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August 28, 2012 4:06 AM   Subscribe

A blogger records a blow-by-blow account of how an author tries to use social media to 'correct' bad reviews of her book.

(I had never heard of Emily Giffin before I read this post) [edit: name spelling corrected]
posted by Megami (126 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh. Used to be only stand-up comedians had to know how to deal with hecklers. It's an art that doesn't translate well to the printed page.
posted by three blind mice at 4:12 AM on August 28, 2012


Around 11:00PM I received 3 different calls, all blocked, with one leaving a “delete your review!” voicemail and the second stating that I should just kill myself for being such a miserable person for attacking poor Emily

Oh, shit.
posted by angrycat at 4:28 AM on August 28, 2012


1) I'm so over these "review" dramas, it's depressingly puerile, and the outrage dispensed on all sides is so hyperbolic and pointless. Book review dramas: Inevitable conflict as authors and reviewers grossly overestimate the importance of their works.

2) Griffin and her incoherent fans deserve each other.

3) It actually is bullshit to change your review from positive to negative based on an experience after you've read it. From someone that professing to "take reviews seriously" this is great indicator of what critical opinion in general is worth. Doesn't excuse stupid reactions, however.
posted by smoke at 4:28 AM on August 28, 2012 [24 favorites]


That post goes on forever.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:30 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, it's not if you think of a book review as a purchase recommendation rather than a critical engagement with a work of art.

The reviewer is saying that while she enjoyed the book, the author's behaviour makes it impossible for her to in good faith continue to recommend it. Nothing wrong with that
posted by MartinWisse at 4:30 AM on August 28, 2012 [35 favorites]


It seems that the author has behaved very poorly - classic "how not to deal with negative feedback in the social spaces". There appeared to be no remorse or concern for the harassed reviewer.

On the flip-side, I found it odd that someone would change a review of a book based on an author's behaviour... isn't the entire purpose of the review to be about the book itself?
posted by greenhornet at 4:30 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Couldn't really get too far into this link: it's all just so stupid and petty that I feel like an idiot reading about it. This is one of those areas where the internet just gets stupid as fuck, and people really should stop this dumb shit or they're just wasting their lives.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:32 AM on August 28, 2012 [30 favorites]


That's quite some lion-girding, there.
posted by ardgedee at 4:44 AM on August 28, 2012 [19 favorites]


The initial "psycho" was a seriously dick move, though.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:45 AM on August 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


The reviewer is saying that while she enjoyed the book, the author's behaviour makes it impossible for her to in good faith continue to recommend it. Nothing wrong with that

Everything is wrong with that!
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 4:49 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I too, had never heard of Emily Giffin before this.

Now, all I know about her is that she, her husband, and her employee are all douchebags. The Internet is forever, Emily.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:57 AM on August 28, 2012 [33 favorites]


Everything is wrong with that!

I'm not seeing that. This is an Amazon review of a piece of purely commercial fiction. It's a recommendation of a consumer product, not a critical engagement with a work of art. She withdrew the recommendation because she disagrees with the business practices of the manufacturer, exclusive of the quality of the product extruded. How is this different from any other boycott?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:59 AM on August 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


It's different if you consider the purpose of the Amazon review system to be to provide an opinion on the quality of the product, and nothing more. If so, the review would not have been the appropriate forum in which to voice concerns about the appalling behaviour if the author and her cadre.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:04 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that any of the parties came out of this incident smelling of roses.

If we could somehow harness all of the outrage on the internet, we'd be living in a post-scarcity society.
posted by veedubya at 5:05 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


ardgedee: "That's quite some lion-girding, there."

Best. Typo. Ever. ("If you gird your lion, when he breaks free, he's gonna be *pissed*!")
posted by notsnot at 5:08 AM on August 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


It's different if you consider the purpose of the Amazon review system to be to provide an opinion on the quality of the product, and nothing more.

And she clearly sees a different purpose to the Amazon review system. How is this any different than going back and changing a review for a product you liked at first, but grew to despise once you had to interact with the company? She liked the book, but realized that the author and her fanbase were nuts, and changed the recommendation to help other readers steer clear of that pit of crazy. Fair game all around.

As an author, you are responsible for more than just the words on the page, especially in your marketing efforts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:20 AM on August 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's different if you consider the purpose of the Amazon review system to be to provide an opinion on the quality of the product, and nothing more.

This seems to be the interesting thing emerging from a lot of this sort of transferred LJDrama. When Penny Arcade sicced its readership on the makers of the Avenger Controller, a product which had (paradigmatically) not actually reached consumers received a mass of one-star reviews expressing moral disapprobation rather than product quality concerns. The same thing happened with the Metacritic-bombing of Mass Effect 3, and to an extent Diablo III, although difficulty getting online does feel more like product quality issue...
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:21 AM on August 28, 2012


she wrote, "just maybe (fingers in dire need of manicure crossed)"

I hate her, passionately.
posted by mattoxic at 5:23 AM on August 28, 2012 [26 favorites]


Two cheers for the new journalism!
posted by Wolof at 5:26 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Make that three cheers or I'll make your life hell!
posted by OmieWise at 5:28 AM on August 28, 2012 [45 favorites]


You know, I totally get that this author person was a bit over the top and all that, but the breathless play-by-play of virtual insults, facebook posts, status updates... it's way too much like grown adults playing at schoolyard tattling. It feels like all of these people need to spend some more time in the real world and not living everything out online.

