A Really Long Post About the Author/Reviewer Relationship

There have been a lot of things happening lately with reviewers and authors. And when I say "lately," I really mean, "in the past year," although this week has been rather eventful.

What I'm going to do in this post is explore this dynamic in detail. I will try to dive into the heads of both sides in the hope that we can better understand each other. At no point do I intend to make excuses for anyone's unprofessional or unkind behavior-- I'm just trying to sort out the dynamic that creates that kind of behavior, the best I can. And disclaimer: it's going to be long. Bring snacks.

This author-reviewer relationship has never been simple, but nor has it ever been quite this complicated, because of the Internet. Now the reviews are not isolated to newspapers and magazines, they are on blogs, tumblr, facebook, twitter, Goodreads, and more places than I can really count. Anyone can review books as long as they love reading and dedicate themselves to talking about it, and that means that more people are doing so.

A Business Relationship; Not A Business Relationship

Book reviewers (with the exception of those who do it for a job-- right now I'm not referring to those reviewers, though) are not paid to write reviews; they are providing a free service. It is a hobby in the best sense of the word, because they are dedicated and consistent, they have well-designed and well-organized blogs, they form a community, they put on events like the Debut Author Challenge or the YA Heroine Tournament, they go to conferences, they do interviews. I think it's pretty fantastic that people love books so much they would do all those things for no pay, in addition to their day jobs or studies.

In any case, book reviewers are not paid, so this is not quite a business relationship. However, sometimes they pay for books (as opposed to getting ARCs), so they are contributing to an author's salary. Still, there isn't the kind of balance we typically see in business relationships.

Authors, however, are paid for writing books, even if it's just from book sales. So in that sense, this is a business relationship-- when an author reads a review of their book, they are at work, and that requires a certain type of behavior.

So, to recap, this is NOT a business relationship, because book blogging is not a business. Yet it IS a business relationship, because authors are paid, and they are often paid by book reviewers' purchases.

A Personal Relationship; A Not Personal Relationship

Reviews are not personal, because they are the assessment of a product. If I assess an Apple product on the Internet, is that a personal attack against Jonathan Ive, head designer at Apple? Certainly not. Do some reviews include personal attacks against authors? Yes. And regardless of whether you agree with that sort of review tactic (I don't), I still don't think an insult on the Internet is personal. If a reviewer calls an author a jerk, they are probably not saying that based on any experience of that author as a real human being. Anyone could have written the book and they would have called the author a jerk. Even insults are not personal on the Internet. Now, it may still bother the author, and I would argue that they are well within their rights to be bothered, but it's something to keep in mind.

Yet to say that reviews are not personal ignores the simple truth of this industry, which is that authors pour their hearts and souls into their work. They carefully construct stories over a period of a year or (in most cases) more. Their characters fill their waking moments and enter their dreams. As with any art, books are personal, and any time someone bashes an author's work, it feels like it is the author himself or herself who is being bashed. As much as we say that shouldn't be the case, it is unavoidable, and I would argue that making book-writing completely impersonal would be to the detriment of books everywhere.

The Public/Private Space

So this business/not business relationship, which is both personal and not personal, all takes place in a place that blurs the public and the private space. The Internet is a strange place from the perspective of the author, because of how it changes. A few years ago, I was on Facebook and Twitter and Blogger as a private citizen. If you read my earliest blog posts, they were personal and open in a way that they aren't now-- because no one was watching. Fast forward to the book release, and I don't have a private Facebook page anymore, I've deleted most of my personal blog posts, and I don't tweet the same things anymore. I don't discuss even huge events in my personal life (graduation! Marriage! Etc!), because for me, the Internet now feels public. And I know a lot of people who are totally okay with keeping their personal lives separate (I am one of them).

But there are many authors who are either dismayed by the loss of their private Internet space or, more likely, don't quite realize that it's gone. For some reason, they tell themselves that if they remove their Author Hat and put on their Reader and Human Being Hat, everyone will notice the change and be forgiving.

That is absolutely not true. When you become an author, everything you do under your author name on the Internet is work. And you are required to be professional always.

