Thursday, March 15, 2012

Authors behaving badly: Jamie McGuire

What were you doing three days ago on March 12th? If you were Jamie McGuire, the answer would be that you were fuming over someone supposedly mis-classifying your novel. Every novel has negative reviews, but recently some negative reviews of McGuire's novel Beautiful Disaster came under criticism for being overly harsh.

In Amazon reviewer Wendy's review, she stated that she was worried about the message the book was sending out to its younger readers since Travis could be seen as a "possessive VIOLENT man who has no redeeming qualities. If you put his character in the real world he would most likely be a date rapist/serial killer." (For the full review, click here.)

After reading this, McGuire was quick to post that the book wasn't a YA novel, but a contemporary romance, so it wasn't really meant to be oriented towards teen readers. Fair enough, but it was also revealed that the book was classified as YA in several places on the internet such as Goodreads, where it was in the running for their "2011 Best YA Fiction award"... with McGuire herself campaigning to have people add/vote it up in the rankings. The book is also said to contain several elements that are traditionally oriented towards YA readers.

Now up until this point I was willing to give McGuire the benefit of the doubt, that this is just exasperation over the book's genre and that she lacked the thick skin that all authors need to have. But she made the second cardinal mistake of authors (the first being that you don't reply to negative reviews at all). She kept replying. Then she made the third cardinal mistake: blogging/posting about it in her social networks. Needless to say, it got a little nasty and people began to see McGuire in a negative light.

Then there's the Goodreads review by Sophia. (Click here for that review.) To my knowledge McGuire hasn't posted on this review, but she did blog about it. Unfortunately I don't have screenshots of the blog and McGuire has removed it, but comments suggest that she took a "poor me/martyr" type stance, ranting about it. (This is how it's described in the reviews.) Since I haven't read the replies to this specific review, I'm going to leave this section short.

Let me say this right now: if you are an author or plan on putting out ANYTHING for public consumption, whether it's your homemade cookies or a 340 page novel, expect negative reviews. No matter how bad the reviews appear, DO NOT REPLY TO THEM. You can't win and the only thing that happens is that you end up with egg on your face when readers assume that you're bullying the reader.

And for goodness sakes, please don't blog about it to your friends and fans. Even if you don't tell them which site the review is on and the reviewer doesn't discover your post (in this case she did), the average fan is way smarter than you think they are. They'll discover it, most likely because in the same amount of time it takes you to post a rant on facebook saying that you're being "witchhunted", other bloggers will have talked about the story and your fans will discover it from there. (Or they'll just look in the most popular reviewing sites, two of which happen to be Amazon and Goodreads.)

Your comments will almost never discredit the review or get them removed. All it will do is make you look bad and will only get the review voted to the top of the other reviews. In other words, the complete OPPOSITE of what you wanted. If any of this advice sounds redundant, well... it's just that authors don't seem to be learning from their fellow authors' mistakes. Seriously guys, this type of behavior has ruined reputations for life. Nobody in the literary/reader field will ever be able to hear names like Candace Sams without remembering that they had a meltdown in public view.

I have to admit that I'm a little concerned over the message that Wendy and other reviewers claim is within the book. If this is a theme in the book (which it may or may not be, since I haven't read the book and can't verify this), then it's not really a great thing to be promoting to any age group. I've read some of the things that happen in the book and as someone who has had friends and family members go through some pretty abusive relationships, I admit that many of the red flags are there.

All I can suggest in the future is that authors make sure to really take a look at their main characters' romance and see if it throws up any signs of potential dysfunction. If so, try to write around it to where the changes in personality are more realistic. Even if you think that the changes in a book are already realistic, do that extra bit of research to ensure that they're REALLY realistic. That you're writing a fictional novel doesn't matter- realism should be reached when it comes to things like relationships. No, you don't have to write about Travis farting in bed (although reading that in a book would be funny), but if you're going to handle something like a dysfunctional relationship you should be realistic. I myself would love to see an adult/YA novel where the relationship is written in a realistically dysfunctional way and the pair work through it. It would mean a lack of a traditional happily ever after, but it'd be something that very few other authors have tried.


  1. For some reason, they create a lot of buzz. Sometimes, it doesn't seem fair to us well behaved self-published authors.
    Also, take a look at this.

  2. I know this is late to the party, but very well said! I'm a ya author and will be graduating college next month with a teaching degree so I've learned pretty well what gets written and what doesn't on the internet. The internet is like tattoos, perminant and never really goes away even when you think you've gotten rid of it! I've read Beautiful D. and I've read V.C. Andrews in 7th grade, Beautiful D. really shouldn't be advertised as young adult, it is even in some Barnes and Nobles. Thank you for linking the parts you were aware of. I had seen postings saying her bad behavior and was curious, but it's a little sickening when you see parts of it, but then other parts say she deleted it. Still doesn't show herself in good light...