There’s been some buzz in the blogosphere lately with how a couple of authors have handled negative reviews.
The first author to come unglued was Alice Hoffman. A reviewer for her hometown paper printed a negative review of her newest book, The Story Sisters. Most agree that she took her reaction too far when she posted the reviewer’s phone number and email address and asked people to “tell her what u think of snarky critics.” Now, I’m sure the review stung, but posting in a public forum someone’s name and email address and encouraging people to badger that person? That’s just not right.
Not even 24 hours after Alice Hoffman sent all these tweets, she deleted her account and apologized for her response, though she notably never publicly apologized to Roberta Stilman.
Then ANOTHER author left a comment on a reviewer’s personal blog after reading the review of his book in The New Times Book Review and wrote this:
I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.
This author was Alain de Botton, and Edward Champion interviewed Alain de Botton after he confirmed that Alain had, in fact, left that comment. Alain also guest posted on Edward Champion’s blog and talked about how to respond to critics.
(It should be noted that Alain de Botton publicly apologized for his actions and admitted he was in the wrong. Please do not lambaste him here, as he acted classy after realizing his mistake. Alice Hoffman, however…)
So I was thinking: How SHOULD an author respond to a negative review?
Some authors get Google Alerts for their books and their name, so they know when they are mentioned on the Internets. There are some authors, though, that don’t look at ANY reviews, positive or negative. They know how they would react to the negative reviews so they don’t bother with any of it.
Reviews can be hard to take, and venting about them anywhere but the Internet is okay in my book. I mean, Alice Hoffman deleted her Twitter account, but her tweets live on and can’t be undone even by deleting her account.
Can an author dialogue with a reviewer over a negative review?
Have you seen the site The Worst Review Ever? Authors submit their worst review ever (dur) and then answer stock questions and then people vote on how bad the review really was. I think many of the reviews aren’t that bad. At least one author has tried responding sarcastically, and she was chastised by others in the comments that she shouldn’t have acted so immature.
I’m not saying it’s easy to be an author and have to read negative reviews of your piece of art. Especially when reviewers and critics are not really on the same footing. Authors put themselves out there to be critiqued, but critiquing a reviewer over a negative review just sounds like sour grapes.
I don’t think there IS a way for an author to respond to a reviewer in a way that doesn’t make the author sound bitter. Oh, unless the author uses the old, “Thanks for reading my book. I’m sorry it wasn’t for you.” When reading a negative review, I’m sure THAT isn’t quite what the author would really like to say.
While discussing this on Twitter, one person asked why we hold authors to a higher standard of conduct than regular people. I don’t think we hold authors to any higher standard of conduct than anyone else. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Tweeting a person’s email and phone number and asking your friends to bombard them with “I don’t agree with you” isn’t okay for anyone.
I know it’s said that authors need to have a thick skin, but that’s obviously easier said than done. If someone was critiquing, say, ever blog post I wrote, I think I’d crawl under my covers and hide.
Authors, what do you think? How do you handle negative reviews?
Readers, how do you think authors should handle negative reviews? Have you seen an author handle a negative review gracefully? Or have you seen an author handle a negative review poorly?
Bloggers, how do you think you would react if someone was reviewing every blog post you wrote? And no, your readers are not reviewing every blog post you write. Just as not every reader an author has critiques their book. I’m talking about someone critiquing everything you write.