Can a bad review end your career?

by Tess Gerritsen


I realize that’s a pretty blunt answer, and many of you will disagree with me on this. Nobody reads reviews anyway, you’ll argue. Bad reviews come with the territory, and authors survive them all the time. Or you’ll observe (accurately) that I’m famously hypersensitive to lousy reviews and I endow them with more power than they really have.

So let me explain why I think one bad review can, indeed, end your career as a published author.

There’s one time in particular when an author is particularly vulnerable to the effects of a devastating review, and that’s when you are a debut author. An editor who takes on a first-time novelist is taking a risk on someone who’s untried in the marketplace. The editor hopes, of course, that the debut novel will be wildly successful, or at a minimum, earn back its advance And to increase the chances of its success, this editor will talk up the book to the sales force. As the pub date approaches, she hopes that in-house enthusiasm for the book builds, because that enthusiasm gets transferred to booksellers, who will be convinced to increase their orders. Hefty orders mean more exposure, better displays, and of course better sales. Imagine you are that debut author, and your novel “FIRST TIME OUT” has been bought with a generous advance. Imagine that the publishing house is telling you this is going to be an important book. Imagine that they have decided to give it a big push, with major ads and an author tour.

Then imagine that your first review appears in Publishers Weekly, and they pronounce it a disaster. They call your publisher a house of idiots for buying it.

Now your editor looks like a dope. The enthusiasm at your publishing house suddenly deflates like a popped balloon. Everyone there feels a bit embarrassed, not just for you, but for themselves. The big bookstore orders don’t come in. Costco and Walmart take a pass on it. Even before your book goes on sale, it already feels like a big failure and an expensive mistake.

Those promised ads never materialize. And even though they do send you on book tour, every time you meet a bookseller, you just know they’re looking at you and thinking, “oh, so you’re the author whom PW called illiterate.” And you feel like such a loser.

That scenario is just what I faced when my first hardcover, HARVEST, was published. About a week before the book was released, a review appeared in PW. If you want to see how bad it was, check it out over on Amazon or According to PW, HARVEST was so awful, it would be appreciated only by “readers who move their lips”. I vividly recall the depressing phone conversation I had with my agent after that review came out. And one thing she said stuck in my mind: “we’re lucky this review came in so late. The bookstores have already placed their orders.”

But what if the review had come in two months earlier? What if Costco and Target and all the myriad other book merchants had taken a pass on HARVEST? I’m almost certain that HARVEST never would have hit the New York Times bestseller list (which it did, at #13.) And even though many good reviews followed, the damage would already have been done. The book would have died, and orders for the next book (LIFE SUPPORT) would have been even worse. And that could have been the end of my career as a thriller novelist.

Debut authors in particular are exquisitely vulnerable to bad reviews. But what about the seasoned veteran, the writer who’s already established himself as a bestseller? Bad reviews don’t affect our careers, right?

Wrong. They can. But for entirely different reasons.

I recall hearing about the time Stephen King got a PW review that was so brutal, so nasty, that it almost made him stop writing entirely. Lucky for his readers, he got over the hurt and resumed writing, but I understand why he might contemplate calling it quits on his own career.

Because I had the same experience just last year.

After writing six books in the Jane Rizzoli series, I wanted to devote myself to a project that I truly, deeply, cared about. THE BONE GARDEN was an historical novel about childbed fever, the dawn of microbial theory, and the contributions of a real-life medical hero named Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. I had dreamed of writing this book for years. I spent months researching medical history, grave robbers, and the state of medical education in the 1830’s. I read reams of old Boston newspapers, immersed myself in the contemporary fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and pored over old surgical textbooks. I thought the book was one of my best ever, and I waited for the first reviews to come in, hoping that the critics would agree.

The review that came in from Booklist was one of the worst in my entire 21-year career. The reviewer ridiculed the book and called my writing incompetent. And in the weirdest criticism of all, he said he saw no reason for Oliver Wendell Holmes to even be in the book, because he had no role there. He missed entirely the theme of childbed fever and medical history — the very reason I wrote the book.

