Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Virtual Witch Hunts

There was a pretty unfortunate scene at a book blog recently after a reviewer wrote an unfavorable review of a self-published author's book. The author responded with unseemly umbrage and profanity.

And then the Internet got involved.

Literally hundreds and hundreds of commenters piled on the author with snide remarks and scorn. Then the virtual mob took to Amazon, where they trashed her book, wrote faux five star reviews, and are continuing to have a great time at her expense (96 reviews and counting).

They may not have been wielding actual pitchforks and torches, but there are burnt embers all around the Internet.

Now, I want to clearly acknowledge that the author in question behaved extremely unprofessionally. No author, with the singular exception of Emily St. John Mandel, has ever responded to a bad review and come away looking good. Let alone with rudeness and profanity. It was an extremely unprofessional and unfortunate scene.

But did she really deserve this?

The Heart of the Mob

What are the motives of the people trashing this author? Does anyone really think that a virtual mob scene is going to prevent authors from behaving unprofessionally in the future? Authors have been lashing out over bad reviews for several millenia, methinks an Internet freakout will not bring peace in our time.

In truth, the actions of a mob say a lot more about the people participating in them than the person being scorned. And I think in the dark heart of a mob you'll find a quiet sense of relief. People are secretly and ardently glad that they're not the ones being targeted.

You can feel the relief and sense of superiority in numbers behind the mocking: Well, at least I'm not that bad off. And a hundred strangers agree with me.

But really that's a false sense of security. As the old quote goes, "A mob has many heads but no brains."

To Deserve is Divine

The other justification you'll hear is that the person in question deserved it. She brought it on herself by failing to edit her book or behaving unprofessionally or using profanity or etc. etc. And sure, there are consequences for bad behavior.

But what she deserved is compassion.

We've all made mistakes in our worst moments. We've all taken criticism too hard. We've all lashed out when we should have kept quiet. We've all said things we shouldn't have.

Now imagine that the mistake we made was met not with sympathy and fair consequences but with a mob trying to tear down everything we've ever tried to build.

This is a person who just wanted to have their book out there and has the same hopes and dreams as any other writer. Some rude Internet behavior negates all of that? People will ridicule her and scorch the Earth and trash what this author has built in the name of teaching a lesson?

Let's not kid ourselves that a lesson was taught, other than to remind us, yet again, that the Internet is a terrifying place to make a mistake.






233 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   1 – 200 of 233   Newer›   Newest»
Sarah Hina said...

I felt the same way when I came across this last week, but you've said it better than I ever could.

Sheila Lamb said...

Well said. This has taken on a life of its own, adding to the unprofessionalism all around.

RobynBradley said...

I 110 percent agree with you, Nathan. While appalled by her response to the review, I was more appalled by the group dumping that took place on Amazon right after. I think Big Al was great and honorable and he pretty much has said the same as you. Compassion is key. The woman has not posted to her blog since March 25 (right after the event happened), which could be cause for concern.

Renee Pinner said...

Awesome. Thank you.

Suzanne Santillan said...

Beautifully put... When I saw the post initially I was horrified by her response and a little embarrassed for her as well. Thanks for putting it in perspective, and reminding us all to use a little compassion.

Jayme Stryker said...

As the old quote goes, "A mob has many heads but no brains."

This made me laugh...and think of Cerberus, but I think that the pooch had brain(s).

There is no high road when tunneling.

Rebecca said...

Very well said, Nathan!

I have to say, the only one who came out of this looking good was the reviewer. He was polite and professional throughout, and his initial review was one of the more thoughtful negative reviews I've seen.

Bohemienne said...

I had a long post about fundamental attribution bias and our own fears of having our babies (novels) exposed as less than imperfect, but Blogger ate it, but suffice to say: bad choices and bad people are two separate things, and a lot of bad choices were made by what I hope are otherwise decent folks.

Anonymous said...

When I first noticed this story brewing I couldn't believe how unprofessional this author was but as it developed I just grew more and more sorry for her. She clearly had no idea what she had let herself in for and people were just piling on the hate because she was silly and annoying and an easy target. It all seems a bit petty and pathetic really.

Erin said...

Well-put. I suppose it's the soapbox phenomenon: If a person has a platform, the temptation is to use it to draw attention. I fear that was both the reviewer's and the author's motive. As for the author, I sympathize. Honest, I do. It's got to be tough reading reviews where you're work is condemned to the trash heap. It's not just a pride thing; it's their livelihood. But yes, all the more reason to preserve what little dignity they still have after a bad review.

Jenn Marie said...

And I didn't fail to note that many of the commenters lambasting her poor use of the English language had misspellings and grammatical errors in their own posts. Glass houses people.

L.G.Smith said...

I simply love this post.

Bri Clark said...

I watched this from the beginning. The first thought in my mind is I would get a completely honest review from the reviewer. I then looked at his policies and he doesn't like my genre.

However, then I checked out the comments. All I could do was feel for the author. I decided that among all the chaos surrounding her the only thing I could offer was a silent prayer and the decision not to circulate it.

Nate, as ever always a pleasure to read.

Stephanie {Luxe Boulevard} said...

I really dislike it when people post mean comments on peoples blogs and other sites. As writers we learn to anticipate negative reviews. But no one handles crude. I'm not saying she was right to get profane. That was very immature. You are right that she deserved some compassion. As a self-publisher myself I think it is harder and more gutsy to self-publish than go the "professional" route. People need to take that into consideration. I'm hald tempted to buy her book and leave a positive review simply to shove it in all those mean peoples faces. I find it a little sad a not-known self-publisher can receive that much criticism from one remark, yet someone like Charlie Sheen can behave as outlandish as he does yet sell out "comedy" tours because of his behavior. Is there some kind of heirarchy as to who can act like a jerk and get away with it and who can't?

Deb said...

Oh boy, what you say Nathan. My whole body went numb as I read what is now happening. It is damn scary what we can become on the internet. No. She does not deserve this-shouldn't have done what she did. But, man there now appears to be a real perverse pleasure in taking her down. That is scary. _Thank you_ for sharing your thoughts and shining a light on what happens when we tread down that path---

Anonymous said...

Posts like this are one of the many reasons I read your blog!

BooksAndPals said...

I agree, Nathan. Thanks for this post.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Wow. How very sad. It just goes to show that when we aren't with someone we are more apt to say what's on our mind and not in a good way. People are way too lax on the internet. I think this is a good lesson for people, maybe (I can only hope) they will realize how bad things can get and avoid the pitfals in the future. It just isn't worth all the broken heads to voice our oppinions. Even if they are taken the wrong way and we are justified in what we say. I know I have made mistakes online and though they weren't anywhere near the magnitude of this incident, I will NEVER make the mistake of repeated said offenses.

See Elle Oh said...

I agree about compassion being key. Especially in a world where so many are unhinged and the Internet is the kind of vast, cruel and uncaring place that can push such people over the edge. But, it takes a lot more sense to walk away than it does to fall in line and spout a little snark.

Beth @ To the Fullest said...

I applaud this post. Thanks for not jumping on the bashing bandwagon. It is shocking how cruel human beings can become when they get swept up in a mob . . . even an internet mob.

Laura Manivong said...

Yes, public lynchings show the worst side of humanity. I made an appeal for reason early on and was met with resistance...ick. Thanks, Nathan.

http://lauramanivong.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/i-gave-5-stars-to-a-book-i-never-read/

Loree Huebner said...

Great post, Nathan.
I like your thoughts about the heart of the mob…so true.

T.J. said...

Awesome post, Nathan!

My thought as I read the post and comments of that blog was more "Don't people realize that she will more than likely never agree with them while they attack her?" I couldn't figure out their point. Why would they keep attacking her? What good was it going to do them? I really want to ask all of them if they feel better about themselves for responding in the mob mentality.
My guess is that most of them would respond the exact same way that author responded to her criticism. Which, in turn, makes them no better than her in my opinion.

Again, great post.

Gretchen said...

It's not the internet that is such a scary place - it's the dark corners of the human heart. We have capacity for great compassion, but also great evil. As someone else noted, it's our choices that distinguish who we really are. Thank you, Nathan, for highlighting that we all make mistakes and that we can all choose to be compassionate.

And parents question me about why I still teach Lord of the Flies. Uh huh.

C.E. Hart said...

What a compassionate heart you have shown. Thank you for this poignant post.

Alice said...

The relief is the same thing I feel when I watch daytime talk telly, and I feel the same guilt for that relief.

I feel the same way about that poor girl Rebecca Black and "Friday". Did Stephen Colbert REALLY need to make fun of a 14-year-old on prime-time television? A 14-year-old girl who has confessed to journalists how confused and upset she is about the way she's been relentlessly humiliated by everyone around her and how much her life has been destroyed?

Shame on you, everyone.

Cara Bristol said...

Witch hunt...what a great way to describe what happened.

Linda Gray said...

Thanks for posting on this topic. I hope all your readers tweet it to their readers to spread an awareness of the need for compassion and a little maturity in the face of our less laudable impulses. Emily St. John Mandel's article was fantastic. Thanks for that link.

abc said...

You are awesome, Mr. Bransford. I'm getting a little choked up. What we need in this world is more empathy and less judgment and scorn. The world is ugly enough.

robinC said...

I’m not usually one to quote Disney/Pixar films but reading this reminded me of Ratatouille…in the end the food critic Ego, humbled by a dish created by Remy says this in his review “The work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement”

I know I’m comparing apples to bananas but that line has stuck with me because it’s so darn true. Who knows how many weeks, months, years said author put into her novel – why wouldn’t she want to defend it?

