On Attacking Reviewers ~ Lisa Henry: Outside the Margins

Join us as Lisa Henry goes Outside the Margins.

Lisa-Henry-OtMOn Attacking Reviewers

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write for this month’s guest post.

Then, on Goodreads, something happened.

An author wrote a book and named a character after a reviewer who had dared give her a less than stellar review in the past. And when I say, in the past, I mean several years ago. Which is a damn long time to hold a grudge against someone for their opinion, but hey, if we start listing some of the crazy stuff this author’s done, we’ll be here all day.


The original blurb for this book (since changed in what I’m sure is only a momentary lapse of sanity) read, in part: “My name is [name redacted] and I’m a reviewer–no scratch that, I’m a living god in the review world…I have zero tolerance for the weak-minded attention seekers, nor do I have respect for the self-proclaimed geniuses of the Indie world.”

You know, this could have been a fun book. Maybe even a book I would have picked up. It’s M/M, and it’s about a reviewer and an author who hate each other. I love enemies-to-lovers stories! But the second the author chose to name her spite-filled reviewer character after a real reviewer, no, just no. Not only will I not read this book, I’ll tell everyone I know exactly why I won’t read it, and why I don’t think they should read it either.

I’m sure that right now the author is claiming this is parody, or tongue-in-cheek, or something, but I’m not buying it. Not any justification the author wants to give, and sure as hell not the book. Because what this author did was make a conscious decision to, at best, mock a reviewer, and at worst to try and hurt her. And, frankly, I don’t see any way to even begin to try and justify that.

Books are our product, and reviewers help sell them. Seriously, we writers have a great deal here. You guys literally help us sell books, without us having to lift a finger. Shh! Don’t tell anyone how we’re using you!

Frankly, the idea that a writer would do this to a reviewer disgusts me beyond words.

And here’s another secret that you might not know: even bad reviews help sell books. Crazy, right? I’ve had plenty of reviews now, ranging all the way from OMG I WANT TO MARRY THIS BOOK to DESTROY IT WITH FIRE. And every one of those reviews has got my name and the title of my book out there.

Ever read a low-rated review along the lines of “I hated this book because it contains xyz”? Yes, I’ve had my fair share of those reviews. And that’s okay, because even though that one reviewer doesn’t like xyz, one of their friends might love it, and decide to give my book a try.

All reviews are valuable.

I’m tired of seeing authors complain that reviews aren’t helpful or constructive. Firstly, you’re not supposed to get constructive criticism from reviews. That’s what your beta readers and editors are for. And not helpful? Well, I’m pretty sure they’re helpful to other readers, even if they don’t tell you how to write a better book.

Are there such things as truly unhelpful reviews? Probably. If a reviewer says, “I hated this book because it’s orange and I hate orange”, well… um, okay. That’s still your opinion and you’re still entitled to it. Also, I’m pretty sure nobody else who reads the review will actually give a lot of weight to your opinion. Except other people who hate orange, in which case they probably weren’t going to buy the book anyway.

Reviews are for readers.

This topic really does make me angry, because every time a reviewer is abused or mocked or hated by an author for sharing their opinion, it makes that reviewer think twice about reviewing. And that’s bad for all of us: reviewers and authors alike.

So, to everyone who’s ever given one of my books a try, thanks. I hope you liked it, and, if you didn’t, I hope you have better luck with your next read. In the meantime, please review my books however you’d like. That’s your absolute right.

For the record, I haven’t linked to the book in question because this isn’t my blog, and I don’t want to overstep the boundaries of a good guest. But if you happen to follow me on Facebook or Goodreads, you’ll see it there.

~ Lisa Henry

About Lisa Henry

Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.

Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

My links:


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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28 thoughts on “On Attacking Reviewers ~ Lisa Henry: Outside the Margins

  1. 100% what you said Lisa. I also thought at some point that I would love to read a book with a reviewer and an angry author having hate sex. I would have read THAT book. Unfortunately the author was so mean spirited about it. If she had given the men random names, a straight forward blurb and kept her mouth shut, she might have had a big seller on her hands.

