July 3, 2009

Authors Overreacting to Negative Reviews- Disturbing New Trend?

After author Robin D. Gill left a disturbingly irrational comment on my negative review of his book today (find it here), Amanda, Raych, Nymeth, and I were discussing whether this is a new trend for authors, as so many of them have been reacting similarly to negative reviews of their books lately (Alice Hoffman, anyone?). I know I have read quite a few on my favorite blogs, too.

I wanted to start a discussion about those authors who have reacted like this to a negative review you've written, and those authors who take constructive criticism and work with it and act professionally.

What experiences with authors reacting to your negative reviews of their book have you had? Be sure to leave a link in your comments to the review and comment you are referring to.


  1. Wow!! That was pretty nasty! I haven't had an author leave me a negative comment because I may not have liked their book but I know that plenty of other bloggers have experienced this same sort of abuse. Authors should realize that when they put something out there to the public that they're going to receive positive and negative feedback, it just comes with the territory. So you're either going to be a big kid about it or Mama's going to have to get the nappies out again!!

  2. I can't remember who the other author I saw recently was...someone from Sweden (I think) who had a hissy fit on someone's blog, saying things like "I will hate you until the day I die." Yeah. Thankfully, I've not yet had the issue of wacko authors coming to leave comments on my reviews. I think it helps that I read a lot of classics and the authors are DEAD, haha, but I've read lots of YA since the beginning of the year and the only author comment I've had was with Wings by Aprilynne Pike, which I gave 2 stars to and took a definite stance against.

    Because I knew it was her first book, and that she'd therefore probably see the review, I tried to make sure I was positively criticizing her book. It wasn't so bad that I felt I had to pummel it or anything. When her husband came by, I initially said, "Oh boy" but then his comment actually was nice and fair. He of course advertized for me continuing to read the series, but also took the time to understand my point of view. When another reader came by and blasted both the book and the commenter, he came back before I had a chance to say anything and responded politely and fairly to that blogger, too. It was very kind. Though he isn't an author himself (that I know of), his example should be one other authors follow when it comes ot negative criticism.

  3. That was actually a very measured and fair review. But I'm not surprised Gill responded the way he did. Just from some of the comments that you cited in the book itself I could tell he was very defensive about his work (probably for good reason).

    I haven't had an author leave a response to a negative review on my sight yet *whew*.

  4. I am really sad to hear that an author would do that,( I saw the comment and all I can say is far out take a chill pill) and even sadder that it seems to be a growing trend. I thankfully have not had this happen to me. An author did leave a comment on my review of her book but I loved loved loved her book so it was a nice comment.

    As Satci said, when you make your living off the public (celebrity, author, politician etc) you have to take the good with the bad. You also need to learn how to respond appropriately to negative feedback. At the end of the day you are not going to reach everyone, and you can be the best at what you do and not everyone will like it.

    I agree totally with what every one above has said.

    I can see how to a brand spanking new author a negative review would be crushing, and hearing negative feedback IS hard no matter how much you try and be good about it and learn from it and all that pc feel good rubbish they say you should do. I know for me writing is intensely personal and that is why I dont really let anyone else read my creative stuff. It is probably a natural reaction to leave a nasty comment back on a bad review of your book, but to me it is not professional and not even nice. There is a right and wrong way to respond to criticism especially in written word when you have time to consider your response. Personally I believe a writer should be able to do reply appropriately and leaving a comment that is nasty and rude is unacceptable. Three cheers to the example Amanda gave of the authors husband who clearly knows how to respond correctly

    If anything it makes me dislike the author and makes me less likely to even consider trying their books seeing a reaction like that.

    Thanks for posting this Rebecca it is an interesting topic. I do wonder at the back of my head though if this sort of behavior is tied into a bigger society picture where lets face it a lot of the good old fashioned respect, and courtesy has gone out the window.

    (Oh dear I wrote an essay again!)

  5. The only time I've had an author leave a comment on a negative review of their work, he was very philosophical about it. He seemed to understand that his work just wasn't my thing, and my not liking it did not equate a personal attack on his character, talent or anything else.

    I admit that I do get a little nervous about posting negatives on my blog, just because I think it's a little like criticizing someone's child. Authors LOVE thier work. They want everyone to love their work. But, when you send your baby out into the big wide world, you have to understand that they arent' going to be universally adored. No one, and no book, ever is. So I go ahead and post my negative opinions, though I try to do it as gently as possible.

    I'm a bit of a picky reviewer, to be honest. I almost always find something I didn't like about a book. Tomorrow I'm actually doing a post talking about flaws in some of my favorite books. I feel that it's my responsibility to present the pros and cons in my reviews.

  6. I am afraid to say anything for fear of jinxing myself.

    Thankfully to date I haven't had any negative comments left on my reviews only positive ones is an author has left one.

    I think sometimes it takes just one author to leave a nasty comment to make you rethink things. I know when ever I post a review of a book that I don't really enjoy I always worry about it.