I think it’s something we rarely think about when we write. You sit at your desk and create your world and when you release it…your control is gone. I do browse reader reviews if I’m interested in a book and I’m always a little taken back by the ones that read like critical essays or the ones that basically say “meh, this s*cked.” I’m constantly shocked by what people will say on the internet but there’s safety in anonymity.

I would not want to think the months and or years I put into writing something would boil down to one word, which really is more like a distasteful non-word…meh. That would drive me all kinds of crazy and while I’d probably like to address it…I wouldn’t. Once your work is out of your hands…it’s outta your hands. But I could see why one would want to...and to be further chastised for it...not good.

She definitely has my compassion.

Great post, Nathan!

Melody said...

Good post, Nathan!

Delia said...

Well said. Thank you, Nathan.

M.P. McDonald said...

What I really didn't like was the 70+ one star reviews her books suddenly acquired. I doubt any of those people had even read the book. If someone reads the book, and wants to review it--even giving it a one star, fine, but don't review something just to jump on a bandwagon if you haven't actually read the book.

I just want to say that Al never had a hand in all the trash talk and handled himself very well.

Mr. D said...

The funny thing was it really wasn't a bad review! The reviewer complimented her story by saying it was compelling. Then he simply said there were some grammar issues and awkward sentencing. And that's when she went ballistic! Reminded me of my first girlfriend.

Rick said...

I have to say that I disagree somewhat, Nathan. While the backlash against the author in question seems to have grown exponentially (both in number and severity) since I last saw this - and I freely admit that a number of people have gone too far - I don't feel particularly sympathetic for the author, and I do understand where the rest of the writers attacking her are coming from.

The actions of the author in question do not, however much we might like to believe, just reflect on her. Writers are a community, and a close-knit one, and a sometimes-invisible one. When we do gain visibility, we are ambassadors. In this context, particularly, ambassadors for independent publishing.

The notion of self-publishing e-books in the way that we're able to today is revolutionary. A lot of authors have had great success with it. Some authors are still going hungry even after trying new and different things. The point is that it's still an option in flux in an industry that is greatly in flux, and it's also a medium which is struggling for legitimacy in the eyes of readers, writers and the general public.

One author behaving badly - this badly, this visibly - has an impact on many other authors who DO take themselves seriously, who ARE professionals, and who are struggling to define themselves and deconstruct stereotypes on a newborn industry - and their livelihoods rely upon being able to deconstruct those stereotypes.

Jacqueline Howett's behavior has made it that much more difficult for these other authors to do that, and so I understand their anger - and their reactions.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Well said, Nathan! The internet is a terrifying place, indeed.

I commented on another writers' blog (a psychologist in her day job) that in reference to the author, I think people often forget that just because the people we're addressing aren't there in the room, that doesn't make them - or what we say to them - any less real. Who hasn't found themselves typing something then deleting it, thinking, "Wait a minute, I would NEVER say that to someone's face!" It's possible that this detachment is what happened to this author, and that the next day when some of the dust had cleared, she woke up and regretted what she had done.

However, I think the same phenomenon applies to the commenters, in this case. Those first few people who stated politely to the author that they thought she should stop and rethink her behavior probably left the best comments in the thread. They were offering well-meant advice in a polite manner. But the Amazon reviews, and the stream of Tweets, and the pages and pages of comments slamming the author? These people fell victim to the same electronic detachment syndrome that the author probably did. And we shouldn't. We are adults, we are sentient beings, and we should really know better.

I think it's important to look for teachable moments. But there's no need to mention names in these moments. There is no need to be hurtful to others. In my opinion, those who posted one-star reviews and dragged her name through the mud are just a guilty of unprofessional behavior as she is.

Libby said...

Her behavior was unprofessional absolutely. I went to see her material on Amazon to see if there were sample pages and read the reviews. At the end, I just felt bad for her...

Kristi Helvig said...

I felt sorry for the author, although I agree that she acted unprofessionally. It would be difficult not to become defensive with hundreds of people giving you negative feedback. I made a comment on another blog that people often have that "whew, glad it's not me" take on situations like that, but we shouldn't give it so much attention. Great post!

Christine Fonseca said...

And THIS post is WHY I think you are so amazing!

Jenny Maloney said...

Once upon a time I read that writers, of all the artistic groups, were the most encouraging of one another. I think there's evidence of that all around the web. (Exhibit A: Nathan's Blog.)

The reason for this, I think, is there's just no reason to be mean. This stuff is hard enough without adding bullying into the mix. If someone succeeds (self-publishing a book, landing a publishing deal, hell, even finishing a manuscript) then they deserve to be taken out for a celebratory beer.

I hope that this is just a giant blip in the world of writerly-support. As writers and readers we should continue to encourage one another.

Because beer is good.

Reece said...

It's nice to hear a voice of reason. I really admire you for taking a stand and saying what needs to be said.

Stephanie Barr said...

People frequently talk about how the internet has emphasized rudeness and viciousness. Sometimes, it's done through anonymity - trolling around without remorse because no one knows who you are. Sometimes it's because it's so immediate. You don't take time to think it through - your emotions take over.

No one, myself included, is immune from that. Even though I try to think clearly, try to be reasonable, I've lashed out and something that seemed unjust before without thinking it through.

Putting things in writing, however, also provides and opportunity to reflect before responding that one might not get in person. And it's immortal. Someone, somewhere is likely to see it, remember it, even save, no matter how fast you think you are with the delete key.

Poor judgement on the writer's part, no doubt. But, to respond to her written work for anything other than the work itself, what, you're trying to prove her right?

I've seen the mob mentality in action. It's an ugly thing, something I don't want to be associated with. Mobs aren't about justice anyway.

They're all about punishment and they don't much care about who gets punished or how much.

Matthew MacNish said...

THIS, my dear friend, is why I love you. Thank you for dropping some compassion on this sad story.

I wrote about it last week, here, I would love to hear what you think.

Anonymous said...

I never saw any amazon reviews, though I never looked for them either. But I did see the blog post and the first few comments. I didn't feel like people were attacking the author so much as defending the blogger. And I did feel someone should defend the blogger, because all he did was review the book and she just tore into him. I felt she implied his thoughts didn't matter b/c other people gave her a better review, or because it wasn't the review she wanted. Blogging book reviews is hard. You can't just say something is good when it's not; you have a reputation to uphold. I felt the review was balanced and didn't deserve the attack.

Michael Offutt said...

From the movie "Ratatouille" by Pixar:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the "new" needs friends...not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

This quote expresses perfectly how I feel about reviews and critiques.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I still don't think the woman actually understood what she was doing when she submitted her book for review. She was too confused at the realization that not only the reviewer could comment for me to believe otherwise.

And Amazon should have removed the flames by know. I know they have to have been reported multiple times.

Sara Ohlin said...

Very well said, thank you so much for posting this.

lora96 said...

Very well said. I would hate to have a wounded-and-angry response of mine eviscerated and used to condemn my entire professional career. When I'm criticized (rightly or not) I get defensive. I try not to lash out, but I'm not always successful. I would hope to be me with understanding, as in "wow, this chick really lost her **** over that. Maybe she a was having a bad day."

Proportion, people!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I saw it and quickly left after reading the turn it took.

I'll keep saying it and doing it: I don't go looking for reviews; I don't go to Amazon and check out my reviews/ratings/rankings. If someone wants me to read a review, they know they have to tell me about it or send it to me. Best decision I ever made.

What a mess that was.

Ashley Bigham said...

This was a hard situation for me to come to a conclusion on. I was a few days late finding out about it and as I read through all the comments, initially the author's behavior just shocked me. But I do also agree that the almost 400 comments and the unfair reviews on Amazon have gone way too far.

There are a couple things I find really distressing about the situation that maybe others haven't mentioned as much. First, someone runs that blog. I haven't been there before so I don't know who, but someone has control over closing comments. And that didn't happen until way too late. Obviously that person is not to blame for other people's actions, but had comments been closed around the 50-60 mark, do you think the result would have been the same? Would it have gone viral and would that extent of damage been done? I don't think so.

I think it's also very disturbing and a little disheartening that there were comments in that thread that said things such as "this is why I avoid self-pubbed/indie books altogether" or "this just proves all self-pubbed/indie stuff is crap." That's not only unfair and ignorant, it also just shows how quick people are to over generalize.

There was definitely immaturity and unprofessionalism on both sides. I can't honestly say I feel "compassion" for the author. I don't think what has happened was right, but I think she also damaged more than her own reputation. I wish someone had put a stop to the vitriol before it went viral.

Cynthia Lee said...

Thank you for this. It very much needed to be said.

Cheryl St.John said...

People leaving amazon comments and reviews for a book they haven't read is unprofessional - and unethical.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I felt really conflicted about the whole thing when I came across it. I noticed a lot of the comments were very respectful until the author started digging herself in a hole by using profanity and dismissing the values of everyone there. She was careless.
But like you said, the internet is a cruel, merciless place, and what she got for her unprofessionalism was too much. 96 negative reviews/comments? That could seriously damage her career. A fit of rage shouldn't define her life.
Great post, and I totally agree: compassion is key. We all know how rejection hurts.

Yat-Yee said...

When I first read the review and response, I reacted with disbelief. What came after, though, completely stunned me. Thanks for pointing out how insane it has become and for the reminder that compassion is needed, for all of us.

nkrell said...

This is an excellent post! It has to be one of my favorites and that is saying a lot, considering I've been following your blog for over three years.

Margo said...

I would say ditto to Rick's post. The author's behavior harmed more than herself (see the comments from other book bloggers on why they won't work with self-published authors), so the people telling her to calm down, take a better look at the actual content of the review, and stop behaving so badly were justified, I think. The posts really becoming mean and taking it to Amazon to sink her book...that crossed the line.

