Thursday, December 17, 2009

Five ways not to respond...

…to rejection or reviewers.

1. Suggest that the reviewer kill himself.

In a one-sentence mention of a story by Kevin W. Reardon, an editor said that the story’s weak beginning didn’t work for him.

On his personal LiveJournal account, the editor had divulged that he was feeling depressed. Someone calling himself Cole replied,

You mentioned, in one of your posts, that you live in an apartment with windows. Is it a high floor? If it is, you should go now to the window …take your cat in your arms and jump… You can make this sense of emptiness end. The pain can be over.

Three guesses as to who Cole is?

Apparently “Cole” moved on to making death threats, but poetic justice soon commenced. If you Google the writer’s name, webpages about this debacle take up most of the first page of results. The review did nothing to his career, but his own response (and the subsequent reaction) torpedoed it. As one blogger put it, “This is the only writing you'll ever be remembered for.”

2. Brag about how many publishers want the book.

Not only is this tacky, but a lack of knowledge of the industry can make this technique backfire. Lynn Price at Behler Publications rejected a submission, so the writer replied to let her know how many publishers wanted the manuscript.

Wanted it badly.

So badly that 17 publishers responded in three days. And four of those publishers, despite having received only queries from an unpublished writer, asked that writer not to contact anyone else. Not going to happen, on either count.

The writer ends with a suggestion that the book might go to auction ("Opening bid is PublishAmerica, with $1" -- Marian), plus a dire warning to Lynn.

3. Write a long denunciation on Amazon.

Anne Rice reacted to fans’ dissatisfaction on Amazon with a response that was as succinct as it was modest. And it’s probably not a good idea to say proudly that you now have the “status” of being unedited, but follow it up with the comment,

But I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of book.

4. Tweet the reviewer’s contact information.

Alice Hoffman reacted to a negative review with 27 tweets that referred to the reviewer as an “idiot” and a “moron”, trashed the newspaper that printed the review and even insulted the city in which the newspaper is distributed. I was waiting for the circle to expand even further – the country in which the reviewer holds citizenship, the species to which the reviewer belongs, etc.

That would have been bad enough, but she then posted the reviewer’s phone number and encouraged fans to harass the reviewer.

I didn’t know who Alice Hoffman was before Twittergate. Nearly six months after it, I don’t remember the titles of any of her books… but I recall what she did on Twitter. There is such a thing as bad publicity.

5. Threaten them with witchcraft.

Slander can cause a major lawsuit from the author and the publisher mentioned, because I will make sure they know about this and dear Jane will have nightmares in 10 fold. Yes, I'm Wicca.

At least, I think that’s a warning that the Dark Arts will soon be used in vengeance. It’s difficult to tell with writing of that, er, standard.

The Jane of the quote owns the Dear Author website, which exposed Lanaia Lee’s plagiarism of a book by David Gemmell. Lee’s agent (and I use the term loosely) then posted in defense of her client, and managed to make things even worse with her barely-coherent hints of retribution.

I haven't made an offical threat yet, just words for now.

No doubt she’ll cast a Crucio or two when she finds her wand.


SLC said...

Any actual Wiccan - and not the Harry Potter kind of witch - wouldn't make those comments in the first place. Rule of three and all that karmic return stuff.

However, I did notice a loophole. You said nothing about voodoo dolls. :D

Kerri Cuev said...

Alright! I like number five!!!

Anonymous said...

I used to have such respect for Alice Hoffman. Until she did what you mentioned in #4.

Unknown said...

Good post! I can tell you from personal experience that reacting graciously to an agent's somewhat cruel rebuff actually earned me a second chance with her. It's amazing what taking the high road can do for your career. Having class is NEVER a bad idea.

Daggers said...

its really very nice article thanks for sharing this with us.

James Davis Nicoll said...

May I link to this and the preceding article?

James Davis Nicoll said...

