Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The R Word--Or, Bad Behavior Everywhere

Here you have a predator and prey. So I ask you. Which is the author and which the reviewer?

I have no idea either.

I had to jump on the review bandwagon today as I recently read about more instances of author/reviewer craziness spewing through the web. I admit I had to work hard to read why one reviewer was so up in arms about someone disagreeing with her review. The guy, not even the author of the book, disagreed with her take. (Unless I missed some point where he insulted her, I was confused about her vitriol.) For that he was digitally tarred and feathered. A bunch of the reviewer's readers jumped on the bandwagon and ripped him and anyone who disagreed with the reviewer to shreds. It was like a shark frenzy, so of course I continued to read the comments. To make matters worse, other authors simply had to add their unasked for opinions on Twitter where they insulted the reviewer and the review, adding fuel to the fire.


Wait, there's more. Then I happened on Dear Author and a few other sites speculating about the role of the reviewer and how authors should handle things, as well as pointing a few fingers at authors behaving badly. And I have to tell you, one author let fly with what she really felt about reviewers and their effing reviews. Oh boy.

Bottom line: everyone has an opinion. It might not be the one you share, but they have the right to express that opinion in any way they see fit. Writers are told to shut up, sit back, and take it. Sure, you like the 5 star review so you thank the reviewer. So when you get the 1 star, you... thank the reviewer? Not sure about that, but I do know arguing about a review gets you nowhere. Though surely an author has the right to rebut dubious facts or personally critical comments, there's no point. The author comes across looking like a crybaby anyway he/she tries not to.

I've had my share of good and bad reviews. The ones that really annoyed me were points the reviewer completely missed in the book then had the nerve to mention as done poorly. I wanted to respond, pointing out line and page as irrefutable evidence I had not missed the mark. Yeah, and then what? The reviewer still had a bad taste in her mouth and I would have looked defensive. There's always the reviewer who hates erotic romance then takes one of my books and trashes it because it's...erotic romance. Um, then why read it? And other people simply don't like my voice or writing style. Yet that subjectivity is part of the fun of reading. What one person hates, another treasures. What can you do?

Well, if you're an author, you can ignore it. Ignore the bad reviews and use the good to boost your confidence when tough times hit. And if you're really professional, you can slog through the bad stuff and look for trends. Maybe you're not describing your characters well enough. Perhaps the world building isn't up to snuff. And maybe naming all your characters with apostrophes and numbers thrown in to shake things up is annoying.

I have to sit back and shake my head at so many emotional people reading into everything. Because what we write on the Internet has no inflection, it's easy to take things out of context. Of course, f*ck you means f*ck you no matter how you look at it, so that's an easy one to peg. But seriously, how hard is it to realize that in the review game, the authors aren't the point? Reviews help readers. Period. It's one person's opinion about a book. As an avid reader, I pay attention to what other people say. I think it's easy to understand if a book is worth reading from a blurb and a few reader reviews. If someone trashes a book because the heroine is small and blond, then maybe they have some bias against that type. I'm not going to ignore a book based on that kind of review.

Authors do have the right to comment on anything that's out there in a public forum, just as any reader can review a book and say pretty much how they feel, regardless of an author's feelings. I don't think personally attacking an author is smart or necessary, but it happens. And I don't think authors responding and jabbing at any negative comments on their books gives them any credibility or marketing savvy, but shows them to be idiotic in the extreme. Alienating readers is never a good thing, no matter the provocation.

All that said, I'm done my part in analyzing the reviewer/author relationship. I occasionally read over reviews, especially if they're sent to me. And I truly appreciate the time it takes, especially in this market with a bazillion books out there, for someone to read and give my book an honest review, whether she/he liked the book or not. But I've found it to be much healthier to focus on what I can control, and that's writing the best book I can.


Diana Mcc. said...

Great post, Marie!

After scanning various reviews for books I have read, and seeing some of the points you made about 'bad' reviews, I can see in some cases the reviewer was not giving an honest review of said book. And may not have even read the book!

Nancy Crampton-Brophy said...

Bad reviews can break your heart, but it is only one person's opinion and it may affect your sales. Acting defensively will definitely bring attention to your books - but not in a good way. This was an interesting article, Marie. Thanks for posting.

Tammy Patton said...

Twenty years of working with the public has taught me that the best response to rude people is a polite but 'distant' apology, or in some cases silence. It seems to me, that this might work with mean spirited reviewers as well. "Sorry you didn't like my book." Or, in most cases, just Silence.

Marie Harte said...

Yeah, Diana. To me it's weird when a reviewer gets up in arms over something they haven't even read. How can you give an honest review of the entire book having only read a few pages, or one chapter?

Marie Harte said...

Thanks, Nancy. I agree it's best to just ignore reviews. Opinions are like...well, that something else that everyone has. :)

I don't know Tammy. Frankly, anyone being that mean spirited wouldn't deserve my thanks. I'd just ignore them. There have been plenty of books I've read I haven't liked, but I don't smack down the author. Then again, I understand what it takes to write a book, so I can appreciate the effort at least. Thanks for commenting!


Paty Jager said...

Good post! I agree. I'm not an author who reads all my reviews or is checking my numbers constantly. I just write and hope the readers enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

I do thank the reviewers no matter what kind of a review they give me. It's courtesy for the fact that they even took the time to review.

Karen Duvall said...

Great post, Marie! Reviews are a sensitive issue and I avoid reading them if possible, which is kind of hard when your editor or someone in the media is asking to see them. I don't want to know.

I think for me what stung the most regarding one review I DID read is when a visitor to the reviewer's blog responded in comments: "Thank you so much for the review of this book. I was thinking of reading it, but now that I've seen your review I'm going to pass." And then the reviewer responds to her with "Oh, good! I'm so happy to know my reviews are helpful." Ouch.

Marie Harte said...

Good points, Paty. And Karen, I've seen those same comments, where a reader will pass on a book because of another person's opinion. Frankly, I don't let others influence my buying decisions--unless I see twenty reviews of a book saying the same thing. Otherwise I buy based on a blurb, excerpt and whether or not I know the author. But I agree, it's tough to see people pass on a book because of a negative review.

Sarah Raplee said...

This was a thoughtful and interesting post. It inspires me to try to review books I like on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble.

As a writer, if I asked someone to review my work, I'd thank them for doing so. If a reviewer writes an unsolicited negative review, I'd ignore it. I'd thank them if the review was positive.