Although many good reviews followed, the damage was done. I had to finish writing the next book in order to satisfy my contract, but looking back now, I don’t know how I managed to do it. I wrote in a cloud of depression. I couldn’t focus. I didn’t see the point of continuing in a job that just invited brutal and very public humiliation. I thought about how much easier my life would be if I just quit.

That’s right, quit.

Practically speaking, I could have managed it. I’m thrifty by nature, I abhor shopping, and I’ve saved up enough money over the years to retire right now. I imagined liberating myself from the yearly cycle of sales anxiety and nasty reviews. I imagined writing only for myself — stories that I’d put in a drawer, never to be seen until after I’m dead and buried. I imagined the relief of never having to hear another critic sneer that my books stink.

It took me over a year to finally get back my equilibrium. The good reviews for THE KEEPSAKE has helped. So has the passage of time. But I was close, so very close, to just closing up shop and saying “I’m done. I’m retiring.”

All because of a bad review.

I know that it’s a wimpy excuse — “I’m quitting because my feelings were hurt by a mean reviewer.” But the process of writing relies so much on our state of mind. On how confident we feel, how excited we are about a story, and how sure we are that people will like the result. When you’re depressed, you can’t write. When you feel like a failure, you can’t write. And when you are already preemptively cringing from the next public humiliation, the writing suffers.

Sometimes it never recovers.

37 thoughts on “Can a bad review end your career?

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    Seems to me that what your story really proves is that a bad review can end your career—if you let it. You didn’t.

    BTW, BONE GARDEN was a terrific book, and the Booklist reviewer was full of crap.

  2. Jude Hardin

    I agree with Dusty. Loved Bone Garden.

    I have a novel on submission through an agent, and I’m feeling the sting from a couple of rejections I got last week. They were complimentary, but rejectons nonetheless. You’re absolutely right about the writing process relying on state of mind. There are definitely days when The Doubt Demon rears his ugly head.

  3. toni mcgee causey

    Tess, ditto Dusty on THE BONE GARDEN.

    Sadly, I don’t think there’s any way to avoid the potential derailment of a bad review. Whether a writer is a beginner writer who’s sending out for workshop/peer feedback or a seasoned pro sending out ARCs for review, someone out there will take aim. There is no universally loved book–nor should their be. Diversity by its nature will have everyone loving vastly different things, which is good for the marketplace. Otoh, I think there is a responsibility of reviewers to remember that their reaction to a book might be idiosyncratic and couch their review in those terms-or, in some cases, realize that a particular book just isn’t for them and decline reviewing it instead of doing harm for harm’s sake. With the vagaries of the marketplace, a non-review is just as much a vote against as a bad review (and maybe more so–because often people don’t remember the context of the review when they get to the bookstore, just that that title “seems familiar” and not why and will pick up the book anyway).

  4. Jake Nantz

    “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

    It’s sad to say that many reviewers could stand to learn something from a movie about a rat who can cook. I’ve never gotten a bad or good review, so I can’t really comment on the pain you guys feel or the elation, depending on the review. That said, Ms. Gerritsen, I hope you can keep a quote like this one in mind the next time someone who doesn’t have the courage to put their own story out there decides instead to try to tear down yours.

    I don’t want every reviewer to feel they have to be positive, because there are bad books out there. But they can at least be civil, I would hope. If not, have them rent Ratatouille and see if they can figure out why the critic in question is named Anton EGO.

  5. j.t. ellison

    The very first review I ever received was terrible, and from PW. The reason I didn’t let it bother me was two-fold: the people around me honestly explained to me that it didn’t matter, and the review itself was rife with factual errors. There are five items in the review that are wrong. So how do you take someone seriously who obviously didn’t read the book?

    But the problem is, the consumer doesn’t know that. I had someone introduce me at an event with examples from that review (called Baldwin “Taylor’s sleazy boyfriend” b/c PW called him “lowdown”.) I had to correct the person, which was embarrassing for both of us. And it was a shock to me too, because anyone who’s read the books knows Baldwin is the polar opposite of sleazy. So people do read them, and the ramifications can last for years.