That doesn't mean "don't have a personality," but it means authors are required to respond to negative reviews--even those that include personal attacks--with maturity and, in most cases, a closed mouth. If a person works in retail with frustrating customers, he or she would have to do it there, too. Plenty of people have jobs where they have to deal with difficult feedback on a daily basis, and they do it admirably.

In my mind, there are no exceptions to this rule. You must always respond publicly with maturity. I don't care what you say to your family or to your dog, but when you are on the Internet, or at a work event: always maturity and professionalism.

Reviewers, too, sometimes struggle with the private/public dynamic. So many exchanges that sound like private conversations take place in a highly public environment, like Goodreads. And this is not necessarily because the reviewers want to stir up drama; it's because many of their friends exist in that public space with them, and they don't want to have to create a separate forum to have those often not-all-that-close relationships. And if the cameras are always on you, eventually you forget they're there. That is not to say that the content of those conversations must change-- that is entirely up to the people having those conversations-- but that the people participating in them should be constantly aware that they are public.

Butbutbut...!

This is yet another difficulty, because while reviewers are free to express their emotions and opinions about a work or about particular situations in the forums that are natural to them, authors must restrain themselves within the forums that are natural to them. Goodreads, for example, is a place where authors and readers collide, but authors are not allowed to be readers there. And sometimes, when the reviewer insists, "I'm allowed to express my opinions, whatever they may be!" the author begins to think, "well, shouldn't I be able to do that, too? Don't I have the same right to be emotional and opinionated in public?"

Think again.

There is a difference, and it is this: 98% of the time, the reviewer is expressing opinions about a book, and if an author expresses his or her opinions about a review, they are always saying something about the reviewer. A review is a personal opinion, and it's hard to critique an opinion without insulting the one who holds it. I haven't seen it done well in this situation. The author is always, even if inadvertently, calling the reviewer stupid, or ignorant, or a jerk.

And also, keep in mind that this is not the reviewer's job. A hobby is something people do for enjoyment, and you wouldn't critique them if they were playing basketball or harmonica or something, because that wouldn't be in the spirit of the hobby. You don't get to critique a reviewer's job performance, because that's not what it is.

Where Authors Are Coming From

Authors, particularly YA authors, are expected to have an Internet presence, and to be responsive in that presence. So, authors are expected to respond to at least some e-mails, tweets, tumblr questions, etc. That means that authors spend a large portion of their days in the public space. And that, in turn, means that they must act calm and professional for a larger proportion of their daily life than people working traditional jobs, unless they want to get off the Internet (which some choose to do).

Now, many people rant to their co-workers after work, or even at the office while the boss isn't around. An author's co-workers, though, occupy the same space as reviewers and readers, so they can't communicate with them easily or with the same freedom that you would over a drink with your peers at an office. Additionally, authors rarely get to know each other in the same way that you would get to know a co-worker at the office, because our profession is so isolated. Therefore, exchanging private e-mails or starting private forums seems awkward and uncomfortable in a way that inviting your co-worker out for drinks does not.

On another note, as much as people insist that reviews are for reviewers, not for authors, the @ messages in our twitter feeds suggests otherwise. I don't read reviews, and I don't Google myself, and I don't have any Google alerts set up, but I still see reviews, sometimes just when I'm browsing fun websites that I always check, sometimes when people send them to me, or when they tweet comments to me, or when they e-mail me negative reviews with a well-intentioned "don't worry, you'll do better next time!" note. It is impossible to completely avoid reviews.

All this is to say, the thought running through our heads is something like this: I must be on the Internet, where I am constantly being criticized, but I must also be perfectly professional at all times. Sometimes it feels like standing in a circle of fire, and whenever you so much as twitch, you get burned, but you can't show any reaction to the pain. Some authors find ways to deal with this. Never have I had the desire to engage with a reviewer. But I don't think it's that difficult to understand when some authors have trouble.

Where Reviewers Are Coming From

The problem is, when authors have difficulty navigating this strange and often difficult dynamic, they often call for reviewers to change their reviewing style. Some reviewers go for the straightforward, polite book review. Some go for humorous rants involving .gifs. Some go for not-so-humorous rants. And sometimes authors want to say, I'm okay with negative reviews, but you can write them the first way, because that's the easiest kind to take.

