By Rachel Krueger
An infinite number of bloggers on an infinite number of netbooks blathering for a handful of years have produced an entirely new face for marketing. Whereas widely-spread opinions could once only be held by those with credentials, now anyone with dial-up can wax judgmental about any old thing. And it’s driving some people mad.
It must be unendurably painful for someone who has fought to be published see their baby one-starred-and-feathered on Amazon. But nothing so thoroughly hoists an author by their own petard than trying to enlist the internet to attack itself. Last year, Alice Hoffman twittered her fury over a review in The Boston Globe, calling in her troops to harangue the reviewer, and all it earned her was a hefty serving of scorn. Alain de Botton made a resoundingly misguided (though sort of hilariously angry) comment on a critic’s blog, later admitting that this was “clearly an insane thing to write in a new public age.” While the internet has opened its arms to everyone’s $0.02, it has also cheerfully created space for the occasional train wreck.
The latest author to go all Hulk! Smash! on a nay-sayer is romance writer Candace Sams. After Amazon reviewer L B Taylor posted a disappointed handful of paragraphs warning people off of Sams’ Electra Galaxy’s Mr Interstellar Feller, the author (under the pseudonym “Niteflyr One”) rose up in a lather of fury and excuses. Clearly, she said, the reviewer was herself a failed romance writer. Clearly she didn’t understand how little control writers have over the cover (natch), “sequencing of scenes” (?) or the “language used in dialogue” (!?!), all of which are apparently dictated on high from the editor.
The twitternets and bloggotown were alive with elbow-nudgings and note-passing almost immediately, and before long a crowd had gathered in the comments section. Taylor quickly backed away from the maelstrom, but Niteflyr responded with SPEED and VIGOR (if maybe not sense) to all comers.
And it isn’t so much that she responded to a negative review in the first place (which is like making out with an alligator [in that it rarely ends well]), but that she sounded like an illiterate loon. Her insistence that Taylor could dish it out but not take it, combined with her repeated inability to “take it,” make for some dizzyingly circular arguments. Her bottle of whine about how careless reviewers can fillet an author’s career WITH IMPUNITY suggest that the reading world owes her a livelihood just. because. she writes. Or puts letters down, anyways. Because it’s “beseech,” not “beseach,” and although she might (sadly) “loose” more contracts on the world because of this controversy, my spidey-sense tells me that she meant “lose.” Maybe she should call up that publishing house she hates so much (and so publicly) and have them send someone to tinker with her tirades.
What seems to be at play here (besides a completely skewed sense of entitlement) is a misunderstanding of the way the internet works. As Sams herself admits, once authors sell their work they “leave themselves open for attack.” Where Sams has dun it rong is by not seeing that those attacks no longer extend only from friend to friend, but across the webiverse. The Amazon reviews and their comments are not an author’s personal parlour, but a forum designed for promoting good products and warning people away from bad ones. Any old idiot can say whatever they want, but these days any old idiot has that right. There is no point in kicking against the goads because the goads are legion and probably have more time to kill than you.
Sams is past the point where she could (like de Botton) apologize profusely and sincerely, or (like Hoffman) attempt to rub the mess out. To date, Amazon has deleted eight of her comments from the thread, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that someone(s) has screen-captured all 20-odd pages of rant. Some new scandal will rise up in 20 minutes and push this to the back-burner, but like authorial missteps made before it, it will never be fully expunged. The internet is forever.