Yesterday, an author posted a (since deleted) comment on my website. He’s a successful crime fiction author, and his first novel was suggested to me in 2013 by a bookseller where my own recently-published book happened to be on display beside it. It was OK, but it was a first novel and I recognised some of my own failings in it – for me, an uneven pace, a bit of a sag in the middle, and there were aspects of the central character that I wanted to know much more about. Given the build-up the book had been given by my friend in the bookshop, I confess I was slightly disappointed. No worse than that, though: it was decent, and the series – if a series it proved to be – showed promise.
I said all of that on Goodreads, adding that I’d definitely look forward to reading more in the future; I gave the book three stars. That doesn’t sound like a bad review to me.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the author himself commented on my review to say how much he disagreed with it. (I noticed he himself had given his own book 5 stars.) We corresponded privately for a bit, and I thought I’d managed to make him understand that my review wasn’t intended to be as negative as he’d taken it to be. I thought we were on good terms.
I did read other books in the series, and sure enough they were much slicker. (Remember this is all just “my personal view”.) The author worked hard, not only on his writing but also on his publicity skills (a necessary evil these days, he’s never off Twitter) and in time his detective series was snatched up on some sort of TV series contract. To be fair, it’s tailor-made for TV: it has the same appeal as Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series. I was genuinely pleased for him, and in 2018, fully five years after the original review that had upset the author so much, I posted an article on my blog congratulating him on his success, adding an excerpt from a newspaper article about it.
So I was rather surprised to discover an email in my inbox just yesterday morning (in 2022, four years later) saying that he’d left a comment on the 2018 blog. I was particularly surprised, given that the entire collection of blog posts had been archived around two years ago and was technically invisible. (Answer: someone had typed his name into Google and the archived page had appeared. He says, “a reader”.) He wrote:
“Given it was… one of the bestselling books in the country at the time, etc., I think we can safely disregard your opinion.”
So there you are, my opinion counts for nothing, unlike his own. His standard response is that he’s sold over a million books, so his opinion matters and mine doesn’t. It’s a bit like saying that Boris Johnson is always right just because a lot of people voted for him in 2019.
As if that weren’t enough, he did this on Twitter:
There’s absolutely no need to block someone on Twitter: muting achieves the same result without being deliberately offensive. I certainly have no intention of being so petty, and I’m still easy enough to contact.
Now, it goes without saying that he’s entitled to say and do what he likes, subject to all the usual legal limits, and he’s most certainly entitled to his opinion. That’s not a problem at all. (How I’m supposed to make that clear is hard to fathom when he’s blocked me, mind you.)
However, because the author has snapped and failed to acknowledge that I’ve read more of his books – which must say something about my opinion of them – I’ve now revised my opinion. There is now no chance that I will ever read, give or recommend any of this author’s books in the foreseeable future. There are many other excellent Scottish authors whose books I haven’t got round to reading yet.
It’s highly unlikely that the author (or anyone else, probably!) will read this anytime soon, but if he does, I bet, like the guy(s) in Carly Simon’s song, he’ll think this blog is about him. Of course, he’ll say he won’t care, but if by some chance he does, it’ll no doubt be with some reference to the number of books he’s sold by comparison with me.
But there’s an important moral to all of this for all writers – probably the entire human race, to be honest.
Never, never sneer at your reader or treat them with disrespect. It’s entirely unnecessary, and is the sort of thing you end up regretting.