June 30, 2009

Ms. Hoffman Regrets

Is all publicity good publicity?

The age-old question asked again by agent Kristin Nelson in response to an author's meltdown over a negative review.

My answer: No.

Ironically, the review wasn't that negative. It pointed out flaws in the novel and apparently gave away more of the plot than the author cared to see. The author responded with a series of Twitter blasts ("Now any idiot can be a critic...") and urged readers to write or call the reviewer with their opinions. She handily provided the reviewer's email address and telephone number.

So after this blew up in the author's face like so many Soupy Sales cream pies, she issued this apology (emphasis mine):
I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion. Of course I was dismayed by Roberta Silman’s review which gave away the plot of the novel, and in the heat of the moment I responded strongly and I wish I hadn’t. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions and that’s the name of the game in publishing. I hope my readers understand that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone and I’m truly sorry if I did.
Actually, it hasn't been blown out of proportion. What was out of proportion was the author's response. And the ol' "I'm sorry if I offended anyone" is so weak. Someone who was "truly sorry" would have written, "People were right to be offended by what I did."

Matthew Shaer in the Christian Science Monitor chalks it up to "Web 2.0 inexperience." That may be, but if so there is no excuse. An author is a public figure and theoretically a professional communicator. Better figure out how to use them tools before you get started.

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