D'oh! I thought I was replying to the next article: please amend that to read "and the following article.

Marian Perera said...

Absolutely! Maybe that'll warn other bloggers too.

Mary Witzl said...

I am shocked and stunned at all of this stuff, and I just feel SO NAIVE! I had no idea that people got up to things like this! (Other than my students, of course. They threaten, wheedle, and plagiarize all the time.) But proper, published authors? I had no idea.

Anne Rice? Did she REALLY write that? I feel like crying.

PixelFish said...

Hey, don't forget about Michael Crichton who named a pedophile in one of his books after a reviewer who displeased him ideologically.

And Laurel K. Hamilton who also pulled an Anne Rice with her infamous letter to the "negative readers".

(Oh, I just looked that up and the second hint lands on TV Tropes, where they have a list of DNRs.)

Paul Riddell said...

Pixelfish, Crichton isn't the most petulant, and not even the least subtle. Besides Roland Emmerich naming the mayor of New York and his assistant "Siskel" and "Ebert" for their negative reviews of Independence Day, I always loved how George Lucas responded to Pauline Kael's very well-thought-out and accurately vicious reviews of Star Wars. Namely, he made a villain named "General Kael" in Willow.

My absolute favorite example, though, involved Allen Steele taking issue with the magazine Science Fiction Eye and its editor over negative reviews of his first book. Instead of letting it ride and acknowledging that "The Last Dangerous Magazine" was read by about 50 people, he wrote a huge revenge fantasy story called "Killing Wabbit" that ran in Science Fiction Age in 1993. Said story was read by about fifty people, too, all of whom were readers of Science Fiction Eye. They (and by extension me, because I was a contributor who was still loyal to the "Eye" at the time) got all torqued out of shape. Nobody else gave a damn.

Marian Perera said...

slcboston - she later said she wasn't a witch (any more than she was an agent). By then several people had explained the threefold rule and other relevant aspects of Wicca.

They didn't say anything about voodoo dolls, but wouldn't the construction of one require hair clippings or something similar? :)

Kerri : I had at least eight or nine incidents to choose from!

anneskal : I liked Anne Rice's books until Memnoch the Devil came out. I would still have been willing to try a new Rice release, but not after that rant.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago we were asked by a confused person to review a recording. We disclaimed vigorously that we were not in the business of music reviewing, but then we said "These folks are pretty good. They might grow up to be Spirit." (I did say it was a long time ago.)

Well, that really lit the guy's fuse! He insisted that we "take it back!!" In vain did we point out that it was just an opinion, and one cannot "take back" an opinion.

But he insisted. So, finally, we issued a retraction: "We take it back. On the best day in their lives these people will *never* be Spirit." (My son's comment was "They should be flattered to be mentioned *on the same page* as Spirit.")

Marian Perera said...

KLM : Thanks! And I agree completely about taking the high road. Writers can unburden themselves to their friends or keep a private blog. But in public... well, the internet has a long memory.

Daggers : Glad you liked it!

Mary : Here's a link to the Anne Rice diatribe. Most authors are very gracious, though - I've criticized several books in reviews and no author has contacted me to complain.

Marian Perera said...

Thanks for the TV Tropes link PixelFish. Made for some entertaining reading.

JH said...

More aspiring writers need to get their work beta-read by Marian, it'll toughen their skin right up. ;)

Marian Perera said...

I was kind of a bitch as a TA too. :)

We had classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Now the TAs had to give ten pop quizzes per semester, but it was entirely up to us as to when we gave those quizzes.

I took the "pop" aspect of the quizzes quite seriously. One week, I gave the students a pop quiz on Monday. Then on Wednesday, there was another quiz - when they weren't really expecting one.

Guess what happened on Friday, when they REALLY weren't expecting a quiz?

Toughened them right up, it did.

Anyway, having my work beta-read by JH helped to get a contract and toughened me up. I'm not the only one who can be snarky. ;)