The relationship between an author and a reviewer is one of the most symbiotic ones in the arts today. This is becoming more prevalent with the rise of the book blogging career path and the increase in the publisher’s use of social media. Without one another, they simply cannot exist. Reviewers rely on publishers and authors to supply them with “work” — books to read and review. Authors and publishers need book reviewers to spread the word and gain publicity.
Sometimes, though, things get out of whack and the whole system is turned on its head. This usually comes from something I call “a case of the meanies.”
I was talking with an author recently. Like many authors, she writes book reviews, as well as her own novels. After leaving a less than favorable review for one book, she was suddenly experiencing “ratings retaliation”. The author whose book she critiqued attacked her book in return, getting her friends to leave one-star reviews on GoodReads.
In another, more high profile case, a well-known debut author with a major publisher, slandered (quite nastily, I might add) a certain reviewer who had left a critical, negative review. I mean, really? Over a bad review? Then, of course, there is that nutjob author who went crazy because of a bad review, attracting hundreds to the comment section. It went viral in a matter of hours, doing a lot of damage to self-publishers everywhere (we aren’t all like that, we swear!) and to herself.
This isn’t to say that all reviewers are blameless. I do think you CAN go too far with a scathing review, particularly if it turns slanderous and starts attacking the author, rather than the work. I think reviewers who pride themselves on being catty, should probably take a few seconds and think about the damage they are potentially inflicting and to whom. Does Cassandra Clare care if you call her writing shitty? Probably not. But would a self-published, or debut small press indie writer? They might. You want to provide criticism for them. You don’t want to take away their will to live.
And authors…I think a lot of authors need tougher skin. My novels aren’t always well-received — I accept that because it’s the nature of art. It’s subjective. And I recognize that my characters are DEFINITELY not for everyone. But you take the negative reviews with a grain of salt. Maybe listen if they have something constructive to say, otherwise, brush it off and concentrate on the good reviews. It can sting but it’s not hard to do. The worst thing you could ever do as a writer is to A) get mad at the reviewer or B) retaliate against them. Don’t comment (other than to say “Sorry you didn’t like it, thanks for giving it a try!”), don’t argue, don’t take your issue publicly… and for heaven’s sake, don’t try and exact some kind of revenge on the reviewer. Just let it go, let the balance between reviewer and author go back to normal and enjoy the working order of things. We aren’t enemies, we are here to help each other and share our love of the written word.
And here’s something totally unrelated and creepy now… the official trailer for the Experiment in Terror Book #3, DEAD SKY MORNING (to read more about how I made the trailer and to enter a fantastic giveaway, visit The Bookish Babes).