Some Authors and Reviewers Are Having Angries on the Internet

WARNING:

Bad Language and Strong Opinions Ahead

I’m going to be frank.

This shit don’t fly, yo.

While authors getting pissy on the internet is nothing new, it seems in the last week or so there has been an explosion of angrypants and stupid behavior on blogs and Goodreads.  Did you hear about the one on Goodreads where the author called a reviewer horrible names? And then she requested that her friends/fans help manipulate the Amazon reviews so the review that got her panties in a twist would drop in standings?  No?

Good fucking Christ. I am ashamed of my fellow authors right now.

Look, here’s your guide to ettiquette on a review blog:

  1. Oh, look! A review! Say: “Thank you!”  Perhaps prance about in flowers and fart some rainbows or something if it’s a good one. Be happy that someone who is not your mom, your brother, or your roommate, decided to talk about your book on the internet!
  2. Boo. The reviewer had some mean things to say about the book. Nuts.  You know what you do? MOVE ON.  If you absolutely must say something, leave it at: “I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you. I hope you’ll enjoy the next one more.”  If you feel the need to rant or cry about it, do it privately.  As in not on the internet where author implosions are forever.
  3. That. Is. It.

This is not a difficult concept. Reviews are not for the author.  Reviews are the reviewer’s opinion–what they think about the book, not what you think they should think or say–and they should not have to be designed with your feelings in mind.  Stacia Kane has an excellent post detailing why this is, so I’m not going to rehash something that someone else already said (and very intelligently, I might add).

Just this morning I woke up to this in my inbox from Abigail at All Things Urban Fantasy.  This is the kind of thing that makes me sad.  I’m not self published, but I do have friends who are, and I’ve read some great self pubbed books.  It’s truly unfortunate that they will have an even harder time finding (free/cheap) publicity for their books because of the bad behavior of others.

This asshattery that is making reviewers want to run and hide from authors is pissing me off, because it makes the rest of us look bad. In case it wasn’t obvious from the tone of this post, it really gets under my skin. I don’t want to be equated with the people who don’t know basic rules of conduct. I don’t want reviewers to be afraid of voicing their opinions for fear of offending me or alienating me or making me go on a rampage.  I don’t want reviewers to turn away my offers to send them my book to review because, God forbid, I might not like what they have to say.  Most of all, I don’t want reviewers to stop being willing to help me or my fellow authors who know how to behave themselves.

Reviewers?  Look, I’m loud. I’m opinionated. But I’m not a dick. I’m disorganized and occasionally forget when something is due to you. Sometimes I let off-the-internet priorities override things I planned to do online, and, yes, once in a while I even screw up.  Hey, I’m human, you know? It’s also okay with me if you don’t like my books. I’ll still be your friend, I’ll still talk to you on Twitter, and I’ll still smile and shake your hand at conventions.

Other authors, take note.  Reviews aren’t personal.  Reviewers are people with opinions, too.  I’m sure you haven’t loved every single book you’ve ever gotten your hands on or every movie you’ve ever seen or every meal you’ve ever eaten.  You’ve probably bitched about that shitty restaurant downtown with the slow service and overpriced food, or the way the TSA manhandled you at the airport and the airline lost your luggage, or that asshole in Customer Service who wasn’t at all helpful or understanding when you called to complain about your bill–or how you can’t believe you paid full price for a movie ticket to see that crappy film or that hard cover book or….

Get the idea?

So, seriously. Stop being fuckwads. As both an author and a reviewer, your behavior makes me not want to deal with you, and makes other authors look bad.

