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Authors misbehavin'

Trish, at “Hey, Lady! Whatcha Reading!” recently posted a link to a blog entry where the author talked about an author who asked that she remove a quote and the cover art because she didn't have permission to use them. While I’m no legal expert, I’m pretty sure it’s alright for a reviewer to briefly quote an author’s work. Sadly, this doesn’t shock me at all, as I’ve seen a veritable epidemic of authors acting out in the past year or so. And yes, I rubberneck at these egregious examples of how NOT to take criticism.

Ted Bell, a NYT bestselling suspense author, recently attacked a few reviewers on Amazon.com who didn’t just LOVE his latest novel, using the username of his stepson (then the author outed himself by posting under his own name, saying, "as I was just saying earlier?"). He apologized, people thought sincerely, but pretty soon he went back at it. For a long time, it was suspected that Andrew Davidson, author of The Gargoyle, did something similar.

Last spring, I published a three-star review of a memoir that I thought was, well, average. Immediately, I got comments from relatives of the author, who told me that, since the book had been reviewed in the NYTRB, my opinion was therefore invalid. Another went on to attack my “moniker” on Amazon.com (my first initial and last name; frankly, I've heard so many "huff and puff" jokes that they cease to phase me).

Last summer Leslie Carroll attacked a few reviewers on Amazon.com as well; read the account of it here.

Deborah MacGillivray (did I spell that right?), romance author, actually threatened to sic a private investigator on someone who posted a less-than-stellar review of one of her books on Amazon.

And other authors who have been guilty of similar infractions include: Laurie Notaro, Linda Berdoll, and Anne Rice. I understand, in a way, what motivates authors to be so sensitive to criticism. After all, they spend countless hours researching, outlining, writing, re-writing, and editing, and they wouldn’t write if they didn’t love what they do. But I can’t for the life of me imagine why any author would waste their valuable time attacking just one reader, or a handful of readers, who didn’t like something they’d published. Bloggers and reviewers on sites like Amazon.com have quickly become the new wave of book reviewing, and we’re becoming more and more respected and trusted by publishers for our honest opinions. It seems that an author's time would be better spent working to improve their next book instead of engaging in petty, puerile battles with people they've never met. What do you think?

Comments

Jen said…
Beyond the fact that it is simply a waste of time, it is really counter-productive for authors to attack readers and reviewers like that. If I'm on Amazon and see a book with mixed reviews, I may still buy it. If I see a book with mostly good reviews, one less-than-stellar review, and the author or his/her friends and family attacking the reviewer, I'm not touching that book with a 10-foot pole, because I don't want to reward infantile behavior.... No matter who the author is.
Amanda said…
I wonder if that's the case because more people are voicing opinions on the internet. With blogging and user reviews, people's opinions are being voiced like never before. Maybe before an author would never hear negative feedback unless they had a bad review in a magazine or newspaper. I still think that author's should take the higher road and try not to get angry.
Andrew said…
Hello "Girl Walks Into a Bookstore"

Thanks for posting this blog entry, as it is interesting reading. Thanks also to those readers (Jen and Amanda) who have already commented.

I'm Andrew Davidson, who wrote The Gargoyle, which is referenced in this article. I keep Google alerts on my name and the book, and this is how I came to this post. I am interested in what people have to say about the book, both positive and negative. I believe it is good to know such things, and I appreciate the efforts of anyone who takes the time to post his or her thoughts.

Another reason I keep track of such things is that I have had some experience with people pretending to be me online. Specifically, the event that you talk about when I was "suspected" of trashing negative reviews of my book. This is something that I have never done: opinions are opinions and stand as such, and I would never attack anyone for theirs.

For anyone who would like to read further about the (incorrect) suspicion that I was somehow involved in a flame war about The Gargoyle, here are two relevant links in which I addressed the issue. I responded as quickly and thoroughly as I could at the time it was happening, because I truly believe that nothing is more valuable than a person's good reputation.

http://litlicense.blogspot.com/2008/08/gargoyle-generates-some-interesting.html

http://www.amazon.com/review/R13F1UGE5OEGOZ/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?%5Fencoding=UTF8&ASIN=0385524943&nodeID=#wasThisHelpful

All the best,
Andrew Davidson
Writer of The Gargoyle

andrew@thegargoyle.com

P.S. Many of the original posts by the person pretending to be me have been removed from the Amazon chat room, so I realize it might be somewhat difficult to follow.
Aunt J-ha said…
I enjoy reading the reviews and opinions of other readers. However, I don't believe I am swayed by any one elses opinion, If I am interested I want to read and come to my own understanding. The internet has given many of us a voice that we do not have in other forms of communication. That being said, much of what we read and post on-line is anonomous, which can lead to a cruel or more vemonous response than a casual conversation or traditionally written review or response. This is not a good or a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. Last year when Heath Ledger died, I did some on-line searching for information (he was favorite actor of mine & an avid reader) and I was shocked by the rude commets on fansites. It led me to realize people don't stop to think before they hit send.
AC said…
You can't make everyone happy, something these authors ought to learn. I also think the "bad publicity is better than no publicity" philosophy has a lot of merit. These authors ought to be glad someone is reviewing them at all, and that they're not just mired in obscurity.

Besides, I normally only pay attention to book reviews when they're from a trusted source (like this site!)
Maw Books said…
I really appreciate Andrew's comment on this post. It's just another reminder that most authors do "Google Alerts" their name. Hey, I even do it for me. I love it! I believe that a reviewer has the right to voice their opinion without worrying about whether or not the author is going to "come after" them. One can be honest but not cruel.
Katherine said…
Thanks, everyone, for responding. This whole subject is a little dicey. Thanks also to Andrew Davidson for commenting; I do remember reading that the person claiming to be you was "outed." That whole situation was kind of silly, in my opinion.

Aunt j-ha comes up with a good point, too; so much interation online can be done anonymously, and it leads people to say things that they wouldn't normally.
Amy said…
Natasha's comment is right on. I think that on both sides we forget the immediate accountability of the internet.

We should be honest, but there's no need to be cruel.
Scobberlotcher said…
I find this "critigue a review" discussion very interesting. I'm an avid reader and now a debut author and I see both sides of the argument. However, I haven't seen anything productive out of authors griping over a review or comment. A book is art and not everyone is going to interpret it the same way. And criticism is the price of admission to the extraordinary club of writers.
Teddy Rose said…
"It seems that an author's time would be better spent working to improve their next book instead of engaging in petty, puerile battles with people they've never met."

Well put Katherine!

I have no problem if an author leaves a comment addressing a concern or question I mentioned in my review. Sometimes finding out why an author chose to write what he/she did is helpful.

For instance, I attended a book event here in Vancouver and Andrew Davidson was one of the authors. My review was very positive, but I was annoyed that he used the main character's first and last name almost all the time. At the event, I asked him why and it really cleared it up for me. If he would have chose to address this on my blog as a comment, I would have welcomed it.

I do have a problem with attacks. Luckly I only have had one mild one so far.
v1rag0 said…
I had no idea this problem was so common! Thanks so much for this post. It was a relief to read. I too would much prefer a civilized, respectful relationship between blogger and author.
bookchronicle said…
If you get the chance, Publisher's Weekly "soap box" section recently had an interesting article from one author to other authors on how to remain happy during the publishing process. And one suggestion, and in this tense atmosphere produced with immediate and reader response, was that author's stay far, far away from Amazon and comments!

I like to think I understand the emotions authors are dealing with, but it's also a piece of art you're putting out there. I mean, who hasn't read a bad review before and why in the world would you ever think your work would be exempt from it?

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