    I agree with Dusty. A bad review can end a career… if you let it. I’m glad you didn’t, because THE BONE GARDEN was a great book.

  6. ArkansasCyndi

    Thank goodness you have the sense to ignore reviews that are simply one person’s opinion. In the business (as brutal as any I have been involved with), you have to remember that opinions are like a$$holes…everyone has one and some smell worse than others. 🙂

  7. J.D. Rhoades

    A couple further ruminations on the Bone Garden review:

    First: “He missed entirely the theme of childbed fever and medical history — the very reason I wrote the book. “

    And, I would submit, one of the very reasons people who love historical mysteries (such as myself) read them: to learn a little something about a different time and place while they’re being entertained. This reviewer obviously didn’t get that, nor did he/she have any affection for the subgenre. Not much you can do to control that. I’ve had my book reviewed by someone who, judging from her prior work in the same paper, clearly preferred the romance genre. I was lucky to have gotten off with only a lukewarm review rather than being savaged, and that was most likely because I knew the reviewer personally. But it was clear she just didn’t get it.

    Second: Booklist is the ALA publication, right? It’s read by librarians who want to know what to order.

    Do you seriously think a library’s not going to order the new Tess Gerritsen? Please.

    So, I would say, before you let a bad review discourage you: (1) consider the source; and (2) think about “who’s going to read this and how bad will it hurt me with both the reviewer’s target audience and mine?”

  8. ec

    For those who believe bad reviews don’t matter, I submit for your consideration three words: James Fennimore Cooper. He was a respected and popular American writer, but today his work is remembered primarily as the subject of Mark Twain’s brutal deconstruction.

    Fortunately for today’s writers, few reviewers can rival Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker when it comes to prose AND vitriol.

    I don’t agree with those who said a bad review can end your career “only if you let it.” For that most part, yes–this is probably accurate. But a bad review at just the wrong time can have a huge impact on orders and sales, which in turn will determine what (if anything) a writer is offered for the next book. Success in publishing depends upon several variables, one of which is the timing and tenor of reviews.

  9. pari

    Reviews do matter, Tess. I think you’re absolutely right.

    With my third book, I’ve received super negative reviews and super positive ones.

    I’ve considered throwing in the towel more than once.

    But, I can’t stop writing; I have too many stories to tell and want to share them with others.

    And besides that, there’s something else that keeps me going: FAN MAIL.

    Here’s a giant THANK YOU to anyone who has ever written one of these letters (after you’ve *actually* read one of our books 😉 ) You have no idea how much they mean to us.

  10. Becky Lejeune

    I’m with Toni on this one. I think it’s very important for a reviewer to realize that maybe not every book is for them. When I worked in the bookstore I used to wonder why some people bought certain books. I never pondered too long because at least they were reading something and if they enjoyed it, far be it from me to criticize. I definitely think quality of writing should be taken into account, but there have been plenty of books that I personally have not liked and have not given bad reviews because I knew they were books that a lot of other readers would actually enjoy reading even if I didn’t.

    It also bothers me as a consumer to see people panning a book that I think is undeserving of the bad publicity. People who aren’t regular readers often do turn to others for their next reading choices and I don’t think many people think about WHY they disliked a book when telling others about it.

    Btw, Tess, I love your books and have been a fan since I was 18 and read Gravity. I own them all now.

  11. Louise Ure

    If asked, I tell people that I no longer believe any reviews, neither the most positive nor the most negative. But that’s a lie. The negative ones still shake me to my core.

  12. Philip Hawley, Jr.

    Tess, as I read your post — which, as always, puts your sincerity and openness on full display — I couldn’t help but wonder why you don’t just quit.

    You’ve fulfilled your contract, you’re financially able to retire, you can escape the yearlong bouts of depression and “sales anxiety,” as you call it. And as you point out, if the writing itself is fulfilling you can continue to do so in non-commercial venues.