I don’t like to complain without also offering some insight as to how something can be improved, so in that spirit, here are some tips (there are probably other things you can do, but I’m still too angry to think of more right now):

  1. Other than to thank reviewers for their time–if that–do not respond to reviews.  I don’t care if they didn’t finish it and only read the first two sentences before they decided to hate your book and you just want to make sure they understand what a mistake they are making because your magnum opus really gets moving on page 318.  YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BADGER REVIEWERS.  PERIOD.
  2. Do not rate or review your own work. This is terrifically tacky.
  3. Similarly, do not pretend to be someone else and review your own work. Not only is this extra-terrifically tacky, 99.999% of the time, your sock puppet will be found out, and you will be laughed at on the internet.
  4. Reviews by your friends and family members do not count when you are trying to sell someone on reading your work. It just makes you look desperate for approval and no one will take you seriously. What you should be quoting when you’re promoting your work are reviews by established publications (Locus, Publishers Weekly, NY Times Book Review, etc) or by bloggers who are well known for their reviews of your genre (e.g., in romance a good blurb from Dear Author is great, in urban fantasy a good blurb from All Things Urban Fantasy or Bitten By Books is awesome, etc).  Circle-jerk blurbs and reviews by fellow small-press authors doesn’t impress anyone, and it’s even worse when it’s very obvious you’re all giving each other glowing praise or 5-star Amazon reviews and your names all appear on each others’ work.

Reviewers, here is your handy guide for dealing with authors:

  1. Not all authors are assholes.  Please don’t paint us all with the same brush.
  2. On the same note, we–authors–are people, too. Some of us are grumpy, some of us are nice, some of us are overwhelmed.  Many of us love to hear from you and are grateful to work with you to promote our work. If we can’t do something for you right away, it’s not because we don’t love you.  Most of the time it’s because we have something pressing we’re dealing with (kids, jobs, deadlines–the same kind of crap you have to deal with, only sometimes with thousands of dollars on the line if we don’t fulfill our contractual obligations). Don’t be afraid to try us again later.
  3. Make your review policy clear.  There is nothing wrong with ATUF’s review policy about choosing not to accept self published titles–but if that’s how you feel, then make your policy clear and easy to find on your website.  If you don’t like genre X and would never read it, say so.  If you prefer to receive genre Y, say so.
  4. Don’t make things in a review personal. “Cripes, that author’s picture is ugly!” “The author must be stupid to think this plot would work.” That sort of thing. Feel free to say ”This story is hopelessly stupid and I couldn’t stand how dumb the hero was and, my God, the plot holes are big enough to drive a Mack truck through” if that’s how you feel. Just leave the author (their looks, personal experiences, intelligence, and whatever else) out of it.

Thanks for listening to my rant.  I’m done for now.

How about we end this on a positive note?  Any reviewers want to chime in with some good experiences they’ve had with authors?  Maybe recommend some nice authors to work with?

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  • http://thehappylogophile.wordpress.com Jo Eberhardt

    Yay for common sense! Great post.

  • http://nocturnalbookreviews.blogspot.com kara-karina

    You know, I missed all the shit storm, and only now have started seeing bits and pieces of what happened few days ago :) As for the self-pub authors, I had some really amazing experiences with them – Elizabeth Hunter is a sweetheart, and her books are amazing, I can’t stop gushing about her. Susan Ee was great, and Connie Suttle books are my personal drug of choice. However, saying all that the more I accept self-pub authors for review the more I specify my review policy. I don’t do DNF reviews, so I’ve now added that if that happens to the author, I’ll just notify them in email, which not only stops me from wasting my time on something I don’t like but relieves me of the stress of writing a really negative review on the unfortunate book :) However that only works if I can’t be bothered with the book. If I’m enraged by it, I will write about it, which funnily enough happened with Beautiful Disaster :) Oh, well!

  • Sullivan McPig

    Great post!
    I myself have only good experiences with authors contacting me.
    It’s a shame that some reviewers avoid self-published books because they seem to think all self-published books are bad and the authors unhinged. There are some real gems there (books&authors) just as there are some really bad ‘professionally’ published books/authors. Crazies can be found everywhere (even among reviewers ;-) )

  • http://ktgrant.com/ KB/KT Grant

    For the love of the mops, authors need to stop with the immature BS about reviews and just write!

  • http://brooklynann.blogspot.com Brooklyn Ann

    I once posted of FB how I had a dream about meeting Eloisa James and drinking cocoa. She messaged me to thank me. ::fangirlmoment::

    I also enjoy conversing with you. :)

  • Jess

    Thanks, everyone. :)

    @Kara — I haven’t read Elizabeth Hunter, I’ll have to look into her work! I hear ya about books that get your blood burning. That’s what happened with me on Adora, lol.

