How Not to Respond to a Review of Your Book

I have a dream of writing a novel, although I’m much too busy right now. (Let’s not address right now whether I have the ability to write a novel.)

If I do write that novel, and if it receives a review with negative comments, I’ll try not to respond the way Jacqueline Howett did in the comments to a review by BigAl’s Books and Pals. (In the middle of the comments battle, BigAl followed up with “A Word on Negative Reviews.”)

Even an excellent and famous writer like Alice Hoffman can behave badly in response to a poor review.

Jacqueline Howett should invest some time reading BigAl’s response and Emily St. John Mandel’s essay, “On Bad Reviews,” on The Millions web site.

[Updated 31-Mar-2011]

BigAl posted today about his experience with the Howett review.

As most of you who are now following this blog can probably imagine it has been a crazy couple of days. Just when I think it is going to calm down something happens that keeps it going. I understand “going viral” from an entirely new perspective now.

BigAl reports two immediate benefits: A huge increase in traffic to his site, and over one hundred people volunteering to write book reviews.

BigAl also comments about the ugly side of the controversy.

One thing that rankles me is those posting 1 star reviews on Amazon, having not read the book at all. Those who read the sample and posted I have mixed feelings about. They at least had some basis for their comments. The technical issues I pointed out are apparent early on. Those who posted without reading at all are – I’d better not use any of the terms I really want. Unethical, rude, and inhumane are some more polite ways to put it. For the record I feel the same about 5 star reviews from friends and family who haven’t read the book or 1 star reviews based on price. I’m happy Amazon has weeded out most of the bogus reviews from Ms. Howett’s book.

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