Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Brats On... The Author/Reviewer Relationship

Or… Megan’s Thoughts on being a blogger and aspiring writer.

I am sure many of you have seen the recent author versus blogger fiascos going around the interwebs. If you’re a blogger, it’s not hard to miss. Authors mocking reviewers, authors sending nasty emails about reviewers that then leak, authors posting angry rants on their websites and then deleting them after the damage has been done. It’s really nothing new, but somehow these specific events have blown up in the last four or five days. And it’s clear that damage can and has been done to reputations and opinions.

I am not going to name names, but if you browse Goodreads or Twitter, you can find exactly who did what. And I know many people have blogged about this and the relationship between authors and reviewers, specifically those of us who have blogs and post to Goodreads and Amazon and LibraryThing and the like. But I wanted to approach this from a different angle. As you probably know, I am a reviewer and an aspiring author. In fact, I plan on querying a project with agents within the coming months.

As you might notice, I do go to some lengths to make sure that I keep my identity rather anonymous. Yes, Megan is my real name, but I share my name with thousands and thousands of other women and girl. My last name, though, is strange and pretty much marks me as me. Yes, there are ways of finding my name out. On this website, in fact, you can pretty much find a way to find out who I am and where I live. But why do I do this? Because I know there is a stigma from authors, agents, and publishers against bloggers, particularly bloggers who post negative reviews. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and I know it exists in some form.

I post negative reviews. One star, two stars, and I have been flamed on Goodreads once for a three star review. An author told me I had “no taste in literature”. He deleted it once my friends struck back and told him off. But I try with all my might to be constructive and never bashing. I only get mad when religion and girl power are manhandled, such as non-Christians being flamed unreasonably or girls being abused by their love interests. When I see that, I get PISSED. I don’t deny this. But never have I ever flamed an author or done anything that I thought warranted flaming. So far, no author (besides the Goodreads self-pub guy) has gone off on me.

Yes, I know that a negative review can be stressful. When my beta readers give me complaints, I get hurt. I want to think that what I’ve created is amazing and precious and untouchable. At the same time, I know how it is to be a reader and a reviewer. Not everyone is going to like my work. Maybe in a sense being a reviewer has helped me learn about taking negative criticism in stride. I know authors have probably seen my negative opinion of their books, but it was never directed at them. What they wrote, sure, but I know better than to attack an author. I love what I do – I love to interact with authors to an extent, I love to read what they write.

Negative reviews hurt, but they’re not for authors. I mean, I’m pretty sure an author might be able to learn something if there were bunches of people saying the same thing, like “unrelateable characters” or “horrible world building”. Reviews are for readers, though. They are places to share thoughts and opinions, and even a bad review can sell a book. I know there are some bloggers out there that I am the complete opposite of – everything they hate, I LOVE.

When an author crosses a line and starts mocking or bashing a reviewer, that is unthinkable. It’s almost like a chef walking out to a paying customer who tells a friend that they didn’t like the appetizer that they have no taste buds and aren’t worth anything. Or going to twitter and mocking how unrefined their customers are. Or posting on their official restaurant website that anyone who didn’t like their food is out to get them. I could go on.

I post negative reviews. I don’t like everything I read. In fact, I am quite critical sometimes. And I am snarky. That’s just how I am. But if an author ever posted about me on their blog or Twitter, mocked me and my reviews, said I was ungrateful and spiteful, then that would piss me off. And I know how it feels from the reviewer point. It’s a great instructor for being on the other side, and this week has taught me lessons I know I will use well if I am ever an author – successful, unsuccessful, loved, hated, ambivalent.

Let me sum this up. Authors, this is a career where you will see negative reviews against you, and where your public persona will dictate whether you thrive or die. Mocking people or bashing them will only earn you a place as a hated person. You will lose fans, you will lose sales, you will lose respect. Even with us reviewers, who make up only a small portion of readers in the world, you don’t want this. Reviewers, don’t bash authors, and don’t take it personally if they bash you. Sometimes people just have inflated egos. You have a way of fighting back – don’t support their work.

And that’s the end of my rant. I would love to discuss this topic with you, if you are an author, reviewer, aspiring writer, anything in between. Just let me know what you think!

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