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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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):
- 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.
- Do not rate or review your own work. This is terrifically tacky.
- 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.
- 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:
- Not all authors are assholes. Please don’t paint us all with the same brush.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?