    I can guess why others might want or need to continue writing — especially those who are still building careers, or simply enjoying the ride — but I’m curious to know why you continue when it doesn’t sound as if it brings you much happiness.

    I’ll admit that I’m a simple Irishman with a simple outlook on life, but why not retire and enjoy your many blessings and interests: family, gardening, ponies(?), music, reading, and whatever else there might be.

  13. Barney Clonfelder

    I don’t like you and I don’t like your blog!

    You young people think you know so much with all this blogging, well, you don’t know squat!

    You and your blogs just shut up! You make me so angry!

  14. David J. Montgomery

    The commenters are correct that bad reviews can’t stop you from writing if you really want to write — but as Tess wisely points out, they can stop you from being published (and certainly from being well published).

    The flipside is that the right review at the right time can energize the publishing house and the readers (and other reviewers) and really make a difference in a writer’s career.

    I’d rather write the second kind of review than the first, even though there are some careers that we all might like to see ended.

  15. M.J

    Good PW’s (or any other reviews) help, bad ones are just ignored these days and I’ve talked to over half a dozen publishers who’ve confirmed that in the last two years.

  16. I.J.Parker

    I feel for you, Tess. I also agree with the others that you simply went on to prove them wrong.My own case is different. I got the good reviews but not the sales. To my mind that ends up being far more destructive and demoralizing. Sales are more important than reviews for getting another book published.

  17. j.t. ellison

    “I’d rather write the second kind of review than the first, even though there are some careers that we all might like to see ended.”

    He said, IN JEST. Right?

  18. Brett Battles

    Tess, well said. You make several excellent, valid points here. I, too, get anxious around the time reviews come out. If there good or even just ok, I breath a sigh of relief and then forget them. If they’re bad, I loose sleep and remember them to this day. Ugh.

  19. Douglas Clegg

    Tess – Sorry to hear about the bad experience with reviews. I can’t think of a single novelist who hasn’t been there (assuming the novelist is relatively prolific.)

    I think reviews are for the readers, not for the writers. Some of my favorite novels received negative reviews when they first came out. It can be heartening to look for reviews of novels from the 19th and early-to-mid-20th century, particularly for those novels that are now considered classics.

    I just ignore anything negative at this point (but it’s been a trial by fire to get here). Life is short, and I’m not writing for reviewers, I’m writing for myself and those readers who want to read the kind of story I write.

    Some of them _may_ be reviewers, but if they’re not, that’s fine — the reviewers have a different readership.

    Critics and reviewers are vitally important to the book trade, and I still believe that most readers of reviews don’t remember whether it was a stellar review or not (unless that reader already doesn’t like the author’s work, then that person may remember) — all most of us remember is that we’ve heard of the book when we walk in the bookstore or see the book promoted online.

    Genuine book criticism is important, and reviews are important. But for the writer? They’re too late — the book is already in print, flaws and all. As well as the good stuff.

    Katharine Hepburn was quoted about reviews, and I believe she responded that she didn’t read them because the bad ones were devastating, and the good ones were never good enough. Or something to that effect.

    I suspect that’s a smart approach to anyone in the arts who wants to keep moving ahead with his or her writing.

    I believe it is an absolute responsibility to the reader — and the self — that a writer who believes in her or his work forges ahead with it despite any slings, arrows or other objects lobbed against the writer’s previous fiction.

    If the writer doesn’t believe in the work the writer is creating, why should the reader?

    So, Tess, regarding The Bone Garden — good for you for writing the novel you genuinely felt had to be written by you — the one that consumed you for years.

    I don’t believe any writer actually stops writing JUST because of a bad review. I do believe not everyone is cut out to write fiction as a career path. Reviews and criticism are part of the territory. We walk the plank, and sometimes we fall and sometimes we fly.

    But there’s always that next plank waiting, and I for one enjoy that short but sweet walk to its edge. It makes it easier to take that walk if you trust the leap.

