The Negative Review……What about the reviewer? ~ Sunday Spotlight by PizzyGirl


The Negative Review……What about the reviewer?:

So I have been quiet about this for a while because I had never really been the one on the receiving end, but recently one of my reviews made it into that territory. You know what I mean. That review that upset/hurt an author and said author took to social media looking for validation and uplifting from fans. Those fans then started spewing insults at the unknown reviewer talking about the review being hateful or asking what has the reviewer written lately. Saying things like how awesome said writer was while the reviewer must be a mean or spiteful person if all they had time to do was cut authors down. I understand that the fans just wanted to make the author feel better, but what about the person behind the review?

Not all reviewers are uneducated “trolls” who are jealous. Not all reviewers are failed authors. We are not simply “bullies hiding behind a keyboard.” We enjoy extolling the virtues of good, well edited, works. It is why we do what we do. We want people to find works we loved and read them. We want to promote new authors and share the love we have for our all time favorites. Unfortunately, not every book we read connects with us.  Not every book out there deserves 4 or 5 stars. Here at Prism Books Alliance, we pride ourselves on honest, thoughtful reviews whether they are positive or negative. If we can say “we usually like this author, but this one didn’t work,” then a reader may pass on that particular title but try a different one. That negative review may have just saved the author a fan. If that potential fan had read that one that didn’t work for us, that reader may have walked away saying “I don’t like author XYZ.” In addition, some readers enjoy forming their own opinion and a negative review will actually gain a sale for an author.

As for me personally, I am a reader and reviewer. I am educated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. I work daily with math and science to help make the world an easier place to live in. I know I am not creative enough to produce works anywhere near the quality of most writers today. I own that fact, but I love reading and without readers, authors would have no job. Just as authors get frustrated with negative or nitpicky reviews, I as a reviewer get frustrated at being called to the carpet because I am ONLY a reader and have never written anything. That is not true, I do write. I write technical reports daily at work. I create presentations and email communications for various audiences. In my spare time, I read 6 -10 books a week and produce reviews for most of those stories. My reviews are read by fellow readers daily and as such I have to make sure that my thoughts are clear and written in a way that people can understand them easily. I proofread and edit my content as best as I can. Sometimes I reach out for help when I cannot get it right. I may not create novels or get paid for my reviews, and I am sure you can pick apart this post for instances of incorrect grammar. But I write, a lot.

In the case of my “negative review,” I was not hateful or mean. I was and still am a huge fan of the author. This author was an autobuy for me and I have read all of said author’s works. I jumped at the chance to review the author’s stuff every time it crossed my path. My review was not done to tear this person down and was not purposely spiteful. I agonized over writing it because I do value the author’s talent and don’t want people to think that I don’t appreciate the time and effort an author goes through to write a book. All of those mean comments from the ”super fans” cut me down and hurt my feelings, because none of those comments applied to this situation at all. I was vilified and many fans offered to “kick my ass” and stated that I obviously was not a “true fan.” And the author? While this person did not blatantly bash my review, the author did thank the fans for all the positive concern and love shown in the comments. All this did was encourage the comments and mob mentality to continue.

How is this behavior beneficial in any way? How is it OK to uplift an author by tearing down a fellow fan? Why is it OK to make hateful remarks when you do not know the whole story? Calling someone a bully while in turn bullying the reviewer. You don’t know me, you don’t even know which book was reviewed or what my review said.

For me, the outcome was worse than the sadness I felt over writing the review. I have now crossed a favorite author off my list for good. I am too afraid to write another review for this person as I don’t know when I will be crucified for not connecting with one of the author’s books. 90% of my reviews for this author have been positive and uplifting. I have even been thanked for my reviews on multiple occasions. But now I know what happens on the rare occasion I don’t connect with one particular title from this author. And the hurt that the fans imparted on me while trying to defend the author is not worth it. I also noticed that some of the fans who were cutting me down and offering to kick my ass are also authors who I have read or who I have been wanting to read. Now I question if I should give them a chance. What if I don’t like their stuff? Will they behave the same and allow their fans to make me out to be a monster?

So, goodbye favorite author and could have been favorite authors. It was fun while it lasted, but I have every right to my opinions and my feelings just as you do and I choose to impart them to authors who won’t throw me to the wolves. And yes they exist. I have also been the recipient of an author thanking me for taking the time to read his work even if I did not connect with his characters. And he even went so far as to defend my right to like or dislike his works when his fans would have tried to tear me apart.

