But maybe no reviews is a positive thing as the flip side for every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, is being able to handle the bad reviews. Every few months or so, the Internet starts buzzing about another author implosion. By that I mean an author reads a few bad reviews and feels compelled to either post rebuttals to those reviews or raise an army of supporters to attack the writers of the bad reviews. The latest in the long list of offenders is NYT bestselling author Emily Giffin. She's the author of the wildly successful books "Something Borrowed" and "Something Blue", as well as several others. When I was hitting the Chick-Lit circuit pretty hard, I read both books and enjoyed them. They were better than some of the ones that I read during the same time period.
In honor of that admiration, I ended up following her on Facebook. Since I liked her under my writing fan page, I don't get her updates as frequently because I have a tendency to forget about that news feed. I accidentally ended up reading this morning about how she made some comments regarding the fact that she was disappointed about her latest book only making it to #2 on the NYT Bestseller List. I can't find her original comments, but apparently some people got very upset about her "whining" when there are so many out there that who would kill to even be on the NYT Bestseller List. These people ended up making some comments (in their reviews of her latest novel) about how they found her to be ungrateful and weren't sure if they wanted to read more of her books. Whereupon her husband started a comment battle on the worst of the reviews and called someone "psycho" and it pretty much went down hill from there. Now the review is peppered with deleted comments (by Amazon and the author) and the fall out is still going on Facebook.
This is certainly not the most egregious of author melt-downs (Alice Hoffman had a pretty bad one), but it raises the question: are reviews really worth it? I don't know the answer to that question. But I do know that the vast majority of the world's population probably doesn't take criticism well, and then a good portion of that majority would be tempted to defend themselves. Free speech is a great thing, some would say the cornerstone of America, but is it too much? To some extent, yes. It assumes that people are inherently good. But in reality, people go too far; as I have had said on this blog and probably on my Facebook, people should be respectful, even when they dislike something. But unfortunately, the Internet has provided a medium for even the most passive aggressive, deeply angry person to take our their frustrations, whether the target deserves it or not.
I think where Ms. Giffin erred was in stirring up the Facebook world by mentioning what her husband had done. I think this shows a grave lack of unprofessionalism or perhaps a misplaced trust in her fans and followers. Had she not said anything, the furor probably would have died down. It will be a hard lesson learned, I'm sure. But just looking down the long line of posts from Ms. Giffin, it seems like she is a decent person. I noticed that she was giving away copies of her latest novels to deserving people as a part of a pay it forward project. I hope that her seemingly good nature will eventually repair the damage. In the end, it seems like this incident was a series of unfortunate judgment calls. We're all human, unfortunately.
So what do you think? Are reviews really worth it? Should Amazon and Goodreads take better care to not allow slanderous or overly aggressive reviews be posted? Or should be just resign ourselves to the fact that mean people are an unfortunate symptom of our culture?
After further research, it appears that there is a little more to the story. I believe the original, offending review wasn't very offensive at all. Sadly, I think this was a situation of one person confessing their disappointment in the new novel and then being hacked to bits as a result. Not cool. And then another reviewer was raked over the coals because she downgraded her original review based on the hullabaloo. I don't think I would have done that, but the poor girl apparently ended up receiving nasty phone calls and e-mails tell her to go off herself. Really folks? Is there not a shred of maturity left? As of yet, there has been no official apology from Ms. Giffin--just a lot of "can we change the subject please?" I think she may benefit from a Facebook vacation at this point because she's dug a pretty deep hole for herself. And if Ms. Giffin cannot handle one rather tepid review then...wow. I think about poor E.L. James and the amount of criticism she has received for "50 Shades of Grey" and yet not a peep out of her. Of course, she's laughing her way to the bank at night, so I imagine that fact may provide some comfort.