Here's the thing: that is not at all fair. If someone told me I had to write in the beautiful, lyrical style of Laini Taylor, I would say, "...but I can't DO that. That's just not how I write!" As writers, we should know that style is hard to change, and that if you try, you sometimes won't enjoy writing anymore. Reviewers have different styles, that cater to those who love heated debates, or to those who love to poke fun at things, or to those who prefer straightforward analysis-- in other words, reviewers are writing what their readers respond to, just like we are. And we don't get to tell them they have to change that style. We can debate about where the lines between personal attack/libel and review are (and I'm not going to do that here), but we don't get to say "these kinds of reviews are not okay."

But some authors have said that, and they've said it a lot, sometimes in shockingly unkind ways. An environment now exists in which reviewers are extra sensitive to authors' reactions to reviews, and that is wholly unsurprising. Reviewers are giving an awful lot to authors. They are giving us hours of time and effort. They are giving us pieces of their paychecks. Sometimes they fly across the country to go to conferences and meet us. And here's the thing: even if these reviewers give us negative reviews, they are still doing us a service.

I know there are times when someone reads a critical review and decides not to pick up a book. Those times are far outweighed by the incidences in which someone reads a review, positive or negative, and decides, based on that review alone, that they will give a book a try. Most people are aware that opinions about books and movies and television shows vary widely, and they will try to make up their minds for themselves. The worst thing for an author is NOT someone hearing your book is bad, it's someone not hearing about it at all.

Something's Gotta Give

As far as I can see it, that is the situation we are in. We are all trying to figure out how to make our way through this business/hobby, personal/impersonal, public/private relationship. We are going to screw it up-- all of us. As far as I can see it, the best way to deal with these conflicts is to understand where people are coming from-- understand what you are saying when you say, you should always act professionally, authors (so true! But God, that becomes hard, and we will make mistakes), or you shouldn't review that way ("I, with my Important Author Hand, will suppress your free expression, Person Who Buys My Books!" Um, no).

But even more important than understanding is forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that you say something is okay when it isn't. Actually, it does the opposite. An act doesn't need to be forgiven if it's not wrong to begin with, so forgiveness calls things exactly what they are.

And then, in a feat that is certainly not easy for the person who has been wronged, forgiveness lets those things go. (Especially when there's an apology involved.) It doesn't harp on them for years to come, or mention them at every opportunity. It doesn't make plans to sabotage their stats on this or that site, or put them on some kind of mental blacklist if they get a book deal. Forgiveness pretty much says, screw this giant line between us. We are working together for the good of books and reading, and if you mess it up, I'll get over it eventually.

Not saying it's easy. But maybe it's worth a try.

(Note: if I have left out some aspect of anyone's perspective, feel free to add it in the comments in the interest of fully fleshing out this issue. That said, this isn't a place to name names or make accusations, so please...don't. Thank you.)




63 comments:

  1. Excellent post! I rarely write bad reviews because I enjoy most of the books I read. However, I do get a lot of grief from fellow reviewers about bad reviews. It seems like the thing is "if you don't like it, don't review it," which isn't fair. I'm never harsh or insulting in bad reviews, I just explain what I didn't like about and why, so I give the reader a chance to determine for themselves whether a part I disliked may actually be something he/she likes themselves.
    Anyway, thanks for writing this post. It's refreshing to hear an author's perspective on the matter. For the record, I love Divergent and I love the way you've handled yourself publicly. Keep on the great work. I'm looking forward to Insurgent!

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  2. Beautifully put. I loved your ending about forgiveness. I particularly dislike the pile-ons when somebody, reviewer or author, behaves badly. We've all made mistakes.

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  3. I'm one of those reviewers who will write negative reviews. But with them I always try to keep it to what didn't work for me. My reviews are all very personal to what I felt and experienced in a book and I know that isn't what works for everyone, and when I do write something negative I always try to link & blurb other blogs who loved the book. I've found that more of my blog readers seem to want to check out the books I don't like than the ones I do,,,and I'm not sure what to think about that. Lol

    I am also ine of those reviewers that flew across country (from Boston to California) just to go to a book signing of 2 authors whose books I LOVED. This is how inspired I was by their writing.

