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How not to respond to a bad review

If you read my Twitter updates, you probably saw this one: “Never, never argue with a bad review. Chant fifty times. Repeat ad infinitum.”

It’s so tempting to explain exactly why a reviewer who didn’t like your book has the comprehension skills of a mole.

But every writer I know who’s done this regrets it. The following is courtesy of Publishers Marketplace

Go Ask Alice: Author Hoffman Shows Authors Not to Tweet In Anger, Apologizes

With one angry electronic outburst novelist Alice Hoffman may have changed how many readers view her. After novelist and longtime critic Roberta Silman wrote a mildly critical review of Hoffman’s THE STORY SISTERS in the Boston Globe, Hoffman reacted with a series of angry tweets. Not just a grumpy post or two, but 27 in all, according to NY Magazine (they have now been deleted, along with the corresponding Twitter account.)

The series of 140-character-or-less insults also included Silman’s phone number and e-mail address (with a typo) and a rallying cry to “Tell her what u think of snarky critics.” But Silman was out of town, isn’t on Twitter, and first learned about the controversy from a friend, she tells the LAT’s Jacket Copy. “There have been nine emails to me, all in support of my review and/or my right to review and all apologizing for Alice Hoffman’s perplexing behavior.” Silman adds, “I wouldn’t change anything about my review. I have written many reviews for The Globe and say what I believe, and, in this case, I praised her earlier work, which was clearly better. I’m sorry Alice could not take pride in the good things I said, and perhaps mull a little on the criticism.”

Hoffman issued an apology through Goldberg McDuffie, now saying that she was upset because she believes the review gave away the plot: “I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion. Of course I was dismayed by Roberta Silman’s review which gave away the plot of the novel, and in the heat of the moment I responded strongly and I wish I hadn’t. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions and that’s the name of the game in publishing. I hope my readers understand that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone and I’m truly sorry if I did.”

Separately, Page Six notes that Hoffman also criticized blogger and reviewer Bethanne Kelly Patrick on Twitter after a Barnes & Noble panel discussion before “making up.”

The response to Hoffman doesn’t surprise me, but today I’ve been thinking it through and realize that I’m not exactly sure why it sounds so bad when a writer takes a reviewer to task. There’s little question in my mind that writers come out looking like losers when this happens, which is why I usually try to chant the mantra above. (I also try not to read the Amazon.com reviews but always fail.) But why should that be? Why the aroma of whine when we fight back?