What To Do About Cranky Authors

A friend of mine, a librarian and blogger and reviewer, has had a handful of authors attack her because she wrote what they considered to be bad reviews of their books.1 She did not enjoy it.

This is not an isolated incident. Reviewers have had authors dummy spit2 at them, sic their fans on them, and generally make them wonder why they’re bothering to write reviews.

What can bloggers do when wrathful authors and their hordes descend up on them?

Here’s what my friend did. She took down those reviews. Good idea.

What these authors don’t realise is that their worst enemy is not critical reviews; it’s obscurity. No reviews is way, way, way worse than bad reviews.

Someone hates your book? That’s a good thing because it means they actually read it. (Even better you got a passionate response!) No one reading it. No responses? That’s the fast track to out of print and gone and forgotten.

That’s what I fear: not being able to sell my books because I have no audience. I do not fear people hating my books. Jane Austen is hated. Every writer I love is hated. It’s a feature, not a bug!3

So here’s my advice: if an author has a go at you for a less than gushing review of their book—take it down. And if it’s possible leave a polite note explaining why. Something like:

This space was occupied by a review of X by Cranky Author. Cranky Author was incensed by the review so I have removed it and will no longer review anything by Cranky Author.

See? Everyone’s happy. Cranky Author’s eyeballs are no longer assailed by your shocking blindness to their genius.4 You don’t have to deal with their crankiness.

And maybe if everyone does this, those authors—and fortunately they are small in number—will get the message and knock it off.

As a general rule, authors, do not respond to reviews.5 They’re not for you, they’re for readers. And especially do not attack the authors of those reviews! Leave reviewers alone!

  1. Mostly, of course, these were not bad reviews but more like three-star, has-some-good-points-has-some-bad-points kind of reviews. []
  2. USians: look it up! You are online. You can find out the meaning of any unfamiliar word or phrase in heartbeat. Embrace this gorgeous future we live in. []
  3. Hell, I even have favourite bad reviews of my books. I have quite the collection for Liar. Wow, do the people who hate it REALLY hate it. It’s also, so far, my best-selling novel. Take from that what you will. []
  4. Not unless they go hunting down the cache. []
  5. If you must respond do it generally in a post on your own blog. []

18 comments

  1. ElvinaGB on #

    I try and read as many books as I can so I can recommend books to students and help them make appropriate selections. As such I sometimes have to read stuff I don’t like. I read a book a couple of years ago that was touted as the “like Harry Potter for adults”. I hated it (but finished it) and my boss hated it so much she didn’t finish it. I read bad reviews and good reviews of this book. But it’s on our shelves, I still point it out to students in case they are interested. I wish people wouldn’t take criticism to heart so much, I don’t believe a bad review is a bad thing. I often read bad reviews but still read the book.

  2. Kim Baccellia on #

    This happened to me too. There was one that started to attack me on posting a 2 rating on their book. Then this person posted a rant about how terrible that was. I’m like, I gave it a 2 and did post some good things about it. I also then decided to just take the review down. Better that way.

  3. Lilian Darcy on #

    Justine, you’re absolutely right. Still, though, when somebody peeks into the lacy white bassinet where slumbers your beloved book (that you birthed after a nightmare four-year labor) and says, “Wow, your baby is really ugly!” it does actually make you want to cry…

  4. Justine on #

    ElvinaGB: Exactly. Lots of negative reviews have encouraged me to read the book.

    Kim Baccellia: I’m sorry you were hassled. They so need to get over themselves. How can it be news by the time your an adult that people don’t all like the same things? Bizarre.

    Lilian Darcy: When somebody peeks into the lacy white bassinet where slumbers your beloved book (that you birthed after a nightmare four-year labor) and says, “Wow, your baby is really ugly!” it does actually make you want to cry

    You do know books aren’t babies, right? I mean you haven’t been attempting to feed yours, have you? Or change its nappy (diaper)? Just checking. ;-)

    Seriously, sure, it hurts. But the world does not need to hear about our pain. That’s what friends and relatives are for. Oh, and make sure you moan and cry about the mean reviews offline where there’s no permanent record. :-)

  5. Tamara on #

    A really sensible idea. I have a feeling it could prove highly effective.