    I love authors and I love being able to get to know the people behind the books I love (and even ones that I don't). When I review it's always about the book and story as often the author that I've come to know is far different than the characters that they write about. It really saddens me when I hear of a blogger or author attacking the other. The Internet provides us all with some great opportunities to learn about each other and that while we mig disagree we shouldn't hate on the other for disagreeing. Instead we should all be trying to learn and grow closer for the things that separate us...not just for the things we have in common.

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  4. Great logical argument. I love this. In my day job, I literally work complaints in an office environment, so I know what it's like to only hear the bad about our product. It would be so much harder to hear it about one of my manuscripts. I review a bit on my blog, but if I gave it less than 4 stars on Goodreads (which is rare for me), then I won't post it. It just seems mean. Funny that these days the worst reviews seem to compare books to Twilight. I mean, how many people read Twilight just because of the bad reviews? A lot. They want to be able to diss with the best of them. No publicity is bad publicity. Think of Britney Spears.

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  5. This is such a thoughtful and well stated post. Thank you so much. I hope many people will read it and think about it.

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  6. You said some things that I've had running thru my head. Especially the part about changing writing styles.

    As a reviewer I tend to be the polite sort. People in my office complain that I'm a Suzy Sunshine. I have a snarky sense of humor but usually it's during certain circumstances (TV shows, movies and sports mostly, not ever really at work). With reviews I tend to be picky, but not as snarky.

    Some of my reviewing friends have a snarkier style that me, some are always very diplomatic, some more philosophical about feminism. I love getting all these different styles and viewpoints in my inbox daily.

    I mainly wanted to compliment you for recognizing the writing style point. It's something that I've been mulling about writing a blog post about but now I don't think it's needed.

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  7. I truly love this post...it goes beyond author reviewer and simply says how we would handle all aspects of our lives...

    Can I just say how much I loved Divergent!

    Gush!!!

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  8. thanks for this post, vee. it put into words many of my feelings on this topic, much more eloquently. I appreciate reviewers so so much -- like heart swelling with gratitude levels -- & yet as an author, I understand the occasional ouch (though angry responses aren't EVER excusable). I think there've been missteps & misunderstandings on both sides, though the power balance is unequal & responsibility to behave primarily lies with the author.
    I also love what you said about forgiveness. time for a hugpile? no? is that creepy?
    anyway: brava, woman. this post is proof your writing's beautiful.

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  9. Wonderful post. My negative reviews can be harsh. I get that and I'm sorry it may hurt. However, I'm not sorry for how I truly feel or how the book made me feel. I hope authors and reviewers can come to an understanding. This feuding must end.

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  10. I'm a reader, not an author or a reviewer, but sometimes I think that when authors talk -- even in general -- about how badly they react to negative reviews (eg a writer will post on her twitter about how a bad review made her cry, etc) it can have the effect of stifling/silencing critical discussion (eg about race, gender and other tricky issues) because no one wants to be the bad person who just doesn't get it and made author X upset.

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  11. Ahh, this is a great post, very thoughtful. I think you've really nailed why author/blogger relationships can be so complicated and why there seem to be blowups every so often. Great advice here for authors and bloggers alike.

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  12. Goodness, Veronica, I love you. I must limit myself and stay succinct, because otherwise this comment will be a million pages long, but I just have to say this:

    This is a wonderful, understanding, objective post (objective because you're an author, but you also are a reader, and you understand what we reviewers do and sacrifice and earn). This post makes me so happy, because I'm very glad to see that not all authors are like the bashing authors you've mentioned (and after the past few days' hassle, I almost forgot). I appreciate you taking the time to write this insightful post, and I think every one who is a writer, who wants to be a writer, everyone should read this.

    I write negative reviews, and I always feel bad when I'm writing them. I'm an aspiring author myself, so I know how much bravery it takes to put your work out there, and I appreciate that. I understand and really, truly consider that, despite what some authors might think. But I can't force myself to like your book--I just can't. And... I won't apologize for it, because if I did, that would be like saying, "sorry my hair color is black", and that's just messed up. So to all the authors out there: Us reviewers understand the heart and soul your poured into your books. We appreciate that. We respect you for your bravery. WE WANT TO LIKE YOU. So sometimes, if you read something you don't like, please remember that.

