How to respond to criticism

Let’s say you’re a publisher and you come across a blog where a librarian is (unfairly, you think) criticizing your press’s output. Here are some suggested ways to respond:

1) “Hi Blogger, we’re really surprised to hear this criticism. Can you please point us to the specific volumes and series where you found these issues so we can take a look?”

2) “Hi Blogger, we acknowledge there were some issues. We did an overhaul of our editorial process in 2010 and have modified the way the books are bound to make them sturdier. We would be happy to send you a couple of volumes from our 2013 catalogue so you can see these changes for yourself. If you agree these are improvements, we would appreciate a follow-up blog post.”

3) “Hi blogger, we know the price of our product seem expensive. We serve a niche market, and balancing the desire to make books accessible with the need to be sustainable is difficult. Please take a look at our 2012 annual report to see where that money goes.”

4) “Hi world, This blogger has also written scathingly about 8 other small presses, and we don’t believe these criticisms are valid. That said, we always welcome feedback from our readers and the libraries we work with. If you yourself have concerns about any book published by Press X, please take a moment to Contact Us!”

Here are some good ways not to respond:

1) Trolling the Chronicle message board, posting over and over again about your press’s credentials without ever responding to specific question as if you’ve never been on the internet (here)

2) Suing Dale Askey, Assistant University Librarian at McMaster University (here, here, and here). CAPAL, the PLG-GTA, and McMaster (who are also being sued by Mellen, amazing)  have all written statements  on why this is a really bad, unfounded idea (in case that wasn’t obviously).

If you haven’t been following this story like a crazed person (guilty) but want more, here’s the actual notice of action against Dale and here’s Mellen’s own curious policy on publishing with them.

Now look, Mellen Press. I’ve worked retail. I know the customer is not always right, and sometimes they are flat-out jerks with a chip on their shoulder. Dale is not that customer, and he also has a lot of allies (become one here!) who are probably the only people in the world who buy your books. I would like it if this story ended with you retracting the suit and making some major changes, but your self-destructive tendencies make that seem unlikely.

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One response to “How to respond to criticism

  1. Pingback: Publisher hits new low: Suing librarian for criticizing their books [Confessions of a Science Librarian] ← Test Blog

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