Don't be a goofus
How not to be an author interacting with criticism
Today’s newsletter will be quick and dirty, as I have a full docket today and decided at 8pm last night that it was the perfect time to clean and reorganize my little office area in my apartment. My desk is inside what used to be a closet, and it definitely feels that way: small, dark, a little cramped. My propensity to collect whimsical postit pads and fountain pen cartridges certainly doesn’t help, either. I’m not all the way done, either! I went to bed at two in the morning like a fool and I’m paying for it today.
What I want to talk about today is yet another BookTok controversy. Earlier in the week, an author with the username SarahShoots posted about a review she’d received on GoodReads. Her book was in preorders, ARCs had gone out, and she had a perfect five-star average GoodReads rating! How marvelous! Until the review in question, where the reader had the audacity to give her four stars. Only four! “This bitch right here” ruined her perfect rating.
Yes, you heard me right. SarahShoots referred to the reviewer as “this bitch.” Now you might not think that calling a stranger a bitch on the internet is a big deal in 2023, but keep in mind: the author did not know this person, and the person giving the review gave her four stars. It wasn’t even a bad review!
This rancid take quickly went viral, and instead of realizing the monumental scale of the error she’d just committed, the author—who I’m not linking to, because I don’t want to give her more attention—doubled down. “I’m literally a comedian,” she insisted. “It was a joke.”
I think she forgot on whose internet she was posting. Within days, BookTok had turned against her. Her book soon had a one-star rating on GoodReads. Then BookTok figured out that her publisher wasn’t even a traditional publisher, but a “hybrid” (read: vanity) press to which the author had paid at least ten thousand American dollars for publishing her book. She claimed to have had film interest in the story as a script even before the book deal. With a swiftness, her publisher dropped her, and presumably the book will either come out as a self-published project or not at all. One hopes she got her deposit back.
The crime she committed here is that of fundamentally misunderstanding an author’s role in the criticism process. To wit: the author has no role in that process. If you’re putting your work out there for public consumption, the absolute best thing to do is to not read your reviews. Since that is an impossibility, if you do read them, do not engage. I’m no exception to this rule. I read every review and treasure them in my heart like a dragon on a hoard of gold, but I can’t imagine receiving a bad one—if four stars can be considered bad—and taking umbrage, let alone calling the reviewer a bitch about it. That would be like … I don’t know, creating art and then expecting everyone to feel the same way about it. i.e., completely bonkers.
Calling the reviewer names was her second crime: she made it personal. She showed the whole review, including the reviewer’s name, in her TikTok, which exposed the reviewer to harrassment. (Though I don’t know if she ended up receiving any.) As people dug into it, they found out that the reviewer in question had actually created a TikTok in the first place in order to review this very book. So in addition to alienating the general public, the author ended up alienating and insulting someone who was genuinely one of her fans.
In effect, this author has ruined her career before it even got off the ground, and instead of acknowledging her mistake, apologizing, and moving on, she doubled down and got defensive. She fucked around, and she found out. I can’t imagine a more perfect illustration of how not to behave on the internet as an author.
WHAT I’M READING
Ugh, still making my way through Last Call at the Hotel Imperial. Ugh only because I’m sure y’all are tired of hearing about this book, not ugh I’m not enjoying it anymore! On the contrary, it’s delightful! But my brain has been goo this week post-reunion, and I haven’t been able to concentrate on reading. Next up I have some books I’ve borrowed from others, including Hua Hsu’s memoir Stay True, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin, and The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell.
My first novel, Marrying In, is available for purchase on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and is coming soon to iBooks. If you’ve read it, consider leaving a review—that helps me and the book in the long run!
I’m available to hire for freelance editing services on Reedsy. You can find me on social media on Twitter, Instagram, and now TikTok. If you buy any of the books linked in this newsletter I receive a small commission at no cost to you.
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
Man, I could not care less about the two teams in the Stanley Cup finals. My feelings on the Knights are nonexistent; my feelings about the Panthers extend to “Hey, at least they’re not the Bolts.” (I hate the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, I know they’re very good at hockey. They’re also joyless goobers, and I hate them. The fact that they’re not in the finals makes me happy.) I have a bit of affection in my heart for Panthers’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, notable for being, at thirty-four years of age, old as hell, so I guess I’ll root for them? IDK. RIP, Jamie Benn. (As a side note, this article from the Columbia Journalism Review about the sports website Defector’s success in their post-Gawker, post-venture capital, cooperatively owned era is fascinating!)
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. Is there something you’d like me to talk about? Leave it in the comments or reply to the email! You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.