Sunday, October 26, 2014


No one is going to love all of our work.  It could be because our stuff isn't good, or the person didn't get it, or maybe just because such things are the essence of subjectivity.  Our work won't appeal to everyone, not even if we've written the greatest piece of literature since Shakespeare.  And some of those folks will leave negative reviews on sites that others go to for recommendations.

All of this is part of being a writer and putting our work into the public sphere.  Bad reviews may sting, but hopefully we can use them to either create better work, or laugh about because the reviewer was so obviously a moron.  What we shouldn't do is engage a bad reviewer, because it makes us seem petty and pouty.  And what we should never ever ever do is stalk the person who wrote the bad review.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened recently.  An author named Kathleen Hale decided to go beyond the pale and confront one of her bad reviewers.  Well, she didn't just go beyond the pale...she jumped across that line and started slam dancing over there.  She even wrote a nearly 5,000 word article about it trying to justify her actions.  I read this with increasing alarm.  Most of us would, hopefully, respond to any such person by carefully backing away and calling for the folks in white coats.

Hale makes a number of laughable points, the first of which is that she was bullied.  She links over to a site that calls the big bad meanies at Goodreads Reviewers bullies if they don't say their stuff nicely.  I wish that people could respond constructively, but it demeans the word bully to even put these things in the same ballpark.  People online are mean, but they're not beating you up, they're not coming to your house, and they're not calling at weird hours to harass you - they're saying shitty stuff about your work.  Guess what?  You've asked for folks to do that!  Okay, maybe not specifically, but these kinds of people are part and parcel of the gig when you put your stuff into the public sphere.  Mean people will say mean things.  Most of us learned to ignore assholes like that around the time we left high school(and some even earlier).

However, Hale decided to get all butt hurt about it and engage in a Twitter War.  She and her reviewer began tweeting in tandem, and she got even more upset that it continued(for the record, I've never "gotten" Twitter - it seems a bastions of true hate on the internet, and rarely do I ever read anything besides someone's emotional reaction to some issue or circumstance they don't understand; btw, no, I don't have an account, and things like this are why...well that, and the fact that I'm not that important(and neither is anyone else)).  Once that ended the way anyone over the age of five could have predicted, Hale acknowledges she engaged in some "light stalking: I prowled Blythe’s Instagram and Twitter, I read her reviews, considered photos of her baked goods and watched from a distance as she got on her soapbox."

At this point, normal people could have written this off as a little deranged, but mostly harmless.  We've all gotten hurt, and some of us don't handle it well.  We engage in fantasies of revenge and how the unscrupulous person who hurt us will eventually acknowledge their mistake and let us know that they were wrong.  That's not what Hale did - instead, she paid money to do a full background check on the reviewer(creepy), called her at work pretending to be a fact checker(creepier), and went to her house(IN THE NAME OF GOD, GET SOME HELP!).

The conversation she engaged in with the person who may or may not have been the reviewer was surreal, as if she was fishing for the woman to admit she was the reviewer so she could communicate how badly her feelings had been hurt.

First of all, if some crazy person showed up at my house or tried calling me on the phone pretending to be someone else, a restraining order and consultation with a lawyer would be the first thing that would happen.  At this point, the woman in question would have been perfectly justified in claiming she felt threatened.  A word of advice - don't go to another person's house over a bad review.  Depending on what state you do this in, there are self defense laws on the books that you wouldn't be on the happy end of.

If you get a bad review, laugh it off.  If you can't, then cry about it for a day or two, and then get over it.  You make yourself look immature and a bit psycho(a bit?  Who am I kidding?  This is WAY BIG psycho) by tracking down a reviewer.  When I read reviews, I look for trends.  If someone writes a bad one, but that's the only bad one, I write it off as an outlier.  Those who use a single bad review as reason to not buy something aren't what you'd call "reliable" readers anyway.  To go as overboard and insane about it as she did, Hale indicates that maybe she should write about mental instability, because you should always "write what you know."

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