    It's hard to respect someone when they don't respect it back.

    Thank you.

    <3,
    Juli

    P.S. I'm also just very saddened whenever an author behaves badly, because then that shines a bad light on many other authors who would never behave that way. Just my two cents.

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  13. This is an absolutely beautiful post.

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  14. Read this entire beastie and it made me feel extremely appreciated, honestly.

    I do want to say that I consider my blog my "job," and that the difference between myself and a "professional reviewer" is the same difference between myself and an published author. As of yet, I'm not paid to do what I do. I don't think my opinions would change if I were a "pro," nor do I think my review-writing style would be different, or my desire to be professional, honest and find a way to be kind at all times.

    I will one day (hopefully) get to see this argument from the other side of the fence. I'll be interested to see first-hand how it looks; I'm sure I'll have new understanding for authors and many I-wish-I'd-done-it-differently moments, but, for now, there's no better way for me to support the industry, the authors, the writers and the books I love.

    Blessings,

    G.C.

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  15. I really loved this post. You said all of this so well, and to accomplish that on what has become such a touchy subject. Mucho kudos to you. I hope people take every word to heart & really think about what you have said here.

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  16. A hearty AMEN, Veronica. Balanced and honest, and, I think, absolutely correct. :)

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  17. Thanks for posting. Hearing your clear-headed perspective is really a nice shift. I've been debating this a lot lately--I want to start reviewing more on my blog this year and there are a few books I've read lately that weren't necessarily 5-star, or even 4-star, for me personally as a reader. That said, I think they're worth talking about for various reasons, including for my students' sake. I stock books in my classroom library that I think have merit, even if I found them eyeroll-inducing or just not my cuppa. I'm pretty open with my students about what I liked and didn't like--and I still recommend those books to certain kids, based on what I know of their tastes. That's what I want to do with reviewing on my blog--but then there are all these people who seem to think that putting up anything negative at all is in poor taste!

    My conclusion, for now, is that the same rules I try to follow in real life will work here: find the positives, use "I" statements, and be professional. It's stunning how far those three things alone can get a person in life.

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  18. I don't know if there's anything left to say! Thanks so much for the thoughtful post that must have taken you a lot of time to write. You've presented both sides so well, V.

    Hopefully everyone can get back to writing and reviewing and getting along!

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  19. Great post. Personally, my favorite type of reviews are the kind, negative or positive, that give enough of a sense of the book that I can tell whether it's to my taste whether the reviewer likes it or not. I've picked up some of my favorite books after reading reviews that weren't necessarily positive because they mentioned a story element that interested me.

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  20. Great post! I'd also like to add in that third demographic: people who read books reviews! I get annoyed when people get angry when a reviewer expresses their (usually negative, but occasionally positive) opinion of a book.

    I, for one, will google books that I love just to see what legitimate complaints can be made about it. It's important for readers to treat reviewers with respect as well.

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  21. This post is wonderful, and exactly what needed to be said. I have nothing to add except a huge thank you for writing it.

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  22. Beautifully said, thank you for this post!

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  23. Being a special education teacher has prepared me for this...(and yes, I just typed and deleted about 15 different examples of why. glad to privately get that off my chest.)
    erica

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  24. Really, a great job Vee. When people are treated with respect on both sides of the fence, a safe place for discussion--positive, negative and everything in between--is opened up. That, to me, is the ultimate a review can do. Open discussion and share thoughtful opinions, which are valuable whether agreeing or dissenting.

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  25. Well-written. I agree with so many others who fear that the behavior of some may be taken as the rule for all authors. It *is* extremely difficult to keep reviews and emotions separate-which is exactly why we must.