Just remember next time you join that mob to rush to uplift an author who has had their feelings hurt, there is a person behind the review as well. You don’t know their situation or their motivations and those people have feelings too.

Farewell Giveaway
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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37 thoughts on “The Negative Review……What about the reviewer? ~ Sunday Spotlight by PizzyGirl

  1. Dorothy Parker was a reviewer as well as a writer. Her most famous review includes the line, “a new actress, Katharine Hepburn, made her Broadway review tonight. She ran the gambit of emotions from A to B.” Luckily, there was no internet at the time and no one shamed Dorothy Parker for her opinion (or if they tried to it was only at Sardis). And, also luckily, Katharine Hepburn didn’t let that opinion stop her from forging on with her career.

  2. Well said, Katie. The brutal, negative mob mentality is frightening, especially in response to something that was never intended to be hurtful–just well-informed, constructive, and honest. Thank you for speaking for all of us. <3

  3. As an author, I appreciate all reviews, even the negative ones (even though they sometimes hurt). Sure there are trolls, but those are obvious. If you read the book and legitimately didn’t like it, your review is valid and appreciated. The mob mentality unfortunately works both ways, though. An author friend of mine recently got attacked with negative reviews on Goodreads for comments she made as part of a fandom. I’m sorry you felt attacked by an author’s fans.

    • I agree that it can come from both sides. A review should focus on the work, not on the author’s behavior. The sales should reflect that. If you don’t agree with someone, don’t buy their stuff. But being hateful, and bullying is never the answer.

      • Authors need to remember that even classics and very popular books get negative reviews. I go look at reviews of some of my favorite books when a review gets me down. Even “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the Harry Potter series got negative reviews. So it’s inevitable that I will.

  4. Well said. I too write reviews and am troubled by the behavior I have observed. I write what I think and I am entitled to my opinion. If we all liked the same books, the world would indeed be very boring. And authors would have a hard time finding an audience if readers only read a few authors.

  5. Writing a review is many ways similar to writing a book–you put yourself out there, open for criticism. The same advice goes to both groups: be honest to yourself, write what feels right and ignore the rest.

    in light of some recent events, I’d like to caution against knee-jerk assumptions. When a review is criticized it’s not always the author behind it. Yes, there are batshit crazy authors who do such things, but they are an extremely small, even if annoying, minority. The reality is that authors have no control–and shouldn’t–over their fans.

    • While I understand your point about the fans. All too often it IS the author initiating the mob. They will post “woe is me” or “I can’t believe a reviewer said…” to their OWN social media. That is all the fuel needed to start to mob on its way. It reflects badly on the author and every person who jumps in with a “comment” about the reviewer.

      Criticizing the review itself is a completely different discussion. But when comments become “well the reviewer doesn’t know…” and “the reviewer is obviously jealous” that is no longer about the work. I don’t expect authors to like what I have to say. Hell, I don’t even care if they READ what I have to say.

      My team keeps their reviews about the work. When the author can’t afford the reviewer the same courtesy, it reflects badly on the author. When the author is fanning the flames of the discussion, it reflects badly on the author. When another author jumps in on the discussion, it reflects badly on them.

      When the thread itself is started by the author, they can no longer claim “well it was the fans that jumped on the reviewer, not me,” because the fans did precisely what the author WANTED to the fans to do. If they didn’t want people to come to their defense publicly against the reviewer, they wouldn’t have posted publicly to begin with.

      • I have a whole team of people who will tell me I’m awesome and that review is crazy. Of course they are all cats and even then I know they are wrong. Bad or good, a review is a cherished thing because someone took time out if their life to not just read my stuff but comment on it. That’s makes me pretty happy.

  6. I have only had small time attacks, a comment or two from either the author or another reader, I thought that was bad enough. So sorry to hear that this happened to you.

  7. I enjoyed your post PizzyGirl! Recently I have read some real doozies – written by both authors and reviewers – so harsh and so mean! It starts off with a few volleys and then turns really ugly. Things get personal.