The other thing the internet doesn't do well is respond in moderation. We either have to excuse all poor behavior or burn the transgressor at the stake.

Anonymous said...

I get the good sentiment here. I admire it. But I'm just not sure.

For me, it wasn't the defending her poor grammar or things like that; it was the fu&* you and the horrid way she addressed the blogger. I just read a trad pubbed book that has a typo on page 5. A bad one. A wow, who missed that one. So what. It's a mistake. Even defending the mistake is odd but still pretty inconsequential. Rules? Made to be broken, etc. There was an argument she could have made.

But she screamed at the blogger and accused him of things and responded with Fu&* you. You're saying don't flog her, but she flogged the blogger. Quite publicly.

Are gender roles at play here? If a male author screamed at a female blogger and made demands and used the f word, would we still feel sorry if people publicly flogged the author on Amazon?

Maybe writers, many of whom are bloggers, are sticking up for the blogger. Maybe they are saying we have to be able to speak honestly (and respectfully) on our blogs without someone coming onto our blogs and screaming and accusing and using the f word. The negative reviews I read all discussed grammar/writing issues. They are backing up what the blogger wrote. They are saying, "he told the truth" when the author said he didn't.

My sympathies here are with the blogger.

Taffy said...

Aren't our books like our children? Authors want to protect their babies. Sometimes the parent gets involved, other times, the child has to learn to stand on his own, even if he is being bullied.
On the flip side, the author is getting loads of free advertisement. Hopefully,after everything has settled, she'll be stronger. Maybe a fantastic book will come from this...

Munk said...

Very well done Nathan. By focusing on the individual you have shone a light on the entire mob.
Other examples: To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind, be careful, you are treading on hallowed ground, kudos, really.
Oh, and my blog remains pitchfork ready, if there are any lobotomized mobs looking for a new target.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nathan, for this compassionate post. Unprofessional behavior shouldn't be encouraged, but it also doesn't justify a lynch mob. All of us make mistakes. Most of us love our books dearly, and we and must restrain ourselves as mothers must restrain feelings regarding their beloved children.

Backfence said...

Excellent post, Nathan. A voice of reason amidst the insanity.

I think people behave differently under the veil of internet anonymity (or behind the wheel of a car as in the case of road rage) and say and do things they wouldn't dream of saying or doing to someone face to fact.

Anonymous said...

It was sad all around. I think there should have been some responsibility on Big Al's part to shut it down. Allowing that to continue was just wrong!!
Great post Nathan, I hope she's okay. Everyone has a bad day and it doesn't need to be fodder for the internet trolls.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone deserves compassion, and the author in question is no exception. But honestly, the mob scene didn't appear to kick in until later. First, the author was given plenty of opportunities to correct her mistake -- which was her original, angry response, and she didn't. She never did. Instead, she got worse.

I think the Amazon situation is really unfair to her, but not once did she show humility or admit she had erred.

The very sad thing is, she may well have ruined her future writing career and I feel very sorry for her for that. But I also feel that acting professionally on the internet is something I work at hard every day. This is why I am signing anonymously, because I don't want to officially comment on this.

Nathan Bransford said...

Rick-

I hear you, and I think there's an element of sensitivity on the part of self-published writers. They've worked so hard to step out from the stigma and it feels like that can evaporate if there are bad ambassadors to that movement.

But one author spouting off on a bad review is not going to unbuild everything. Self-publishers, I think, need to have more confidence that one person can't undo a movement.

That's in part where I think the proportionality is out of line. People are acting as if the future of self-publishing is at stake and are giving this person consequences to match, but really she's just a small voice in a big ocean and doesn't deserve to be treated as if she holds the future of self-publishing in her hands.

Yamile said...

After such sad incident, I've become a follower of Al's blog. His review was polite and honest. And I do feel bad for the author.

Thanks for this post, Nathan. It shows the kind of man you are. (I'm still so sad you're not an agent anymore. Not that you'd MY agent, but a girl can dream, right?).

Sommer Leigh said...

Like another commenter said above, my whole body went numb when I started reading what was happening. Holy cow on everyone's part.

I ended up writing a College of Blogging post last week based on this uprising that basically boils down to learning when to keep quiet on the internet and also that the author, while reacting with knee-jerk impulsiveness and poor judgement, is still a human being who got emotionally worked up and said things she probably regretted a whole lot the next day, but is still a human being. Like all the rest of us mistake-makers.

I've gotten some beautiful replies and some real honest comments on my post:

Responding to negative comments and bad blog behavior

jjdebenedictis said...

Here's a TED talk about "mirror neurons" and empathy:

The Empathic Civilization

The short version of this is: as humans, we're wired to empathize with what others are feeling.

The problem with internet witchhunts is we see other people gleefully dogpiling the person they've chosen to punish, and we don't (usually) see the dogpilee's distress.

So our tendency to mirror other people's emotions becomes one-sided. And yes, that's pretty unfair.

Sierra McConnell said...

People who mobbed her are obviously those who have never created something for themselves or others, and who have never had that creation questioned. They've never had to defend it, and have never been in the state to feel that sort of aggression.

As writers, we have all been there. And to say you haven't, you're lying. Sure, some of us might have the professional wherewithal to not say anything, but you're feeling the need to punch someone in the face when you get that emotionally involved in anything.

I feel sort of sorry for the people who felt the need to mindlessly tear at her in her obviously weakened state, and hope one day they evolve to the point that they can think for themselves.

Caitlin said...

What a wonderful post. It's so easy to use the Internet with a thinly-veiled notion of anonymity to attack another person.

Sara (sarasexpletives) said...

It would have been more poignant to ignore the author's profane response, but unfortunately the masses respond to the profane more than the professional. Perhaps both responses were inappropriate, but I agree the lesson is that emerging writers should stick together and learn from each other because as you perfectly stated, "The internet is a terrible place to make a mistake", yet we ALL make them.

Naima said...

I'm glad you took the time to be somewhat a voice of reason in this witch hunt, and I’m happy to see other people sympathize with her too.

I hope Ms. Howett will read your post and all the nice comments, so she would believe again that there are compassionate people on the internet.

Anonymous said...

I felt like sending the author two dozen roses just for having the guts to go after the snarky reviewer.

At least she was honest. I think we give too much superficial power to online book reviewers. You know, the ones who claim they have a "passion" for certain genres and live to review books for the sake of the genre, as if they are saving the world from all that is evil.

But they only think they have the power. It's a false sense of security. In reality, no one really ever pays attention to them or makes purchases based on what they review. They are more like carnival sideshows than anything else, living in small worlds where they think they rule. And when an author has the guts to go after them, I can't help feeling a sense of relief.

Linda Godfrey said...

Kudos Nathan for a post that basically argues for plain old lovely civility even on the Internet. I wish there were an app for that.

Timothy Coote said...

The mob effect only happens if there is a mob.

I think this, again shows the fact that we are at a tipping point in the evolution of e-publishing.

Anonymous said...

Much respect to you, Nathan. Awesome, poignant post.

Tameka

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Nathan, I commend you for posting on this with such insightful precision. I especially like the fact that you take the time to look at the matter from all angles and present the motivations why each side did what they did.

It's times like these where psuedonyms can come in handy for the disenfranchised. Also, maybe the adage of "There's no such thing as bad publicity" might play a role in the self-published author's future. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

This mob mentality is a major reason why I won't go to what could be an otherwise helpful writers site. I won't mention the name other than to say the abbreviation is also a rootbeer brand. The modus operandi there often becomes mobbish. Woe betide if you defend a small publisher who doesn't shell out 5-digit advances.

I was sickened by it and stepped away quickly. I don't go to dog fighting matches either.

The author behaved badly, but the internet mob behaved worse.

Staci said...

I'm so glad you said this, Nathan! Even though the author acted badly, so did all the people who thought it would be fun to pile on. This is a person with real feelings.

As an author who is trying to write my first book, I'm impressed with anyone who has finished a novel and sold even one copy.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else wonder if someone might have been impersonating the author? That thought chilled me, because there is simply no one to protect yourself from such malice.

The entire episode, with the exception of the reviewer's gentle critique, was disheartening. Thank you, Nathan, for adding a much needed note of compassion.

Wild About Words said...

Ah, a cooler head has prevailed. Thank you, Nathan, for your compassionate take on this unfortunate incident.

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm glad you've written this post, especially since you have so many readers.

The review was fair, kind even considering the errors. Regardless of the author wrote in the comments section, she doesn't deserve fake 1-star reviews. It's obvious the "reviewers" just looked at the first post because all the errors pointed out are the same.

When I first saw her comments, I worried about her mental state. After how nasty people got, I worry about her mental state even more.

Because of what happened, I wrote a post about the responsibility of reviewers. I think too many bloggers write glowing reviews to support their friends whether or not the books have merit. In my opinion, it's undermining the credibility of reviews. Then when new authors do receive bad ones, it probably does come as a bit of a shock.

http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/2011/04/reviews-and-responsibilities.html

The Writing Goddess said...

I think there were some lessons learned... if not by that author.

I think a lot of writers have been saying to themselves, "That could so easily have been ME," and have resolved to behave more graciously in the future, so that's a good thing.

I also noticed in the comments that some of them apparently came from agents, who noticed nastiness being publicly voiced by writers whose work was in their own slush pile. They stated that this would cause them to reconsider those very writers because of THEIR behavior.

Somebody smart said keep your words sweet, since you may have to eat them later, and that's especially true on the Internet.

Kaitlyne said...

Fantastic post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan
Totally agree with you. Now I'm interested in the aftermath. I followed the links from your first post and ended up on the Dearauthor page describing a similar incident of writer's rage.

'If you do decide to "slam an author" you'll be inserted into their books in an unflattering way' which could lead to 'a tort action for defamation'.