I read her post and while I agree with her it felt like way too much detail concerning the whole thing. just let it go, really. it's not that big of a deal. The author is a brat, you came out on top more or less, time to move on.
posted by EricGjerde at 5:31 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well of COURSE you have to correct bad reviews, because some people have opinions that are wrong.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:32 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


she wrote, "just maybe (fingers in dire need of manicure crossed)"

I hate her, passionately.


I know we all get kind of grammatically prescriptivist from time to time, but this seems an extreme reaction to a misplaced parenthesis....

(Although the sentiment grated on me, too, but then, Griffin wasn't writing that for me.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This one time I met an author and they opened their mouth and ruined everything.
posted by Fizz at 5:33 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


The reason that online book reviewing politics is so vicious is that the stakes are so stupid and everyone involved is really fucking annoying
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:36 AM on August 28, 2012 [22 favorites]


Internet drama is worse than high school drama. At least you can blame that on hormones.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:38 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm giving that blog post a ★★★★★
posted by HuronBob at 5:39 AM on August 28, 2012


Wait, no, I changed my mind, I'm giving it a ★
posted by HuronBob at 5:39 AM on August 28, 2012 [22 favorites]


Wasn't there a movie based on a book by this author? I've never heard her name but "Something Borrowed" rings a bell?
posted by Danila at 5:39 AM on August 28, 2012


Something Borrowed has received negative reviews.

Oh no!
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:43 AM on August 28, 2012


The plot of that movie sounds horrible, absolutely wretched. Actually made me angry just reading it.

But back to the point, I've been trying to follow these author/reviewer scandals ever since the post about the Goodreads Bullies site. Before then I had no idea any of this was happening. Even though I've been on the internet for most of my life, I didn't realize so many authors interacted so closely with readers. In my mind I've always thought "don't read reviews of your work" to be a general rule because movie directors and musicians are always saying it. I've reviewed books on Amazon without any idea the author might read and wish to respond!

It just seems like a bad idea all around. The initial review that set off this storm wasn't personal or bad at all. It was a very typical Amazon review. They can't all be literary works of art. For the spouse of the author to actually get involved on that level, I mean, aren't these people fabulously wealthy by now, what with the movie and everything? I just don't get it.
posted by Danila at 5:52 AM on August 28, 2012


It actually is bullshit to change your review from positive to negative based on an experience after you've read it. From someone that professing to "take reviews seriously" this is great indicator of what critical opinion in general is worth. Doesn't excuse stupid reactions, however.


She has made a MOCKERY of the star-rating system!

Seriously, though, who can honestly give a damn whether the book was on its own worthy of maybe more like 3 stars, and didn't deserve to get a one-star review and oh god I hate myself even writing this out.

Corey Ann's review explained her scoring in detail, and gave a fair balance between honestly reviewing the work itself and explaining why it is spoiled for her.

And everyone involved in this saga must be really looking forward to graduation now.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:55 AM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Steve Martin: King of Social Media
posted by blue_beetle at 5:58 AM on August 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


This one time I met an author and they opened their mouth and ruined everything.

I know, have you listened to William Gibson? He sounds like the chuck-wagon cook in every bad western ever. "The sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel, want some of these here beans?"
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:59 AM on August 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Danila:

"In my mind I've always thought 'don't read reviews of your work' to be a general rule because movie directors and musicians are always saying it."

Yeah, but the movie directors and musicians are lying; they read their reviews too. What you eventually have to do is realize you can't make everyone happy all the time, and that if you try, you'll probably end up making no one happy.

With regard to Amazon reviews, you also end up realizing that in the end there's not necessarily a correlation between Amazon reviews and the commercial/critical success of a work. My current novel Redshirts has the lowest aggregate rating on Amazon of any of my novels; it's also on track to be my bestselling novel since Old Man's War (which has a seven-year head start on it). So go figure.

You also realize that Amazon's goal in allowing people to post reviews is not solely to let people tell other people about books/music/movies/whatever, it's also to bind them to Amazon and make them feel more positively about the retailer. That's a whole dynamic that spins the reviews there in another interesting direction.

Ultimately, the secret is writing a book you're happy with. If it's a hit, great. If people hate it, oh well. Then you go write the next thing. Make sure you're happy with it, too.
posted by jscalzi at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2012 [45 favorites]


I never read my reviews. It's pretty easy though, since I don't have any.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:17 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was an interesting read, thanks.

My mind boggles at the people here who seem to think the reviewer's behavior is what should be called out rather than that of the lying douchebags who sicced the dogs on her, but it's a free country.
posted by languagehat at 6:18 AM on August 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Emily GIFFIN... It's odd that she would feel the need to get in this sort of situation as her stuff seems to sell pretty well.
posted by drezdn at 6:25 AM on August 28, 2012


I read my reviews! There are so few of them I have to, I can't help myself. The bad ones are hilarious. The last one:

...an existential mess... These movies carry on too long. The “REMAINS” was probably the worst of the lot using answering machine messages dressed over life’s precious images. It is basically a bad shortcut to Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” I was waiting for some dinosaurs to show up and wrestle against the fetus.