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  26. Well said. Thoughtful and honest ;o)

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  27. Thanks for a really thoughtful post which looks at the issue carefully from both sides. Like Gabrielle, I am an aspiring novelist who writes book reviews on my own blog. My 'policy' (though it's nothing so grand) is that I only review books which I feel have something to recommend them, for the simple reason that as you say, writing a decent book review is a huge investment of time and effort for which nobody pays me. However, this doesn't mean that every review is gushing and over the top. I don't necessarily love every title I write about, and since I don't believe the perfect novel exists, I can always find something to commment on. As one of your commenters said, it is most diplomatic to stick to 'what didn't work for me.' It's all subjective anyway. Another reason I don't trash other people's work in public is because as a writer I am aware what goes into writing a book, and as far as I'm concerned, any author who's made it into print deserves some respect. Just because I don't like a book, doesn't mean it has no merit. And finally, I think writers have to take it on the chin whatever people say. We write the stuff, that doesn't give us any control over how it's received. That's the chance you take when you'put yourself out there.' Great debate, well done!

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  28. wow! :-)
    I did not need snacks but now I´m super hungry.

    It´s a great food for thought post!

    Thanks for sharing and putting a well argumented perspective on this relationship :-)

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  29. This post is excellent. I cannot agree more to what you have said. It's very true.

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  30. I agree with everything you said here! Authors and reviewers should treat each other with respect and understanding. Both sides must be as mature and professional as possible. And we must all remember forgiveness and the power of letting go. . .

    Thank you! I really appreciate this post and will definitely share it.

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  31. Thanks for this spot-on analysis, Veronica. Your observations about trying to change writing styles are so true.

    As a volunteer reviewer who writes only recommendations, I've consciously made the choice to skip over books that I consider average or lower rated for their target audience. I know that librarians also need reviews which point out flaws in books, but I prefer to concentrate my efforts on the hidden gems that get lost in publishers' hype wars.

    May *publishers* read your post to remind themselves that most book bloggers/reviewers aren't "hired guns" to whom they can dictate timing or tone of reviews.

    Love the YA Highway crew and hope to see y'all as I travel on my own dime to conferences - who can put a price on true book love?

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  32. I'm a really~ new book-blogger, so when I started hearing about the not-so-good parts of the author/reviewer relationship I was honestly turned off by the idea book blogging.

    I don't review books because I want to judge someone's work. I write reviews because I want to discuss books because I love books and I love discussing things that I love.

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  33. Amazing, amazing post. Definitely the most in-depth and reasonable one I have read. Thank you for this. Thank you for being awesome.

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  34. Wow. Well said.

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  35. I'm a reviewer who writes both positive, negative, and semi-positive semi-negative reviews. I review because i love to do it, because I love to express my feelings and talk about books and the writing in them. I know, as an aspiring writer, that it is very difficult to take criticism, so I try my best to make my reviews informative while still making my review fun for it's reader to read.

    It's great to see this balanced post; thanks for writing it and sharing your opinion. I hope this fighting ends soon so we can all get back to what we love best: books.

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  36. Great post! I hope no one has been too harsh about your work!

    But I do like what you say about being able to forgive, which I'm sure is especially important as a writer. Otherwise, we'll get bogged down hating people, and our work will never thrive.

    Thanks for your post!

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  37. Wonderful post. I'm not a book reviewer but I'm an aspiring author and it's important to remember that I'll have to remain professional at all times online. I hope other authors/reviewers take note too!

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  38. Oh, I'm so glad you posted this, Vee. Wonderful and thoughtful. Well done. <3

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  39. Very insightful, Vee. What a wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you!

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  40. From one author to another - nicely put!

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  41. fantastic analysis. Really, you hit it on the nail on every point.
    As a reviewer I try very, very hard to mix good with the bad on books I didn't enjoy. Yet sometimes I really don't have anything nice to say outside of "make sure to check out this glowing review, from someone who DID like the book".

    However, I cringe at the thought of the author reading those reviews, because as you say, it's not personal. And I would never want to hurt their feelings, but I would be a poor reviewer if I only ever liked every book I read.
    It is a tiny dark hole smooshed between a rock and a hard place. And we must all live there as amicably as possible.

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  42. It's a scary and exciting thing to think that people read what I post on my blog. Exciting because it's cool to know people are reading, but scary because people are reading! This is a great post! It is a tricky relationship and I admire all you authors who do it so well!

