Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blog Brouhaha Du Jour: When writers review....

After I've done my writing for the day, and my email, and blogged, I sometimes wander around other author blogs to see what's hitting the fan...ahem, generating discussion. Thus it was that I happened on the latest brouhaha. Here's the tale in a nutshell:

An author discovered a scathing review on Amazon. Author tracks down website of Review-Writer and discovers said Review-Writer is an aspiring author who will be at the RWA national conference in Atlanta. Author suggests Review-Writer stop by her table at the booksigning to get a refund. (If you wish to read the original post, it's here.)

But there's more: Review-Writer wrote, and I quote, "... any author who can convince her publisher to run with this deserves the income."

("This" refers to something I personally found distasteful, but I also know, via a nurse acquaintance, that it's not implausible. If you're dying of curiosity to know what "this" might be, you can find an excerpt here. If it grosses you out, you have been warned.)

In light of that comment, the discussion has included the following: Was criticising the publisher a bad move if Review-Writer wants to be published in the same genre and possibly at the same house? (I gather this is the case.) Bad enough to slam the book, but to imply the publisher was, you know, stupid or "fished in"? Has s/he committed career suicide?

Which brings me to my Quote o' the Week, courtesy of Bruce Holland Rogers, in Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer: "Publishing is a small field, and I don't need to add any unnecessary complications to my already commingled social and professional affairs."

Yes, this may not have been the most savvy thing to do in the age of the internet. Indeed, many people believe that Review-Writers has seriously shot herself in the foot. Others argue that she has every right to express her opinion. Or perhaps she should simply have left out the comment about the publisher.

Here's what I think: If you hope to be a published writer, by all means, read in your genre and analyse what you read; find out what works and why. But if you want to write books, why are you wasting your precious time, creativity, talent and passion on somebody else's work? Good golly, use it for your own! You'll not only be honing your craft on something you might actually get paid for, you'll avoid being embroiled in something like this.

That said, I think the same applies to the author in question, too. I don't know how long it took for her to track down Review-Writer, but was it really the best use of her time? Having had some bad reviews in my day, I can sympathize with the urge to respond, to do something so you don't feel helplessly whacked upside the head. And obviously, the author's getting some PR mileage out of it. However, I also agree with Bruce Holland Rogers when he says, "Posterity will judge our works, and will judge our critics, too. If a critic savages you, the best response is to keep writing anyway. That'll show them."

And here's the other thing: I have yet to find evidence that reviews, good or bad, have had any effect at all on the sales of my books. That's why I think responding to a bad review is like arguing with the TV. Might be entertaining, might relieve your feelings, but in terms of actually accomplishing anything? Pointless.

For the record, I know of two instances where writers who later sold to the same publishing houses I was writing for reviewed my books. One loved a book, the other gave me one of the most upsetting reviews of my entire career. I have never said a word about either review to either author. But I certainly remember what they wrote. One author I would gladly do favors for; the other, I sincerely hope never to meet.

Beautiful cover update: Thanks to the wonderfully multi-talented Michelle Rowen, author of BITTEN AND SMITTEN and ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE (out now!), I have a jpg of the cover of MY LORD'S DESIRE. I'll be posting it here tomorrow. Also many thanks to Nienke for likewise offering to make a jpg.

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