Nailed it!
posted by nathancaswell at 6:27 AM on August 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


One-star reviews on amazon fascinate me, because they tend to come in three varieties: Lone honest voice in the wilderness of five star "OMG, You strung WORDS togetther, this is the best (read: only) book I've ever read and pluss I am your sisterrrrrr!" often with a heaping helping of snark; People who write "this was stupid, don't waste your time" (um, thanks? helpful?); and People who write things like, "The book was really well written and I loved the characters but I don't approve of premarital sex so only one star." YOU ARE READING A ROMANCE NOVEL. (And not a Christian one!)

Also sometimes I go back after reading a terrible book and look at reviews, and Amazon Vine reviews are always, universally "rah-rah, this is awesome!" on absolutely terrible books that have hardly any other reviews. They either know they have to give good reviews to stay in the program, rendering it worthless, or they are inviting illiterates to review books based on cover art.

"This one time I met an author and they opened their mouth and ruined everything."

This happens far too often. I know authors have to market themselves as personal brands these days, but some people really need to let their words on the page stand for themselves, because they have shitty personalities. (I read one author blurb recently that said, "I like to write silly little stories ..." about her novels, and I found that so off-putting that I won't ever read anything by that author again. If even SHE thinks her books are "silly little stories," clearly they aren't worth MY time.)

What boggles my mind is that there's such a market for female authors who act like simpering morons stuck in high school, breathlessly sharing their exploits with their "dear fans" and moaning about "only" being #2 on the NYT bestseller list and talking about their "silly little stories" and I am CRINGINGLY embarrassed for them. Why is there such a personality market in publishing for 40-year-old women who act like particularly shallow teenagers?

(I know there are male equivalents, but because of the genres I read, I notice them less-often.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:44 AM on August 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


If having your novel appear on the NYT Bestsellers list is not good enough for you, you deserve to have your ass knocked off that high horse.
posted by mattbucher at 6:46 AM on August 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


Crivens. Between this and twitter flameouts, I'm beginning to wonder if book publishers shouldn't start demanding their authors' social media passwords as part of a book deal, just so they can shut the accounts down when necessary.

I mean, by the end of the post I didn't have super-positive feelings about the blogger either, but the author and her husband come across as terrible people.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:52 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows, once again I must tell you of the depth of my internet crush on you. I love your description of the 1-star reviews. It is exactly right.

"This one time I met an author and they opened their mouth and ruined everything."

I've actually had the opposite experience a few times. I go to a conference called the Festival of Faith & Writing, which is primarily a Christian festival. I am a person of faith but not a Christian, but because the FFW attracts the kind of intellectual lefty Christian I can connect with. Several times I have gone to hear a writer speak, and been very impressed with her. Once it was a young adult novelist who had an extremely well-thought-out philosophy of what YA novels should and shouldn't do, how they should work. I agreed with her philosophy and it made me go home and read her novels...which were pretty good but not great. She was more impressive to me as a person talking about writing that kind of book than she was as an author of those books.

I had the same experience this year with a couple of memoirists.

I just found it an interesting phenomenon, these writers who have a very clear idea of what it is they want to be doing on the page, but who then aren't quite able to do it.
posted by not that girl at 6:53 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the flip-side, I found it odd that someone would change a review of a book based on an author's behaviour... isn't the entire purpose of the review to be about the book itself?

There was an author a while ago who went after her Amazon critics - she may have been self-published - and I remember a lot of reviews making similar comments, that the behaviour of the author put them off reading her work. Was linked here, but can't for the life of me remember who it was.

I've heard of Giffin - your standard chick-lit really. All I remember - I read a LOT of crap when at university as a break from the very dry grammar courses I was taking at the time, to the extent that I maxed out my then-boyfriend's library card as well as my own - is that one of the characters moved to a London that barely resembled the real thing, and there might have been a baby, or something. I've seen Jennifer Weiner, for example, post on Twitter about commentators being negative about chick-lit as a genre, but never about readers. Giffin comes across as incredibly needy and if I'd never heard of her, I'd be unlikely to want to read anything bearing her name.
posted by mippy at 6:54 AM on August 28, 2012


How do you get on Amazon Vine - do you have to be a big reviewer? I read too quickly really to remember to use GoodReads or review what I read, so I've only really left reviews for books I've loathed or, in the case of sewing books, weren't hwat I thought they were.
posted by mippy at 6:56 AM on August 28, 2012


Also, in the story this post is about--

The husband acknowledged eventually that his over-the-top response to the initial review was a case of mistaken identity--he thought it was a person who had been internet-stalking his wife and reacted because of that, not just in response to that mild review. Still not cool, but a more understandable overreaction from someone who was already frustrated.

I didn't see the problem with the author complaining about being #2 on the list. It sounded like self-deprecating humor to me, especially with the references to getting Susan Lucci's number. I didn't take it as serious whining, but as a more playful complaint.

