Your Anonymous Complaints Are Tiresome (And Wrong)

By Neal Comment

A quick follow-up to Andy’s item yesterday about whether or not Madonna’s brother is a flop artist, based on a (very familiar) bit of anonymous whinging that showed up in the tip box yesterday. Actually, I don’t have anything to say one way or the other about Madonna or her brother or his book, but this line jumped out at me:

“The writing is flat and second the person telling the story is not loved. People will not spend money on a book that has these two glaring flaws.”

Four words: If I Did It. Also, not for nothing, but Dick Morris currently holds the #2 spot on the NY Times hardcover nonfiction list. (Although I am willing to concede the possiblity that somebody, somewhere, might love Dick Morris.)

Anyway, it’s complainers like this that make me glad I was able to stop reading the anonymous tip box when Andy joined the team a few months ago. Looking back over nearly three years of writing GalleyCat, I have a hard time thinking of any substantial, meaningful insights about books or the publishing industry that came through such unsigned messages, as opposed to emails I’ve gotten from people who identified themselves to me but requested anonymity if I chose to write about their perspectives. (There might well be exceptions; I just can’t think of them offhand.) Instead, what we get, after culling through the spambot messages, is a lot ill-mannered sniping about how what we choose to write about on GalleyCat doesn’t reinforce somebody else’s (negative) perspective on the industry.

There’s been some recent chatterboxing around the blogosphere about the possibility that comments aren’t really an asset, and though I don’t think that’s anywhere near a universal truth, I’ve heard from enough anonymous resentniks to understand what makes the proposition attractive to the people who are actually out there creating the content.

It’s not that we can’t take criticism—I can’t speak for Andy, but plenty of people have emailed me, or pulled me aside, and politely explained, without resorting to insults, how we’ve missed the ball… sometimes I’ve wound up agreeing with them. The unsigned complaints? Never constructive, never helpful. That’s why, as soon as I could, I stopped dealing with them, so I could spend more time with real people whose judgment I respect and trust.

Maybe one of those whiners will start his own blog someday, and make such a compelling argument about the state of publishing that I’ll be forced to pay attention… but I doubt it.