I'm not suggesting this or any author will be doing this deliberately or maliciously. I just wondered who hasn't created characters based on people they've known or used real situations in their work - transforming experiences into art?

Evil Wylie said...

Many bloggers decline to review self-published books because the authors are more likely to take offense. This is not a new phenomenon. Yes, traditionally published authors do respond to negative reviews sometimes--but they're more likely to have received advice from agents and editors on how to respond in an appropriate manner. Will one self-published author destroy the whole "movement"? No, but her public tantrum certainly isn't doing the perception that exists any favors. She doesn't deserve negative Amazon reviews, but she doesn't deserve compassion either -- to my knowledge, she hasn't even apologized to the blogger she called a "rat" and a "snake."

Sherry said...

While I agree that the mob went on way too long with the comments, and there was no reason to go over to Amazon and leave fake 1-star reviews to go with the fake 5-star (or friend/family) reviews, I only feel a certain amount of pity for the author. Among those flaming comments were pleas for her to just stop and leave it be; she wouldn't. This was a grownup who must never have had a true critique in her life. Al's crit was very kind and actually positive and she lambasted him from the beginning. She is now the epitome of internet cautionary tales. But I'm willing to bet she still blames Al for her downfall, not herself.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

It looks like reality/unreality TV to me. The drama is excessive and the author is engineering her own demise. Sadly, I see this everywhere. What's happened to respect and self-respect? The reviewer was professional and compassionate. The mob was in a frenzy, but this behaviour is what our media bombards us with. It's like an addictive drug that many of us can't ignore. I feel sad for everyone involved.

Sommer Leigh said...

I think I'm having comment issues. I'll try again-

I ended up writing a College of Blogging post about this subject after it happened, although not specifically about this incident but more about watching what you say online and reminding people that the author is still a human being even if she made some very poor decisions when she responded to that negative review. She makes mistakes just like the rest of us.

My post:
http://sommerleigh.com/archives/2756

Misa Buckley said...

Many of the first comments were pleas to the author to consider what she was saying - advice that she not only ignored but was rude about. My sympathy for her died right about the time she told an agent to "f*** off".

I agree that piling on Amazon is wrong, immature and hurtful. It went far too far, and perhaps the reviewer should have locked comments before it got so terribly out of hand.

But there's quite a few people (Nathan NOT included) who are taking the moral high ground after blogging/tweeting/passing the URL around, and I find that just as distasteful.

Misty Provencher said...

Oh guys... I respectfully disagree.
I read the review (which wasn't all that bad) and read most of the posts until I couldn't stand it anymore.
I agree with compassion, yes-definitely. I disagree with being a sheep, yes definitely.
But what I saw on that blog wasn't exactly an issue of compassion. In fact, I thought the poster of the review was trying to remain compassionate even after the author attacked him.
What I saw was an author who went a little too far over tilt on a bad review. I saw posters call out the author on her bad behavior and I saw the author grow more and more insistent that anything less than a review of five stars was unacceptable reviewing.
I noticed that you said these posters went on to Amazon and proceeded to cream the author- yes, agreed, that would be totally inappropriate- but all I saw on the blog itself was an angry author who resorted to attacking anyone who disagreed with her anger. I'm glad I wasn't involved in that mess, but I'm not sure the posters did anything to deserve being considered uncompassionate either. Posters pointing out bad behavior in someone who is behaving badly doesn't constitute a mob to me.
Maybe I didn't read far enough to see the posters band together and organize an Amazon bad-review-campaign against the author. If I missed that part, I completely apologize. But, what I saw of it, I think it was an act of compassion for people to point out to the author that she was behaving badly, as it's definitely going to have a much bigger negative impact on her reputation than any sour blog review or cranky posts.
So, if by compassion, you mean that people should've jumped to say "Yes, Author, a new format might've cleared up everything...", I think it could've happened if the author had not jumped to a direct attack right out of the gate. I agree that compassion is extremely important, but just like when a child tantrums: sometimes it is equally important for others to point out the mistake in doing that and calmly remind the tantrumer that we just don't behave that way to one another.

Stephanie Black said...

Great post, and beautifully said. Thanks!

Yolanda W. said...

Very nicely written Nathan. I knew about the beginning of this and as others was a bit shocked by her behavior. However, I had no clue, until today, that she had been "mobbed". This is the part that I find very appalling. I really feel for her.

Devena said...

Hi Nathan,

This is exactly why I read your blog; you put things in such a compassionate perspective, a much forgotten perspective online, I think.

What made me annoyed with that author was the rudeness with which she addressed Al... I have to say, it was initially good to see people sticking up for him, which was a rather 'mob-like' interpretation of their comments, I suppose:) But, you're right, it was a pack mentality response, not one centred in either compassion or reason. I guess the anonyminity of the internet makes all of us who are inclined to mob around think it's okay to bash someone over the head until they agree with you. Virtual violence in a way...

I feel sorry that Al had to deal with an unprofessional author, and I feel sorry she had to experience online retaliation on the part of others (and ironically not Al himself who was wonderfully professional and polite throughout)... but most of all, I was sorry to witness the deterioration of the situation to acts of random unkindness that I think all of us (even those who whacked the author) would have perhaps had no qualms squashing out in real life... Let's face it, if we saw someone standing alone being villified and torn apart, let alone their creative work being mocked and derided (whether or not we liked it) we'd have spoken up for her to be left alone... In many ways, being virtual has perhaps blinded us to the fact that the emotional wreckage virtual violence can cause is probably as bad in its own way as mob violence in reality ...

Thanks, Nathan, for the reminder that we're all real people behind the flat screens:)

Suzi McGowen said...

There was one (very well known) author with literally thousands and thousands and thousands of followers. He pointed her out to his readers, who seemed to take it as a "have at 'er" endorsement.

I've read this author before and generally found him to be kind, so I don't think it was his intention.

Lesson to be learned: With great power comes great responsibility.

D.G. Hudson said...

Witch Hunts, virtual or real, are never justified. It's another form of internet bullying, and the people who indulge have never gotten beyond that 'high school' attitude. Likely they never will.

Authors must remember they are on display and there will always be those who are jealous of what you've accomplished.

Professionalism means thinking before you spout off and shoot from the lip. (Or at least wait until you're a celebrity and can get away with it)

I feel sympathy for this author, but I also think she has some lessons to learn.

Renee Collins said...

Nathan, you are my hero. :)

Seriously. Thank you for this post.

K. L. Brady said...

Newsflash to Authors: Not everyone will love your work. Some will hate your work. Some will hate you because they hate your work.
You can’t respond. You simply can’t. You will always be hurt way more than the reviewer. Look at this author’s situation. What’s the reviewer’s name? Does anybody remember or care? Nobody will remember him. But her name has gone down in author infamy forever. She's little more than a cautionary tale.

So, here is a list of five things you can do instead of respond to a bad review.
1. Have a shot of Grey Goose (or your alcohol of choice).
2. Plot the reviewer’s demise. (Plot…don’t execute).
3. Include the reviewer in your next novel—perhaps as a dog-butt ugly homeless schizophrenic.
4. Have another shot of Grey Goose.
5. Read all of the GOOD reviews you’ve received.

This is a public service announcement.

Ann Best said...

Something for us all to remember: The pen and tongue are mightier than the sword. A word, once spoken, can't be re-called. For a writer: If you get a "bad" review, be still. In this case, I would say that silence is indeed golden.

That woman did make a mistake--she lashed back with profanity--but we all make mistakes. I'm wondering what she's feeling right now. Is she the kind of person who could sink into depression and possibly be on the brink of suicide? I don't know. I can't see inside her head. But I would hate to be one tongue that might have pushed her over the edge.

Big deal. It's just a book. As was said about A Million Little Pieces, it's not a weapon of mass destruction. Why does "the mob" have to lash out? Crazy world.

Anonymous said...

9.53 Anon again

Forgot to add that the fake reviews and comments on Amazon are distasteful and should be removed. I thought you had to buy the book in order to comment?

D.G. Hudson said...

@Misty -- You expressed what I was thinking as well. The author ignited the issue, and then probably couldn't back down. But the author had the initial control, and she lost it.

MJR said...

Perhaps some of the people who wrote the nasty comments should atone for their bad behavior by buying and reading her novel and posting honest reviews on Amazon. Aside from the grammatical problems, it might be a good book. Who knows...

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Huzzah.

And it also makes it hard for any sincere efforts to help her being heard. They just get lost in all the noise, or seem like another attack--one more head in the mob.

Robin_Lucas said...

Well said, Nathan. I felt so sorry for her last week. I mean, who hasn't exploded before?

I think she deserves a virtual hug instead of the smackdown she's getting.

(but then again, I'm a hugger...)

Orlando said...

So, so true. Mercy and compassion should be our guide for one day this could be us on another issue. Thank you for your demonstration of compassion.

J. T. Shea said...

Burn her at the steak, I say! I mean stake. Maybe steak too, we could save energy by using the same fire for a barbecue. Why can't persecution be green? And we can throw a few Harry Potter books on the fire for good measure.

Rachel said...

This was sad. The woman was obviously insane, but no one deserves that kind of piling on. Good lesson, though. Yikes...

Laura Miller Edwards said...

I stumbled across this post right after writing a blog on criticism. Wow, timely.

In my blog I'm asking for tips on handling it. As a writer, I've got to figure out the right way to respond.

My guess is that this author should have ignored the negative review? Or even said "thanks for your thoughts"? I'd love to hear how you think this could have been handled better-- how do we avoid a similar event?

Great post.

Nathan Bransford said...

Laura-

I'm posting about how to respond to negative reviews on Thursday. Stay tuned!