I didn't think the blogger came off all that well. I didn't see that the author was egging on her fans, except to the extent that mentioning the situation on Facebook can be considered "egging on." Perhaps it would have been more judicious of her not to mention it at all, but I didn't think she was as blameworthy as the blogger did.
posted by not that girl at 6:57 AM on August 28, 2012


She had better be careful comparing herself to the Buffalo Bills as a way of complaining. After 4 years in a row of "second place" our team has suffered almost 20 years of virtually last place. Enjoy it while it lasts my friend!
posted by slmorri at 6:57 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every time I start to get too involved in one of these pointless internet arguments it helps me to walk away when I think of XKCD comic. Seriously, no one has linked to that yet? Is it old hat? Too obvious?
posted by zzazazz at 7:08 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you achieve even the slightest amount of fame for any reason in this life, it's guaranteed that a massive segment of your fanbase are going to be scary chuds who are good at google and those are most likely going to be the people who will act on your behalf.

Being all tee-hee surprised with that kind of outpouring of support is some serious volcano-lair "no mr bond I expect you to die" level shit.
posted by SharkParty at 7:14 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


So many lines being crossed so quickly thanks to our new technologies (and culture)!

An author of novels about social mores goes on to a social networking platform to cajole/needle her fans. A reader of these novels uses a book review tool to write an editorial, of sorts, slamming said author for being incivil.

Both are doing it wrong! And, yet, I am reminded of fandom. Are all of these additional texts not relevant to understand the primary text (the novels and what their readers make of them?) I leave that for more intelligent minds to answer – or reject out of hand.
posted by noway at 7:14 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Recipe:

1) Take 1 author who thinks she's so talented that a prism of light shines out of her anus;
2) Add 1 reviewer who thinks she actually has an impact on the literary world;
3) Mix well. Observe the mixture until the two ingredients begin to react with each other, creating a bubbling, foamy mixture.
4) Add 4 cups of crazy.
5) Let the mixture settle for one day. Serve chilled on Metafilter.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I never read my reviews. It's pretty easy though, since I don't have any.
posted by cjorgensen


Here we have the latest of cjorgensen's series of comments on MetaFilter; one which is, in the end, disappointing. After his recent tours de force dealing with such topics as eternity and terminal disease, this effort seems overwrought and self-absorbed. Given the small scope of its topic, there's little effort to flesh out the narrative with any substantive discussion. He has done better; let's hope his next comment is more fully-realized.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:22 AM on August 28, 2012 [77 favorites]


A reader of these novels uses a book review tool to write an editorial, of sorts, slamming said author for being incivil.

Or: she edited her product review to encapsulate her feelings about the unbelievably crappy service she saw enacted on another paying customer as a warning to others tempted to buy the product.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:22 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're going to be Emily Giffin and you're going to encourage a highly social cult of personality around yourself that helps to market your books, you unfortunately have to accept that you yourself have blurred the line between your work and yourself, such that you can't expect to say, "No fair, you can't downvote my book because of how I acted."

Writers who have this kind of relationship with fans have to decide whether they do or don't want to embrace the idea of "Buy my book because we're sort of friends sort of in a way!" That's what happens when you start asking people to help you become #1 on the NYT list. I don't necessarily think it's wrong; it's partly a function of authors feeling tremendous pressure to do their own PR.

But if you do it, I cannot emphasize enough that if you turn around and act poorly -- or if your husband does, or your assistant does -- those same people who in part are motivated by their warm feelings toward you will turn around and take it out on their reviews of your work, and when they do, they are playing perfectly fair. If Emily Giffin is not above being like, "You guys, let's get me to #1 partly because you like me!", then "I give this book one star because she's being a jackass" is in bounds. Keep in mind that the reviewer didn't love the book in the first place; I think she initially went easy on it because she thinks of Giffin as an author she likes. My guess is that Giffin would be okay with that. But then, that changed, and that has to be okay too.

If you make your fans your friends, some of them will treat you like a friend. Sometimes, that means they'll buy your book without knowing anything about it, or they'll buy something just because you recommended it, or they'll defend you against attacks by other people.

But sometimes, they will get mad at you because they're disappointed in your behavior, and once you enter into this kind of dynamic with them, that's completely fair. Love it, hate it, you can't not be ready for it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:24 AM on August 28, 2012 [52 favorites]


She had better be careful comparing herself to the Buffalo Bills...

Actually, the first few times she did it, she said "Buffalo Bill," and I thought she had some scale calibrated to the wild-West showman.

Hell of a writer, obviously.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:25 AM on August 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


urbanwhalesnark, that is an interesting take on the compact between author and reader. did the author's book (the service she renders) cause another reader harm? are amazon book reviews part of the service she does/doesn't render?

i'm not being facetious – I do think these agreements change over time.
posted by noway at 7:27 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Giffin's final "epiphany" post "about" Jen and Angelina that she just came up with "for some reason." I've seen that in the wild so many times: someone proclaims that they've moved on from an online argument with a passive-aggressive, self-righteous post about how they're a nice person who thinks it's bad to be mean, unlike certain people they could name, so let's all group-hug and congratulate ourselves for not being pathetic jerks who obviously need a life.

