Saturday, August 20, 2011

Author Receives Court-Ordered Damages After Damaging Review

Sometimes an article just seems to catch your eye and you can't put it aside till you hear the rest of the story. Such was the case when I read Francis Whelan's "The Hunting of the Snark" which appeared at Slate.com August 7 a couple weeks back. The opinion piece assesses the story of an author who received a scathing review and sued. In the end she received the equivalent of over $100,000 for her day in court, more than what she made on the book probably.

Naturally the details make the verdict less cut-and-dried, but Whelan is not in favor of the notion of writers suing for bad reviews. That's sort of how some reviewers get their kicks, I believe. A bad play or poorly written book is like shark bait. Many reviewers reproduce venom the way my property produces weeds.

The reviewer who took it in the chops was Lynn Barber, the book Seven Days in the Art World by Dr. Sarah Thornton. What worries Whelan is that if critics begin to fear lawsuits, they will next be setting aside the scalpels with which they have become adept at using to lacerate mediocre talent. The end result will be bland reviews that bore more than inform. The Sunday reviews will cease from being entertaining.

The story caught my eye for another reason. I am preparing four manuscripts for publication this fall and I'm wondering just how thick my skin is should there be any sharp-toothed reviews. Many folks graduate from the school that all publicity, good or scathing, is good publicity. I understand that. On the other hand, no performer likes an indifferent audience. No one at a party wants to be utterly ignored.

Actually, I have been writing long enough to know that as busy as everyone is these days, it's almost a miracle if someone is reading your work in the first place. The best hope for most fiction writers would be that someone makes a movie out of it. From there it is only the smallest step to, "The movie was good, but you should have read the book." Then you will get some readers."

The Red Scorpion and my short story collections will be on Kindle and Nook initially. eBooks do change one factor with regard to the book buying habits of consumers. I doubt that many eBooks will be purchased in an attempt to impress friends at the size and scope of one's library.

Alas... Do enjoy the weekend. It's gotten off to a beautiful beginning here.

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