Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Author Gone Ballistic

Hoo boy, this is plastered all over the internet. The writer of the blog "Books and Pals" wrote a negative review of the book “Greek Seamen.” The author, Jacqueline Howett was upset and argued against him. Readers supported the original review, and Howett got progressively angrier, demanding that he remove the review, ordering him to answer her emails, and when she couldn’t think of any other arguments, she repeatedly said the F word.
When I read this, my mouth dropped open.
When I read the 300 people who responded by telling her how classless she is and how they would never read her book, my mouth closed again.
Many agents and authors on the internet are accusing readers of starting a witch hunt. They say we all make mistakes and go on rants, and that even though Howett’s behavior was inexcusable, that’s no reason to be malicious.
This is interesting because I didn’t think anything said against her was undeserved. She had no right to act that way. I noticed a pattern: readers are furious at her, but people who have written books – people who have had their own negative reviews and wanted to act the same way – they’re the ones who are forgiving.
So what do you think? Are the reactions against her appropriate?
I have no answer, but I do have a story I wasn’t planning on telling anyone ever. I myself have gone on an internet rant. It was absurd how angry I got. Someone disagreed with me on a forum. My hands were trembling with rage and I grit my teeth and typed some pretty nasty stuff, and everyone in the forum ganged up on me and pointed out how tacky I was. This went back and forth for a while. I even chewed out a moderator. Then I got suspended from the forum.
The next day, I read what I had written and was horrified. (And then my period started and the whole thing made sense.) I apologized to everyone I had virtually screamed at and told the moderators they were right to suspend me, and now I never type in anger. For a long while, people responded negatively to every single thing I wrote. It took a while before people would be nice to me again. I don't blame them; it's human nature.
For Jacqueline Howett, I feel the readers’ response was justified and she should make amends by issuing a public apology. You can’t expect mob mentality to be mature. You should be accountable for all your actions, and as public figure, you have to be likable at any cost. But even though I’ve been criticized publically, I’ve never had my dear novel smashed so cruelly. Maybe that makes all the difference.

6 comments:

  1. Everyone definitely feels the urge sometimes, to rant and rave. But that's when you walk away from the computer. ;) I had to do that after I got some harsh critique - and I wouldn't have ranted, Ijust would have written endless paragraphs trying to argue against what the person in question had said, trying to justify myself, explain why my writing was the way it was...

    Instead I walked away and couldn't sleep that night, as I thought about all she had said about my writing, and realised...she had a point.

    I think I couldn't handle the fact that she had not one nice thing to say along with all her criticism. But I got nice comments from others, so why did I need one from her?! hehe

    Anyway, in the end her feedback was some of the most useful I've had so far on that particular work.

    As for this lady and her rant, I think she was completely in the wrong, but I think there comes a point when the witch hunt needs to end. Readers can show her how unhappy they are by not buying her books, if they really insist on it. I agree it would help her cause if she admitted she was wrong.

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  2. I have seen this hinted at on other blogs, but this is the first I am reading any details. From what little you have said, I think she is right and wrong. She has the right to be upset but she should have never started this publicly. It is one thing to rant and rave in private, but it is detrimental to your image when you do it publicly. I definitely agree with the saying "Do not type when you are angry". Just walk away from the computer. If she had kept her composure during the whole argument, then she could have made her case and won a lot of readers instead of alienating them.

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  3. Nathan Bransford talked a lot about this in his posts Virtual Witchhunt and How to Respond to Bad Reviews. I think he puts it pretty well. He acknowledges that the author was way out of line, but he also points out that much of the response was just as outrageous (especially the people who trashed her at other sites and wrote false 5-star reviews of her book on Amazon.com). In this particular case, the mob mentality went on for days after the incident, even without the author antagonizing anyone else.

    To sum it up: yes, the author reacted horribly and should make amends, but the mob was just as much in the wrong as she was (possibly more so). They justify the same behavior they crucify the author for in the name of reasonable punishment--as if it's their place to judge and punish in the first place.

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  4. Whether the reviewer is right or deliberately being an asshole, I don't think any good can come of an author rushing to defend themselves. They either go off the rails like Howett or leave potential readers thinking "Wow, the author came down from his/her holy mountain and engaged a reviewer. Would that happen to me if I said something he/she didn't like?"

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  5. I'm not familiar with the mentioned rant. However, I have given in to a fair amount of rants over my life, and I have regretted every single one. Shows lack of control. I hope it all works out.:)

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  6. Reece:

    Your point really struck home to me. I kind of viewed it as the readers have nothing to lose whereas the author has everything to lose, that she's responsible for her own reputation, etc. But then you used the word "crucify." Yeah, there are situations where members of a mob need to be accountable for what they do. I definitely look at it differently now.

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