Thursday, March 25, 2010


I wish there was one day a year - like a Valentine's Day - kind of "holiday" for authors, where we would be free to complain about bad reviews and write rebuttals if necessary.

Fortunately, I haven't gotten that many bad reviews. Even my "bad" ones have not been all that bad - more mixed. But these said reviews once in a while pick on my facts and say that they're not correct. This is what I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to write my own correction on! I mean, let's face it, do these reviewers have the time or energy to do the research that the writers do? I doubt it. So on occasion I've noticed that a reviewer has seemed to get his/her information from a book on the same subject that came first. For whatever reason they just assume that that book is the correct one. I'm not sure why.

But there's a new breed of annoyance out there. The ordinary public wanting to voice their opinion on nonfiction. Arg! Some of my nonfiction topics--Charles Atlas and now Walter Diemer (the inventor of bubble gum) seem to come with some baggage. They come with their very own conspiracy theories! Think Kennedy or 9/11 only it's kids' books. Ugh. There are always nutty people out there but I just wish they'd keep to themselves!

This is an example of something a person wrote in a "review" on Strong Man from Amazon: "Charles Atlas was never a weakling." Ummm... yeah, he was. I have proof. Behold!

This is a photo of him as a teenager. I don't know what you consider a weakling, but he was no muscle man in this photo. There are these nutty people out there who are in two different warring sects: the weightlifters and the non--ala dynamic tension sort. They both want to argue different things about Atlas. I want to stay OUT OF IT! And I want my book to stay out of it as well.

It really pains me when I see people making really ironious comments and I'm supposed to bite my tongue and just let it be! Why? We're not talking about fiction reviews here--this isn't a matter of OPINION. It's fact. These are facts people are getting wrong. Why shouldn't I be able to stand up for my books? What about just one day? A holiday of sorts? A day when I and other authors like me can go crazy and say - No, YOU are wrong!

Pretty please?



Libby Koponen said...

Meghan! I'm with you on this one -- and I think people can make equally dumb comments on fiction.

The review that frustrated me most about BOTM was one in which the reviewer never GOT that the book was from a child's point of view, and kept saying things like "The adult Libby should have known better" or at one point, that she was surprised I had gotten into Brown: "I thought their standards were higher."

I wanted to comment SO much, but didn't. I would also wanted to tell her that in most first-person kid's books, the narrator, the "I" is a CHLUID CHARACTER, not the adult author! But, I didn't.

The sad thing is that I cried my head off about that review. Now I hope I would be tougher....but it really is frustrating not to be able to say anything back and ESPECIALLY when it's a matter of fact, not opinion at ALL.

I don't expect everyone to like everything I write, but I do expect reviewers to have SOME knowledge of what they're talking about. Everything is not just subjective!!!!!

Meghan McCarthy said...

That's an odd one! I wonder why someone would think that you were writing about yourself in the form of a grownup. Clearly they don't read a lot of kids' books!

I know it's not good to start something--you don't want a crazy back and forth thing... but you wonder - or at least I do - what if I just showed them where they are wrong and pointed them in the right direction? Maybe they'd retract the statement and there would be no back and forth. For my stuff it's easy - all I have to do is show the news articles where I got my facts, etc.

I don't know. This stuff is irritating me more and more lately and I know the more nonfiction I do the more it's going to happen!

Libby Koponen said...

I think Grace's idea of a Web site about your research that you could politely point people to is a good one. You don't have to get into a back and forth, but your reasoning and proof is there for all to see.

Meghan McCarthy said...

I definitely could. But I'm wondering if that will make it worse for the average reader. Kind of like how I get weird reactions when people find out I, an author, works at a bookstore. I know that's an odd comparison... but I'm wondering if some readers would rather not know what really goes on. I don't know. Anyone else with an opinion?

Anonymous said...

Putting up a website about your research can open up another whole can of worms, maybe worse. At any rate, your sources are listed at the back of your book, aren't they?

I always wondered if this kind of problem would crop up every time an author did a non-fiction. I now see it does. Is it poor form to write a polite letter to the reviewer defending yourself on the points that were disputed?

As far as your query on whether readers would rather not know what really goes on in an author's life (such as your employment at a bookstore), I think they do want to know. Readers sense when an author is putting up a wall between her and her readers and I think she stands to lose when she does this.