I've almost certainly written that sort of thing in the past. Every now and then, when something online pisses me off, I still get the urge to remove myself from the kerfuffle and write some sort of "gosh I'm so glad I've moved on from that" thing somewhere. And I stop myself because it's transparent and sanctimonious and doesn't make me look better or solve the actual argument.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


I was talking about the bad customer service - calling a customer 'psycho' for leaving a 1-star review.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:30 AM on August 28, 2012


Along the lines of what Lentrohamsanin said up-thread.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:32 AM on August 28, 2012


I read my reviews obsessively.

Stop judging me.
posted by kyrademon at 7:34 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, the first few times she did it, she said "Buffalo Bill," and I thought she had some scale calibrated to the wild-West showman.

And here, I thought she was all moths and basements and "I fuck me"'s.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:36 AM on August 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


It takes considerable effort for me to think less of an author than of the general run of folk reviewing books on amazon, most of whom I doubt can actually read.

Achievement unlocked.
posted by winna at 7:39 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pony request: let's replace favorites with a star system.
posted by davejay at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2012


My vote is for Cygnus X-1.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


This blogger had me at "I girded my lions".
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:49 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rats, I searched this page for "girded" before writing that comment. Should have searched for "lion" or "gird".
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:51 AM on August 28, 2012


I could barely read past the begging emails to her "fans" gently admonishing them about how "disappointed" she was over not receiving the sales numbers she felt she deserved, pestering them to buy more. Good god, lady, I don't need that kind of a relationship with a random author I ALREADY HAVE A MOTHER
posted by availablelight at 8:00 AM on August 28, 2012 [14 favorites]


Internet drama is worse than high school drama.

In Kindergarten a girl said she liked my drawing. Then she asked me if I liked hers. I was not being unkind, just honest when I said, no I didn't like hers. She said, then I don't like yours anymore. I suppose I still remember that because some kind of lesson was learned that day.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:00 AM on August 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


I thought it was a reference to the dude from "Silence of The Lambs". It took me awhile, but I made the connection! And promptly forgot it.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yeah: author + husband + assistant = author. Take a vacation.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:02 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The plot of that movie sounds horrible, absolutely wretched. Actually made me angry just reading it.

I knew without first clicking that it would be a movie starring Kate Hudson.
posted by elizardbits at 8:05 AM on August 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


But back to the point, I've been trying to follow these author/reviewer scandals ever since the post about the Goodreads Bullies site. Before then I had no idea any of this was happening. Even though I've been on the internet for most of my life, I didn't realize so many authors interacted so closely with readers. In my mind I've always thought "don't read reviews of your work" to be a general rule because movie directors and musicians are always saying it. I've reviewed books on Amazon without any idea the author might read and wish to respond!

It just seems like a bad idea all around. The initial review that set off this storm wasn't personal or bad at all. It was a very typical Amazon review. They can't all be literary works of art. For the spouse of the author to actually get involved on that level, I mean, aren't these people fabulously wealthy by now, what with the movie and everything? I just don't get it.


The difference between movie directors, musicians, and writers here is that writers are on their computers/the internet all the time (ostensibly writing). I mean, you might as well glue my laptop to my head. If they've received any guidance from their publishers about social networking, it's typically "You should get on twitter!" or "make a goodreads profile!" or "we'll send on on this 'blog tour' to promote your book because it's free!" The emphasis, from what I've gathered, is mostly focused on getting what are normally very asocial people to connect and interact and many writers just aren't good at reading community norms.

Also, most writers make normal-person wages. A movie deal doesn't guarantee fabulous wealth (one writer I know built himself a writing shed with his bad-movie money) and since income fluctuates a ton from year to year, most writers find the idea that they are rolling in dough and so therefore should be any different than normal people pretty funny.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:16 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


"In my mind I've always thought 'don't read reviews of your work' to be a general rule because movie directors and musicians are always saying it."

Yeah, but the movie directors and musicians are lying; they read their reviews too.


Yeah, what directors and musicians mean when they say that is, "Of course you're going to read reviews of your work, but you're never allowed to talk about them. Publicly, you have to pretend they don't exist. No creator ever looks good responding to reviews, positive or negative."
posted by straight at 8:24 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


most writers find the idea that they are rolling in dough and so therefore should be any different than normal people pretty funny

This one seems to have the money to pay for an assistant.

But, y'know, she's a human being. If we believe that the first shot was fired by the husband, and not the author herself, should she have hung him out to dry?
posted by tyllwin at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2012


Do some authors just find it completely unacceptable that some people *gasp* might not like their work? The sense of entitlement I'm reading is just jaw-dropping.
posted by mrbill at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2012


IME, in these sorts of situations when someone is like "Oh lol that wasn't me that was a totally other person posting from my computer and my login info at my IP address" it is almost always the person in question themselves.

Either way, everyone in this situation, both real and potentially pretend, seem like annoying idiots.
posted by elizardbits at 8:32 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


And now Corey Ann's latest blog entry is a shoring up of her defences on the noble victim front. Molested by her brother, exhausted by caring for a dying mother who took the brother's side while her parents were sort-of divorcing, brother murdered in Navy after being outed as gay, so I'm sorry, Ms. Griffin, but I do NOT knuckle under to bullies!