    @Sullie — Yeah, very good point. Cray-cray is universal, ha!

    @Brooklyn Ann — Aww! That was very sweet of Eloisa. And thank you! *le blush*

    <3,
    -J

  • http://deadlier-than-the-male.blogspot.com D Michelle gent

    I have to agree, not all writers/authors are totally crazed ego-driven nut-bags – although, it would appear that some are…

    I was given a piece of advice a while ago about reviewing other writers’ works:

    If you really really hate the novel, then tell the writer/author in a respectful, constructive and PRIVATE manner.
    If you really really love the novel, then tell EVERYONE ;)

    I’m sharing this article on my FB page. More power to your elbow. A reviewer has 2 priorities, the second is to the reader, the first is to their own integrity because if they begin to bow to the pressure of giving only good reviews, their readers will find them out, then we’ll be short of one honest reviewer.

    A reviewer is similar to an editor – they make comments to help the writer/author improve their work – is that wrong? I think not.

  • http://naughtypassions.blogspot.som Patricia Logan

    Jessie, I agree with your rant, for the most part and as an author, I’m certain that you understand helpful criticizm is welcomed. Some of us have thinner skins than others. My first one star, sent me to the liquor cabinet and a pathetic whiny post on FB, where all my author friends patted me on the back and told me how wonderful I am, and how F’d up she was. None of them had ever read my book, but that’s the beauty of your own personal pity party. You can write it in your own POV. lol.

    I try to take reviews with a grain of salt now. The only two that really chapped my ass were one where the reivewer (an elderly gay man) reviewed my first M/M at my request and then spent three-quarters of the interview bloviating on “how dare females write about what men do in the privacy of their own bedroom”. He went on to commend my work as a “decent first effort” and gave me a three star…. big of him. The second was a review posted on Goodreads before the book was even released. Though a 4 star rating (with no review, as is typical of GR and a personal gripe for me), I was taken aback and asked the administrator to take it down. No one had seen the book but my publisher (who was not the reviewer) and I didn’t have a beta. They refused and I’ve heard this story over and over. Bottom line, after seeing “The Greek Seaman” meltdown last year, this girl got smart and decided I’d never react to a bad review again. I want to keep my fans and my publishers.

  • http://sarayork.blogspot.com Sara York

    Great blog. It’s best to stay out of the fray. If you want to complain about a review complain to a personal friend, not someone on the internet.

  • http://finless.blogspot.com davee jones

    Great post, I’ve yet to receive a review, my book isn’t out until next month. But I’m scared witless at how I will be received, rather, my writing received. However, it is what it is and I’ve got a tough hide from years of practice.

  • http://allthingsurbanfantasy.blogspot.com Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy]

    You’re awesome, Jess. I had completely missed the craptacular display w/ the self-pub author posting 40+ comments quoting ‘reviews’ on a blog. I really hate that the few are ruining it for the many.

  • Dawn Roberto

    Great post Jess. As a reviewer, I love books and yes I had some that just didn’t give me any enjoyment or totally lost me or made me want to run screaming from the room but hey, maybe it was the mood I was in, or that I wasn’t in the mood to read this particular genre…whatever but I try to be professional in my reviews and make sure that though the book may not have appealed to me, it may to others. I had only ONE author complain about a 2 star review from me-mainly it was so poorly edited I wondered how it got published which lowered the rating for me-swearing she will never, ever send us any review requests again b/c in her opinion-her book was a five as it was rated elsewhere (probably by family and friends, who knows). whenever an author asks what I may not have enjoyed in their book, I make a point to mention what did work for me in addition to XYZ that may have not.

    As you mention, it’s an opinion and not dipped in gold. I know I have found books that were panned by other reviewers and I adored. *shrugs* If an author is going to yell at me over a review, then I get my icy politeness out and mention “It’s just my opinion.” and wish them well with their future endeavors.