  20. Jim

    Authors have a duty to their readers to deliver a good product. After all, the author is asking the reader to invest 6 or 7 hours of his/her life, basically on trust. If the reader honestly doesn’t enjoy the book, for whatever reason, the author has not accomplished the stated goal. That can, and should, have an impact on the author when the author finds out about it.

    On the other hand, we must reaslize that every book is not intended for every reader. There will be misfires. Plus, there is no shortage of mean people in the world, who write something negative not necessarily because the book didn’t connect, but because they are simply an angry person.

    The secret is to keep it all in perspective and to consider the source of the praise or the thrashing. If someone trashes my book because there’s too much sex in it, that doesn’t bother me, because it’s more of a philosophical difference between the author and the reader, and really doesn’t have much to do with the book. If someone trashes it because they figured out the ending at page 100, well, that’s a whole different matter …

    But, to get to your question, in the end only the author can end/his career, not a review or even a string of reviews. While external forces may play on an author, and may have more impact on some days than others, it’s the internal fortitude and foundation of the author that will rule in the end.

  21. Fiona

    Tess, thank you for sharing your thoughts and how you have dealt with reviews.

    It seems that some reviewers find it more enjoyable (for themselves) to see how nasty they can be. The bigger the author, the nastier the review, just to get attention for themselves. “Oh, wow, you really took on famous XYZ author.”

    Not every story you write is going to appeal to every reader, or every reviewer. You don’t write the same story every time, so you CAN’T appeal to each reader the same way with every story.

    It was very apparent to me, as a reader, how much research and passion went into THE BONE GARDEN.

    Remember, you’re not writing for the reviewers, you’re writing for the READERS, and there are lots of us out there. We don’t want the same book every time, and thank goodness you give us something new each time. Please don’t stop.

  22. Rosebud

    For what it’s worth, speaking strictly from a reader’s point-of-view (‘cause I ain’t no writer), I don’t pay that much attention to what the reviewer’s say. Though just being human, I can see where you might want to fall on your sword if someone said your book stunk after you’d spent months agonizing over every word. No matter the level of success, you’d have to be awfully thick skinned not to let some of it affect (effect?) you. For me, it’s more the fact they’ve put the name of the book and author out there that could pique my interest. I may get an idea of the story from what they wrote, but I kind of discount both the grand praising and wildly disparaging adjectives. Because as ArkansasCyndi said, “opinions are like”…uh…yeah, they’re definitely like that.

    Getting the name of a book will lead me to check it out at a B&N or even Amazon or somewhere I can usually find a synopsis of the plot. Which sort of leads me to the question; do you pay any attention to the mostly reader reviews people put up on those sites? Tess, I know just enough to know nothing about the brouhaha you got swept up in with some crackpots at Amazon – so that withstanding – do those reader reviews mean anything to you guys or is most of your interest in what published reviewers say, since I would assume, they get seen by the most people?

    I realize reader reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt as well. Sometimes I read them and wonder if we’ve even read the same book! People can carry on and on about something I think is crap and rain all over a book I loved. Go figure.

    There’s a NY Times bestselling author who puts out a book every summer and the national reviewers always seem to say it’s great. In the distant past, I’ve really enjoyed the series and I’ve continued to read them because, honestly, I don’t have to spend my money on them – the library is my friend. But the last few have been utter drivel! (there’s that bleeping opinion again!) The published reviews make me think there’s something rotten in Denmark…or somewhere. It can’t be their true opinion…really…can it? Does publishing have an insider’s game where it’s who you know? Or what you’ve done in the past gets you an ongoing pass? If so, that makes it very unfortunate for some fantastic writers I love but never see on lists, and really deserve to be there.

    Every year people go ape%*#@ over Oprah’s book club choice (probably better press than any review anywhere). Years ago I tried one of her picks and could barely get through it. I figured it was just me (and it very well may have been) so I gave another one a go. Three-fourths of the way through the next one the protagonist had me so depressed and hacked off I wanted to ram my head into a wall. She was such a moron I didn’t care if she lived or died, I just wanted her to stop being an idiot. I put it down never to finish, which is very rare for me. Now when I see something is an “Oprah book”, that’s my first clue to avoid it.