The first whiff of bullshit was the "it was my husband" line, which is second after "I was conducting a sociology experiment" as a great Internet excuse for bad behaviour. But even granting everything asserted is true, it's all very far from the wisest course of action, which is just to STFU and live with what someone else put on the Internet.
posted by fatbird at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do some authors just find it completely unacceptable that some people *gasp* might not like their work? The sense of entitlement I'm reading is just jaw-dropping.

It's nothing new. Writers have always been special snowflakes, but they used to have to write letters to the editor or whatever to attempt to silence their critics.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, on reading a five-star-now-one-star review on Amazon, I would dismiss that reviewers words for being totally unhelpful to me in determining whether or not I'll enjoy that work.
posted by fatbird at 8:37 AM on August 28, 2012


IME, too, elizardbits. But if it was the author herself from the start, I think that puts it on a whole different level of bad faith.
posted by tyllwin at 8:41 AM on August 28, 2012


I've only responded to a review once. I was a teenager. After a production of one of my early plays in the high school cafeteria, which was the only venue available, the notorious right-wing crank in my small town wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper complaining that the show was dissolute and immoral and I was a classic example of everything that was wrong with modern American youth. I wrote a letter to the editor back in which I said, basically, "Seriously, lady?" (I do like to think I handled things with a bit more grace than the author in the FPP, though.)
posted by kyrademon at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it just me or do these "comment wars" eruprt over the shittiest most banal crap beach novels that will never be remembered two years from now anyway? It's lame from every angle. Who cares?
posted by ReeMonster at 8:44 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thank heaven Corey Ann doesn't work for the Times' Book Review.
posted by zarq at 8:44 AM on August 28, 2012


There is no way the author isn't all three people here. I'm sure she never visits Amazon and yet seems to know exactly what her husband and assistant are posting there.
posted by graventy at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am not a successful author, tho' I am trying. I'm a little worried that if I ever were to become successful, I would act like this. Probably not; probably I'd insult people a lot though because people piss me off. Oh well, the world's safe for now.
posted by angrycat at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2012


A friend of mine just published a book that might be considered semi-controversial for a niche audience (an early history of D&D) and I admit occasionally looking around at reviews and reactions, as it's the sort of topic that seems to encourage internet debate. No detractors thus far, though, which is either a testament to the volume's quality or its sheer size.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


robocop, I don't see your name up there impartially leaving a five-star review on your friend's book. You should get on that, man.
posted by gilrain at 9:11 AM on August 28, 2012


I asked about that, but as you can see from one of the other reviews, a friend already beat me to it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2012


I recently read an article/post which contended that self publishing won't work out in the long run for authors simply because authors are batshit insane. I don't think it was so far off the mark.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Had Giffin/her assistant responded to her husband's review saying "It was a case of mistaken identity, I am sorry" and her husband done the same, then it would have gone away. But she doubled down, approving her husband's comment war, tacitly suggesting her fans also support her, and allowing her assistant to join in.

You know, I had read the book because I have a hidden love for that kind of adequately written, predictable books. And it was -- well, not particularly good. (I think after a while her characters all do the same thing, and I'm tired of the "unhappy career woman finds love, marriage, changes her name, has kids and then quits working" story, which I only realised was the plot when she kept bringing up characters from earlier books and mentioning these things.)
posted by jeather at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am not a successful author, tho' I am trying. I'm a little worried that if I ever were to become successful, I would act like this. Probably not; probably I'd insult people a lot though because people piss me off. Oh well, the world's safe for now.
posted by angrycat


5 stars - this author is not only eponysterical, but also a cat who write books? How cool is that!
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fuck me, and I thought academic pissing contests were nasty.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:31 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it just me or do these "comment wars" eruprt over the shittiest most banal crap beach novels that will never be remembered two years from now anyway?

I think there's something about the self-knowledge of mediocrity that makes people really fucking batty.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hey, mods, can you change the FPP to read "Emily Giffin"? None of the Emily Griffins of the world should have to take credit for Ms. Giffin's (and her husband's) bad behavior.

I have read and reviewed several of Giffin's books, and they're pleasant page-turners. I was not expecting a "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND MY GENIUS" tantrum from the writer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:36 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


The plot of that movie sounds horrible, absolutely wretched. Actually made me angry just reading it.

I got irritated just reading the names of the characters: Darcy Rhone, Bridget Thaler, Dexter Thaler, Dexter Thaler Sr.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


"You guys, let's get me to #1 partly because you like me!", then "I give this book one star because she's being a jackass" is in bounds.

Linda_Holmes has given me food for thought, and I was glib to say "Everything about that is wrong!" on how in some cases, the author's behaviour should come into a review. You reap what you sew. Makes sense.

Still, I feel uncomfortable hearing people talk about book reviews as if you'd had bad service from a washing machine manufacturer, say. There's a fallacy a couple of people here have used. That this is a commercial novel, a bit trashy, so it's not really a piece of art -- more of a consumer product.

That's a tough line to draw sometimes. You buy a washing machine, and of course you expect good customer service with the manufacturer of that product.

But that doesn't hold with books. Who seriously buys any piece of art, trashy or not, and thinks good relations, or good behaviour on the part of the artist, is part of the deal? In fact, lots of artists have nothing but contempt for their fans and critics alike, without necessarily having a bearing on the quality of their work.