    Like you said, even when a review says something like the book lost 3 stars because there was puppy play, well you just sold me on the book because I love puppy play. If everyone loved the same books things would get kind of boring.

  2. I was oblivious to all this. Eeek. What on earth is the writing/reviewing world coming to??? I’ve had some shocking comments on my books – fortunately a lot of them made me laugh – like the one that says I need to see a shrink – but the last thing I’d do is go after the reviewer.

    • Bad reviews are part of the job. I’ve had some terrible reviews! But why focus on them, when I’ve also had some fantastic reviews — for the very same book! It’s all about personal taste for the reader.

      Sadly, every time an author goes after a reviewer it makes the rest of is look bad too. And that makes me very angry.

  3. I saw your facebook post this past weekend and I was just as appalled as you were. I’m just a regular ole reader. I’m not an author or reviewer and I don’t claim to write good reviews. I don’t always write reviews but when I do, I’m talking to other readers not the authors. I’ve never attacked an author in a review because I’m reviewing a book not a person. And I try to be nice about it because, as you said, it’s my opinion and other readers out there might like something I didn’t. I’ve seen so many bad things happen the last year or so in the MM community and it makes me sad. We have a fantastic community and I don’t like to see people hurting each other. There’s hurtful people in any community but maybe if we all stand up together, those hurtful people will have lesser of an impact on it. Thanks for the post and the giveaway, and good luck!

    • Yes, reviews are for readers, not authors. If you write a review of one of my books and I learn something from it, that’s great, but you don’t owe me anything.

      The MM community is only very small, and yeah, some bad stuff has gone down in the past year or so, and it’s really upsetting, since we are such a small community that most authors are friends with reviewers and vice versa. I hate it when someone comes along and screws with that.

  4. I completely agree. I don’t know how many times this has to happen for the idea to stick that reviews are for readers, so authors get over it. On goodreads there’s even a grievance system in place if one feels like a review is attacking them as a person and not just their work, but I note that in the most egregious cases it’s not the reviewers who are, say, going to authors homes or following them into supermarkets. Not in this referenced case, but it’s happened with others and it’s completely out of line. Oy.

    Mini-rant done, nice article, thanks for the perspective.

    • Exactly! I wish authors would remember that we need reviewers a lot more than they need us!

      When my first book came out it took AGES to get any reviews. Now, when a book comes out, it gets reviews on it’s very first day. And that’s all down to every reviewer in the past who’s taken the time to let others know their opinion.

  5. I appreciate you thoughts Lisa. I completely agree. When I don’t like I book, I say it. I try not be mean about it but I have the right to say that I did NOT like this book at all.

    Some reviewers are downright hateful. It’s not necessary to call a book sh*tty because you didn’t like it. It’s okay to point out things that didn’t work for you i.e. grammar/editting, insta-love, whatever. It’s not okay to call someone’s hard work the worst POS you ever read and this author should jump off a bridge. Those aren’t reviews, they are insults and they are not constructive. I don’t think paying for a book gives a reader license for cruelty just like I don’t think paying for a sports ticket gives you the right to spit/hit/throw objects at athletes playing the game.
    Reviewers and authors both need to be more respectful.

    In this case, If i knew the author you referred to in this piece, i wouldn’t touch their work again.

    • I think that even if a reviewer calls a book shitty, and doesn’t give any reason for that, it doesn’t matter. Because other readers are savvy enough not to put much stock in a review like that.

      I agree with you about reviewers telling authors they should jump off a bridge or something though. That’s pretty uncalled for, but on sites like GR there are options to flag a review that becomes personally abusive.

      I’m glad to say that in all my time publishing, I’ve never had any reviewer personally abuse me though.

    • And this is the problem! The bad behaviour of a few authors is stopping you from spreading the word about books you love, and also stopping decent authors (the vast majority, I think!) from getting reviews.

      It’s not bad reviews wrecking things, it’s badly behaving authors.