Kirsten Hubbard said...

thanks for this post, Nathan. I totally agree.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I was sad for her because it seemed both in her writing and her response to the review, her writing seemed to suggest a lack of self-awareness. I think that will actually make all the negative backlash far harder for her to process than it would for most people. This is going to be one of those things that she always carries with her, I'm afraid. And the people who waved the pitchforks will simply drop them and move on, untouched. It's sad.

Stuart Clark said...

Unfortunately, the Internet allows people to behave in a much more uncivilized manner than they would in person. It's easy to say whatever you like when you can hide behind a username and avatar and be totally unaccountable.

fran b said...

Thank you, Nathan, for your intelligent, compassionate viewpoint. I don't agree with how the author responded to negative criticism but I don't believe she deserved to be cyber-bullied for it either. Like you said, we all make mistakes, and posting before thinking is a dangerous act. We can all learn valuable lessons from this scenario.

Anonymous said...

The best response to a negative review I've seen was the author who simply said thanks for giving it a shot. Totally classy.

Tana Adams said...

My heart goes out to her. What a disaster all the way around. I sure learned a lesson, and I hope everyone else has regarding how not to react to a negative review. I plan on taking negative reviews with a grain of salt, and crying into my tea when no one is looking. It is what it is.

I'm going to check out Amazon now. Almost afraid to look!

J. Viser said...

Nathan - thank you for bringing some sanity to this issue. All authors are emotionallly and mentally attached to our works, and being human we have bad days occasionally.

Critcizing and flaming people on the Internet is akin to flipping someone off while driving. We feel big and powerful in our car, which encourages us to do things we would never do face-to-face.

A good reminder. Thanks.

gights said...

I don't agree. Internet people are a mob only in number. Calling it a witch hunt implies that people were making an organized effort, in groups, to find someone to hurt, but the hurt administered in this case was done one tiny comment at a time. No one post is made more cruel by the fact that there are another hundred thousand of them, equally mild, by no fault of the first poster. It may feel like a pile-on if you're under them, but Internet actors are individuals whose comments happen to feed into an aggregate, but would have been made regardless of the size of that aggregate. Just like fifty agents rejecting the same manuscript.

Dara Young said...

Well said. She was unprofessional, but the mob got a little crazy. Remember the buddy system writers! Who is supposed to take the keyboard away when you flip out? If you don't have one...find one! I have 2, my DH and a CP. I hope I never need either of them in that capacity. :)

February Grace said...

Thank heaven for someone with compassion. Thank you, Jedi Bransford.

I purposely didn't look up the event in question after seeing post after post about this in the 'sphere.

In fact I wouldn't have read this is not for a link from Weronika Janczuk's blog thanking you.

I just want to thank you too. I hope that people will just try to go back to whatever it was they were doing before this happened.

Don't we all have books to finish?

Hopefully people will move along, with a lesson from your post in their heart.

~bru

Rebecca Stroud said...

I agree with a few of the posters here that the author was - and is - to blame for her downfall.

I read the review and the comments. The review wasn't all that horrible but the author's reaction was totally idiotic.

Okay, we all have bad days. But after the first "FU" - well, IMHO, she should've quit while she was behind.

Instead, she continued with the "FUs" and other deleterious responses to the point where all empathy/sympathy for her went out the window.

Big Al was gracious; JH was abhorrent. No, I don't agree with everyone gang-banging her on Amazon but she just about begged for it...

Jaimie said...

Thank you Nathan. You put clout behind something I was thinking but was too afraid to say -- lest I be mobbed.

People do deserve compassion, even in their lowest moments.

Cyndi Tefft said...

Nathan,

You have such a beautiful heart.

I hope that the author reads your post and that she remembers that this too shall pass (as my grandmother would tell me when I was in the middle of a drama meltdown moment). The internet will find another victim to jump all over and she (and her mistake) will be forgotten.

Thank you for shining a light in darkness and choosing the path of compassion!

Richard Mabry said...

Nathan,
I'll admit that I "watched the train wreck" of the exchange in question, but this got out of control. Thanks for a reasoned discussion of the situation.

Tana Adams said...

I don't usually come back to comment twice in one day, but truthfully I couldn't bear reading through the 77 1 star reviews. I'm going to contact the author and welcome her to visit my blog and extend an olive branch back into the writing community.

I think my own books are flawed, and yes there are sentences that could be fuel for fodder embedded in them. I am SO broken hearted at the malicious attacks that have taken place.

We all make mistakes. I've certainly let my temper get a hold of me once or twice and if I could go back and reverse my actions I would. I'm sure she's got to be feeling some kind of regret over the situation.

Thank you Nathan for saying it all so perfectly. (Yes, I used an adverb. It is the least of my literary sins.)

Anonymous said...

Whenever I run across a virtual mob like the one that ripped this author to shreds, I always think of the movie The Accused. This author was obviously not raped, but a mob is a mob, and with it comes that same frenzied mob mentality. It's just an ugly thing.

Kate said...

I know it's difficult to hear negative commentary on your work, but that's what publishing is all about. If the author can't take the heat, she picked the wrong kitchen.

I wouldn't say she "deserved" it because I'm not in a position to decide who deserves what. But, she took deliberate action that exposed her to this kind of scathing criticism and she gets to own her responsibility in that. I don't see any victims in this scenario.

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

I didn't read or even look over at Amazon. I saw enough on the blog. I even saw supposed proffesionals suggesting the authors behavior was because she was "self published" This kind of narrow mindedness, throwing the baby out with the bath water,could be one reason readers and writers are looking more and more into self published work, and best selling writers are walking away from the industry. Why would somebody even say something so absolutly stupid? I'm sure there's worse though and that's very sad. It all started with one person who made a mistake, and then made another. Yeah her behavior was bad, she could have just said nothing and very few people would have noticed at all. To gang up on her for whatever reason. Nothing better to do with your time? I don't know. Mob behavior is an interesting study in itself. But I hope it hasn't ruined her. I hope she writes again. I havent read anything of hers, but a bad review or hundred of them wouldn't stop me if the book sounded interesting. Tearing people down for self entertainment is immature and pathetic, so I hope they find something more posative to do with their time, and soon.

Missie said...

The same thing happened here a few weeks back. Not to the same extent but the comments became some sort of witch hunt against the author, and I still don't get why?

Jaimie said...

@gights -

"Just like fifty agents rejecting the same manuscript."

Not the same thing at all.

1. It's not a public forum.
2. Agents don't see that everyone else has rejected you, which doesn't matter anyway because...
3. You've individually asked them for their opinion.

Anonymous said...

At some point the responsibility falls back on the blogger. When the comments started getting out of hand the blogger should have turned off the comments and hid the comments. I disagree with what the author did but clearly she has problems. I would never give someone the platform to act insane.

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with you, Nathan. And I admire you for taking a public stand on the author’s behalf. I keep thinking that, if Reality TV ever takes an interest in authors, she could become a Reality TV star. Unfortunately, she'll probably just suffer an extended period of shame and sadness after struggling so hard to write books and being met with so much ridicule. I feel very badly for her. If she’s creative and interested in acting, she could probably leverage her 15 minutes of fame to move onto something using the persona she created, but that only happens for people who really don’t mind putting themselves out there publicly over and over again, no matter whether they’re met with applause or public ridicule. I’m thinking YouTube video or Reality TV.

Alice mentioned Rebecca Black. I feel the same way as Alice does about what happened to her: horrified that people are ridiculing a 14-year-old girl because she posted a video on YouTube in which the lyrics weren’t so great. I thought she had a really good singing voice. I’ve seen famous stars’ home movies they made when they were kids that weren’t half as good as hers. She’s just a kid, barely a teenager. And she made a home movie. It was offered for free on YouTube. I don’t understand how people could be so mean to her.

Thanks for opening up discussion on this topic, Nathan!

Marilyn Peake said...

I agree with you, Nathan. And I admire you for taking a public stand on the author’s behalf. I keep thinking that, if Reality TV ever takes an interest in authors, she could become a Reality TV star. Unfortunately, she’ll probably just suffer an extended period of shame and sadness after struggling so hard to write books and being met with so much ridicule. I feel very badly for her. If she’s creative and interested in acting, she could probably leverage her 15 minutes of fame to move onto something using the persona she created, but that only happens for people who really don’t mind putting themselves out there publicly over and over again, no matter whether they’re met with applause or public ridicule. I’m thinking YouTube video or Reality TV.

Alice mentioned Rebecca Black. I feel the same way as Alice does about what happened to her: horrified that people are ridiculing a 14-year-old girl because she posted a video on YouTube in which the lyrics weren’t so great. I thought she had a really good singing voice. I’ve seen famous stars’ home movies they made when they were kids that weren’t half as good as hers. She’s just a kid, barely a teenager. And she made a home movie. It was offered for free on YouTube. I don’t understand how people could be so mean to her.

Thanks for opening up discussion on this topic, Nathan!

Livia said...

I agree completely nathan. Every time something like this blows up, I start thinking about what my own conduct should be online when this happens. I ended up blogging about what I decided. It's not for everyobdy, but I think it's the best choice for me at the moment.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best things about you and your blog, Nathan: you are kind and fair and hold the company to civil standards. The world of communication needs –and grows better through– leaders like you.

There are many here among us that would not be here otherwise.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

The most terrifying scene I ever read was in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible."
I'm agin witch hunts in any form.
I am for people going to Amazon and taking down their trash reviews. If any of us made the mistake of writing one, I am sure it was in a sense of fun. They probably got caught in the "fun" of the thing. Right now the new "fun" is posting videos from last night's Dancing with the Stars. I won't be watching them.

~ Wolfe said...