    So maybe this will sound terrible but it’s how I feel. I read romance – I read to be entertained. I don’t expect Pulitzer winning prose, but I do expect 3rd grade standards of grammar. Some of the stuff I read is completely mindless, entirely wonderful, and totally ridiculous. If it entertains me I am okay with spending five bucks on it. I expect the same for any reviews I write. I am not a professional reviewer. I do not work for the NY Times or the even the National Enquirer – I do not get paid to write or read, and I write plenty of reviews for things I buy myself (not provided to me free by the publisher or author) so when I write a review I don’t expect that people read my reviews with anything but entertainment in mind.

    If I want to read something heavy and filled with deep meanings and symbolism I will dig out my college lit books, because lord knows I have boxes of them in the garage.

    People who use words for personal attacks, whether they are authors or reviewers or readers, are completely unproductive. It really solves nothing for anyone. It is so easy to hide behind a computer and sling mud, but there are so many better ways to spend one’s time. Such as: working out, talking a walk, doing a shot, flying a kite, eating pizza, birdwatching, shopping, playing Frisbee golf, ice-skating, doing a crossword puzzle, cooking dinner, taking a bath, looking at porn, visiting a senior home, picking up trash along the highway or beach, taking a nap, playing scrabble, pulling weeds, and eating candy.

    Next time someone has the urge to say something mean spirited please refer to the above list of activities. It will save a lot of time and heartache for all involved.

    • This should never happen to a reader who offers an unbiased opinion. Only reviews that spring from a mean-spirited personal agenda deserve to be slammed.

      The “fan” mentality is incomprehensible to me. We’re writers, for heaven’s sake, not rock stars, and as such should welcome a variety of reactions to our work. If our readers are mature and intelligent, they’ll counter reviews they find “flawed” with reasonable arguments, not abrupt, snarky dismissal or name-calling. I’m sorry you had to deal with such egregious immatutity, Pizzy. Try not to take it seriously.

  8. Wow. Did not realize that had happened to you. I’m really sorry to hear this. I am “just a reader” as well – but I also try to write at least a little something about all the books I read – like you nearly a book a day. I used to write for a couple of different review site and I considered doing it again at one point, but I’m sorry to say that experiences like yours are part of the reason I have held back from doing anything more than the occasional review at a couple of different sites. It’s ludicrous to think that every reader will connect with every book. Some books are a mess, lets face it. Some are not the kinds of books we prefer (for me that’s generally scifi or zombie books). It’s a shame that people are attacking your opinion. An opinion is just that – there is no right or wrong. I’ve loved books that my friends have said, “huh?” about. I’ve been lukewarm on books that “everybody” loves. That’s what makes discussing books so great in my opinion! Everybody gets to bring their perspective to the mix. I for one really like reading a variety of reviews on books before I decide if I want to spend my hard-earned money on a book. I wish this didn’t happen to you because this is the kind of behavior that smashes the free exchange of ideas which I think is what we are all really after here.

    • That is really what I was trying to say. A good discussion is wonderful, even if the parties agree to disagree. But the mobbish behavior of offering to attack people, name calling, and blatant bullying is the part that does the most damage.

  9. Wonderfully written, PG.

    “… I have every right to my opinions and my feelings just as you do… ”

    This pretty much says it all. It’s somehow become acceptable to expressing hurt feelings in the form of threatening and hateful words, which just create more hurt feelings. Even if an author posts something on social media with the hope of being emotionally bolstered by friends – totally understandable – when they feel hurt, it’s when things start to get out of hand that they could step in and bring things back into focus: their hurt feelings, not disrespecting a reviewer, aka fellow human being for doing the exact same thing in expressing their feelings.

    I hate that you had to go through this. Bring on the tentacle juice!! <3

  10. Some authors seem to have forgotten there’s a difference between reviewers and cheerleaders. Having a street team helping you get the word out and promote your books is all well and good, and I have no issues with it, but it becomes something rather ugly once those same fans feel they have to go on the attack for the author(s) they support. I’ve so far managed to avoid authors’ wrath and tend to not label what I write about books as reviews but rather my opinion about books but I’m sure the day will come when I’ll make somebody unhappy.

    I think it would help if all of us could remember that not every book is for everybody. I’ve been known to get it wrong recommending books to people I know really well. Just because some/most books by an author work for a reader doesn’t mean all of them will. I wonder whether this author (and others who behave in a similar way) realise that (s)he/they may lose as many readers as the gain when they behave like that. Show me your a bully, or encourage bullying, and I’m gone. No second chances.