    Ok off my soapbox *sheepish grin*

  • http://www.literallyjen.com Jen

    I pitched to author J. Leigh Bralick to review “Down a Lost Road”. She is self-published, which I normally have reservations about, but her book sounded so good that I had to give it a chance. I ended up really enjoying the book and rated it 4 stars. She was WONDERFUL to work with, and we have even become good friends since!

  • Bobbie B

    I understand now why you were so fired up last night. Great post Jess.

  • http://www.naughtypagesofphoenix.blogspot.com Phoenix Johnson

    I’m a reviewer and soon-to-be-published author, and I agree totally. Of course, I’ve only been reviewing since June and have been lucky to have enjoyed everything so far. Even one that was a little tricky was still an enjoyable and wonderful plot. Maybe I’m too nice, too easily pleased, but I prefer to think that’ I’ve been lucky.
    I will admit there was one that I just didn’t “feel”, so I had to turn to the author down, and I felt quite bad about that but if I don’t “feel” a book, then I would rather turn them down than writing a mean review.
    The self-pub vs big-pub… I’m not fussy. If the book looks good, the blurb reads well and I “feel” it then I’ll read it. I’m not taking reviews at the moment, I need to focus on my own writing, but I do believe I have it stated that I will accept most any type of fiction. I’m fairly open. In fact, 2 of the books I’ve reviewed have opened me to reading BDSM and M/M. I’m personally a “vanilla” kind of person, but I’m now happy to read non-vanilla books now. (The author who wrote those books knows who she is) Reviews can be a doorway to a whole new genre that is surprisingly wonderful.
    As for being an author… I can only hope that if/when I get my first bad review that I’ll keep my sense about me and just take it with a grain of salt, as Patricia Logan says.
    Thank you for this great post. Agree wholeheartedly.

  • http://www.esthermitchell.com Esther Mitchell

    Great post, Jess! :)

    As an author, I couldn’t agree more. I love to get reviews, and (when I know about them) always try to send the reviewer a “thank you for reviewing my book,” regardless if they liked it or didn’t. *shrugs* I have the unique insight of knowing my work isn’t for everyone, so a bad review doesn’t bother me. Sometimes, it means that the reviewer just isn’t partial to my style. And sometimes, it actually helps me improve my work, if there’s something about the way I write that just doesn’t come across right at all.

    I welcome reviews, both good and bad, and both get the same “thanks for the review”… :) Guess it helps that I’m a “no-sugarcoating” type of person, myself…

  • Jess

    @Michelle — Thanks very much for stopping by, and for spreading the word! Sounds like you got some good advice, too. ;)

    @Patricia — I’ll tell you, when I saw my very first review, I cried happy tears. It was 5 stars. The next one I saw was by Publishers Weekly, and I cried for a very different reason, lol. Bad reviews sting, but they aren’t for us to complain about, other than privately. No need to reenact our own GREEK SEAMAN adventures…

    @Davee — Big congrats on your first novel! And don’t worry. Bad reviews may sting like a bitch the first time around, but the pain doesn’t last forever, and is easily overshadowed by the joy of a great review. :)

    @Abigail — I feel ya, darlin’. I’ll admit, I’m leery of self pubbed titles, but I like to give them a chance now and then. Just sucks that the behavior of a few makes the many look bad.

    @Dawn — I know how you feel. You should hear what my friends have to say to my face about my taste in movies. *g* That does suck about the 2-star book. There’s a self-pubbed book I read recently that I LOVED. The story was awesome, very unusual, very creative–and it had tons of ridiculous spelling and grammar errors that took away from my enjoyment. Really blows when you come across something that had the potential to be much more than it is.

    @Jen — Awesome! :D Glad to hear a happy story here. There really are some wonderful, gracious authors out there. It’s too bad you usually hear about the ones behaving badly instead of the nice ones like J. Leigh.

