Reviewers and Authors Behaving Badly:
Authors love to throw around the term Reviewers Behaving Badly. Reviewers, in contrast, love to bitch about Authors Behaving Badly.
Most of the animosity centers around reviews and authors responding to those reviews. Some people take the “just ignore reviews” stance. Some take the “read them, just don’t respond at all, in any way” stance. Some read and thank the reviewer (I appreciate those authors a lot). Some just read and take the opportunity to grow as an author (a very constructive reaction). I feel that all those choices are valid responses to a review. Where authors and reviewers get in to trouble is when a review is negative, and the author responds in a defensive manner. Or the author responds in an appropriate manner and the reviewer, or a third party, gets their defenses in the way.
If you talk to me about reviews, you will notice I don’t use the term bad review. I prefer the term negative review. To say “bad” review implies there is a flaw in the review itself. Now, there are “bad” reviews out there, but just because a reviewer doesn’t prostrate themselves in front of an author does not mean it is a bad review. The reviewer has every right not to enjoy a book as much as the author hopes they will. A lot of things can affect a reviewer’s enjoyment of a book. These might include personal preferences, pet peeves, emotional state when reading, energy level while reading, and excitement for the book itself or the author. I know I have rated books higher “in the heat of the moment” than I would have if I had “slept on” the review, purely because I love the author’s work or was eagerly awaiting the release of a particular title.
Another area I see as a sticking point is the perception that a 3* review is “Bad.” For the Prism team, 3* is a good book. I may not have “wowed” us, but it was still a good and enjoyable book and a positive review. Yes, 5* is always the goal, but as I said in my hangover post, those are pretty rare, at least for me.
That being said, authors have every right to be upset that a reviewer didn’t love their books. These characters are their babies and they want everyone to love them. Unfortunately, that is just not going to happen. It is in our nature to focus on the negative. You can have 100 5* reviews, but the one that will stick is that single 1* or 2*. As a reviewer, I understand this and I am sensitive to it, but it will not stop me from being honest with my readers about my thoughts on a particular title.
Many authors’ knee-jerk reaction is to get hurt when a reviewer doesn’t love their book. I promise it is not a reflection of the author, personally. At least with the Prism team, a negative review is purely based on the book we just read (taking into account the above caveats, of course). I am a tough sell. I read a LOT, and I don’t have an easy-to-crack sense of humor (the terms my husband uses are stoic and unforgiving). Some of the Prism team is more forgiving. Some members of the team are an even tougher sell than myself. I like that we have a variety. You, as a reader or an author, may agree with us, you may not, but they are valid opinions. I, personally, like that reviews ARE subjective.
Once a review is written and published, unless the review is blatantly inaccurate (i.e. about the wrong book or actually lies about the content of the book) or libels the author, it is not within the rights of the author to ask for it to be removed. No matter the source of the review copy. You should not offer review copies with the the expectation of a particular rating. As reviewers, we accept review copies to read and honestly review the work. We do not promise, nor will we give, a particular rating just because a book was received as a review copy. This is clearly stated in the review policies of most reviews site. Once you offer the book for review, you have no more say in the review, just as when you publish the title, you have to cut the cord.
In my estimation there is only one thing a reviewer can do “wrong” in a review, and that is to attack the author themselves instead of focusing on the work being reviewed. As long as you read the book and focus on the words that were written, your opinion is valid. However, everyone needs to remember it is just that ONE OPINION.
One of my review pet peeves is when I see a reviewer who doesn’t give a book a fair shake. They review the book for what it is not instead of what it is. You shouldn’t go into a book with preconceived notions. The author will often surprise you, and you should be eager to roll with it.
I like to remind the Prism Team to avoid complaints about:
- A non-romance book not having enough romance.
- A paranormal romance having werewolves, shifters, vamps, fae, etc that don’t match their idea of what they should be. I remind them to look at whether the author made you believe the world they created.
- A Young Adult novel not having enough sex.
- A short story or novella being too short.
- A story not being about what you think it should be about.
- A story being about a topic you don’t like when the author makes it perfectly clear with the cover and blurb that is EXACTLY what the story is about.
- A story where the characters don’t behave in the manner you think they should behave. The author is the master of their fates and there is probably a very good reason they did what they did.
The simple act of responding to a review is not what puts an author in the “author behaving badly” category. Thanking a reviewer for taking the time to read and review your book is good business sense. Trust me, I appreciate the author who takes the time to say “thank you,” and I remember that author later. You don’t have to read the review itself, you don’t have to agree with the review. If you are not comfortable saying thank you, that is fine as well. It is not something I, as a reviewer, will hold against you in any way.
The badly comes into the equation when the author attacks a reviewer, either by name or anonymously. As I said you don’t have to agree, or even read, my review, but calling me, or any reviewer, out in a public forum is not a wise move at any time. You can ask advice on how to fix a problem brought forth in a review without calling out the reviewer, however, I would recommend that be kept to private discussions.
If an author has an issue with my review, or I made a mistake, I am not opposed to having them PM or email me privately to ask. If they want to know what they can do to get to the “next level,” I will also be happy to engage with them, in private. I have had authors PM me and say “I am sorry you didn’t enjoy my book.” Which is perfectly fine, as well. If they read my review and want to commiserate with their confidants in private, I can’t and won’t stop them.
Where my hackles, and those of the reviewer community, will rise is when you call a reviewer out publicly, or use my reviews to garner sympathy with “woe is me” posts. Attempting to engage myself, my team, or fellow reviewers publicly, and you have likely made a major tactical error. Remember that one negative review will be forgotten long before a public scene created by responding. The ensuing pack mentality can turn a simple “why” question into WWIII.
So here is my reviewer two cents on authors responding to reviews. I don’t write reviews for the authors, I write them for the readers. That being said, I do make authors aware of the reviews because, by and large, most of them still read them. Let’s face it, we are all creatures who thrive on praise. I am very conscientious in my reviews. I am not mean. I just want my readers to know they can trust my opinion. I have people that will buy a book based solely on me saying “this is good, buy it”. I have to be able to stand by what I say.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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