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ATP
11-04-2006, 11:55 AM
[This thread is a continuation of JG's recent post in a previous thread. I have created a new thread to address the question directly.]
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=44481 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=44481)


Maggie, the Author's Big Mistake is responding defensively to people who give you bad reviews or criticize your work. Classic example: Anne Rice in the Amazon reviews of Blood Canticle. If I got the link right, you can see it about halfway down on this page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/AB4F6UHL20U95/102-1904832-8764149?ie=UTF8&display=public&page=4 .


A question from a 'mere article writer' (as my GF so fondly refers to me and my career): why is Rice's reply regarded as the ABM?

Ostensibly, I can see two possible replies to this:

i) that such could go the route of trading tit-for-tat with readers &/or critics.And, of course, this type of dialogue or interaction might not be regarded as 'constructive', if any 'constructive' dialogue/discussion/ interaction can be said to exist between an author and his (her) constituents.

ii) not to mention, there's the PR side of things - does an author appear unseemly and stooping in calling readers and nasty critics as idiots?



But, beyond this, why in the realm of fiction is this regarded as a 'mistake', let alone a 'big' one?

JennaGlatzer
11-04-2006, 12:45 PM
Hi ATP,

Thanks for making this its own thread-- good idea!

Here's a good article about the ABM: http://archive.salon.com/books/feature/2001/03/02/authors/print.html

(To me, the last line sums it up well: "But at a certain point a writer has to realize," he says, "that you put your work out there for other people. Expecting to control their responses to it is a willful refusal to be in the world of grown-ups.")

and another one:
http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/06/17/bookend/bookend.html?_r=1&oref=login

The reason it's such a big mistake-- for fiction and nonfiction writers alike-- is that it pretty much ALWAYS comes across as immature and egotistical. You can't force people to like your book; there's a very limited amount of slack an author can get if he/she wants to respond to real inaccuracies in a review (i.e., the reviewer claimed the book was written by a doctor and you're not a doctor, the reviewer claimed the book takes place in the 50s and it actually takes place in the 20s, etc.). But the writer has no business arguing with a critic's opinion of a book, insulting the reviewers' intellect, or making threats.

It turns readers off, and is a big PR mistake (especially if word spreads that the writer is an angry loon) if the writer ever hopes to get reviews in the future.

aruna
11-04-2006, 12:51 PM
Because she comes across as ....deleted by Nice-O-Meter......

aruna
11-04-2006, 12:52 PM
immature and egotistical.

Oh yes, and that too!

ATP
11-04-2006, 02:27 PM
Anyway I can get to read the NYTimes.com article without having to log in? JG, do you have a link direct to the article?

Thanks.

ETA: Ah! I think this is the link to the quoted article -

http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/06/17/bookend/bookend.html

But to get there directly, try Google -
author's big mistake + nytimes.com

SeanDSchaffer
11-04-2006, 04:58 PM
I must admit, I was rather naive when it came to this Big Mistake, so I am glad I found this thread.

Some of this stuff I had figured out on my own earlier, but other portions I never really thought about. I knew it was considered unprofessional to respond to a review, but I never was sure why.

So thank you kindly for putting this thread up. It has been an excellent resource for me, and I hope it is to other writers, as well.


Now, if you will excuse me, I am not fully awake yet, and I need some coffee. (So what else is new?)

CaroGirl
11-04-2006, 06:36 PM
It takes grace to accept people's opinions as nothing more than their opinions. To move forward in silence, even if the words are hurtful.

Anne Rice is obviously bereft of grace.

smiley10000
11-05-2006, 03:27 AM
What would possess a person to blow up at someone that doesn't like there work?

I'm sorry if I'm being naive. I just don't understand why a writer doesn't understand that publishing something is like sending an animal off into the wild. It takes on a life of its own.

Sure it always hurts to get a bad review. But to attack back? I agree Jenna that last line of that article really sums it up. People need to grow up.

:Shrug: 10000

janetbellinger
11-05-2006, 03:31 AM
A new author, unused to critiques and who has not yet detached her ego from her writing, might blow up at somebody who doesn't like her work. She would interpret it as a criticism of herself.


