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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Writers (And Readers!) Making A$$es of Themselves?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'm a little late on the draw, but if you haven't heard about the dust-ups involving authors Alice Hoffman and Alain de Botton, you can find a good round-up over at Dear Author.

It's always been my position that when someone publishes a piece of work that they should be ready to accept criticism. This goes double if you get paid for your work. Yes, many of us have been victims of editorial screw-ups, but in general, it's our name on the cover or byline, and we have to take the flak. Of course, we also get to take the bouquets of roses, and what author doesn't hope for good reviews?

This is why I'm puzzled by writers who take this sort of behavior to the public arena. If you have a problem with a review, it should be sorted out directly with the publication or the reviewer. Of course, factual errors are one thing. If it's a bad review, I'd at least like to see my name spelled correctly. But reviews are, ultimately, opinion. And while we may disagree, we don't look very good when we throw a hissy fit.

The Internet makes it easy to throw fits - and they get caught in caches for eternity. These authors found out the hard way.

Of course, authors can throw fits in person, too. Not long ago at a convention I was in the audience at a panel. The speaker got started late and was working to wrap up a demo. He'd been given his five-minute warning, and acknowledged it. About a minute later people from the back of the room started heckling him to finish up. Every time he got interrupted, he had to go back and remember where he left off. Some of the heckling from the back of the room was downright rude, too. As I left I was shocked to discover that among the instigators were authors on the next panel.

Folks, just because you're at a convention away from home you're not excused from proper behavior. This kind of stuff gets around. Writers and editors talk. I've done some pretty boneheaded things in my past, and I've tried to own up to them and move on.  An apology - and a consistent pattern of behavior afterward that shows you meant it - does mean a lot.

And now, the other side of the coin.

Readers can be jerks, too. Witness this book, which got picked up on Digg and other sites yesterday. The reviews on Amazon are not reviews, but an exercise in snark. Dare I say it? I will. It's a pissing contest to see who can write the "wittiest" review. There appear to be two actual reviews buried in there, but if he had one sale for each review, he'd at least have achieved average sales for a self-published book.

Of course, it's self-published. He paid to have an unedited 77-page book put on the market for the amazing price of $15.99. You read that price right.

Based on the previews on the publisher's site, they're not very good books. Since I haven't read them I'll hold out hope that there's a germ of a good idea in there somewhere, but if there is, it has been hidden quite well amongst the numerous grammar and spelling errors.

There have been Internet feeding frenzies on bad books before (Night Travels of the Elven Vampire, anyone?), but this one seems a little different. The author appears to have kept a low profile other than pushing is books on a blog that isn't focused on his writing. He's not out whining about all the mean people. If he is, his complaints are buried in Google. I admire his apparent self-restraint.

So now you're wondering if this contradicts everything I said above. Nope. He published the book, he has to take the criticism. And yet, I do feel for him as the victim of yet another Internet pile-on. I hope he can prevail upon Amazon to remove the "reviews."

To help wash the taste out of your mouth I leave you with Dear Author's list of Authors Behaving Well. Yes, it happens.

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Filed under: Writing   Publishing         
7/2/2009 10:38:27 PM
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