How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2

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Happy Monday, All! I’ve been tagged by editor extraordinaire, Christie Stratos, to share the things I keep by me when I write, so here we go: my laptop (duh, right?), my flash drive, and a cup of coffee. Pretty simple, eh?

Now on to today’s topic. A couple months ago, I wrote about how not to respond to a negative book review. In that post, I told you all about the author who went ham, cheese, and bologna on a blogger over a negative review, but this next story takes the cake: an author showed up at a reviewer’s house over a one star review. Have you guys heard about this?

Here’s a quick rundown (from Salon):

On Friday, a YA novelist named Kathleen Hale published a personal essay in the British newspaper the Guardian, recounting her obsession with someone who had criticized her first book harshly. Hale admits to combing the Internet for information about the woman, a blogger who, while reading Hale’s book, posted a derisive running commentary to Goodreads, an enormous social networking site for book lovers. Hale confesses that she scrutinized the woman’s Instagram feed and Facebook page, as well as engaging in subterfuge to obtain the blogger’s home address. In doing so, she discovered indications that the blogger’s actual identity is quite different from the one she presents online. Then Hale drove to this woman’s house and knocked on her door. Receiving no answer, Hale later called the woman she suspected of being the blogger at work, twice: the first time pretending to be a fact checker and the second under her real identity, trying to get the woman to admit that she was, as the Guardian headline put it, her “number one online critic.”

What in leopard print hell?

And here’s an excerpt from Hale’s article for the Guardian titled ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic:

“Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in (The Reviewer’s) driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.  I strolled to the front door. A dog barked and I thought of [her] Instagram Pomeranian. Was it the same one? The doorbell had been torn off, and up close the garden was overgrown. I started to feel hot and claustrophobic. The stupid happiness book grew sweaty in my hands. I couldn’t decide whether to knock. The curtains were drawn, but I could see a figure silhouetted in one window, looking at me. The barking stopped. I dropped the book on the step and walked away.”

My question is this: what was Hale going to do had the blogger opened the door? I imagine if it had been me. I’m in my house, minding my own business, when there’s a knock on the door. I open it, and on my doorstep is an author who wants to talk to me about the one star review I left on Goodreads. The conversation would have probably gone something like this:

Me (smiling, assuming she’s selling Mary Kay): Can I help you?

Author: Yes. I’d like to talk to you about that one star review you left for my novel on Goodreads.

Me (confused): And you are…?

Author: A disgruntled author.

Me (taking off my earrings): Okay. Give me just a second.

Sidenote: If a woman takes off her earrings during a confrontation, this is probably an indication that an ass whuppin’ is in your near future.

I wonder what would have happened if that blogger had been home. Things seriously could have turned ugly. Everyone should have the freedom to express their opinion about a book without fearing that someone might show up at their home and do God knows what. And over a book! As far as we know, the blogger didn’t call the author’s mama ugly. Didn’t toilet paper her house. She simply expressed her opinion about a book, a collection of pages that are bound together and may or may not have words on them. Geesh!

I have said it before and I will say it again:

  1. Reviews are NOT for the author.
  2. If you can’t handle your reviews don’t read them.
  3. A critique of your writing is NOT  a critique of you as a person.
  4. Somebody’s opinion of your novel is actually none of your business.
  5. It is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up. This is what your family and friends are for.
  6. Never respond to a negative review! Never. Even if you feel you’ll combust if you don’t. Simply do not.
  7. And lastly: do NOT find out where the reviewer lives and show up at their house. I don’t care if you’re just bringing them a chicken pot pie. Please don’t. It’s creepy, and said reviewer just might feel violated. And just might call the cops and report a stalker. Or just might give you a lovely, twenty-four ounce can of whup ass. Just sayin’…

Everybody is entitled to their opinion and just because one person doesn’t like your novel means diddly squat. In fact, I can’t recall an instance where a negative review has kept me from reading a book. I typically make my reading decisions based on the book’s first page. If the writing pulls me in, that’s all that matters. It’s scary to think that, in this day and age, someone would go to such great lengths over a negative review. Scary!

What about others? Have you heard about this? What are your thoughts? And I’d also love to know: what would have happened had the author shown up at your house?