What would possess a person to blow up at someone that doesn't like there work?

I'm sorry if I'm being naive. I just don't understand why a writer doesn't understand that publishing something is like sending an animal off into the wild. It takes on a life of its own.

Sure it always hurts to get a bad review. But to attack back? I agree Jenna that last line of that article really sums it up. People need to grow up.

:Shrug: 10000

SherryTex
11-05-2006, 07:29 AM
But Anne Rice is no rookie, she just ojbects to others not viewing her work as she and those who love her do. She also seems more than a bit angry about writing it in the first place, to thank the Lord she is finished with a series that has made her untold amounts of money. Been around too many people too grateful to be in her mere presence for too long. Needs to come up for air.

Tracy
11-05-2006, 04:53 PM
Bad reviews are AWFUL. But they're part of the gig. As an author you have to accept that other people have the right to comment on your work, sometimes adversely. You don't have to like it, but you do have to accept it. As the old phrase has it, if you can't stand the heat ...

I read that piece by Anne Rice and was very surprised. Not only was she disagreeing with those people, but she was positively insulting to them. It doesn't reflect well on her at all.

Sometimes a dignified silence is the best response.

engmajor2005
11-06-2006, 01:31 AM
I've always responded to people who didn't like my work with a shrug.

My ex-girlfriend did some writing, and she would pass it my way. One day I took some material back to her and she said "What do you think?" I started telling what was good, what needed work, pointing here and there and she stopped me mid-sentence and said "I don't want you to critique it, I just want you tell me what you think."

I have yet to wrap my head around that statement.

A little on down the line, I was taking a creative writing class and suggested that she might pick it up next semester. She said something to the effect of she didn't want to discuss her work with others. One day, she actually did let me critique her work and every suggestion I made she answered with "That's just a stylistic difference."

Guess which one of us has actually had some degree of success as a writer and who hasn't?

If you're not willing to accept critiques, don't write.

Freckles
11-06-2006, 02:59 AM
I see it as this: We writers aren't perfect. Those who claim to be are just fooling themselves. We all have things we can improve on. I listen to all critiques because I know in the end that it will make me a better writer. Isn't that the point of this whole writing game?

Kate Thornton
11-06-2006, 06:54 PM
There's a big difference between a constructive critique and a review that would bring smiles to the Producers. But it doesn't matter - the proper response to any and all notice of your work is a thank you. Even if you don't like what was said. Someone took the time to read it and think about it and actually get back to you - or the world! - with their thoughts.

That's a pretty big deal, deserving of your gratitude as a writer.

Now - learn from what was said or written *about your work* - and keep in mind, *you* are not our work. They didn't say you stink, they said your writing stinks. (Or maybe they said something more specific and helpful) So no matter what was said, try to learn from it and make it better next time.

A good review is really a boost. But a stinker can help you.

Dave.C.Robinson
11-09-2006, 09:46 AM
Critiques are good. I just got some very helpful ones in SYW. The thing I always remember is that every time I see a critique I'm seeing what someone else saw in my work. It gives me a yardstick to work from.

One person flagged something as authorial intrusion. I was actually using a very close 3rd limited POV and it was internal monologue. It was a good critique, because even though I don't agree with what the person said, I now know that they didn't get what I meant. So now I need to be aware that not everyone sees that line the way I meant it.

Critiques let you see your writing as other do.

kazrahtenango
11-10-2006, 03:47 AM
What none of the above has mentioned is that sometimes reviewers are naive, unprofessional, or just meanspirited. I've had reviews by people who obviously haven't read the book all the way through. I've had reviews in major newspapers written by children (15 - 16 year olds). I'm sure it was an excellent exercise for them, but they simply don't have the intellectual resources and experience at their disposal that a professional would. As much as they might enjoy the books, they are unlikely to identify literary or cultural references, for example.
I've written to a few reviewers. One who basically gave a plot outline - including the twists, and the outcome. In fact, this reviewer finished the review with the final line in the book, which I was hoping people would get to by themselves! I already knew the plot, and now everyone else does too. Not helpful.
I read a review of my book with six others which had been shortlisted for an award. The reviewer basically said that they were all crap. The reviewer was completely without respect for any of the authors. The tone of the review was blase, world-weary and, frankly, rude. So I wrote to her and said that all of these authors had spent years of their life putting these novels together and that she could put some exertion into her critique. If she didnt like them, fine, but she could use more objective and professional language in her evaluation. She wrote me an apology. She said she didn't expect that I would see her review.
Perhaps if all reviewers wrote reviews with the expectation that the author would read it, and then we might get more attentive and focussed critique.

