lucky in that no critic or reviewer has ever been harsher on my work, indeed, not even close to what I’ve said to myself about those works. (My internal critic is really nasty, I suppose.) There must have been some trigger or button that got pushed, but I can’t see it. I think what I feel is mostly pity.

  58. Ow! My “crazy person spidey sense” just pegged the meter.

    That’s about as enjoyable as hitting your funny bone with a sledgehammer.

  59. KenS, Harlan isn’t a monster.

    No, just an extremely unpleasant, unethical, and bigoted person.

    Three words: Women. Of. Cthulhu.

  60. Negative reviews hurt. I have six books in print and have been an author since 1993 and it really does sting. Like Virginia Woolf said, it is *precisely* the “men and women of genius who mind most what is said of them” (from “A Room of One’s Own”).

    In udder words, it’s extra hard for us neurotic, sensitive-soul writer-types to slough off a bad review of our book. When someone tells you that your baby is ugly, you can blame it on your partner’s DNA. When someone tells you that your book is badly written and/or boring, it’s all about YOU.

    Rose Thornton

  61. Thanks Pixelfish. I just wondered. Does anyone else feel like the crazy seems almost calculated? It’s almost as if she’s a troll. I can’t think why one would troll their own potential readers, but in the comments I read she seemed to be trying to get more and more eyes on the page.

  62. A sufficiently advanced wingnut is indistinguishable from a troll, and vice versa.

    Brad @57: y’know, one of the few things more eye-roll-and-snortworthy than a myopic Kids These Days rant is a Kids These Days rant with a thin veneer of hand-wringing social conservativism, pissing and moaning about how in the good old days people weren’t like this, but all these narcissistic selfish folks now are just ruining it.

    The literary feud and the thin-skinned author were not invented ten years ago. Really! They weren’t even invented by Amazon! I am told they even existed before the magical decade of the 1950s.

  63. Egads. That was… well… I’m not sure what that was!

    The one time I had an author comment on my book blog (which is woefully out of date thanks to a broken Amazon plug-in that I haven’t figured out how to fix) it was for a book with which I had some issues. She was gracious and wonderful about it!

    All of which made me much more willing to pick up her next book. If she’d been nasty (or apparently insane as is the author in question) that wouldn’t have happened.

  64. I actually enjoy negative reviews of things I do. Someone telling me something is great doesn’t tell me anything about it. I liked it. I know what I like about it.

    Telling me, especially in great detail, why you don’t like something I’ve done? That’s awesome stuff. I might not agree with you, but finding the flaws in what you do is how you overcome them.

    The only thing I dislike are the occasional “this custard is not pie!” comments people sometimes make. Those people I want to smack, but assume their parents smacked them plenty when they were kids for them to be so dumb. They deserve only my pity.

  65. Scalzi @61:

    PNH, all I know is that my editor is kind and wise and good and smells of gingerbread straight out of the oven.

    *blink* You put your editor in the oven? Was it to see how he smelled when he came out, or for some other reason?

    Patrick, how’s Scalzi’s oven?

  66. Hope: Could be, but if so, she’s drastically miscalculated, I would say.


    x-posted to the making light thread:

    Apparently Sams is trying to recruit friends to pump up Harriet and the two or three other positive reviews. She alleges a vast internet conspiracy, claims we’re all LB Taylor’s minions, says LB Taylor and the other neg reviewer are known for doing this, that they did it to Linda Lael Miller among others, and says she’s the victim of people trying to shut her up. (This is on her Facebook wall.)

    Incidentally she seems to be under the opinion that Amazon should be like her personal site, as in the main thread, she asked why people were coming here to be mean….ignoring the fact that Amazon is a review site, among other things, and that by trying to pressure people to not mention negative experiences she is attempting to undermine the review system’s utility for buyers.

    I’d feel sorry for her–did earlier–except she has persisted in digging that hole deeper and deeper even after people point out that there is no conspiracy, people just take it amiss when you try to dismiss their experience of your product by calling them illiterates and parasites.

  67. abi, I’m bettin’ Scalzi’s oven smells like Schadenfreude Pie–you know, really chocolatey, with a faint caramel overtone from the cooked sugar.

  68. This goes to the top of my “Things I hope I never do if I ever get published” list. I say “hope” because the urge to fire back at critics is a strong one. Thanks for sharing a great cautionary tale, John.

  69. Well, Brad, maybe if *you* smelled like gingerbread fresh out of the oven I’d lay off once in a while.

  70. Mr. Pope’s observaion about “This custard is not pie!” comments reminded me of this great passage i copied from the Worst Reviews Ever site; unfortunately I have lost the writer’s name and hope she doesn’t mind being quoted.


    I received not a bad, but a tepid, review from a woman who complained that “the lack of men in the story…threw a balance off.” I wonder if she would have complained that the lack of women in “The Once and Future King” or “Lord of the Rings” threw a balance off. When people are confronted with a story told from a point of view with which they’re unfamiliar, they feel most the “differentness” in it. For some people, that’s mind-expanding. For others it’s just uncomfortable, for reasons they often can’t articulate.

    Toni Morrison has been asked repeatedly, Why don’t you write about white people? Stop and think for a minute what that reveals about the questioner. It could mean, I can’t identify with black people, or with black women. It could mean, Why don’t you write about the people who are really important, people who really matter?

    But I believe that behind the surface meaning is a deeper meaning, that says, “I feel excluded. I am the mainstream. I read books about me all the time. I’m in all the books, the movies, the songs, the stories. Now suddenly I’m nowhere to be seen. I feel excluded from your world, and I don’t like it.”

    That may or may not be true about the woman who panned my books, but as others have pointed out on the Worst Review Ever website, bad reviews from people who are not our audience should give us momentary pause, while we consider if there is justice in their complaint, and then a longer pause, to consider what that reviewer brought to the book and why they felt strongly enough to complain about it. If someone has a strong enough response/reaction to my work that they felt compelled to write about, I must have done something right.

    Interesting, no? It seems that this happens a lot with bad reviews (in fact, in so many we see on this blog): People aren’t so much panning the work, but getting annoyed that the work didn’t accurately portray their own life experiences—which, frankly, is so very sad.

  71. @MaryLj-

    That was the BEST read I’ve had in quite some time! LOL! (Ricockulous! still giggling about that one…)

    Talk about light years separating that authors response from the nutjob Amazon review response……

  72. Lyle @85, I dunno. It seems like the writer took something that can be true, and is occasionally right – people in the mainstream being uncomfortable because suddenly their perspective is not the center of attention – and wrapped it in a big soggy ball of “people who do not appreciate my work of staggering genius are merely sad, small persons of limited vision.”

    I mean, setting aside the hubris of comparing one’s work to The Once and Future King or Lord of the Rings.

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