To read more about this story:

45 thoughts on “How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2

  1. Quanie, hello and thank you for this post. I had my first bad review on an audiobook I narrated, called Lonely Are The Hunted. If anybody wants to read it it is at the end of this link
    I followed that link and found out what I needed to know. He liked me more than he liked the Hamilton Beach can opener. He only gave them one star. I figure that it didn’t affect Hamilton Beach’s quarterly bottom line a bit. If Hamilton Beach ain’t worried then neither am I.

  2. For someone to go over the edge like that is scary. Authors who can’t handle reviews really shouldn’t read them at all. You can bet potential readers have mostly all run off to reading some other author now.

    Quanie, I’m running an ebook giveaway and have added “The New Mrs. Collins” to my gift selection. I hope to buy it for a lucky reader soon!
    Claudine @ CarryUsOff Books recently posted..Christmas Giveaway (5 Winners Total)My Profile

  3. I read about this a while ago, and I agree, there is something seriously wrong about this entire thing. O_o I have no idea what that author was thinking (aside from, y’know, they *weren’t*), but that’s just plain messed-up. I’ve seen some authors talk about how reading their reviews helps them, and some respond to bad reviews, though I have no idea why. I’ll probably be in the camp that ignores reviews entirely, just because it seems like the best idea.

    And I have no idea what I’d do if someone showed up at my door. Hopefully slam said door in their face and call the police. Gah.

    As a side note, I love “What in leopard print hell?”. ^_^
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..And the Plot Ran Away with the Author.My Profile

    • I think that once we get to a certain point in our careers certain reviews won’t matter. Not to say that reviews on Goodreads don’t matter, but I highly doubt that someone like Stephen King or Terry McMillan is bothered by one little ol’ Goodreads review! Now something like Kirkus might be another story (but still, I don’t they’d they show up at a reviewer’s house!).
      Quanie recently posted..How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2My Profile

  4. Wow, Quanie, that is nuts! I haven’t heard about this and honestly, it’s very scary. Geez, people go way to far when it comes to reviews of their books. Like you, I believe in not responding to negative reviews. People are entitled to their own opinions and no matter how much you rant and rave, you are not going to change their outlook on your book, period. It’s a waste of valuable time and energy you could be putting into something positive, like your author work.

  5. That whole thing makes me crazy! I love to review books and I want my books reviewed. Actions like Hale’s makes everyone think twice about posting bad reviews. I understand (and I’m using that term liberally here) that she was frustrated by a review she felt had nothing to do with her book, but to go to someone’s house… ::sigh::

    The sad thing about this case isn’t just what she did, it’s also the amount of support she’s getting. I’m flabbergasted by the comments saying she was right. I don’t care if the person attracted her personally and called her mom names, it is never, ever, ever alright to hunt someone down and knock on their door over a review.

    My thought was what if that person was home and angry that their privacy had been violated? In some states that could lead to gunfire or at the very least (like you said) a good punch in the face.

    Trust your readers to know that one review does not define your book. The more you make a fuss the more attention that review gets!!!
    Gina Drayer recently posted..For the Love of SidekicksMy Profile

    • Of course, there are two sides to every story. However: I don’t think any review is so bad that it warrants a house visit! And I have the same question that you do. Had the person been home–and armed (and equally crazy!)–what might have happened??? I think the only thing we can do is vent to family and friends. Or take a run. Or punch a wall if necessary. But showing up at someone’s house or calling them on their job over a review should never be an option.
      Quanie recently posted..How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2My Profile

  6. I liked this story a lot, it gave me a big smile – i had a lot of sympathy for the writer:) i think the reviewer got off lightly – a book delivered to her door stop to be used as a doorstop or hold up the book case. i’d have delivered crocodiles for her back yard or red back spiders or brown snakes… i mean what kind of writer turns up to her negative reviewers house to give her a book? That’s a complete lack of imagination right there? Sounds like she deserved the one star:)

    Yes, I think a long list of what I would like to do to negative reviewers might be very therapeutic. I could keep it stuck to my fridge to remind me that other writers have gone where i have only imagined – with fatal ends.

