Margo Howard Provides An Object Lesson In Mishandling Bad Reviews

From The New Republic:

I’ll bet you don’t know what the Amazon “Vine Community” is. I didn’t. I was never even aware of it until my memoir was published earlier this year. Books offered on Amazon for pre-order have a notation: “This book is not eligible for review until publication date.” However, in the run-up to my release date there were already five reviews postedand they all were rotten; I mean inaccurate, insulting, and demonstrably written by dim bulbs. I was absolutely stunned. Who were these people, and why were they allowed to comment on a book before actual purchasers, when there was a clear prohibition.

I sympathize with Ms. Howard. Really, I do. The first review I got on Amazon was written by a troll who saw his review as a means of avenging himself upon me for my blog posts about Amanda Knox. The experience was, for a few bewildering minutes anyway, decidedly unfun.*

But here’s the thing. I didn’t respond to the reviewer at the time, and I never will. Others gave him hell in the post-review comments. They expressed their feelings eloquently, and I appreciate their rising to my defense.

I never touched it because there’s no percentage for me in expanding an unfair review’s reach and because authors never, ever come off well in pissing contests with reviewers. Responding to a bad review in print is like throwing water on a grease fire. It’s an understandable instinct, but all it does is compound the problem.

Since Ms. Howard has since garnered quotes from a MacArthur Genius winner and a number of other strong reviewers, she’d have been best off letting this go. Yes, it’s unfortunate her book got leaked to reviewers before the authorized pub date, and yes, it’s too bad they were so nasty, but if the life of her book is long, this incident will vanish into meaninglessness, deservedly lost to time. Or it would have, if Ms. Howard hadn’t added a widely-read article decrying these unfair reviews to her CV.

*Given what some commentators on Ms. Knox’s legal travails have gone through, I should say that I’ve gotten off rather lightly so far.

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