  6. Great post – I am not a writer or professional reviewer – but as a reader I do utilize other reader’s reviews to figure out if I would like a book or not. And when I write a review, I am writing it for other readers and try to write it about the book content – not the author. I figure authors have editors and beta readers to help them. (And if they don’t, they probably should.)

  7. This is a subject that goes both ways. There are reviewers that make it their mission in life to make life miserable for authors. I do think that the author should have taken the high road. (and the evil minion in me wants to read the book and review it)

    Okay, now really. As a reviewer, we have an obligation to write what our impressions are of the writing, story line and characters. No more, no less. We are not to write about our feelings for the author. And for myself, I try to find at least one thing positive about the book.


    • I agree that maybe there are spiteful reviewers out there — I’ve never had one for one of my books that I know of though — but I also think that if these people are so obviously writing a review to tear an author down, readers are going to realise it and ignore that review.

  8. I read about this book/reviewer and author on GR recently, and I totally agree with all you have written about it. I now see things from both sides as a reviewer here on PBA and as a m/m author, and it has not changed my views on either status.

    I review for the reader and have respect for the author. I write for the reader and respect myself. Someone who hurls insults and intends to humiliate or upset does not write a ‘review’ or a ‘book’ and does not deserve to have either read.

  9. Thanks for the post. I think you put this well. I read plenty of reviews where people hated the book for some reason x, but I loved it for that same reason.

    • A good example here would be The Good Boy, that I wrote with JA Rock. A lot of people really didn’t like the puppy play aspect and reviewed accordingly. But, checking out the comments on those reviews, others picked it up to read because they were interested in the puppy play.

      It all evens out in the end!

  10. There’s this writer out there, who actually should be a reviewer, because she writes these fantastic reviews of books. I wish she did it professionally.

    Anyway, her reviews are so snarky, and hilarious and sassy & just a little mocking and I love it. They are kinda like watching Mystery Science Theater. I’ve bought the books that she’s reviewed. It hasn’t stopped me from reading the books at all. Sometimes I laugh all the way through the book, enjoying it when I find exactly what she was talking about in her review. Other times I don’t agree with her at all, and actually enjoy the book for its own merit.

    This snarky reviewer sold some books with her reviews. It is really all that matters, or should anyway to a writer. What sells your book?

    • I love snarky reviews! And really, any review, either positive or negative, that gets your book some attention is a valuable review. I’ve bought plenty of books where reviewers have said, “OMG, this has xyz! Ew!” And I’ve bought it immediately. 🙂

  11. All I can add is just WOW! I to am just a reader but decided this year to review every book I read this year. So if I can string more than two sentences together I am doing good!

  12. Great post Lisa. Reviews are great but they’re just someones opinion on a book. Perfect idiom = One man’s trash is another man’s treasure (not that books are trash, I hope everyone is getting what I’m saying). Not everyone has the same taste so it’s not really put out there to disparage a writer (although there are the people who just do so to troll). I very rarely use reviews as a guidance to buy books because I feel it can color my reading experience and only do it if the book is really expensive and the blurb isn’t descriptive enough. Instead I try to find excerpts and character interviews to see how I feel about a story.

    When I write a review I also am writing it for myself as a reminder of what the book was about, what I liked and didn’t like, not just for other potential readers. I think reviews are useful but should be taken with a grain of salt.

    • I absolutely agree. I’ve read plenty of books that others have given bad reviews to, because they still sounded interesting to me. I’ve found some great books that way!

  13. Excellent piece. I was alerted to this issue by your Facebook post over the weekend. Once I read more about it on GR, I was appalled by the behavior of the writer involved. What is even more amazing are the numerous people who have rallied behind the reviewer. So many people who may have never written much or interacted much with the GR community heard about what was happening and left comments in support. <3

    I agree totally that reviews are more for readers than anything. And not everyone is going to agree on every book. What one person one stars another might put on their favorites list. For me, the most fun/interesting part of joining the GR community has been figuring out which prolific reviewers like the same books that I do so I can follow them.

    • I’m friends with heaps of people on GR who don’t like the same books as me, and it’s fun to read their reviews. But there’s a very small group whose judgement I absolutely trust. If they love it, I know I will too!

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