I'd agree with the whole compassion thing if the author hadn't been bullying the reviewer in the first place. If you're going to condemn cyberbullying down the line , then why turn around and say the original perpetrator deserves compassion?

Doesn't quite wash.

Michelle said...

I made a resolution at the beginning of this year to 1) not read comments on news stories, especially on Yahoo! or other major websites, and 2) to not comment on a story if I got really upset about the content. I hope the reasons for both of these are obvious: when I read the comments, I fear for humanity and it upsets me, and when I respond in anger or frustration, I fear who I become.

I haven't been perfect at it because I'm very much human and curious to a fault, but I have to say that I'm relieved I made a conscious decision to avoid adding to the mob mentality.

There have been a couple times (rare, but it has happened), where I got really upset and in online arguments with individuals on writers sites/blogs. When it happened, I immediately felt uncomfortable with the whole situation. It didn't matter if I was right or justified; I was being harsh and probably rude to someone who didn't necessarily deserve it. Since then, I've decided that it's best to avoid situations where I could fall into that trap. It's so easy, and I honestly believe a normally rational individual can become a raving monster online if put under the "right" circumstances. Because of that, I'm trying really hard not to judge. I'm not nearly where I want to be yet, as some articles and blog posts still get my back up too much, but I'm getting better and feeling so much more peaceful.

In the long run, it doesn't matter what anyone else says or does; I'm the only one who controls my actions. What the author did wasn't kind, but that doesn't mean my own reaction shouldn't be with patience and kindness. Either that, or walk away and forget. My sanity has improved exponentially because of that.

On a related but different topic, I blogged about how easy it is to view someone who disagrees with us as a villain. Some of the things I said there apply here, so I'll cut my comments short(er) by adding a link: http://embezzledimprudence.blogspot.com/2011/03/villains-in-real-world.html

Michelle said...

I think blogger ate my comment. Grrr. But I was smart enough to copy it before posting. If it double posts, woops!

I made a resolution at the beginning of this year to 1) not read comments on news stories, especially on Yahoo! or other major websites, and 2) to not comment on a story if I got really upset about the content. I hope the reasons for both of these are obvious: when I read the comments, I fear for humanity and it upsets me, and when I respond in anger or frustration, I fear who I become.

I haven't been perfect at it because I'm very much human and curious to a fault, but I have to say that I'm relieved I made a conscious decision to avoid adding to the mob mentality.

There have been a couple times (rare, but it has happened), where I got really upset and in online arguments with individuals on writers sites/blogs. When it happened, I immediately felt uncomfortable with the whole situation. It didn't matter if I was right or justified; I was being harsh and probably rude to someone who didn't necessarily deserve it. Since then, I've decided that it's best to avoid situations where I could fall into that trap. It's so easy, and I honestly believe a normally rational individual can become a raving monster online if put under the "right" circumstances. Because of that, I'm trying really hard not to judge. I'm not nearly where I want to be yet, as some articles and blog posts still get my back up too much, but I'm getting better and feeling so much more peaceful.

In the long run, it doesn't matter what anyone else says or does; I'm the only one who controls my actions. What the author did wasn't kind, but that doesn't mean my own reaction shouldn't be with patience and kindness. Either that, or walk away and forget. My sanity has improved exponentially because of that.

On a related but different topic, I blogged about how easy it is to view someone who disagrees with us as a villain. Some of the things I said there apply here, so I'll cut my comments short(er) by adding a link: http://embezzledimprudence.blogspot.com/2011/03/villains-in-real-world.html

Other Lisa said...

Thanks for this, Nathan. Your compassionate take on things is a great corrective for the ugliness often found on the internets.

I just...why feed the flames? I read the original review and the first batch of comments and that was enough. Yes, she was out of line, and the reviewer was not (and a lot of the comments were pointing that out in a pretty gentle way). But it all got ugly pretty quickly.

You know, it's a variation on one of the oldest internet rules: "Don't feed the troll."

The whole "mirroring" discussion is really interesting.

Jen said...

I saw this a few days ago, and it was getting nasty even then. My sympathies were to the reviewer first and foremost, who I though was very gracious. It wasn't even that bad of a review! But once the author got involved, it just got ugly. Yes, she deserves compassion, and yes, it's a witch hunt, but I think anyone that took it as far as posting reviews on Amazon needs to take a good look at themselves and ask if they'd want that to happen to their work.

Having said that, the lesson I took away from the whole mess was, for God's sake, don't take a review of your work as a personal attack, however personal it seems. I'm looking forward to Thursday's post on how to deal with bad reviews. I'm thinking, just take the high road and ignore them?

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I completely agree. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this incident. This needed to be said.

Anonymous said...

MOB has many HEADS but no BRAINS? You call that PIMPLE. Pimples (plural)or rather blackheads. You only got a brain when there is money. Otherwise ...non of my business and it's fishy out there!

E.M.Alexander said...

This hoopla made me want to read the book. I love going against the insanity of mob mentality.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Emily St. John Mandel comes across looking good because, compared to most authors who have responded to bad reviews publicly, she didn't get personal with the reviewers and kept the tone rather general. A wise move on her part.

As for the mob mentality, I think you're probably spot-on with your idea that these people are relieved to have a target, that they're "better writers" already than the one who got the bad review. If that's true, though, maybe they should devote some of that time to reading or writing or something productive instead of mob reviews.

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan @9:09 AM said:
"But one author spouting off on a bad review is not going to unbuild everything. Self-publishers, I think, need to have more confidence that one person can't undo a movement."

Oh, wow, I agree with that 110%, maybe more! This is such an interesting time in publishing. Many book bloggers are very different than professional book reviewers. Amanda Hocking credits book bloggers for the phenomenal sales of her self-published books. I was struck by Amanda Hocking’s descriptions of book bloggers as people who are passionate about books and, when they love a book, they’ll repeatedly talk about it to the world. That’s different than a reviewer who writes review after review, each review based on how well an author fulfills the literary requirements of a book, then moving on to reviewing the next book in their queue. I’ve been checking out book bloggers’ sites and they vary considerably. I found one that basically said in the ABOUT ME section: If I don’t like your book, I’ll trash it, and I’ll keep trashing it, and if you can’t deal with that, then don’t submit your book here. Yikes. I’m going to have to take a look at Big Al’s blog. From what people have said here today, it sounds like he tried to be rational. Amanda Hocking has said that she thanked book bloggers, even those who only gave her books one star, for purchasing her books.

It looks like this new era of self-publishing is going to be a passionate business, definitely not for the faint of heart.

C.Smith said...

Wow, that just snowballed, didn't it? I hope Ms.Howett comes across your blog, because I think she'll need to know that not all authors are discriminating against her right now.

I have been 'prepping' myself for the onslaught of reviews when I get published by means of fanfiction. There's nothing more frightening than a passionate review from hardcore fans who either believe you're doing well, or that you're crucifying their favourite character and therefore must never show your face in the fandom again. It's not much, but it's something.

Although I do believe the only reviews you should take to heart in earnest in the publishing industry are those by your agent/editor/publishing house. All other reviews are pointless - if they're good, you'll get a big head; if they're bad, you'll go into destructive mode. It's unnecessary.

If you like what you've written and your agency does as well, then it really doesn't matter if it's everyone else's cup of tea or not. If you get published, I mean.

P. Kirby said...

I was talking to my husband this weekend about publishing, specifically the ongoing discussion regarding self-publishing vs. commercial publishing, Amanda Hocking, et. al. Anyway, your name came up and I added that you were probably one of the nicest people in publishing.

This being more confirmation, thereof.

When I was younger, I was really quick, lamentably so, to jump on any controversy like a pit bull on a steak.

But when this controversy went down, I found myself thinking: "What if she [author] just had an absolutely, horrible day? Her dog died; or her house burned down? What if the problem is mental illness?"

I'm no saint, but even I've found the need to keep piling on this author...utterly unnecessary and cruel.

Anonymous said...

The author's behavior went beyond an innocent mistake. She not only cursed at those who disagreed with her, she demanded more than once that the review be taken down or changed to suit her.

Several of those who commented at the beginning were just defending the reviewer, or giving the author some pretty good advice, which she continued to ignore.

This ignited a firestorm, which was just as ugly as the author's ranting.

Then I began to see, at a few places around the internet (though not here, where you exhibit your usual tact), backlash against the people who had verbally attacked the author.

Let's pour some cold water on this inferno. Sometimes the best thing we can offer is silence.

G said...

I read a good chunk of that post in question and all I can see is that both sides were at fault.

I speak from experience that no matter what you say to defend your writing, be it articulate or be it stupid like that author, chance are that someone will loathe it to the point of trolling you nonstop over it until whatever reputation that you're trying to establish is almost gutted beyond repair.

Gregory K. said...

Nicely said, Nathan. As far as I can tell, I'll be the first commenter here to tie this to the "Friday" video phenomenon (now at over 84 million views!) where it was much clearer that the reaction wasn't proportional and often was misdirected. This case has rougher edges, but certainly the aggressive off-blog bashing is out of line. I suppose, of course, all the Amazon reviewers might have bought the book, read it, and given fair reviews, in which case it would be different. But the odds of that seem mighty slim....

Natalie Aguirre said...

You've got a really good point that I sadly didn't think about. Thanks.

Joyce Shor Johnson said...

Every writer has a beginning where they make mistakes. While her response was unprofessional, how she was treated is truly tragic. So instead of learning how to be gracious when faced with a poor review, she learned what it is like to be virtually bullied!

I hope she will continue to write and improve. It would be a shame if this unruly mob snuffed out her dreams.

corine said...

I agree. I read the whole thing and it broke my heart. People make mistakes. It's all too easy to condemn, to be outraged and self-righteous. I felt she was being lynched.

Helena said...

