Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Defensive: A Cautionary Tale

If you have not yet seen This Astonishing Post you MUST go read it now. No time? Okay, I'll paraphrase it for you. The link takes you to BigAl's blog where he gave 2 stars to a self-published book he'd been asked to review, and then the author comments several times with angry diatribes, and comments that make it clear she has not understood what the reviewer was saying, before finally signing off with a pair of F*** Off!s. I encourage you to read BigAl's review when you have a chance because I think it's a fair and honest review of the book.

He called the story "compelling and interesting."

He also said "the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant."

Ouch, right? But a fair warning. He makes it clear that if you can get past these, you will find a compelling story, and he did in fact read the whole book, however, the difficulty he had reading it was one of the factors that lead to his low rating.

The author (who I will not name, nor will I post any of her writing samples for ridicule) took offense to the review and apparently misunderstood, or refused to believe that the reviewer was not talking about mere formatting problems within the ebook.

She made repeated negative references to the reviewers character and integrity, as well as his and many other commenters' intelligence.

In response, many commenters apparently went to amazon and rated her book, which previously had 4 and 5 star ratings, with one star.

It was quite simply, mortifying.

And it made me think. My first reaction was one of how can she be so angry? He said her story was good, just the writing wasn't up to par. But then I tried to put myself in her shoes. This was a book she'd put up for sale, as an example of her talent. And I remembered how the first few times I got a critique from one of my crit partners, I could only see the negatives -- the things that didn't work, the should've-been-obvious mistakes, the seemingly insurmountable amount of revision I was going to have to do even though I'd already worked so hard on it.

And then I felt kind of bad for the author.

She had a fairly natural reaction to a negative review, but rather than taking the time to process it, find the good, find the things she didn't agree with and let them go, she took it straight to the internet and sabotaged her reputation, and potentially her book sales and career by lashing out.

So today, I just want to remind us all (including myself!) to STOP, and BREATHE, and THINK before lashing out at those we have asked to help us. Remember that any crit or review is just one person's opinion, but also that there is almost always something worthwhile in a negative critique or review. You can't please everyone at once, but you can always improve.

And those of you going the self-publishing route, I think this author's experience is proof that you must be extra vigilent since you won't automatically have the eyes of a professional editor or copyeditor before your book goes out into the world.

Don't let defensiveness, pride, or hurt feelings keep you from making your book the best it can be!


Anonymous said...

Well said.

As hard as it has to be to hear some of the things in the review, she definitely wasn't very professional.

Kate said...

I think the author might have had unrealistic expectations of asking a blogger to review her book- she might have assumed that it would be a positive review. I feel bad for her in the fact that people went online to rate a book they probably haven't read one star, but I agree that if she'd just taken a moment to sit back and absorb the critique she could have saved herself a lot of trouble. The internet is a wonderful thing, but too often people forget to stop and think about what they are putting out there in the heat of the moment.

Great, thoughtful post!

Ken Lindsey said...

I saw this post yesterday and was cringing from the first comment. The review wasn't bad, BigAl gave the story a lot of credit, and that lady just melted down.

Wow, just crazy.

Laurel Garver said...

Your lessons learned are well said. I kind of felt bad for her, too. One's emotions can get the better of one. This much negative publicity will be extremely hard to fix. I hope she'll somehow find the courage and grace to repair some of the damage.

Becca C. said...

I think BigAl was VERY generous in his review. I went onto Amazon to download the sample of the book in question and I don't think I could have finished reading the book. Props to him on being a great reviewer with integrity. While the author's behaviour is inexcusable, in my opinion, she's obviously mentally ill or something. Flying off the handle like that at what isn't a scathingly bad review is just not normal.

Trisha said...

Yeah, I saw it and cringed. Big time. Some people are so clueless!!

Broken Angel said...

I followed the pretty looking link and found an author sabotaging her career. Being defensive isn't going to help anything and being rude can be destructive. Especially if you "flame" on the internet. BigAl was being honest which is what reviewers should do. The made me cringe.

Have fun with your break from Tangled Fiction. Although I must say that I'll miss updates, I'll just entertain myself by rereading some of the old stories. :)

Anonymous said...

Without doubt, an astonishing post! The only positive I can see from it all is in using it as an example of how NOT to respond to an unfavourable review.

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