I suppose what makes this different is that the review platform has already been abused by Giffin's husband. So yeah, from that point of view, it's fair game, and thankfully Giffin's being exposed for it.

But as a rule, no, I don't think you should be able to leave bad reviews because you disagree with the business practices of the artist.

Amazon's own stance where I'm based (UK) is that reviews should be specifically about the product, and this line, "Please resist the temptation to use the forum as a chat room, a soapbox..."

Weirdly, that line doesn't appear in the US version, but I think sticking rigidly to that is the right approach (which obviously applies to Giffin and her acolytes, first and foremost).
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 9:41 AM on August 28, 2012


Tiny beans, meet large plate.

That was horrible and I feel stupider for reading it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2012


I actually agree that it's unfortunate to adopt a "customer service" attitude; I wouldn't so much look at it that way, largely for the reasons you mention.

But in this case, I'm not bothered by the edited review because of the complete transparency with which she explains her reasons. I think if your reasons for downvoting the book have to do with the behavior of the author, you do have an obligation to make that explicit, because I certainly think the default is that your complaints are contained within the book. What I'm much more worried about is Amazon reviews that are low-star for personal reasons that are not disclosed -- you know the author, you hate the author, you support a similar "competing" book, etc. etc.

There just comes a point where if you're going to effectively wink-wink when your husband calls people "psycho" for genuinely saying they didn't like your book, then you sort of lose all of your rights -- all of them -- to complain about what does and doesn't happen in your Amazon reviews. You can hardly say, "This person is a psycho," and then be like, "STOP BEING MEAN TO ME." So Giffin herself has no beef whatsoever, to my eye. You sling the mud, sometimes it gets on you.

The obligation I think the reviewer needs to think about is whatever obligation she has to other readers who assume that her review is about the book, and I think she feels like she's been fair to them by being explicit about why.

I get the principle that your review should be a review, and usually, I agree. But this became exceptional when the husband became abusive to a reviewer and the writer became complicit in that.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


"That's quite some lion-girding, there." Best. Typo. Ever.

I couldn't tell if it was a typo, or she is dense ... or, for all intensive purposes, trying to be funny.
posted by ericb at 10:20 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also sometimes I go back after reading a terrible book and look at reviews, and Amazon Vine reviews are always, universally "rah-rah, this is awesome!" on absolutely terrible books that have hardly any other reviews.

Brings to mind this FFP from a two days ago: Brilliant A+++++ would read again ... The best book reviews money can buy.
posted by ericb at 10:24 AM on August 28, 2012


You reap what you sew.

I should hope not, otherwise I'd have a harvest of nothing but curtains!

(I assume this is your mobile device being a jerk to you. Mine likes to taunt me by putting "it's" where I mean "its".)
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:26 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read all reviews of my novels. Takes about two minutes.
The cold recesses of my heart are warmed, and I then get on with my life.
posted by THAT William Mize at 10:26 AM on August 28, 2012


Couldn't agree more Linda.

Sidhedevil... I really wish that was the fault of a mobile device...
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2012


The reviewer is saying that while she enjoyed the book, the author's behaviour makes it impossible for her to in good faith continue to recommend it. Nothing wrong with that

Everything is wrong with that!


Lots of people think Chick-fil-a sandwiches are tasty. Chick-fil-a is run by an asshole. I won't be eating at chick-fil-a because I don't like who benefits from money I spend there. Same deal here, right?
posted by fzx101 at 10:55 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now Corey Ann's latest blog entry is a shoring up of her defences on the noble victim front.

*checks*

God, I thought you were kidding! She should absolutely win X-Factor.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:59 AM on August 28, 2012


I bearded my loins in its den. Let me tell you about it.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2012


Yikes WTH is that latest blog entry.
posted by angrycat at 11:27 AM on August 28, 2012


In Kindergarten a girl said she liked my drawing. Then she asked me if I liked hers. I was not being unkind, just honest when I said, no I didn't like hers. She said, then I don't like yours anymore. I suppose I still remember that because some kind of lesson was learned that day.

That girl's name was Emily Griffin.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:51 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pony request: let's replace favorites with a star system.

But which star system? Ohh, how about Mizar–Alcor? I mean, sure, lots of folks like Alpha Centauri, what with the proximity to Earth and all, but come on, Alpha Centauri only has 3 stars to Mizar-Alcor's 6!
posted by fings at 11:53 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That girl's name was Emily Griffin Richard Nixon.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:11 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am incapable of separating the art from the artist, so I generally try to avoid interviews. I was soured on the Smiths by Morrisey, U2 by Bono, tons of painters I can't stand once I found out they were pedophiles or arsonists or some such.

I know my life may be less rich because of this inability, since so many actors and writers and artists are assholes.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:31 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's hard, when you create something through serious sweat and effort, to have it torn apart, so I definitely understand the thought behind avoiding negative reviews; as a young teacher I was always told to stay away from the Teacher's Lounge, stereotypically where all the jaded and burned out older teachers went to gripe about how they hated their lives.