    @Bobbie — Heh, thanks. I’m not so angry anymore. *g*

    @Phoenix — Congrats on your publishing ventures! Yes, I’m with you–whether something was pubbed with the Big 6, a small press, or self pubbed, if it sounds good, and the first few pages grab me, I’m in. And it’s good to explore beyond your boundaries now and then. :)

    <3,
    -J

  • Jennifer Armintrout

    The thing that really gets my back up in these things (and specifically with Mike there), is that the author of the self-published book almost always cites “gatekeepers”. I rather like to think of these “gatekeepers” as the quality control who say, “You know, this book might be really good, but the query letter is forty pages of arguments from his critique group about why this is the best book on the planet. I’m going to pass.” I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people who talk at length about “gatekeepers” in publishing. I really wish I did not.

  • Linda Lyons-Bailey

    Once upon a time, when I was a very backward, naive, and silly young child many, many, many years past the time by which I should have grown up, I joined a fan site and had just this type of conniption fit over the silliness I wrote there.

    Now I read this and I feel…well…a *little bit* better.

  • http://dain54.wordpress.com/ Amber Dane

    Enjoyed your post!

  • http://nocturnalbookreviews.blogspot.com kara-karina

    Jess, if you want to check Elizabeth Hunter out, she writes Elemental Mysteries series. First book is A Hidden Fire.

  • http://www.dougiebrimson.com Dougie Brimson

    Great blog. As a professional author for over 16 years the first piece of advice I always give to any budding writer is that they you can’t take criticism, don’t do it!

    My own experience of reviewers has been mixed to say the least with some providing almost orgasmic levels of happiness and others leaving me enraged. Indeed, I am (almost) ashamed to say that I once confronted someone who reviewed my first book in Time Out (London) with the following: “Everywhere We Go by Dougie Brimson. Yeah right, f**k off!”

    Oddly enough, when in a face-to-face situation with a pissed off author, he wasn’t so forthright but that’s another story!

    http://dougiebrimson.wordpress.com/

  • Jess

    @Esther — Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, it definitely helps if you are confident enough in yourself and your work not to feel threatened by someone’s opinion of your material. Having a thick skin in this business is mandatory.

    @Jennifer — Yes, I know exactly how you feel. It raises my hackles, the same way the term “legacy publishing” does. Like I said in my “Us vs. Them” post, there is room enough in the kiddie pool for everyone to play. No need to cast aspersions on others just because of the methods they use to get their work out there.

    @Linda — Hey, we all start somewhere, and everyone makes mistakes. Nothing to be ashamed of. :) It’s when you can’t own up to those mistakes that people sit up and take notice…

    @Kara — Awesome, thanks again for the rec! I’ll check her out. I know I’ve heard that series name or book title somewhere before…

    @Dougie — Yikes, I hate when that happens! I’ve known people to be very different in person than how they conduct themselves online, so I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. Thanks for weighing in!

    <3,
    -J

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  • http://www.curlingupbythefire.blogspot.com Stephanie N

    I just wanted to thank you for your very informative and interesting post. You made a lot of good points for both published authors and wanna-be authors, and I’m sure most of the authors are aware of them. I guess the difficulty always lies in the reality. I’ve been a reviewer for quite a long time, far longer than I’ve run my blog, and I’ve been really lucky with the authors and publishers with whom I’ve worked. If the backlash has been negative, it has not come back to me with regards to my reviews. But then, I always try to be constructive in my reviews and try to write them as I would want to hear them, with no personal attacks of any kind. While most bloggers are usually great, I have read some books reviews that I’ve winced at because they either got personal or they weren’t constructive, but rather very, very negative. I had a wise English teacher once tell me that for every negative point you must always mention a positive and I’ve tried very hard to maintain that balance. If there is a book that I just can’t finish for whatever reason, I usually contact the author or publisher and ask them what they want me to do with the review. I am honest and tell them what I will write and let them decide if I should post. It has nothing to do with avoiding a backlash from the author as I am at the point in my life where I am not as concerned about that and it usually makes the author look bad, especially if i write constructively, it’s more out of respect. Does that make sense? And by the way, sometimes these are books by established authors who have written some fantastic books, but sometimes write what I call ‘duds’ too.

    The behaviours, either by blogger or author, only reflect on themselves and usually will come back on themselves if they are not careful.

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