Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

How to ruin your writing career in 1 easy step

Surprise. Shock. Pity. Scorn.

Those were the range of emotions I felt once I'd read through what amounts to the complete and absolute implosion of an indie writer's career.

It all started with an unfavorable book review on BigAl's Books and Pals site where Big Al reviews indie novels. The book is The Greek Seaman. Its author, Jacqueline Howett. Big Al rated the novel 2 stars out of 5, not because of the story itself, but because of the numerous grammatical and spelling errors. He actually makes it a point to say that the story itself is interesting, but that the numerous errors create too many stumbling points for the reader to get through.

One reason is the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant. At times, you’ll be engrossed in the story when you’ll run across a flowery description of the emotions Katy is feeling about her situation or her husband. These are numerous and sometimes very good. Chances are one of these sections originally pulled you so deeply into Katy’s world. Then you’ll run into one that doesn’t work and get derailed again. Reading shouldn’t be that hard.

Writers have to have thick skins. Not everyone is going to like what we write, nor should we expect favorable reviews at every turn. The question becomes one of professionalism those times where we do run into a bad review. Is it worth commenting? Should you just ignore it? Jacqueline Howett chose the former, and went about it in the worst way possible.

Here's her initial comment to Big Al's review:

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She then goes on to post some of those "5 star" reviews from Amazon.

At this point, she's really not doing too badly. A bit over the top, but I can live with her response if only she'd left it at that. She doesn't, but goes on to say:

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and,

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At this point I started to see what Big Al was talking about. If the errors in structure in her comments are any indication of her grammatical skill (or lack thereof), then it would seem his review is correct and justified.

I have to admit that I often dismiss advice from bloggers and other writers concerning how to act professionally. I've worked in a professional capacity for near twenty years now, and hardly need the advice. Also, I thought, what person wouldn't act professionally? It's common sense, right? Apparently not for everyone.

Far from a Charlie Sheen-like response, where people flocked to the actor's Twitter account in apparent fascination following his own meltdown, Howett has garnered only scorn, pity, and numerous commenters saying they've no desire to read anything at all by her now. Given that Howett at one point tells other commenters to "f*** off", I don't blame them.

The question now becomes where does Howett go from here? Is there any salvation for her? It really depends how she carries herself from this point forward. She needs to apologize—that much is certain—and in a non-condescending manner. Not only to Big Al, but to her readers and the other commenters on Big Al's review. In the apology she needs to admit she was wrong. Then she needs to go hire a professional editor to show sincerity. I don't know if even that is enough at this point, but it's a start.

I'll leave you with one of Howett's closing comments:

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4/2/2011 Update: It gets worse. Reviewers are piling on the bad reviews on Amazon. This author really did a number on herself.

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