    God forbid she ever chooses an author I already like. I’ll have a real dilemma on my hands!

  23. Allison Brennan

    I’ve often lamented that mass market originals are essentially ignored by reviewers, but maybe that’s a good thing . . . 🙂 I’m actually glad PW has essentially ignored me. I got one neutral/slightly negative review on my third book, and I’m fine that they don’t want to review my other books (and considering that they only review 4 PBOs a week, there’s plenty out there they can review!)

    I’m a bit more zen about reviews now. I can withstand criticism better. It still stings, and sometimes the writing is harder for a couple days because one stupid idiot on Amazon stuck the knife in one of my weaknesses that I’m particularly sensitive about, but in the end I get far more joy out of storytelling than I would doing anything else. And Toni always asks if I want her to sic Bobbie Faye on them . . .

    Mark Terry recently interviewed me for the Thriller Writers newsletter and he asked, “Are you still having fun?” That day, I was a week late on my revisions and still didn’t know how the book was going to end, preparing to leave for the Levy Bus Tour in Michigan, and I’d just received an email from my editor that sales and copy needed the synopses of my next two books which I had NO IDEA what I was going to write about other than something very vague and so wispy I was afraid to look at it fearing it would disappear.

    But without hesitation, I told Mark, “Yes.” The stress comes and goes, and there are days I want to pound my head on the keyboard, but there’s nothing I’d rather do. I finished my revisions, came up with two ideas (one of which I changed a week later after stewing over it) and went to Michigan.

  24. Jake Nantz

    I haven’t even gotten to THE KEEPSAKE yet…I’m still stewing over THE MEPHISTO CLUB. You know, that part of you that goes, “How did I not see that coming?” And then the smart half responds, “Because it was well written, hidden in plain sight, and don’t you wish you could do it that well.”

    Come to think of it, I do wish that. Remarkably well written, Ms. Gerritsen. Oh, and to speak to something you said in your interview with Ms. Ruttan, whoever wondered how you could have gotten an Edgar nomination because you once wrote romance? They can stick their opinion in that other thing everyone has. You’re an excellent thriller writer in my book.

  25. Rob Gregory Browne

    Maybe it’s me, but I laugh about bad reviews. I remember one reviewer — probably an Amazon person, or the like — saying something like, “The only thing surprising about this book is that it got published at all.”

    I thought that was a pretty clever line and I laughed. My feeling? To each his own. You can’t make everyone happy. And all of the other great Amazon reviews I got went a long way toward letting me laugh it off.

    So I have a rule. Shrug off the bad reviews and revel in the good ones. Why let someone’s opinion cripple you? It’s not worth the energy.

  26. tess

    Thanks for all the great comments!

    Jim asked, “why do you keep doing it — keep letting your books go to market despite the stress and the heartache?” I guess the simple answer is: because I love to tell stories. I would write regardless of whether I ever sold another book. And once the book is written, there are people who actually want to read that story. So I guess the pull of wanting to share one’s story ends up outweighing the downside of having to deal with the critics.

    Re: Amazon reader reviews — I’ve learned to shrug off the unpleasant ones and move on. It’s the printed, professional reviews that can most end up damaging one’s career — especially the trade reviews that are published weeks or even months prior to a book’s release.

  27. Catherine

    I just looked up some local library stats for The Bone Garden.We’re a relatively small region (in SE QLD Australia), however even a year after this book was published …every one of the 28 Bone Garden books, tape or large print are out.There is still a reserve waiting in the wings too.That to me indicates a fairly strong desire to read this particular book.

    I do know that some library readers will read reviews,however based on a continuing strong demand to read The Bone Garden, I doubt too many people let this influence them.