SeanDSchaffer
11-11-2006, 05:42 AM
I read a review of my book with six others which had been shortlisted for an award. The reviewer basically said that they were all crap. The reviewer was completely without respect for any of the authors. The tone of the review was blase, world-weary and, frankly, rude. So I wrote to her and said that all of these authors had spent years of their life putting these novels together and that she could put some exertion into her critique. If she didnt like them, fine, but she could use more objective and professional language in her evaluation. She wrote me an apology. She said she didn't expect that I would see her review.
Perhaps if all reviewers wrote reviews with the expectation that the author would read it, and then we might get more attentive and focussed critique.


Frankly, and with the highest of respect, it does not matter how unprofessional the reviewer is. As writers it is our job to maintain the highest form of professionalism on our own part. It is not our job to make sure other people (i.e. Reviewers) are professional in their jobs. So far, I have read several career authors give good reasons why writers need to be thankful that they got a review at all. People are not required to say nice things about your book; if they don't like your book, they are under no obligation to say anything with the exception of their honest opinions of your work.

Even if someone tells me my book was the worst they've ever read, I would--and have--thanked them or at least tried to thank them, for their review, regardless of the unprofessionalism they showed to me. If you want to get people to act like professionals, you have to act like one first.

One main reason writers are encouraged never to respond in like manner to a mean-spirited review, is that the writer's response could be seen as intimidating. I made that mistake once; I will never make that mistake again. People do not like reading the unprofessional responses some authors give to reviews, and such responses could eventually lead to no one wishing to review the said author's book.

No, as writers, it is our job to write, and to let others be the judges of our work. It is not our place to be the judges of our own work. Let the reviewers do their job, and if they're mean-spirited, consider the source. Then, either learn from the reviewer what you could do to improve the work, or at least learn to be professional in your responses. But in any case, asking a reviewer for an apology because you did not like their review is just plain unprofessional.

I mean, how would you feel if someone asked you to apologize for writing your book in the first place? Would you feel an obligation to? I know I wouldn't, and no reviewer should have to feel an obligation to apologize for giving their honest opinions of someone else's work, either. Let them be the reviewers they want to be; they'll learn soon enough how to handle their jobs. They don't need our help as writers to figure out how to review a book.

Sassenach
11-11-2006, 08:44 PM
I've had reviews in major newspapers written by children (15 - 16 year olds). I'm sure it was an excellent exercise for them, but they simply don't have the intellectual resources and experience at their disposal that a professional would.

Major newspapers in Australia have 15-y.o. reviewers? Could you elaborate?

MacAllister
11-11-2006, 08:59 PM
There seems to be a misconception here that the review is doing the author either a service or disservice.

Not so. A reviewer works for the reader. That's his or her job.

blackbird
11-13-2006, 02:03 AM
The thing to remember is: She's Anne Rice. Which means she can pretty much do what she wants, and get away with it. She can always count on her millions of loyal fans to back her--for newbie writers, NOT recommended.

In all fairness, such rhetoric is part of Anne Rice's personae. Her fans expect it of her. Through the years, she's proven herself to be one of the most opionated and verbose writers out there, often taking out full-time ads in "The New York Post" and other publications when she disagrees with something or has a political statement to make. Who can forget her infamous tirade against Tom Cruise when he was signed to play Lestat in "Interview With the Vampire" (for which she later apologized), or her public outcry over Copeland's in New Orleans being built on a historic site, not to mention her whole criticism of the Bush administration in the aftermath of Katrina. She's the ultimate diva of the literary world. I'm not saying it's any excuse for lashing out at critics; only that it's in perfect keeping with her character and what her fans have come to expect.