  7. Man, that whole Kathleen Hale thing was madness. There was also this guy, last name Brittain, who found a reviewer who’d panned his book, hunted her down, and hit her over the head with a glass bottle. Pretty wild.

    I’m mostly annoyed that Hale still stands by what she did, and is just gloating and preening over all the attention she’s getting.
    Kiersi recently posted..My #8TerribleTitles Are Darn HorseyMy Profile

  8. “What in leopard print hell?”
    “Me (taking off my earrings): Okay. Give me just a second.”
    ” As far as we know, the blogger didn’t call the author’s mama ugly.”

    I’m dying laughing over here. Note to self: do not read Quanie’s blog while snacking. Tangerine juice everywhere!

    Child, I wish somebody WOULD show up at my door talking about a review. I’m from Long Beach, CA by way of Compton and ALL my hood tendencies would step up front and center. That author would end up calling the police on ME when I was through.
    Faith Simone recently posted..Author Spotlight: N.N. Light!My Profile

  9. I remember the whole “catfish” business and still can’t believe it. Why would stalk someone over a bad review. Who does that? You’re pretty much saying that you don’t care about your writing career. And I agree with all your points Quanie. If it was me my reply would’ve been “Hold up one second.” Then closed the door, picked up the phone and dial 911. “911, what’s your emergency.” “There’s a crazy, stalker person at my door.”
    “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”- Harper Lee
    lidy recently posted..A Book By Any Other NameMy Profile

  10. Hi Quanie, Outstanding post. I believe something else was going on with that woman, like some kind of un-named pathology. I think it’s a natural response to wonder why someone didn’t like what you so obviously adore, but to follow through the way she did is so scary on so many levels. If an author came to my door I’d throw skittles on the ground to make the unbalanced, then I’d reach into my pants pocket and take them down with chloroform. I keep chloroform ready for people taking to long in the K-Mart line. (Kidding)
    Burnita recently posted..IT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENS . . .My Profile

  11. if the author ever showed up at my house I’m pretty sure I’d go into shock. Or most likely not answer, since I grew up with a rule: never answer the door unless you’re expecting someone (or look through the peephole and actually know them ha) I’m so the “focus on all the good” type so I plan on not reading many reviews (if I can help it) and or/taking the super harsh, over-the-top mean ones with a grain of salt 🙂

  12. I had not heard of this but what an outrageous chain of events! My thoughts are A: the reviewer might want to consider a crash course in critique etiquette and B: the writer might be two tacos shy of a sampler plate! Had the writer shown up at my door I would likely have whispered to my two (60 lb.) pups that she had ‘cookies’ hidden behind her ears!
    But you’re right – you just don’t respond.
    You are fast becoming my most favorite blogger with your insightful and highly amusing posts!

  13. “Reviews are not for the author.” I like that. SO true! You know what I’ve found? That anger and resentment hurts nobody but us. We have to find a way to focus on the positive and shut out those negative voices. It’s not easy–but all that author did was let that reviewer control her emotions. That hurt her FAR more than some review. It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we react to it…and if you carry that anger around, it’s unhealthy and it takes away from your happiness.

    All of that sunshine and rainbows is easier said than done, though, isn’t it?!
    Stephanie Faris recently posted..The Foaming FountainMy Profile

  14. Chile…. folks just be doing stuff. That is the ONLY thing I can find to say about this crazy lady going to a readers HOUSE. Like… that is some next-level type stuff.

    Anyway, totally agree with your ways to respond to negative reviews, and I would add one: complain about it to a trusted friend. Cause you’re DEFINITELY going to want to complain about it, but that venting session should happen with someone who can keep you firmly grounded in reality (if the review has valid critiques) or make you laugh about how ridiculous it is, and speculate on if said reviewer actually read YOUR book, or if they can even read at all.

    Or ….. maybe that’s just me, lmbo!
    Christina Jones recently posted..Sample Sunday: from Catch Me If You CanMy Profile

  15. I read it. I wasn’t sure what to think about it.
    It almost read like something written to get attention.

    In any case, I do read my reviews (out of curiosity–it is my debut, after all– and to learn), but I don’t respond to them.

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