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  43. This is such a wonderful post that really breaks down the relationship so well.

    As a new author, my book recently went out in the world in the form of ARCs for the first time, and it's been a wonderful, scary, amazing, and nerve wracking feeling. Part of me is excited for people to read it and see what they think, and of course part of me is nervous now that I don't have the chance to go back and revise it ever again.

    But I love the end of your post about forgiveness. It's so true, and remembering that is what makes this community a wonderful place.

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  44. I'll just add my bit to the pile of 'well said' comments, shall I?

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  45. As an avid reader, a bad review of a book is not going to stop me from reading it. Not every book is for everyone. I have greatly disliked books that are well reviewed and LOVED some that weren't.
    As a bookseller, I am very careful about my opinions of books because again, we don't all like the same things. While I will gush about books and authors I love, I will not say anything negative about books I don't. I will share with my book club members and friends, but not customers.

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  46. This is the best post yet that I've read about the author/reviewer relationship. Thank you for stating things in such an understanding and balanced way.

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  47. What an amazing and insightful post! It's been disheartening to see all the drama on the internet lately. There's been a lot of hate spewed on both sides. There has been bad author behavior AND bad reviewer behavior.

    Excellent point on forgiveness. We all need to remember no one is perfect.

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  48. Following a link back from ReadReactReview...hope it's okay to post my thoughts...

    I'm not a YA author, but I am an author and I've been writing since 2003. I've seen so many author blow- ups, and many relate to reviews, opinions or whatever.

    A lot of the author blow-ups happen for that very thing... "I should be allowed to voice my opinion..."

    I'm a nurse...kinda sort, don't do it much any more.

    Say I was dealing with a patient...I dunno, hypothetically and I'm going to paint an over-the-top picture here just to show my point.

    But say I had a patient who had come in, got in my face, physically pushed me around, was abusive, rude, etc.

    Should I decide to do the same back to this patient? I would get fired.

    The proper response...the PROFESSIONAL response is to remove myself from the situation. Depending on wherever I'm working, hospital, doctor's office, whatever, I follow their protocol for dealing with this-there is protocol for this sort of thing, related to safety, for the staff, other patients, etc. I keep myself safe, other staff, other patients, etc. AND...bonus I keep my job. By being professional.

    Now, the review blow-ups haven't happened because the reviewers were abusive. Perhaps the author perceived the negative review as an attack...? Yes? No? Maybe?

    Doesn't matter. Proper, professional response is to remove herself/himself from the situation. No, there's no physical danger, but it's still not wise for the author to wade in. It never ends well.

    There is no protocol for this sort of thing, but it's not a bad idea to keep professional behavior in mind.

    While I get where authors come from when they feel it isn't 'fair' that they don't get voice their opinions publicly...I'm kind of curious where they ever got the guarantee life would be fair.

    Besides, that is what friends are for. If I need to rant, cry, scream and grumble, I do it with a friend. My guy. The sky. Or I go kill a character in a book. That's awesome therapy.

    Reviews are not there for the author. They are there for the reader.

    It doesn't do an author any good to get bent out of shape over the negative reviews...we can't please everybody and it's insane that authors expect those who didn't like our books to just keep quiet about it.

    I think it was over at the Bookpushers blog (in comments) that somebody said it's just another form of censorship... and she's right. It's censoring somebody's right to voice their opinion. If we don't like it, all we have to do is stop reading.

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  49. Thanks for this. Totally saved me a long blog post on the very same thing, saying mostly the exact things you have. Very thoughtful. Hope your advice is heeded by all.

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  50. This is excellent. I love reading these fantastic updates by YA authors that are setting things straight and undoing the damage to their image. :)

    But srsly, there should be some sort of public-interaction/PR guidelines thing. Haha.

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  51. Wow. LOVE this. Esp: "Plenty of people have jobs where they have to deal with difficult feedback on a daily basis, and they do it admirably."

    Authors blogging before and after publishing (esp when they're book lovers/reviewers too) has made all the lines that much more hazy.

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  52. I absolutely love this post. As an occasional book reviewer and wannabe writer, this really resonated with me.

