Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good, the always controversial sarah lacy

NYT Review of...Me?

That's right. Me personally. Not so much my book. (Also mentioned. Is my love. Of incomplete. Sentences.)

Apparently, the NYTBR circulates reviews of books to publishers before they come out as a courtesy. The courtesy to, say, review a book on its merits alone is not so extended! I don't have an issue so much with the criticisms, but why get so personal, Katie Hafner?

The lead seethes with sarcasm calling me out for, as best as I can tell, promoting my book, um, well? It's pretty clear from the tone and details of what I-said-or-didn't-say leading up to publication that she didn't just pick this book up without a pre-existing ax to grind. Just read it for yourself this weekend. Honestly, the fact that anyone seems to hate me quite so much makes it downright amazing that she actually had some very nice things to say about the book! The chapters she liked were some of the hardest to write so I do take that as a great compliment.

Still, I'm not quite sure what I did to you Katie, but sincere apologies because it was obviously pretty bad! I could spend some time answering back the criticisms but I'll let fans of the book do that. Besides, Katie has clearly been waiting for the moment to take me out in print, so I figured it was the least I could do to help build some anticipation for the article. Enjoy! I'll let you know when I start my next book so you can start gathering string for Sarah-Lacy-hit-job no. 2! ;)


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That was ridiculous, especially the part about incomplete sentences. What did you do to her?!?!

The review is up.. and yup it sure does sound personal.. its funny that she dedicated a whole paragraph to talk about your sentence..

let's be honest. architect is a verb AND a noun. what east coast rag is this again? the post?

You wrote a great book. She wrote a pathetic review. Enough said.

WTF, that wasn't a review that was a collection of potshots.

Here are my theories on her motivation...

1. In an attempt to REARCHITECT her career she hopes that by pissing off your legions of fans the backlash will give a buzz bump.

2. She is jealous that she wasn't considered by playboy or even mentioned on the top 100 list.

3. After reading your book she looked at the titles of her own books and went into such a fit of rage and jealousy.

But here is one hidden upside, think of all the conservatives you are going to pick up in your fan base who will do the exact opposite of whatever the NYT says.

It's pretty obvious that this woman is upset of your great smile, Sarah.

Same thing with the SXSW interview. People that criticized you were a bunch of gay couples that were jealous of your great smile.

You see, I bet you are smiling now while you read this. That's what I am talking about: great smile. :)

Sarah, the fact that you generate such controversy is a testament to how influential and smart you are.

With success comes that I think =)

I don't understand all the sensitivity about personal attacks in this review (i.e. there are none). There's no name-calling here. And as far as criticizing a stylistic choice like using incomplete sentences goes, the reviewer is within their purview.

The critical thing that the reviewer said that will keep me from reading the book (even though it was on my to-read list) is that despite the title, the book doesn't address the specific faculties possessed by someone who successfully launches multiple businesses. That's what I would be interested in; that's not what the book is about.

It's not that bad a review, and it's really not that personal. I've read MUCH worse.


At least you couldn't roll out the sexist card on this one. Relax! It's just a review, and it's not required to be positive. I'm still looking forward to your next book.

More thoughts: http://mbanks.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/07/sarah-lacy-book-review-validation.html

thanks everyone! a little taken back by the traffic since i posted on a sat!

I actually disagree that I don't address the multiple founder thing. I just didn't want to spend a whole post "she said-she saiding" because I do actually think she has a right to her opinion and the book has gotten so many amazing reviews, I'll let readers judge for themselves. But since you bring it up, I clearly talk about how it's the motivation for jay, max and many others in the book. They are just in the middle of the journey. This is actually the bulk of chapter 2 and 3. But if you want to go by this that's cool! I appreciate the comment!

Marcus: I actually am pretty relaxed! Again this is my blog- I write about things that happen in my professional life and give my two cents on what happens around me. I think I'm pretty within my rights to talk about my feelings on a book review. that's all it is! you seem more worked up than i do! if you think i respond to every piece of criticism-- google me. believe me-- i don't have that many posts! ;) blogs take once static pieces and make them dialogs-- that's what makes them great. as always a pleasure to see you in the comments!

