Recently, there was a buzz (or a roar, depending on who you ask) regarding the Twitter account of author Alice Hoffman. The account is no longer active, but the truth about the Internet is that nothing is EVER really gone. Please, folks, remember this when you send emails. Many a senator and CEO have found themselves on the wrong end of media coverage–and often out of office or out of a job–because they weren’t smart enough to figure this out. Technology, our best friend, can also be our most bitter enemy.
In this case, the phrase “The author doesn’t deliver,” sparked a firestorm of retorts from Hoffman.
Hoffman’s latest novel, The Story Sisters, was released to mostly lackluster reviews, which as any writer knows, can be painful, heart-wrenching, and can make you want to mutilate a tree–or something. But rare is the author to which a bad review has not happened. It just happens. It’s like the carrots WITH the peas, people.
We have had discussions about whether or not an author should ever respond to or try to defend a book to a bad review. Whenever we’ve talked about it with the MSW ladies and our posse (heh! MSW Posse. I like it!) the conclusion is almost always unanimous and always the same: If you are tempted to address a bad review, the short answer is “don’t.”
It is necessary to put the review, the reviewer, and anyone who might want to ask you about it on “ignore” and move on.
Hoffman did not do this. In fact, she not only did not do this, but she used the currently fabulously popular technology of Twitter to address it, the reviewer, and everything she thought the reviewer was lacking.
You can currently read the tweets that erupted from Hoffman. They are more like fire from a dragon, but I understand her desire to defend her baby. I do. But it resulted in a backlash for Hoffman that has resulted into her complete disappearance from Twitter. (But again, let me warn you. Nothing is EVER gone from the Internet. You can currently read her page from the link I provided.)
Now, my take on the review was that the reviewer did not love the book. That stings. Of course it does. But it happens to every single author. Not everyone is going to love your book. Period. If you find an author who has received nothing but positive reviews, I’d like you to point them out to me. I don’t believe that author exists.
Take, for example, this review, received for the book The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I ADORED this book. Loved it. Stroked the pages as I was reading it. This reviewer? Not so much.
This was, quite simply, the most hateful book that I have ever read. This 550 page diatribe against Western Civilization in general & white, male, able-bodied, Christians in specific, is shockingly intolerant. Moreover, it is filled with a kind of self-loathing that makes one question the author’s mental stability. And if all that’s not enough, it is crammed with a Soviet view of Congolese history that’s barely worthy of Oliver Stone. I hardly know where to start.
Musta been a different book than the one I read.
The bottom line truth? A review is NOTHING more than someone’s opinion. It is necessary to put it into perspective, and not react, as tempting as it might be to hunt down the reviewer, cover them in honey, and introduce them to an army of red ants. (No! I have never considered this! Not ever.)
For Hoffman, her Twitter-indiscretion has resulted in some unfortunate publicity she really probably could have done without. Not only that, but even though her Twitter account has now been deleted, it can still be found online, and people are still talking about it.
In her anger, Hoffman even gave out the reviewer’s phone number and personal information.
Some of her Tweets were about the ability to finally respond back to reviewers.
An email to a reviewer is hate mail? But a a hateful review is a love letter?20 minutes ago from web
Critics can say as they please, but no one else can? You open the door and it’s open.22 minutes ago from web
While I understand Hoffman’s motivation, I think we, as writers, have a duty to step back and examine the system. Again, a review is nothing but someone else’s opinion, objective or otherwise.
As it is, nobody looks bad here but an extremely talented and beautiful writer. And that makes me sad.
So, speak up, MSW Posse Members. What do you think about the Alice Hoffman situation?