    I think authors have to start thinking that not everyone is going to like their book and acting a little more mature about it. I know that these books are like their babies.

    I mean what I may like in a book you may not of vise versa.

    Anyways let it be said I do like your reviews.

  7. I had someone attempt to leave an anonymous comment on a negative review that I wrote. It was nasty so I rejected it. Because I have a technical background I then went to my web stats & found the IP address where the nasty comment came from & used it to locate the ISP. Behold, it was in the same place as the author's bio on the book stated he lived. Whatever.

    I know it's hard to hear criticism, but if you don't want to know what people think, don't read their reviews. It's pretty simple.

    I spent a big chunk of my past life directing live theatre where you get to subject yourself to reviews of all kinds in newspapers of all kinds from the big dailies to alternative papers to little neighborhood weeklies. Just like giving someone a free ARC of your book, you end up giving away complimentary tickets to your show so you'll get a review so you're essentially paying someone for your opinion (& the publicity).

    Sometimes people like what you did. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they write constructively, sometimes they just flay you. It's a truth, however, that reviews of all kinds sell tickets (or books, as the case may be).

    At the end of the day you make things for yourself because it pleases you to do so - at least that's probably the healthiest reason. If you're looking for universal adulation you're going to live a long & unhappy life because nobody gets that.

    Your review was fair. Keep reading!

  8. Wow, that's just....wow.

    So far, I haven't had any negative responses from authors to my reviews. I've actually had a couple of very gracious responses, which made my think I'd give said authors another try. I don't understand why authors don't realize that crazy, vicious responses just make them look awful, and turn everyone who sees them off of their work.

  9. I missed that comment the first time around, but that is shocking. As I've only been reviewing for about six months now, I didn't realize until recently that Authors can 'ping' when something is posted about there book - I'm so not techno savy - it is amazing my blog is still standing. I haven't had any negative comments yet, only positive ones through Nadine Dajani - and that was all through email which I thought was much more appropriate then posting on my blog. Like some of the other comments, I've been pretty easy on my reviews so far, I'm working up my nerve to be a bit more rounded in my reviews. That being said, I've also been pretty safe in my book choices to date. Many of the reading challenges I've signed up for though are forcing me to venture into uncharted territory. I'm sure a negative review is coming ;)

  10. I don't know why authors think the type of reaction you got is OK; it just makes them look bad and compounds the effect of the negative review.

    One author who has reacted in a great way to negative reviews is Brad Meltzer. Check out his YouTube video, which I just came across again at book-a-rama here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the post.) Now that's a classy way to react to negative reviews!

  11. I'm so tired right now but I'm going to come back and read all these when I have more energy ... but I wanted to tell you that Hey Lady Watcha Reading has a post about this same topic -- you should check it out! I think the Alice Hoffman thing is causing many people to consider this topic!!! I just wish you didn't have personal experience with this.

  12. Wow, I missed the craziness when it happened in the comments section of your post on Hill's book. Probably because it didn't sound like one I would want to read anyway. It's a shame that he had to be so rude on your blog--in the end I think that will hurt him more than your negative review would have.

    I have been fortunate enough so far that I have NOT received any scathing comments for negative reviews. I imagine that is more likely to occur with ARC's and books that were went for review, and some of my more negative reviews were for books I bought.

    But I certainly appreciate your honest review and wish the whole mess had never happened to you. It certainly can generate discussion, though!!

  13. Fortunately I haven't had any authors leave me mean comments so far, but I've seen it happen to other bloggers quite a few times. I cannot understand what these authors think they'll gain by behaving like that, honestly.

    The "I will hate you until the day you die" guy Amanda mentioned is Alain De Botton, btw, author of The Consolation of Philosophy. Sounds like he should read his own book :P

  14. It's really hard not to lash out at negative reviews sometimes but stepping back and putting things into perspective is a skill that many authors need to master.

    About two years ago my first "big publisher" book was released. Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened, published by Villard, a division of the RHPG. The reviews were mostly strong - LA Times, USA Today, PW...everyone seemed to dig the book. I'll never forget this one review, however. It was a month after the book was released and I had just gotten home from SURGERY. Someone emailed me a horrible review of the book that actually ended with, "Why pick up second-tier work at a horrible price point when there's so much other stuff out there worth buying? I'd ask why publish such a book, but it's too late for that question to do any good."

    Here I am, in pain and drugged and, honestly, quite pissed. But I sucked it up and even posted the review on my blog with the headline, "And now for a different viewpoint..." End of the day, it's one review. And the reviewer made some good points and even pointed out some flaws that I knew were in the book but really couldn't do much about.

    Being level-headed and reasoned tends to lead to longevity and strong relationships.

  15. Jason: I admire how you handled the criticism. How wonderful if more authors are like you, able to realize that not every reader will like every book. Even the great masters get a fair share of really negative reviews.

  16. I don't have much to add, but great discussion. I can't believe that author's response!


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