Sarah -

I have to say I think you're too sensitive here. I actually think it's a good review and makes me more likely to read the book. To wit:

"The title promises an incisive, illuminating examination of just what it is that engenders serial success. Indeed, Lacy delivers on that promise with her profile of Marc Andreessen, who helped build one of the first Web browsers and made millions with Netscape, the browser company."


"Her explanation of how venture capital works is instructive and clear, perhaps one of the best yet written for a general readership."

Okay, she takes you to task for grammar and fact-checking. I think most book reviewers would, and most blog-readers would forgive you. That's a difference in old vs. new media viewpoints, but seriously, I don't get anything like personal hatred.

Looking forward to the book.


> Okay, she takes you to task for grammar and fact-checking. I think most book reviewers would, and most blog-readers would forgive you.

Right, there are no facts in this blog and none in the book either. Just senseless zucking up to the Mark.

No offense Sarah, but I don't know what you're smoking.

This review was fairly objective and never deemed to review "you," only your book. The personal attacks so evident in your eyes are nowhere to be seen.

I think you're a good author, but you're taking an even-handed review out of context.

If nothing else, remember that all publicity is good publicity!

you guys are reading this as way more dramatic than it was intended! look: it was a very personal review. remember- the times isn't a blog. people in the publishing industry who saw it were stunned. "Ouch" was the common phrase followed by "what'd you do to her?" but i respect the things about the book she had to say and found the whole thing almost funny because it was so unexpected from the times. honestly my amazon ranking has gone from 10k or so to 2k so i'm not complaining- BELIEVE ME!


You're at the top of Techmeme today. Congrats!! Hope your traffic and book sales go up up and away.

Even though it may be a hit job, it's never good for authors to respond to bad reviews. Plenty of other proxies will do if for you. It just makes you look kind of defensive and pathetic and somewhat validates the review.

i read the hafner review. i also read your book. sorry, but i have to agree with her critique.

Her review made me interested in reading the book, but this blog post sure doesn't.

I haven't read your book, but Hafner's architect/rearchitect comment was out of line.

i agree with some of the folks here that you are totally overreacting..if anything, trying to defend yourself and position Hafner's review as a personal attack just makes people wander what you did to deserve it. Did you two get into a bar brawl back in your Delta Delta Delta college days or something? Also, you do tend to sound overconfident and full of yourself on your blog--makes one think that all you do all day is sit around checking your Amazon ranking. Perhaps you should spend some time reading books on writing? Or doing some reporting?

Hi Sarah,Africa will quite be honored by your presentations at the Next Tech 4 Africa Conference in Jo'burg later this year, welcome!

I took the last three paragraphs of the review as a personal attack. "An embarrassment to the magazine?" I don't think so. But as a reason for it, I wander(sic) if Ms. Hafner went to the same elementary school as you, since she seems to know your fifth grade teacher. And maybe she's still pissed about the time you called her a poopoo head during recess. I think Mrs. Pennywinkle, or any fifth grade teacher for that matter, would be pretty proud that a former student writes for a living. Incomplete sentences. And all.

Yes, it was a personal review.

While I was reading somewhere in the middle of the review, I went back to see the name of the reviewer, just to confirm my suspects: The reviewer was a woman.

Women tend to be jealous of other good looking women that are successful.

I didn't read the review, because I've already read the book and know it rocks, just like the author. The book inspires me to take risks to accomplish things in my life. It's not the mental faculties of the people described in the book that interests me; it's their balls! ...wait, I'm sure there's a better way to say this... I'm inspired by their ability to do what they're passionate about. Their bravery is inspiring. They aren't all geniuses or super-programmers. Kevin Rose is a great example of a normal guy who had a great idea and the determination to see it through. If I hadn't read the book, I would have assumed Kevin was just one of those guys who were writing code in the cradle -- someone I couldn't relate to. Of all the people Sarah writes about, reading Kevin's story was the most inspiring for me. Because I'm definitely not a programmer, but I have great ideas and would still like to do something cool in the Web 2.0 space. That inspiration alone is worth the price of the book and the two evenings it took me to absorb it.

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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