    Have you been getting comments about your use of the term “dummy spit”? I’m curious to know, because the assumption that none of us in the US would be bothered to look up an unfamiliar term does sting a little.

  6. Justine on #

    Tamara: Thank you.

    Every time I use an Australian expression or word I am asked what it means. That was my attempt to forestall that question. And, yes, it’s always USA folks asking. I wanted to save myself the bother of snarkily asking if their google was broken.

    I get to call them on it. I am a proud dual citizen of Australia and the USA. I aim to beat laziness out of both my peoples! :-)

  7. Tamara on #

    “Every time I use an Australian expression or word I am asked what it means.”

    I was afraid that was the case. Overcoming rampant laziness, that’s a tall order, but I’m rooting for you. :)

  8. Justine on #

    Tamara: Google is a beautiful thing. Those who truly want to know get their answers.

    You used “root” on purpose, didn’t you? :-)

  9. Lizabelle on #

    As always, your post is full of common sense. I’ve never been hassled by an author for a negative review (possibly because I tend to prefer squeeing over books than disrecommending them), but the recent idiocy did make me wonder whether I should be more careful about what I say. Thanks so much for reminding me that most authors are very nice and very sensible!

  10. Kat Kennedy on #

    Justine,

    I think this is an excellent route for people who don’t have the emotional energy or time to deal with author tantrums. It is not something I would do, as I spend a lot of time and energy writing my reviews. Unfortunately, too many authors view the take-down of a negative review as a win – and the only downside to this option is that it may encourage the author to continue this behaviour in the hopes of removing all their negative reviews. Plus, it means that valid criticism is no longer available to other consumers.

    But, ultimately, people being attacked by authors need to do what is best for them. And I completely know how stressful it can be to be the target of author attacks, so I’m glad you mentioned this option.

  11. --E on #

    It might be even more effective if instead of naming the book and the author in the review you’re deleting, you simply state, “I have removed a review from here because the author was unhappy about it. I will no longer be reviewing books by that author.” If you’re going to oubliette an author, really oubliette them.

  12. Janet Reid on #

    Great post and one I intend to forward to my roster of clients. I often write to the people who review my authors’ books to thank them for doing so including reviewers who didn’t particularly like the book. Any review attention in this noisy crowded marketplace is valuable. Thank you for saying this so much more eloquently than I ever could.

  13. Stephanie Jaye Evans on #

    Cranky authors are zombie-hating sparkly pastel fart rainbows. (I’ve been dying for a chance to use that phrase ever since I saw it, Justine.)

  14. Justine on #

    Lizabelle: It really is a minority.

    Kat Kennedy: It is not something I would do, as I spend a lot of time and energy writing my reviews.

    Yes, that’s the part of this that doesn’t work. Some of the reviews that the loony authors attack are wonderful pieces of writing. I don’t want them gone.

    Also some of the nuttier authors, as you say, do view it as a victory to make the bad reviews go away, which is why I think it’s important to publicly say “This review was removed because of the author and there will be no further reviews of that author”. There does need to be a record.

    I would like there to be consequences for the authors who bully reviewers like this.

    –E: See my response to Kat.

    Janet Reid: Thanks! I enjoy your blog.

    Stephanie Jaye Evans: Ha!

  15. Tori on #

    Thank you!

    I agree with Kat Kennedy that sometimes after working really hard to figure out why I didn’t love a book, the idea of deleting it can be difficult, especially if doing so will make the author go “YES! VICTORY.”

    But I agree you’re right. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought based on a bad or snarky review because I thought “Hey, even though the reviewer didn’t like it, it sounds up my alley.” No attention in the over-saturated book world is way, way worse than some less than glowing reviews.

  16. Justine on #

    Tori: I know! There are reviewers who if they hate something I know I’m going to love it. Authors, stop being so stupid!

    I too agree with Kat. What I’ve suggested I think is a good solution for some reviewers if they can’t deal with the insanity. But I totally support reviewers who decide to ignore the crazy author and keep their review live.

    I guess if every reviewer in the world could co-ordinate to not review the bully authors it would work . . .

  17. Lilian Darcy on #

    My book is on two-hour feeds and is waking me up five times a night with colic. Is this why I am cranky? How soon will it potty train?

  18. Justine on #

    Lilian Darcy: *backs away slowly from the crazy author on my blog*

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