Christine N.
11-13-2006, 03:14 AM
I look at it this way: If everyone liked the same kind of book, there'd only be one type of book in the library. (or no libraries/bookstores at all!)

And, because it applies and is really funny, I'll post this again.

YouTube - Black Books - Bernard's Letter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU4S2BIqoHY)

Enjoy!

Celia Cyanide
11-13-2006, 09:08 AM
(To me, the last line sums it up well: "But at a certain point a writer has to realize," he says, "that you put your work out there for other people. Expecting to control their responses to it is a willful refusal to be in the world of grown-ups.")

That's the way I see it.

Vincent Gallo, the insane filmmaker who quite literally pimps himself out on his website (there is an old Office Party thread on this) made a film called Brown Bunny. Rogert Ebert saw the original cut at Cannes and called it the worst film he had ever seen. (While I understand that the director's cut is quite good, that isn't really the point.) Gallo called Ebert, "a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader."

Ebert's response: "Yes, I am fat, but I can lose weight. No matter what Vincent Gallo does, he will always be the director of Brown Bunny."

I loved that, because it really illustrated how STUPID it it to insult someone's physical appearance, just because they hated your movie. If you're not mature enough to accept that some people might hate something you wrote, you really have no business releasing it. Keep it for yourself, if that's the way you feel. Because inevidably, someone WILL hate it. You don't have to like it, or them. But you have to let them hate it.

James D. Macdonald
11-13-2006, 05:18 PM
Plus: the reviewer always gets the last word.

batgirl
11-16-2006, 11:07 PM
I remember hearing once about the poet May Sarton responding to a negative review. The reviewer later made a comment along the lines of her being a published writer who'd put her work in the market, not a shy woodland creature timidly drinking from a mountain stream and brutally hunted down by reviewers.
I've been trying to find a citation for this, but no luck so far. Although I did find a quote from Sarton that she'd twice been made ill by bad reviews.
-Barbara

James D. Macdonald
10-20-2009, 07:44 PM
Remember too that the critics and the readers always have the last word.

If there's a printed review, and you are so ... misguided ... as to send a blistering letter to the magazine, and the editor thinks that your remarks are sufficiently entertaining to print, the reviewer will get a follow-up immediately after your piece, in italics, where he tells you what he really thinks, making you look like even more of a fool.

Those who had never seen, or had forgotten about, the original bad review, will go look it up.

And the readers! They get the final vote. When they're in the bookshop and are considering which book to carry to the cash register, it isn't a very clever plan to have them know that you think they're idiots.

It just isn't.

ATP
10-20-2009, 08:05 PM
James,

Good to see a relevant thread being revived three years later. Your memory is sharp...or was there some other form of magic operating here?<g>

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2009, 03:20 AM
If you really want to get the best of a bad reviewer, write them a personal thank you note, agree with pretty much everything they said, and ask for their help in making the next book better.

ATP
10-22-2009, 12:48 PM
If you really want to get the best of a bad reviewer, write them a personal thank you note, agree with pretty much everything they said, and ask for their help in making the next book better.

While this is not such a bad idea--at best, how to get a reviewer on your side, at worst, you can attract brickbats that you are merely trying to assuage (pander to?) said reviewer--it assumes that the reviewer is of sufficient experience, knowledge to warrant such a gesture.

MarkEsq
10-22-2009, 07:05 PM
A quotation often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, although it may have originated with composer Max Reger:

"I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me."

Jamesaritchie
10-22-2009, 07:41 PM
While this is not such a bad idea--at best, how to get a reviewer on your side, at worst, you can attract brickbats that you are merely trying to assuage (pander to?) said reviewer--it assumes that the reviewer is of sufficient experience, knowledge to warrant such a gesture.

From my experience, this works best on reviewers who are inexperienced and haven't a clue what they're doing. Those who have experience, and who know what they're doing, generally get things right, and you really should listen to them.

The thing is, it's real hard throwing brickbats at someone who's being nice.