    I’m sorry you had to experience that. I’m impressed with your well written, well thought out and very balanced post about the debacle.

  11. If there’s one thing I’ve learning about publishing and reviewing, it’s that everything is an opinion from one person’s perspective. Getting angry about a negative review is like getting angry at someone for preferring vanilla over chocolate… in my opinion.

  12. That was brilliant PG. Every word. We can’t be reviewers and be afraid. People can’t only respect us when we agree with them. If I respect your opinion, it’s not a part time thing of convenience.

  13. Excellent post Katie 🙂

    You have written everything I wanted to say a few months ago!

    The possibility that any of us would like every book we ever read is ridiculous. If that was the case there would be no need for reviewers because we would be living our lives like Stepford clones.

    I have many favourite authors who are autobuy or even autoreview for me and it is sad every now and again to read a book you don’t connect with BUT it is a fact of life. It doesn’t mean that every book after that will be no good, it doesn’t mean that we will never read another book written by them, it just means that we didn’t like/relate/connect to just that one book. As a reviewer would you prefer me to lie?

    One thing that would prevent me from reading anything further by an author is if I felt bullied. There are keyboard warriors out there on social media who give no thought to how they are hurting people. I hope it is just the bravery of sitting behind a screen that allows these people to say such hateful and hurtful things and it is not their normal behaviour in the real world – especially the ones that start by saying ‘I haven’t read this book yet but….’

    At the end of the day a review is just ONE persons opinion but that persons opinion is valid and they should not be attacked for it.

  14. PizzyGirl, I’m glad you wrote this but sorry you had to have the experience to write it. This resonates particularly well with me this week because of the review my short story “Rivals” received here a few days ago. It wasn’t the review itself (which was a good one), but what Brandilyn said in the intro that’s stuck with me: “I always go into books by authors I know personally with trepidation.”

    It’s sad that she has to consider this. Yes, Brandilyn and I know each other. Yes, I contribute to “Outside the Margins” on Prism. But, I’m also an author in this genre and she’s a reviewer. My books are fair game and while it would be great to think she’d love every one of them, the reality is that she may not. If she gave me a “negative” review, it wouldn’t affect my friendship with her or my working with Prism. She’s allowed her opinion and I have to respect that.

    Negative reviews happen. I’ve had ones that I’ve learned something from. I’ve had ones where it’s clear my story simply wasn’t for that reader. I’ve had ones that are one star with no reason given. I’ve been lucky that, so far, I haven’t been the recipient of a “mean” review (although I’m sure it will happen eventually).

    It’s way too easy to tear people down. The internet makes it to easy to fire a thought into the world without thinking about the repercussions. How is a book review anything to kick someone’s ass over? I don’t understand it and never will.

    Meanwhile, PIzzyGirl, keep doing what you’re doing!

    • “It’s way too easy to tear people down. The internet makes it to easy to fire a thought into the world without thinking about the repercussions. How is a book review anything to kick someone’s ass over? I don’t understand it and never will.”

      That right there is the point we are trying to make!

  15. Hang in there, Prizzy. You and the other reviewers at PBA (and other review sites) do all of us – reader and authors – a service. I think as authors we want everyone to like it, even if we know it’s not possible. I may not like reading a ‘bad’ review, but if it comes with constructive criticism, I’d be a fool to ignore it outright.

    The only other thing I’d say is DON’T let someone(s) scare you off. Authors are told not to let 1 & 2 star reviews make us stop writing, so too, you can’t let negative responses keep you from doing what you love. We’d all be poorer if you did.

    • It is like any other bullying situation. You can only take so much before the situation boils over. We deal with it amongst ourselves (privately) as best we can. However, when we see daily, author after author bitching about a review or reviews publicly… it grates.

      People hide behind the anonymity of the internet and it gives them strength they wouldn’t have if the recipient of their ire was sitting in the same room.

      I think this is also a cautionary tale (that I have repeated too many times to count). Is PG going to stop reviewing? Nope. Is she going to stop reading works from the author that incited this mess? Yep.