Years ago my novel got a bad review in both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, but excellent reviews in a couple major newspapers. That experience gave me a lesson on the bias and subjectively of even professional reviewers. Of course when Kirkus went out of business this last year I performed (in private) my happy dance. And when, inevitably, PW also eventually bites the dust, I shall again, in private, dance away.

Diana said...

Big Al closed the post to comments after a few commentors pointed out that it was becoming a pile on. If he hadn't done that, then I think there would be well over a few thousand comments by now.

The author's reaction is really not that surprising. Anyone who self-publishes a book that clearly has never been edited suffers from Perfect Prose Syndrome; everything they write is perfect. The compassionate thing to do with writers suffering from this syndrome is to keep one's mouth shut, because anything less than "I love it!" will be seen as criticism and taken as a personal attack on the author. The author will feel hurt and angry and will never understand that the review was about her book not about her.

I'm sure that she feels absolutely devasted right now. And there really isn't anything anyone can say or do to help her out. I've seen this movie before. I've yet to find a way to help someone like this. If anyone has found a successful way to work with these writers, I would sure like to know what it is.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Amen.

I avoided the mob, and my tiny antidote has been to celebrate NICENESS in my corner of the blogosphere - where I have liberally reference YOU Mr. Bransford as an example of Nice Guys Finish First.

I plan to do it all week.

Edward A. Summers said...

Nathan,

Your blog is always helpful. I agree with your assessment of current situations. I always have found your info useful, though, have not been able to get online for almost two weeks. I have a number of interests in subjects of this matter, and as usual, find the info useful and great.

Thanks for all the GREAT HELP over the last few months. Eventhough you are still not a lit. agent,I have really, really put my trust in you JAN-MAR. My favorite post has been Cut-the-cable, but have grown partial to the SIMS.

Thanks to the board for all the great info and sorry for the length, I will try and learn to brief.

Edward

DEMETRA BRODSKY said...

I feel sorry for the author. I'm sure she rethought her response after the fact, but once she posted it was out of her hands (so to speak). In fact, it should give every author and aspiring author a moment of reflection. We pour our hearts and souls into our work, but once it's out the door you have to let if fly. Haters will hate. That's the way it is. It's unfortunate she didn't gravitate to the positive. I'm sure she's learned a valuable lesson.

Anonymous said...

Mob, fine. I guess. But the language comparing what happened to this author, who is no innocent party, to rape or lynching makes me ill. Rape. Someone holding you down and forcing themselves or an object into you. Lynching. Hanging a black man while white people cheer and the police stand by and do nothing. Come on, people. She lashed out and people reacted. Rape victims and lynching victims did NOTHING wrong AND are either permanently traumatized or, you know, dead. Talk about piling on.

The Red Angel said...

Thanks for posting this Nathan, I totally agree with what you are saying here. In any situation, it's never a good idea to retaliate towards hostility with hostility.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Cynthia Watson said...

Right on, Nathan!

M Clement Hall said...

It's less a question of "did she deserve it?" than what kind of persons take pleasure in putting the boots to a woman on the floor?

karen f. said...

So well said, Nathan. At this point there'd be some wonderful irony if this somehow worked in this author's favor - a la James Frey! And I'd like to bring up another point. Would the mob have gone so wild if it were a man who behaved the same way. I suspect not. Women who are perceived to step out of line are punished with far greater ferocity than a man is. And while I only know of this incident from your blog - and just a guess but I'd wager that the huge majority of the mob was female. IMHO. Me. Female. Just fyi.

Kitty Bucholtz said...

Thanks, Nathan, for posting a soothing dose of compassion on this topic. I hope the author has a couple of good friends who can help her through this. Many of the comments on the review's post show that being "right" is considered more important than being compassionate. A mistake I make with alarming frequency.

Judith Mercado said...

Wise words.

JM Leotti said...

Thank you, Nathan, for your balanced view in a horrifyingly unbalanced situation. I didn't realize people were still leaving bad reviews for her book. Hopefully, words like yours will help stop the hemorrhage.

Mizmak said...

While I agree that it is unprofessional to trash someone's writing without reading it, as many seem to have done, the author does not have my compassion for the simple reason that she did not acknowledge her mistake nor apologize to the reviewer. It isn't a matter of "deserving" what she got - no, I don't think she deserves unfair reviews. But the original reviewer certainly deserved to be better treated. He was called rude names, sworn at, and accused of being abusive, all for simply expressing his opinion of the work. The reviewer most definitely has my sympathy.

Annie Sisk said...

Sorry, but I can't agree.

(Full disclosure: In the wake of this dustup, I volunteered to help Al review books for his site, although I haven't yet been assigned any book to review.)

And this is coming from someone who absolutely detests the mob mentality and is always yammering on about compassion on the web.

Had she "just" failed to edit the book, sure - absolutely: the review would have spoken for itself and that's that. Had she "just" objected to the review - you know what? I'm there, too. Roll your eyes if you must and pass over the rest in silence.

But that's not at all what happened here. She either overtly lied or was at a minimum grossly negligent with her factual statements offered up as excuses to Al for the quality of the manuscript. She insisted (wrongly) that it was his fault - that he hadn't downloaded the correct version (though he quite clearly stated, a few times, that he had gone out of his way to redownload the "corrected" version, though he's under no obligation to do so).

Even that wasn't the kicker for me, though. It was that repetitive use of the vile (and juvenile) "F__ off!" while insisting that there was nothing wrong with portions of her text that had been quoted in comments -- portions that were clearly rife with bad grammatical constructs.

Had she stopped with the "you downloaded the wrong file" and "my writing is fine" and even the terribly unwise pull quotes from the positive Amazon reviews, I'd be nodding along with you, Nathan. But, of course, she didn't stop there. She went four steps over the line and brought heavy artillery with her.

No, there's no compassion warranted there. That said, nor is there warranted any unethical behavior, such as the faux reviews (which I believe Amazon has gone to some lengths to correct, or so I'm told).

Kimberly said...

Beautiful, Nathan. You have displayed maturity and a hopeful shift a collective human consciousness that will pull us out of a simplistic right/ wrong good guy/ bad guy way of being.

Sandra Stiles said...

Thank you for saying what many didn't. As a soon to be self-published author I understand we don't want to hear the negative. When an author read my work and told me I had several mistakes and that I could not publish it the way it was I listened. Criticism hurts.
Trashing someone because they lost it puts that person on the same level. The group dumping took on its own life.

Nathan Bransford said...

Evil Wylie, Annie and others-

The only people who deserve compassion are ones who apologize?

Remilda Graystone said...

I actually don't feel sorry for the author. Sure, it may have seemed like the reviewer had control, but they really don't at the end of the day. The author had the control, and she didn't it use in a good way.

The review in question was a lot nicer than I was expecting. In fact, I reread it to see if I'd missed something. The author replying once, okay. Replying more than once and then posting other reviews--as if it'd make the reviewer's opinion less valid--and then cursing the reviewer out? Not okay.

She could've stopped a lot earlier than she did. I wouldn't even say she was having a bad day--or really make any excuse for her. She's a grown woman and should've known better. That may sound harsh, but it really would've done her good to think twice about commenting the first time, and she certainly could've stopped and not commented every time after that.

As for the Amazon reviewers, I don't agree with them either. I don't feel like it's one or the other. They're all wrong. Frankly, I don't see why someone would take time to write a nasty review about someone who hasn't ever done anything to them or about a book they hadn't read. My conscious would slay me before the web page had even loaded.

Honestly, I think everyone had some bit of control and many of them didn't use it very well.

RED STICK WRITER said...

You always say things well. This is no exception... in style, in content, and in heart. By the way, you mentioned 96 reviews. Over the weekend I saw 99. Amazon is deleting the most egregious ones, and given the ones that remain, isn't that scary. I just bought her book and will give her a fair read. I'm assuming I'll have to sidestep shortcomings that have been discussed ad infinitum, but I'll be searching for the story.

Laura said...

The author deserves it.

She didn't respond once to the review, perhaps in a moment of passion, which could have been forgiven as per your 'we've all made mistakes' theory. No, she came back again and again, every post more heated (and more ridiculous) than the last.

People deserve forgiveness if they ask for it and are truly sorry. She's obviously not.

K. C. Blake said...

People seem to think they can be mean, say whatever they want, and do whatever they want online because no one knows who they are. They hide behind their computer screen and spew hatred.

I've run into myself. It's hard to deal with. The author should have behaved as a professional, but the crowd attacking her makes a bad situation worse. Apparently they never heard the old adage: Two wrongs don't make a right.

patti said...

Sure, she deserves compassion NOW, now that it's gone viral and the whole world is trashing her. But did she deserve compassion for her initial outburst? I don't think so.

Learning to take criticism is something the author should do BEFORE she publishes her book. Providing the reviewer with the right manuscript was her responsibility. She had the options of responding graciously for the attention paid her book, or ignoring the review altogether. She chose to throw a hissy fit, and the negative response she got might not stop all of us from behaving as badly, but I bet it stops HER.

Did she deserve to have all those people jumping on the hater bandwagon? Maybe not, but it wouldn't have happened if she hadn't behaved so badly in the first place.

Books are NOT babies, they're just freaking BOOKS. Not everyone will like them. People who can't take criticism shouldn't publish.

Laurie Boris said...

The good, bad and ugly of the Internet. We can hurt others, make ourselves look horridly unprofessional, and pile on faster than the speed of light.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Kudos, Nathan! You know this is why I (and so many others) love you, right?

In most situations a heaping dose of compassion is exactly what's called for.

Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said...

Word. I will forgive you for trumping yet another interview question, because it needed to be said. Thank you.

I think we tend to forget that people have access to the keyboard in the midst of personal crisis, addictions, mental breakdown, etc. Do we want to contribute to the mess or assist?

veela-valoom said...

