This week Naomi Blackburn continues her “Authors Gone Wild” column with a post on sabotage! Juvenile tactics and book bashing have no place in the literary world, Naomi warns. In Authors Gone Wild, she’ll discuss author etiquette, bad behaviors that rankle both readers and reviewers, and she’ll offer some positive alternative behaviors to get your books noticed. 

Naomi is founder of the Goodreads group Sisterhood of the Traveling Books, as well as the Nordic Noir group, dedicated to discussing Scandinavian mysteries. This year, Goodreads ranked her at # 11 on their top reviewer list, in both the U.S. and in the world (2011 rankings). As a reviewer, Naomi is brilliant, insightful, and, as she puts it, “brutally honest.”

Please feel free to leave questions for Naomi, as well as any suggestions you may have for future posts. I hope you enjoy the column!

Authors Gone Wild: What Goes Around Comes Around: Sabotaging the Work of Others

by Naomi Blackburn

Naomi BlackburnLast year, a writer sent me a frantic email. She had written a fantastic piece of fiction, based on occurrences in her life while she was living in London. Let’s just say that the better chunk of these incidents would make a sailor blush – the drugs and alcohol flowed freely and she was in love with an unavailable, game playing, addicted-to-anything-one-could-be-addicted-to boyfriend.

Anyhow, back to my story, she emailed me frantically saying she had received word that a ‘publisher,’ who was actually the basis for the ‘boyfriend’ character and, in reality, was a totally dysfunctional, highly addicted and very married man, had made plans with a couple of his publishing buddies to bash the living daylights out of her book. Did I say that this was really a very loose memoir, written as a piece of fiction with NO identification as to who the real players were??

My response to her was to ignore it. I thought this ‘stupidity’ would be covered up by the extremely high ratings coming in for the book, plus the fact that 2 national women’s magazines had put it on their must-read list. Now, he ended up coming to his senses and he didn’t do it.

But it got me to thinking and then this business of sabotaging authors for one’s own purposes really started to agitate me. Readers depend on reviews to assess the big world of books. Books come at us in every format known to mankind with the exception of hypnosis. There has to be a way to determine the TRUE quality of a book. When authors resort to juvenile tactics, bashing books based on competition or childish games, the readers are stuck in the middle!

Do authors think readers don’t notice this behavior? If their answer is ‘yes,’ then they are wrong. There are posts on both Goodreads and Amazon on authors behaving badly. One of the bad behaviors concerns authors bashing others’ books for no purpose other than putting down a competitor.

I wonder if authors who do this know how it reflects on them. In my research (I swear I need to get a life!) I have seen authors actually ATTACH THEIR REAL NAME to a poor review and poorly written review of a competitor’s work. Some do go incognito; however, it is still pretty obvious who wrote the negative review, why it was written and what the agenda was. I once saw an author bash another author’s book on mathematics. Yes, this was an academic doing this! I made it a point to let the bashing academic know that it actually reflected on his own work rather than that of the author whose book he felt justified in bashing.

I have a few questions for authors who resort to bashing their competitors’ books:

A. Why do you feel that this is appropriate?
B. What would you do if another author did this to you? Would you cry, ‘Foul’?
C. Are you so insecure about your own work that you feel it cannot stand up to competition? By writing drive-by reviews, you are stating that you are.

I can’t remember where I read this story, but I thought it was interesting and I have taken it to heart. One new author went around leaving drive-by reviews for authors whose books she felt were competition to hers. Her publisher, who knew nothing about her actions, sent her book for review to a pretty popular author who happened to have been a victim of this author’s rip-apart reviews. Can you guess what happened??? Yep, the popular author wrote a STINGING REVIEW!!! I am reminded of the old adage: WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND!!!


About Naomi Blackburn

Naomi is a book reviewer and founder of the Goodreads group Sisterhood of the Traveling Book, as well as the Nordic Noir group, dedicated to discussing Scandinavian mystery writers. Goodreads ranks her #29 on their top reviewer list for the U.S. and #35 globally of all time. This year, she topped the list at #11 for both U.S. and global reviewers. She is also on the Goodreads list as the #46 top reader in the United States (2011 rankings).

When she’s not reading, she loves to cook and bake for her family and friends and to all around entertain! Although she loves wine, she loves to play with various liquors and considers herself to be quite the mixologist! She loves to putter around her house and play with things in it, as well. She recently started a food blog called The Pub and Grub Forum, dedicated to making and reviewing food and drink recipes, and she even throws in a couple of her own concoctions! Finally, she loves to scuba dive, play golf, travel and hike/bike. She’d love to relocate to an area where she could do all this stuff 24/7/365!!!

She holds an MBA and has 12 years of experience in healthcare business development. Currently, she works as a healthcare consultant/independent contractor in the areas of business development and marketing.