31 May 2012

The author-reviewer relationship

I know this topic has been discussed to death, but  recent events have once again caused me to really sit down think about the relationship between authors and reviewers. I just wanted to put in my two cents. Feel free to not read this if you don't want to, but I just feel too sad and disgusted to not say something.

Normally, I don't take things like this *too* seriously. I mean, sure it pisses me off, but I know it'll calm down. In this case, however, a reviewer's personal information has been published by an author on her blog. What makes me sad is that the author thinks this is justified. Digging up personal information about somebody who uses an online alias (which many people do), and publicly publishing it, is drawing the line. Quite frankly, this kind of author behaviour disgusts and saddens me.

I’m sure a lot of you, if not all of you who are reading this, are familiar with the website Goodreads. I joined Goodreads because I wanted to discuss reading and books with others who were as obsessed with reading as I am. It’s been about a year since I signed up to Goodreads and in that time, I’ve unfortunately witnessed some really awful behaviour on behalf of reviewers, but I’ve also seen a lot worse from some authors. While I can’t say any of my reviews have been attacked, I’ve witnessed many other reviewers attacked for writing a negative review by trolls and sock puppets.

Troll (internet): someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response (Wikipedia)

Sock puppet (internet): a false identity assumed by a member of an internet community who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person.
“The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization”. (Wikipedia)

On Goodreads, sock puppet accounts are normally created by authors to defend their book on a negative review and they’ve also been known to deliberately give one star reviews to other authors if they gave their book a negative review. I haven’t had as much experience with sock puppet accounts as I have had with trolls, but it shouldn’t happen at all. One particular author (who I won’t name), has created sock puppet accounts in the past. There are screen shots and evidence of this here

The majority of book bloggers and all of the reviewers on Goodreads DO NOT GET PAID. We read and review books because it’s something we love doing. Bloggers and reviewers put a lot of time, dedication and effort into what we do for absolutely nothing. We don’t get anything out of it, and half the time we don’t even care if it doesn’t “benefit” us, all we ask for is to able to share our opinions without fear of being attacked by other reviewers or authors. Seriously, if we got paid by the hour for writing reviews and blogging, I reckon a lot of us wouldn’t need a job.

I’m not saying that all authors behave badly; in fact the vast majority of authors are wonderful and seem to be able to handle constructive criticism. However there is always a select few who ruin it.
A lot of the time, when a review thread blows up and receives a lot of attention, is because people can’t handle criticism. Many trolls get defensive about their favourite books and argue that the reviewer has been too critical of the book or, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t review it” or, my personal favourite, “If you don’t like the book, don’t read it”. Let's address these...

1. Being ‘too’ critical of a book:
Let’s type the word ‘review’ into Google, shall we? And we’ll see what comes up.
According to the Online Oxford Dictionary a review is:
a critical appraisal of a book, play, film, etc. published in a newspaper or magazine’

In addition, according to Wiktionary, a review can be defined as,
An account intended as a critical evaluation of a text or a piece of work.’
Both of those define reviews as critical evaluations. I take this to mean a reviewer can be as critical as they like so long as the author isn’t being ‘reviewed’ and the reviewer validates their opinions by stating reasons as to why they disliked (or hated) the book in question.

2. Don’t review a book if you don’t have anything nice to say:
This relates to the above. The whole point of a review is to critically evaluate the content. Whether this be negative or positive, it shouldn’t matter so long as the reviewer backs up their arguments and doesn’t personally insult the author for the entire review.

3. If you don’t like a book, you shouldn’t read it:
This argument comes mostly from trolls who loved a book that a fellow reviewer hated. Well now, this is just silly and I feel rather stupid addressing the issue, but this response crops up so often. I only have one thing to say, you have to read the book in the first place to know how you feel about it.

Attacking a reviewer will do more damage to your reputation and your books reputation than any negative review would.

Reading a negative review of a book WILL NOT put me off from buying and reading your book, but if you’ve publicly reacted badly to a review (for example, calling a reviewer/blogger demeaning names or actively campaigned to have a negative review “bumped down” on a site such as Amazon), then I won’t read your book, no matter how much I’d like to. All bloggers and reviewers ask for is some mutual respect. If a review upsets you, by all means swear, carry on, hit your walls, scream, cry or do whatever you want in private, but reacting publicly is only going to do much more harm than good. I understand if a reviewer personally insults you, or attacks you, but more often than not, this is not the case.
What I’m trying to say is, please have some respect for other people’s opinions. It’s about time the author-reviewer relationship changed. The blogging community is wonderful, and I feel so privileged to be a part of it. I love reading, blogging and reviewing, but it really saddens me to see the friends I’ve made on Goodreads and through blogging, to be attacked by other reviewers and by some authors. I love this community, if one of us is attacked, we band together not because we’ve been asked or told to, but because we respect eachother and our differing opinions.
All I ask is for people to respect us, and our opinions just as we respect everybody else’s.


  1. Great post, Tan! You're so right, this is all becoming ridiculous and even other authors have been saying "If you can't take criticism, don't put your book out there" which is so true. You will never please every one with your book or music or film, so expect that there will be people who dislike it and movie on!

  2. This is so horrible. Great post :)

  3. Thanks so much for this post, Taneika. I'm horrified at what's been going on, and the blogger who has been attacked is a complete sweetheart. I honestly just wish would grow up, and past this kind of behaviour.

    I agree with you emphatically. Everyone has a right to a voice, and their own opinion. But there's a difference between opinion, and attacking other people. SO sad :(

  4. I completely agree with you. The author totally crossed the line. Publishing someone's personal details.. That is just NOT on. Authors need to grow up! Plus, the reviewers review is negative but it's honest and she was fair. But have you seen some of the reviews on Goodreads! You don't have to like every book you read but...some people just take it too far. Trashing the book and saying mean things about the author. I'm not talking about the reviewer at hand, she wasn't in the wrong and what happened to her what just terrible! But I think people who write HORRIBLe nasty reviews, putting down the authot, ect PLUS authors who target those who write negative reviews and do things like post personal deatails need some anger management classes and need to be put in the corner for a timeout and need to take a chill pill and THINK before they act!

    Rant over.

  5. Taneika...

    This post... There are no words. Somehow I doubt they'll get it though

  6. Thankyou guys :)
    It's just made me really sad that people think actions such as attacking other's for their opinion or publishing private information (regardless of whether it was still on the internet, you still need permission to redistribute somebody's photo or personal information. Facebook, for example, takes care of this sort of thing in advance, see point 2 here) is justified and okay. So what gives other people the right to distribute that sort of information to the world without permission? NOTHING.

  7. Hey I just found your site from goodreads, awesome blog! I love this post, I totally agree with a lot of the points you made, I've seen a lot of that stuff happening on goodreads too.

    ~Jess @ http://addictedtonovels.blogspot.ca/


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