It can be good for authors, though, not to live in an echo chamber. I read a very entertaining discussion among fans of The Ruins (probably linked right here on Mefi) where readers brought out some excellent points about issues they wished the author had chosen to explore in more detail. When the (otherwise pretty mediocre) movie came out, I was impressed that author Scott Smith (who also wrote the movie's screenplay) took those criticisms into account and worked a few scenarios into the plot line of the movie, basically admitting, "Yeah, I should have covered that eventuality too."

Maybe agents should instruct their authors that if they consider reading their reviews, they should first stand in front of a mirror and repeat 10 times, "Any publicity is good publicity!" After all, I've read umpteen negative reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey, and it's still selling like gangbusters. Bad reviews, as jscalzi already noted, don't really set you back at all. It's only when an author acts like an asshat to a fan that book sales suffer.

Which, I guess, explains why Dan Brown still manages to churn out bestsellers.
posted by misha at 1:34 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


misha: " Maybe agents should instruct their authors that if they consider reading their reviews, they should first stand in front of a mirror and repeat 10 times, "Any publicity is good publicity!" After all, I've read umpteen negative reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey, and it's still selling like gangbusters. Bad reviews, as jscalzi already noted, don't really set you back at all. It's only when an author acts like an asshat to a fan that book sales suffer. "

I work with authors, coordinating publicity tours and sending books for review. Negative reviews can still sink a book's sales. Aggregate reviews on Amazon, and reviews in newspapers and magazines, and author interviews in print, digital and other electronic media can all help build or shrink book sales. And yes, in combination they are often directly correlated to the success of a book -- especially for new authors who do not yet have an established audience.

Authors who have a built-in fanbase like jscalzi may find that fans buy their books regardless of reviews. Personally, I know I'd be a lot more likely to buy one of his books no matter how poorly it was reviewed, because I'm a big fan. But it's also worth noting that in Redshirts he's written a book with a concept that probably appeals to his fanbase and that of Star Trek fans, two groups which may not sync perfectly. In that, the book is a bit cross-genre. And again, any single review may not be a problem. But if a book is reviewed poorly across multiple media by many reviewers, it might be.

Also, if a book has a ton of sex in it, then it will often sell for that reason no matter how atrocious the writing is. See the last few books by Laurell K. Hamilton. The Fifty Shades of Gray example can't necessarily be applied universally to every book. My wife was recommended the series by a friend who said, "It's garbage, but there's a ton of BDSM sex in it." Even garbage needs a hook.
posted by zarq at 2:50 PM on August 28, 2012


So...how long until her or her sockpuppet shows up in this thread?
posted by mosk at 4:04 PM on August 28, 2012


Um, it's Emily Giffin, not Griffin. #justsaying
posted by sweetkid at 4:24 PM on August 28, 2012


mosk: So...how long until her or her sockpuppet shows up in this thread?

You mean zarq's wife, or Emily Giffin? Or maybe zarq is...DUH DUH DUN...Emily Giffin's husband! ;)
posted by misha at 6:42 PM on August 28, 2012


After reading her Facebook updates I'm surprised that she wrote an entire readable book. I give her editors 5 stars.
posted by NikitaNikita at 7:01 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


StoryWonk had a podcast discussion of this.

While yeah, normally you should review the book and not the author, under the circumstances I kind of agree with Corey for changing it. Would you really want to endorse this woman and sell more books for her when she acts like that? Jeez, I wouldn't. I have a book review site, but I don't post on Amazon and am glad about it. And my site is happily unpopular so I don't get this drama, thank goodness. So far, anyway.

I have decided that if and when I ever become famous, I will hire a programmer. Does anyone remember Tinted Sheen Browser Blocker? I want to get something like this, only it'd block MY real name off the Internet. That way I'd never see whatever is written about me, and thus I'd never see all the insults or be tempted to respond to them. Okay, I'd be less likely to respond to that because getting into fights never works out, but still, I think stopping reading about yourself is a damn good idea once you're all over the place. You can't get your love off the Internet without at least an equal dose of hate. And in this lady's case, if she can't handle it....
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:48 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Corrected "Griffin" to "Giffin" in the post.]
posted by taz at 12:18 AM on August 29, 2012


Um, it's Emily Giffin, not Griffin. #justsaying

Imagine the lost sales from that typo! Such injustice!
posted by cjorgensen at 6:37 AM on August 29, 2012


Don't be Giffin us any shit, now Emily.

that goes for your husband, too
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:44 AM on August 29, 2012


misha: " You mean zarq's wife, or Emily Giffin? Or maybe zarq is...DUH DUH DUN...Emily Giffin's husband! ;)"

My wife's smarter than his wife.
posted by zarq at 6:47 AM on August 29, 2012


Um, it's Emily Giffin, not Griffin. #justsaying

Imagine the lost sales from that typo! Such injustice!


People are always misspelling my own last name so it irks me a bit.
posted by sweetkid at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2012


How hard can it possibly be to spell 'kid'?
posted by zarq at 8:39 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I couldn't resist. :D
posted by zarq at 8:41 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fascinating how this entire exchange is the personification of the OMGAH-ness that typifies Giffin's readership.
posted by jeremy b at 11:05 AM on August 29, 2012


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