I tweeted the blog before I realized the mob scene going on. Me and my goodreads friends thought it was funny, didn't want to read the author and that was the end of our conversation about it. Why spend time focusing on the negative.

I think all parties are wrong. My main reason for not feeling much pity for the author is because she went around telling people to "f-off". That doesn't mean that I don't think what's going on at the Amazon website is wrong. Its horribly wrong. EVERYBODY is horribly wrong in this situation. Except the original reviewer who I thought was quite polite & fair in her review (generous even).

The internet is an ugly place. Anyone who has spent much time on youtube realizes that. Its best just to avoid the ugliness as much as possible.

Newbie Author said...

Wow! I can't believe the author's responses to the review. Without any help, she trashes her own reputation. But the public thrashing from the mob is appalling. Big Al earned my respect by handling his end professionally.

Nathan, thanks for your objective synopsis.

Marion said...

Wow! What a discussion.
The internet is miraculous, but also treacherous.
In the old, low-tech days, the author would have written a nasty letter, blackening her reputation with the reviewer and possibly associates of his in the industry.
But now her words are out there for everyone to see, and she's exposed to general humiliation.
As everyone says, we all really have to think twice or three times before sounding off in cyberspace.

Jaimie said...

@Nathan

"The only people who deserve compassion are ones who apologize?"

Well said. (Or well asked.)

This is kind of where the rubber meets the road, I suspect. Judging from the comments, many people would answer this differently.

But I'm with you -- everyone deserves compassion.

Corinne O'Flynn said...

Amen Nathan. I'd never seen anything like that author rant and subsequent thrashing by the crowd. Part of me couldn't stop reading and the other part of me continues hoping that the blogger will delete all the comments and just let his review stand. What a mess.

Lori Sizemore said...

I've been following this. I read the review when it went viral on twitter. Comments weren't closed yet, but I decided there was nothing to add to the (already) many voices saying, "This was a mistake."

Since then, I've just kind of sat back with dismay and watched and it's exactly what you called it--a mob.

I actually didn't follow someone back on twitter one day because he's been making fun of her in his tweets. Who needs people like that in their lives? Not me.

What I can't decide is if some people just really enjoy being mean (oh, look! an easy target!) or if they hope to somehow make themselves look MORE professional by calling her out on her behavior. Do they think they'll profit?

I just don't know.

But, I'm glad to see you're one of the small voices (and there are others) saying this just isn't right.

lahn said...

I'm glad you raised the issue of compassion.

A mob works because it's easy -- it's easy to jump into the anonymity and "safety" of a crowd. It's easy to agree with what everyone else is saying. It's easy to throw the next stone when boulders are flying through the air.

Compassion is more difficult, more challenging on every level. Compassion demands empathy, the realization that any one of us could have made a similar mistake. It demands vulnerability, an awareness of our own weak spots -- and vulnerability brings with it an edge of fear.

In a mob mentality, that fear is subsumed beneath a crystalline structure of "us" and "them". There is no cross-over. There is no compassion, no empathy. There is no danger to the one throwing stones.

I do feel bad for the author. She made a mistake. Haven't we all? Most of us are fortunate in that our mistakes aren't so very, very public. I'm not sure what people are getting out of this continued attack, unless it's that uneasy comfort of the mob, that dulling of one's own vulnerability as the rock leaves the hand.

Laura Manivong said...

To Anon @ 3:45
As one who earlier compared the attacks to a lynching, I must say that the definition of "lynch" makes no mention of race (to put to death by mob action without legal sanction). The most frequent use of lynch is certainly horrifying and I truly appreciate your point about the heinous acts associated with it, but in this case, I believe it applies, metaphorically at least, in the death of the writer's career and possibly her spirit, motivation, confidence, etc. Yes, she acted rudely in public but injured only herself (Big AL received HUGE support, from me including, and I'd wager is fine). The mob mentality then came into play as angry reviewers on Amazon vowed to never buy her work, compared her to a mentally retarded monkey (that one may have been removed), a hack, called her work crap, a train wreck, and wrote sophomoric reviews that turned her title into a sexual joke. No matter how bad the book, what does the piling on say about the people involved? The mob took pleasure it seemed, via the comments section, in other bad reviews. Some seemed to be an attempt to one-up the other scathing reviews that trashed not only the book, but the person. It kept going and going and going until finally a few people said "Enough!" These things often start out small and grow into an inferno as a person becomes, as Nathan put it, the subject of a "Virtual Witch Hunt."

Anonymous said...

Nathan I'm so glad your saying this. I remember leaving a workshop in tears after a particularly brutal night, thinking I never wanted to go back. But after I calmed myself down and took some of the advice in (and threw some out) I went back again. I can't imagine what it will be like to have my book out there one day and I hope something like this never happens to me. We all live in glass houses.

Kate Fall said...

Perhaps everyone does deserve compassion. But let's face it, this author was mean and rude. And that is not a mental illness. Does she deserve compassion for being a mean, rude person? Well, I don't know her circumstances, and I don't want to judge her. I'd simply like to beg people to please stop diagnosing Being Mean and Rude as Mental Illness. People who suffer from actual mental illnesses often strive to be professional and polite.

Shelli said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I'm happy to be enjoying a real life where such distractions are unnecessary to provide me with entertainment and interaction. Even when people are behaving badly, I try to recognize that I don't know what kind of burdens they're carrying that would make them act that way. I just walk away, grateful that I'm not that unhappy.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Good for you for showing compassion towards the author. It sounds like she's being cyber bullied. One good thing about the Internet is that it gives people the opportunity to express themselves, but the bad thing is that many people abuse that opportunity and use it to hurt people. The way those people treated that author makes me think of the nasty comments I often read on Youtube video postings or online news articles. They're definitely going too far and they're wrong to act like that.

Anne R. Allen said...

I came to a similar conclusion in my Sunday blogpost. Everybody has meltdowns. And I'd be willing to bet most of us hate an unflattering reviewer for at least a few minutes afterward. But we used to be able to mourn/rant in the privacy of our own homes/local pubs/Makers Mark bottles. Now "public" is as close as any keyboard. The game has changed. We need to learn to STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD when we're angry.

And before we publish, every writer has to realize that bad reviews are as much part of the process as query rejections. They're just more public. But our disappointment can't be.

The witch hunt came, I think, from people's fear of their own rage. We tend to hate most in others what we fear in ourselves.

Anonymous said...

The cool kids were picking on a weaker one, pure and simple. Oh wait! You mean this isn't high school?

Mira said...

What a beautiful article, Nathan. Full of heart and intelligence.

This is so well said. Your point about the mob having multiple brains was chilling and totally on point. And saying that what she deserves is compassion is powerful and true.

Thank you for your leadership.

Clearly, situations like these stir some very primitive emotions and can bring out the worst in people. But I think they can also do the opposite, and bring out the best of forgiveness, compassion and forbearance in us as well.

The internet can sometimes require caution. But I think it can also require bravery as well.

Thank you, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

Another great post, Nathan. Whilst the author was quite badly behaved and the reviewer did deserve to be backed up; the hostility and 'mob mentality' that followed the original exchange was a real wake up call that the internet makes viciousness so easy.

Thanks for bringing perspective and compassion back to the situation.

Book Mawnster said...

My comment is set to the The Lion King's Circle of Life. Wind instruments. Drum beats. Elton John. You know you can sing the lyrics, so sing 'em with pride. There's a key word in the title that tells us about the nature of the wild kingdom: Cyclical. Yes, it's deep stuff. Kumba will one day become the king and, like his father, watch his own heir be born. (Stay with me). A journey begins and ends at the same place. An author pisses off blog readers and nature mandates that those readers piss off the author. It's simply the circle of life.

Marla Warren said...

One thing to note about the author’s reaction to the blog review. It was not one comment posted in the heat of anger. Jacqueline Howett posted 11 comments in all—the first on March 18 and the last on March 28. We all say and do things on impulse that we later regret. But instead of reflecting on the review and the initial comments (most of which were compassionate), Howett became increasingly enraged. This is an indication of a person who is truly out of touch. That she had to publish her own book is evident not only from her writing, but from her reaction to feedback and constructive criticism. As the saying goes, a writer’s willingness to be edited is usually in inverse proportion to the need to be edited.

I do agree that many of the reactions to Howett were over-the-top, and reflected badly on those critics.

But it’s difficult for me to feel much compassion for someone who freely walks into a lions’ den, and then complains of being bitten.

Stephsco said...

I came across that blog-bash from a tweet by Neil Gaiman. NEIL GAIMAN. Having him tweet to all his followers to never act like that woman did seems like humiliation enough. I was shocked to read it what she wrote, but the flame war roasted her pretty badly. I thought Big Al was extremely diplomatic and professional.

salima said...

Thanks so much for your openhearted compassion here, Nathan. It makes me cringe to try and remember if I've ever participated in this kind of righteous, vicious groupthink. Odd to see people tapping into their reptilian brains and lashing out this way. And who knows--the poor woman could have been having a bad reaction to medicine. She could have had a toothache. Her dog may have just died. It doesn't make it less unprofessional to react poorly to a bad review, but when have any of us been rational all the time? Would any of us want our worst moment publicized?

Maureen McGowan said...

Well said. The mob behaved as badly or worse than she did in the first place.

A.M Hudson said...

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. Everyone is talking about her now, and I'm surprised it hasn't made the news.

I say to the blog that posted the review: can you do one for me, please?

And I say to the writer: pause, reflect, then kick some butt.

"Writer's shouldn't fear criticism, they should fear silence," ~ Robert fanney.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 233   Newer› Newest»
Related Posts with Thumbnails