Of course, something else I learned a long time ago is that what critics say have no meaning at all unless you read their reviews. I've never had a really bad review, but I see no reason to care one way or the other.

Some of the bestselling books of all time have received hundreds of horrible reviews, and some of the worst selling books have received mostly glowing reviews.

DeleyanLee
10-22-2009, 08:01 PM
I've always thought an author reading reviews as being on the same par with them reading fanfic of their own worlds--a bad idea. It's really hard on the emotional stablity for most writers to deal with it, but some people do seem to enjoy beating themselves up for some reason.

However, bad reviews aren't always a bad thing. As a reader, there are several review sites I go to and gleefully read the negative reviews because I've learned that everything this reviewer despises is everything that I adore in a story. They diss a book and that's a guaranteed plus for me in the world of book buying.

maestrowork
10-22-2009, 08:04 PM
If I didn't respond, would they still be asses and idiots?

If I responded, would they stop being asses and idiots?

I think those two questions just about settle it for me.

Lady Ice
10-22-2009, 10:30 PM
Is this the time to mention that I'd like to be a theatre/film critic? (maybe books, I haven't decided) Critics, as in professional ones, have to entertain as well as make a reasonable judgement of the book. People read critics because they want to know what other people think.

Some critics I agree with most of the time; others I simply don't connect with.

The difference between a critique and a review is that the first focuses on improving the story. The second is someone's impression of your story.

BigWords
10-22-2009, 11:30 PM
Thank anyone that reviews your work, even if they are negative about the contents. Consider the possibility that they might like the next book... If you sour the water with childish retorts you risk turning them against you, rather than the novel they didn't like.

C.M.C.
10-23-2009, 12:18 AM
Critics have to be treated as what they are, people with different opinions. Just because they might have an audience doesn't make them right, nor does it give you the right to be offended that they didn't like your work. If they make a mistake in their review, or fundamentally misunderstand the point of the work, you have a little leeway to make clear what you were going for. But if you're upset that they didn't fawn over you, that's something you have to suck up and take on the chin. It's impossible to please everyone, and you only make yourself look foolish if you try.

aruna
06-08-2015, 06:13 PM
The Author's Big Mistake Monster Thread on Goodreads. (http://archive.is/rFgtE)

The author seems to have removed his responses, after the thread ran to 11 pages!

Jamesaritchie
06-08-2015, 09:57 PM
One thing that seldom gets pointed out is that it's not smart to reply to those who give you great reviews, either.

BenPanced
06-08-2015, 09:59 PM
The Author's Big Mistake Monster Thread on Goodreads. (http://archive.is/rFgtE)

The author seems to have removed his responses, after the thread ran to 11 pages!

From what I've heard, his account has been deleted by Goodreads.

Jamesaritchie
06-08-2015, 10:05 PM
. Been around too many people too grateful to be in her mere presence for too long. Needs to come up for air.

I think that's a truly silly, uninformed thing to say. You not only can't know this. I know it isn't true in any sense. The opposite is true. Had you spent just a little time looking at her past, and chatting with the right people, you never would have typed any of this.

Sometimes the critic doesn't get the last word. Sometimes the writer has one hell of a lot more supporters, and a lot more power, than the critic. Sometimes the writer is in a position to simply say what he or she thinks, and can get away with it.

I wouldn't back away from a critic or reviewer for a second, if I gave a damn what any of them said. but I don't. The only thing on earth more worthless than a critic is a writer who critics other writers in his own genre.

I don't even read critics or reviewers, and make certain my agent and publisher knows not to send me reviews, or even to tell me about them. I just don't care. Reading or responding means I wasted more than a second of my life on them, and none are worth it.

I'll save all my time for reading and responding to readers. They matter. Critics and reviewers do not.

Sage
06-08-2015, 10:09 PM
Just pointing out that this thread and many of its responses are 9 years old.

Kylabelle
06-08-2015, 10:13 PM
Just pointing out that this thread and many of its responses are 9 years old.

Right. Thread closed. If people want to post about a recent event to do with this topic or related threads and actions on Goodreads, feel free to begin a new thread.