Pub Rants

Category: reviews

Mea Culpa—Never A Position Of Strength

STATUS: Ack. Is it really almost 1:30 in the afternoon? Time to hit that TO DO list hard.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONESOME TOWN by Ricky Nelson

Or another title might be—don’t tweet in anger if you don’t like your book review.

I’m not sure how many of you have followed the Alice Hoffman Tweet debacle but here is briefly what happened. After a non-positive review in the Boston Globe by reviewer Roberta Silman, Author Alice Hoffman shot off 27 twitter tweets in response—one of the tweets included Silman’s email and telephone number and Hoffman urged her fans to respond to the review.

Uh, authors don’t do this. A reviewer is entitled to his or her opinion (hence, the point of reviews).

If you don’t like a review, you don’t like it. Move on. Trust me, mea culpas are not a position of strength. Regardless of whether you are justified or not, this does not put you, the author, in a positive light.

And, as Hoffman realized, you’re just going to end up having to issue an apology through your PR firm.

Now I think you can tweet about how sad you are about the bad review but why draw attention to it? Lots of readers pay very little attention to reviews. Recommends by friends are the largest seller of books. Your friend might not have remembered the Globe review but they might remember this tweet debacle.

So what will be accomplished? Is all publicity good publicity? Maybe this was a great promo stunt and readers will wonder whether they agree with the Globe reviewer and thus buy the book to read it?

What do you blog readers think?

My thought? I think people reading about this incident will just think Ms. Hoffman can’t handle criticism and maybe that old adage applies: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Criticism and bad reviews are a risk in publishing.

So PW Hates Your Book

STATUS: I’m really hoping to feel less congested tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SEASONS OF LOVE from the musical Rent

No doubt about it. It sucks when you get a negative review from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or Kirkus. Although from Kirkus, we all kind of expect one since it’s so rare for them to write a good one. It’s almost badge of honor to get a bad review from Kirkus! Means you have arrived in publishing.

By all means, take a moment to be sad. Email close friends so you can get some immediate emotional support.

But don’t bother getting mad; get even.

And the best way to do that is to take the sting out of that bad PW review. You know it’s going to be out there on,, Borders, and your closest large Independent bookstore website. There’s nothing you can do to change that. All those websites will post the big reviews. But you can minimize the impact.


By gathering all the good reviews you can and by getting solid “must read this book” blurbs from well-known authors. Then you bug your editor or in-house publicist to bug their contact over at the main sites to also include all these other good things about your book.

With any luck, these sites will post new info as it comes in and that black eye of a PW review will be lost at the bottom of the page. Even if it’s still there, prominently coming up as the first before all other reviews, at least you have populated that page with all kinds of good stuff that any discerning reader can then weigh and judge if they want to buy the book. The one bad review won’t be center stage.

Action is the best medicine.