Friday, April 30, 2021

Don't Make Me Punch You in the Face

 by Abir Mukherjee

When a reader takes the time to find your email address and compose a letter telling you they don’t like your books, how do you respond? How would you like to respond, if that’s different?



Morning. Friday again. Lots to do, so let’s run through this quickly. 


No one has ever written to me saying they don’t like my books. This is understandable because really, life’s too short to go to the trouble of looking up some hack author’s e-mail address and writing them a mail telling them how bad they are. I mean, why would you? I don’t look up Eddie Murphy’s e-mail address and write him a missive saying why did you bother with Coming to America 2, and exactly what happened to you after the eighties? No. I don’t do that because I’m not a nutter and I have better things to do, at least most of the time. 


That’s not to say I haven’t had bad reviews (Oh Lord, have I had bad reviews), but that’s fine, cos they are on forums like Goodreads and Amazon and I don’t look at them any more cos one bad review can destroy my confidence for about a week.


But I have received some reviews (and these are all real) which I am proud of, including:


    “This book reads like it was written by a bank teller.” 1 star

    “Package arrived quickly and in good condition.” 5 stars

    “I didn’t order this and I will not read it.” 1 star


    “This book was the perfect thickness to balance the wobbly leg on my table.” 

    5 stars


At least they tend to balance out.


Occasionally, someone will write a bad review and tag an author on Facebook or Twitter, and in my opinion that’s pretty bad form. It’s been said before, but an author’s book is like their baby. You don’t like it? Fine. But don’t feel the need to tell us about it. How would you like it if an author tagged you on a tweet that said your toddler looked like Alfred Hitchcock had a fight with a frying pan?


What readers need to realise is that most writers are borderline crazy – many would be certifiable if they ever left their houses. We are people who spend the day locked up in basements or attics concocting ridiculous lies in our heads which we then try to pass off to people as being believable. Do you really want to pick a fight with the likes of us?


Here’s a couple of examples of authors tracking down people who gave them bad reviews:,%2C%2018%2C%20at%20her%20work.



Seriously, authors be crazy.


But some kinds of authors are more mental than others. If you do fancy taking your life into your own hands and writing an e-mail to an author telling them how one dimensional their characters are, or how you don’t think their hero (let’s call him Wam Syndham) would ever act that way, then here’s a handy guide to which authors are more or less likely to cause you grievous bodily harm or hunt down members of your immediate family.



Literary fiction authors – because of the zero-sum nature of literary fiction (in that people only buy these books if they’ve won prizes or are praised to the sky by Julian Hamptons-Smythe in the New Yorker or the London Review of Books), your pathetic criticism of their masterpiece means nothing to them (unless you’re a Booker Prize judge or Julian Hamptons-Smythe). They are far too busy bitching about other literary authors in the hope that it’ll improve their own chances of winning an award to care what you might think about them. Just go back to your plebian little life and let them get on with their navel gazing and existential angst.


Authors of biographies – These guys have the will-power and perseverance to write a thousand page hardback on the life of Pope Gregory the Ninth. You think your five line, poorly punctuated and grammatically incoherent e-mail is going to phase them? Seriously? These guys will send you a fifteen page reply that will bore you to death.


Ghost writers – They really don’t care what you think about a book they wrote for minimum wage for some gormless, illiterate celebrity who gets all the credit for their work. They’re phoning it in while working on their techno-thriller about a sentient toaster that destroys mankind that will make them famous one day.


Crime fiction – These are idiots who literally spend their days coming up with new and ingenious and /or gruesomely horrific ways of murdering you and getting away with it. But arrogance and their need for an audience means these authors WILL get caught for murdering you because they want the world to know about their crimes. Seriously, do you really want your life to end up as a plot point? No? Then don’t criticise them.


Romantic fiction – The most violent sort of authors. Don’t be fooled by all the love they show on the page, these people are pure nutters who would scratch your eyes out if you even looked at them funny. 


Sci-fi authors – ‘Mostly Harmless’



So there you go. If you really feel like you have nothing better to do than upset an author, make it a sci-fi author, cos they’re the nicest of the lot and probably won’t kill you. But I don’t really need to tell you that, because you’re not the sort of person who would do that in the first place. 

Because you’re lovely.








Dietrich Kalteis said...

That's good advice, Abir. Pick on a sci-fi writer. Why if Ray Bradbury were still alive …

Susan C Shea said...

The literary author crowd spend prodigious amounts of time wasp-stinging others in their playpen. And pity the poor soul among them who wins a major award - the winner has a target painted on his or her back (rarely a woman since it's mostly white men who win these) for at least the next decade. By comparison, we're all sweethearts. (We actually are.)

Catriona McPherson said...

This made me laugh so much. Thank you, Abir, Cx

Abir said...

@Dietrich - Ha! Good point, sir!

Abir said...

Cheers Catriona!

Abir said...

Well said, Susan!