    I never write reviews of books I disliked. I know some people think that you should be able to rip into a book that you thought was bad, especially if you paid money for it. And, yes, sometimes a book will be so bad (especially when it is offensive) that I like to rant to my friends or, at the most, to my blog readers about it, but when it comes to reviews life is too short. You should recommend books that you liked and not seriously upset a hard-working author or their fans just because it wasn't to your taste. Spread word about the good stuff to fellow readers instead.

    Of course, everyone has the right to be annoyed or offended by something. But I see so many reviews where the reviewer gave one-star just because it "wasn't their kind of thing" and I think starred reviews like these can be damaging because they discourage readers who may love the book from purchasing it.

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  53. Fantastic post. I loved the part about forgiveness. I hope this helps move us in the right direction/close the author reviewer gap. Also, I loved your ring of fire analogy. I never really thought about how much authors are scrutinized until now.

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  54. I'm a little late in coming to this, but what a fantastic post, Vee. Absolutely spot-on. Thank you for writing this. :)

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  55. I loved this, because reviewing is something I struggle with myself. I have pretty high standards. This was okay at first, but after a while, I realized how negative I sounded--and I also realized how pointless it was to critique a finished product. Would me saying the love interest needed more fleshing out change anything? Not really.

    I started focusing on how much I enjoyed the book, instead--because then if I didn't enjoy it, that wasn't on the author, that was on me; I simply didn't enjoy it as much as someone else might. And that concept has helped me some.

    Part of the whole issue with reviews, I think, is that they're considered to be for the authors somehow, when really they're not--reviews are for readers. We (as readers) tend to address reviews to authors because reading a book is so personal that you often feel connected to the author, but our report of that connection, our review, is for the people who may be looking for the same experience we had--the readers.

    But anyway, rambling. There's so much to be said about this subject, it's hard to stop.

    Thank you for posting, Veronica!
    -Mandy

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  56. Awesome post Veronica!

    I'm new to book reviewing, and it's nice to see authors put some stock in our reviews, even the ones that are negative. I wholeheartedly agree with you. There are different ways to review book, just that are different ways to write a book, but that doesn't meant that there needs to be unnecessary negativity. There will always be someone who doesn't like a book and there is a tasteful way to express dislike, not at the expense of the author.

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  57. I agree that everyone has different reviewing styles. But, if your review style is super snarky and making fun at others' expense, don't be surprised if people don't like you!

    And, I work in a profession that the wrong step will cost me my job. Immediately. And I have people call me names all the time. But, I have a choice. I can either keep my mouth shut and stay above the fray. Or, find a new job.

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  58. Thank you for such a wonderful, thoughtful, lovely post! As a reader only, I've kinda become disgusted by all the flame wars. The outrageous and petty behaviors on both sides have greatly turned me off to some blogs and to some author's works simply b/c I don't want to support either side. Same as if I'd witness bad behaviors/practices at a store or retailer and I stopped going/shopping there.

    I hope many people link to this post and the parties involved or potentially involved read this and really think about your excellent points.

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  59. I have written exactly one "bad" book review on Goodreads, and sadly, it is the only review I've written that gets any attention. I don't write reviews for the attention, I just think that it's sad when negative receives more "press" than positive. Even in my bad review, I tried to be very clear that my review was about the product, and about how I think the expectation of what the product was supposed to deliver was potentially misleading.

    I much prefer to leave positive feedback, because I love books, I love writing, and I love encouraging creativity and passion.

    That being said - I really enjoyed this post, and am so glad it was written, and most likely, I'll be linking many people to this in the future.

    Thanks for being a professional, but for also being accessible. It's a delicate balance that you seem to achieve gracefully.

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  60. Coming late to this party but the thing about negative reviews is that I have to really trust you or be really iffy on a book in the first place to decide not to read a book because of a negative review. (I'm more likely to decide not to read a book because I've skimmed reviews, negative, positive, or neutral, to look for elements I personally don't like.) For me as a reader negative reviews are more about coming together after I've read a book and seeing if anyone else saw that book the same way I did. Which I think positive reviews can do too.

    Anyway all this to say thank you Veronica for this post and the efforts you took to be neutral and to talk about the issue as a whole not individual incidents.

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