  16. This is so disappointing to hear, and unfortunately it seems to be a trend these days. I am both an author and a reader, and I believe strongly in objective, constructive criticism. As a reader, I want my reviewer to provide their honest thoughts. I’ve always felt Prism gives fair reviews–if a review site is consistently giving 5 stars, I start to question the validity of their reviews.

    As an author, I know that the writing process is about continual self-improvement. We are bound to have hits and misses. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to provide their feedback. I can take negative reviews as long as it’s about the work and the reviewer takes the time to explain their feelings and provide examples. In fact a good negative review can help me become a better writer. If someone can’t tell the difference between a personal attack by trolls and a constructive review, they shouldn’t be in this business. Do you think Stephen King freaks out if I give him 2 stars on Goodreads?

    Keep up the good work Prism Book Alliance.

  17. I’m sorry you got hurt. Some people just aren’t going to connect with everything we write, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Don’t allow one bad apple change what you love doing.

  18. I’ve had some pretty unkind things said about a story or two of mine before. It happens. I used to review movies and music for an online website and if people think I’m sarcastic now, they should have seen me back then. Some efforts are better than others. Some books will be more to one’s liking than others. Just because I didn’t like something never meant someone else wouldn’t. Just like with your review. It may not have been your cup of tea, but it doesn’t mean it’s not somebody else’s. How often do we read a review that didn’t like something, then we go right out and buy it (or watch it) anyway? I do it all the time.

    But the mob mentality of “how dare someone say something less than stellar about this person” followed by badmouthing the reviewer really needs to stop. It actually should have been addressed by the author other than “thank you for the support.”

    • “But the mob mentality of “how dare someone say something less than stellar about this person” followed by badmouthing the reviewer really needs to stop. It actually should have been addressed by the author other than “thank you for the support.””


  19. I am so very sorry this happened to you.

    Please know if ever I write something you don’t care for, I will defend your right to say so. And to star it appropriately. Doesn’t mean I’m going to say… of course my special kitten is flawed… because you know, EGO! *grins* But love, I know not every book is for everyone and you have that right to not like something.

    I am sorry you were hurt in this. You should not have been. *hugs*

  20. I like this!

    I love your point on seeking for validation THEN putting the other people down.

    Like seriously? You ask for praise while your “fans/friends” insult the hell out of the “unknown” person.

    Thank you for enlightening other people!

  21. Nobody likes to get a negative review, but that’s part of being an author. Not everyone will like everything you write, and if you can’t deal with it, you shouldn’t be publishing books.

    And authors should never vent online about feeling hurt about a negative review. Save that for a group of close friends and maybe a bottle of wine.

    No reviewer should ever be subjected to abuse or harassment for giving their opinion. I’m sorry this happened to you, PizzyGirl.

  22. I knew you were going to write this KT and I was upset for you when this response happened. Your report was well timed as it turned out, in light of what has been happening to JAG…

    I believe both authors and readers / reviewers / bloggers should remember these are books, a source of pleasure to writers and readers, hopefully. These are not warzones, but social media platforms.

    Perhaps people forget we are trying to encourage more tolerant, accepting behaviour in others…?

  23. Great post. I’m sorry you had to experience this, but I wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote 😉

    Venting on social media is dangerous. There are of course times when we feel and just want someone to be at our back without question and build us up again. It’s very easy to forget that the venting is not done in private, but publically. The person you vent about may see it, common aquaintances may see it. It’s just not the best place to vent with hundreds of people potentially seeing it.

    As a fellow reviewer and reader in this genre, I greatly appreciate all the time and effort you put into your reviews. Don’t let this drag you down. It is a sad turn of events and happens too often, but there are many amazing authors out there who appreciate honest, thoughtful and respectful reviews, whether they are positive or negative or if hurt about a ‘bad’ review, keep the venting private and out of the private eye.

  24. This makes me both sad, and incredibly frustrated. Any writer who thinks everyone is going to like everything they write is fooling themselves. Can a negative review be hard to read? Absolutely. Should we, as writers, take to the internet and attempt to look for balm for our egos by asking people to offer us up some love? No. We should read the review and try to see the book from the reviewers point of view. And unfortunately, the ‘can I kick their ass’ mentality seems to be pretty prevalent out there. I’m sorrier than I can say that this happened. We cannot be taken seriously as a genre if we cannot behave like grown ups, and sometimes we need to pull up our big girl panties and accept that not everyone is going to love our books.

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