    I do take your point that bad reviews could affect a book earlier in it’s life cycle, when people are ordering books.Further down the line amongst our regional library readers, it doesn’t seem to have fazed them much at all.

    Has anyone ever been able to quantify the link between library readers and sales?

  28. L.J. Sellers

    Thanks for sharing that story even though it must have been painful for you. I feel more prepared now to face the setbacks that are sure to come. If you still love writing, I hope you stay with it. Readers will be grateful.

  29. JOANN

    I decide whether or not to read a book based mostly on the recommendations of other readers. Fortunately, I have a wide circle of “good reader” friends.

    Tess, why the need to produce a book a year? I must admit that seeing a new book every year by an author makes me wonder…….

  30. Eva

    Dear Tess,I enjoy reading your blog and always come over here to “Murderati” when you are writing a column.

    I feel with you because I know how much bad reviews hurt …

    But please remember this:The more you get famous (and you are very famous !) the more some reviews will be brutal and humiliating. These reviews tell us more about the reviewer’s soul and state of mind than about the quality of the reviewed book. It is the old adage of conceiled (or maybo not so well conceiled) jealousy …

    So please just keep writing and do not stop. Your readers are more important than your reviewers. When you feel down and out again, just look at your sales numbers and royalty checks – those should cheer you up.

    Best wishes for a wonderful writing career and many, many more books to come -Eva

  31. Corey Wilde

    First, let me just say that I have not read any of Ms. Gerritsen’s books, so I am not commenting specifically about her work.

    If I spend both money and time on a book and am dissatisfied with it, I see no reason not to say so — as long as I say it courteously, rather than maliciously, and as long as I provide thoughtful reasons for my dissatisfaction.

    I do not accept responsibility for any writer who, upon reading something critical I’ve written, chooses to lay down his pen. Many of us, those of us who work in less creative jobs than writing, have endured our own job performance reviews that were, from our perspective, critical, harsh, and unfair. Our merit raises were tied to those reviews. And it all gets said right to our face. Like Ms. Gerritsen, we are wounded, humiliated, and would like nothing better than to collect our tattered pride and depart with a class ‘take this job and shove it.’ But since we rarely have the luxury of considering whether to quit or change jobs, more often than not we go right back to work, doing our best to figure out how to please the boss.

  32. Karen Scott

    It seems that some reviewers find it more enjoyable (for themselves) to see how nasty they can be. The bigger the author, the nastier the review, just to get attention for themselves. “Oh, wow, you really took on famous XYZ author.”

    How very cynical of you.

    But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

    So basically what you’re saying is that all/most reviewers can’t write worth a damn, and certainly no better than the average author? Really? Is that what you were saying?

    Do you really believe this, or did it just strike you as a clever thing to write?

    A review can’t end one’s writing career, the only person with that much power is the author herself.

    If you put your work out there, then you’d better be prepared to take the negatives as well as the positives, because no matter how good a writer you are, not everybody will love your work.

    If you can’t manage that, then I’d suggest taking up needlepoint. Less chance of Publisher’s Weekly slaying your masterpiece.

  33. Retarius

    As a reader and (very) amateur writer I’ve learned that the commercially-generated opinion stream is very dubious. You’re more likely to find value in the efforts of the genuinely-interested reader who posts to a site like Goodreads than in the rantings of a paid-by-the-paragraph hack who skims and just knocks it out for the money.

    It’s also true that if a million people read a book you’ll get a star-rating spectrum or distribution curve that covers 1 to 5. What matters is where the median point on that curve is.

  34. tess

    “But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

    Karen, that quote is from the film “Ratatouille.” If you’re going to blast the person for posting that, perhaps you should instead direct your comments to the filmmaker, who clearly has his own opinion of critics.

  35. Sigyn

    The Bone Garden was the first of your books that I read, and I absolutely loved it. When I want a book that I know will not fail me, I turn to one of yours. Every book of yours that I have read, never fails to disappoint. So please know, that even though the occassional nasty review may rear its ugly head, there are plenty of us out there that will see your book for the work of art it truly is.


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