Be nice or we’ll kill ourselves

Writers hate bad reviews. Loathe them. We may tell people we never read them, or that we don’t care about them, but here’s the truth. We want worship. We want every review to fawn over us, gasp in awe, and basically lie down prostrate in weeping adoration of our work.

But since that’s not how life works, we’d better learn how to shrug. Anybody who can’t take criticism should stay far, far away from publishing. Every writer faces rejection, red-penciling and ridicule. And no book will ever be to every reader’s taste.

Which brings me to the tale of the blogger who slammed an erotic suspense novel and received a lengthy screed from the editor of Romantic Times magazine in complaint. Astonishingly, the editor, Kathryn Falk, wants the blogger to write only positive reviews because writers and editors are terribly fragile and emotional people. She claims that the blogger’s negative review was so harmful that people are contemplating suicide. The blog’s commenters are unimpressed.

GalleyCat summarizes the hysteria.

8 responses to “Be nice or we’ll kill ourselves

  1. Oooo, I like this approach: “Dear editor of The Journal of Pedantry, Please be sure that the peer reviewers make only positive comments about my article because I am terribly fragile and will likely commit suicide if my article is rejected.” I see my cv growing as we speak!

  2. Wayne C. Rogers

    Meg, is Karen Scott a relative of yours? I detect a similar style of snarking between the two of you. LOL I have to admit that the book review was funny and had me laughing out loud. As a fellow reviewer of novels, I try never to review something (this doesn’t count with DVD reviews) that I can’t honestly give a Four or Five Star rating to. I know how hard it is to write a novel, plus everybody has different taste. Occassionally, however, you read something that triggers a button within you to seek revenge for the money you spent on the novel and the time wasted reading it and a review is written that has you feeling proud one moment and ashamed the next for attacking someone in print. Still, Meg is right. Don’t get into the publishing business (or the movie business), unless you can handle rejection and criticism. No matter how great a novel you write, someone isn’t going to like it and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. Plus, a bad review isn’t going to bring down the house. Actually, a review like the one Karen Scott wrote might help to sell the book if a reader is looking for comedy with a dose of erotica thrown in.

  3. I just got to reading both the blog and the RT editor’s response. As for the latter, after a morning of chores with my son my tolerance for whining is non-existent and I felt the urge to send her to her room until she could speak in her grown-up voice.

  4. Telegraph chief fiction critic, Lionel Shriver (female, despite the name) offers an interesting perspective as a critic who is also an author:

    Two things immediately spring to mind:

    1. Isn’t ‘Shriver’ oddly close to ‘Shreve’? I’ve heard that name before, somewhere.

    2. How can someone work in a study that boasts pink carpet & lemon walls?


  5. DJ,

    I liked that article. She’s got a gift for the one-liners (if not for interior decorating–Pepto-Bismal is not a good colour, either alone or in combination). Pepto-Abysmal carpet aside, my favourite line was “Reviewing is like land-mining your own future.”

  6. Patti, have you considered reviewing for interior design magazines? Pepto-Abysmal! Ha!

    Thanks for pointing out the article, DJ – it’s pithy and astute. As for where you’ve heard the name Shriver… besides Lionel, there’s Sargent (Kennedy brother-in-law and first head of the Peace Corps), or his daughter Maria (TV journalist and Mrs. Schwarzenegger)… and it’s one of the many ways people misconstrue my husband’s name. I’ll stick with O’Death for now. Pronounced the old Irish way – “Oh-Dee-ath.” No, wait… that makes me sound like I lisp, and am odious. I give up.

  7. Meg O’Death, spoken with fake Irish accent, adds a certain comic menace to the name.

    I like it!

  8. Pingback: On Criticism | lying for a living

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