The end of this year will mark my third full year of blogging. I’ve seen book blogs come and go and drama happen – sometimes on a weekly basis. I’ve tried to remain calm, cool, and collected through it all, but it wasn’t until the Stop the GoodReads Bullies drama hit the fan that I began to get a little bit worried.
I’ve, generally speaking, had some good experiences with authors. I try to include in my negative (i.e. critical reviews) what exactly I disliked about the book. I very rarely review DNF books – but on occasion I do review them and state that I did not finish, and why. What all this has come to is me sitting down with a head filled with thoughts and finally, I’m ready to put them down.
First, on critical reviews – these are necessary. I see friends tweeting, remarking on Facebook, or blogging that they hate writing reviews that slant toward the negative but I can assure you – these types of reviews are vital to the blogging community. It’s been said over and over in too many posts to link to here that people tend to trust blogs that review both positively and negatively. Let me give you an example:
I’m friends with quite a few folks on GoodReads, and I read every review that comes up on my feed. There is one individual who only posts 4 and 5 star reviews (and sometimes the written review does not reflect those star ratings and is filled with criticism). Those reviews confuse me, and as a result I do not trust the person putting them up.
If I see a website filled with reviews that both glow and criticize, there is a very good chance I’ll be coming back to see if that reviewer has read the next book I’m looking at picking up. That’s how this works.
Now – on the author front. I have a difficult time siding with either side fully, because in my mind both sides are in the wrong here. Not all authors will attack reviewers, and not all reviewers attack authors. That said – I have been chastised, berated, yelled at, and cursed at for not reviewing self-published books or reviewing one negatively. Unfortunately, there is not a place anywhere where we reviewers can post our interactions with these authors and warn other reviewers about them – except for on reviews of their books. Yet Stop the GR Bullies has deemed this as “bully” reviewing.
My response to those people at that website (which I am deliberately not linking to) is this: you can call out reviewers on bullying only when you allow those of us who have been targeted by authors to do the same. Like I said, neither side is in the right here. For every instance shown of a reviewer targeting an author, the same can be said for the other side. The simplest solution is: do not read the reviews. Seriously – this all starts with the reviewed attacking the reviewer.
When I started school last Fall I made the decision to no longer accept self-published books. I was relieved, because it took a plate filled with drama off of my table and let me focus, instead, on doing something I loved. I still get chastised for this decision – in fact, last May I received the following:
I find it discouraging that site that is nothing more than a self-published review site would put in bold that they don’t review self-published books. Here is a quick list of authors who self-published books: Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leo Tolstoy, Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Louis L’Amour, Marcel Proust, George Bernard Shaw, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, L. Ron Hubbard and Walt Whitman. E-books are going to change publishing forever and you’re going to be sitting on the sidelines with a handful of readers at best because you didn’t make the effort to find something new and interesting to promote.
I had never heard of this author. In spite of that, he decided to target my blog in a way that I took offense to. Using phrases like “nothing more than..” and “you didn’t make the effort” are not ways to make friends – let alone get a stranger to read your book.
Now, look at this query I got from a self-published author (one which I happened to accept):
I noticed your review policy states you do not take submissions from self-published authors, and I totally get why. A lot of us suck, and it seems like the ones who suck the most feel the most entitled to complain when someone says they suck.
Anyway, there’s a chance my novel sucks, but so far the feedback I’ve gotten has been really good. People are talking about how exciting it is to read, that the plot and characters mess with their expectations, and that the novel is full of new ideas. I’m hoping in my case you might consider making an exception. If you don’t like it and put it down before finishing, I promise not to complain. Likewise if your honest review is not favorable.
See the difference in tone? I will disclose that the second email is from an author I know through friends of mine. However, she was fully aware of my policy and still sent a formal request for a review.
My response to the latter request was, of course, yes. My response to the former included the following:
As the writer of a self-published review site (and surely you can relate as a blogger), I do not owe you anything. You are not offering payment for a review, nor would I accept it in any case. I have accepted, in the last year, two self-published books because the summary intrigued me and I had the assurance of the author that their behavior would be respectful should I choose to review it negatively or put it aside should I decide I cannot finish it. However, those books will not be read until the summer begins and I’ve treated myself to books that I have chosen for myself.
I understand your email was probably a outburst due to frustration, but speaking as a blogger who happens to write book reviews (for her own pleasure and amusement), let me assure you that your name will never be put on my list due to the disrespect you have shown me in your email. If you cannot be professional in an email, what makes you think that I would ever have found your book to be?
So, let me end by saying this. Bloggers take a lot of crap (and yes, they give it too) – but the majority of book bloggers and reviewers are unpaid and spend thousands of dollars on purchasing books to review just because they love books. My own library count is over 500 at the moment and grows every single day. Authors are looking to market a product, and the reviews of that product will never be 100% positive. So if this bothers you, don’t look at those reviews. Live in a world of your own imagination and just continue to press forward to do what you love to do as well.
Although – I tend to think like Richard Castle’s mom does .. a negative review every now and then helps to keep one grounded.