Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Reviewer?

17 July, 2012 Musing Musers 50 comments

“Little Author, little Author let me in.”

“Not by the feathers of my quilly pen, pen!”

“Then, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blooOOOOoow your book in!”

These days it seems like there’s a new version of the Big Bad Wolf roaming the inter webs, specifically in the book blogging community. I like to call it the Big Bad Reviewer. Dun, dun, dun, duuuuuunnnnn! Did you cue the Michael Myers music yet?

Don’t tell me you don’t know the story. You know. Big Bad Reviewer reviews a book in an, ahem, snarkalicous way. He/she pours over that review, knowing that Little Author has to eventually see it. You see, the Big Bad Reviewer has nothing else to do with his/her time but antagonize Little Authors into a flame war on the internet. One day, Little Author, who just happens to be browsing his/her reviews, runs across the review, which may or may not include comments from agreeing parties. Little Author is shocked and horrified that someone could have so many strong negative opinions of their book! How dare that Big Bad Reviewer not understand Little Author’s brilliance and have the nerve to review their baby with the assistance of animated images! Little Author continues to follow the commentary and stews over the review until he/she just can’t take it anymore. He/she knows with every fiber of their being that the Big Bad Reviewer is laughing at him/her behind his computer screen. Then the inevitable happens. Little Author schemes and does one of the following:

  1. Comments on the review and gives that Big Bad Reviewer a piece of his/her mind
  2. Links to the review on Twitter with a choice words about the Big Bad Reviewer
  3. Writes a blog post linking to the review
  4. Organizes a campaign to down vote Big Bad Reviewer’s review

After all, vengeance is sweet and Little Author shall have his/hers! That Big Bad Reviewer had it coming anyway spewing volatile venom all over the blogosphere. Little Author won’t take this sitting down. He/she will have the last laugh!

Or so they think…

Next thing Little Author knows, everyone is talking about how big of a jackass he/she is in losing it over one little review. Bloggers have blogged about Little Author’s WTFery, people have unfollowed him/her on Twitter and that damn review is now one of the highest voted reviews on GoodReads! Other readers are adding their baby to their “When-Hell-Freezes-Over” shelf. However, none of this is the Little Author’s fault. That damn Big Bad Reviewer orchestrated the entire thing and sought out to ruin Little Author’s career. Everyone knows Little Author would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids! >_>

Yes, the above scenario completely confirms what some authors have been complaining about. Reviewers are totally out to get them. For whatever reason they just aren’t happy with their lives and have the audacity to pay money for a book, spend hours reading said book and then even more time chatting about that very same book. So very evil.

A while back I wrote a post on GoodReads myths because I grow tired of seeing a lot of misconceptions about the site flying around. Particularly that there is a gang of Big Bad Reviewers trolling the site looking to devour Little Authors left and right. And lately I hear that so much that I sometimes feel *thisclose* to gathering my closest reviewing buddies, slapping tattoos on their arms and metaphorically strutting around the web like this:

I’m the one on the left. Do you feel the fear bubbling in your chest yet? 

But usually it just spurs exactly two reactions from me:

I Fall Out Laughing

I just fall the hell out. I mean, when you really sit and think about it the most anyone can do is unfollow you on twitter and shelve you on the “naughty list.” Neither of those things are considered harassing or going after anyone. And why should it? If I’m a troll then, got dammit, so is Santa Clause. Even Santa keeps a naughty list and I don’t see anyone accusing him of being a meanie.

The idea of a Big Bad Reviewer out to get the Little Author is ludicrous. As far as I’m concerned, the only crime usually committed by the Big Bad Reviewer is posting a rather harsh, negative review. And sometimes it’s not even harsh at all. But the thing that always gets me is that it wouldn’t have ever been that big of a deal if only Little Author didn’t make it hot. Think about it for a second. If Little Author had never blogged, tweeted, organized or commented, the entire blogging/reading community would probably never have read that review, never have even heard of that reviewer. What a genius idea! Draw attention to the very thing you don’t want anyone to see! Brilliant. Give that guy a Klondike bar. -_-


I feel frustrated because some people can’t seem to understand what a social networking site is. So I feel compelled to break this shit down real slow. Currently, GoodReads has over 9 million users. That’s a lot of people. I like to think of GoodReads as Facebook for the bookish type. Now, what do we know about Facebook? We know that people will vary in age, likes & dislikes and personalities. You have people interacting with their friends everyday talking about various things. You also have businesses that advertise and hold fan pages to interact with their customers.

Let’s say a person adds a status update saying: “Yooooo! I just got back from Best Buy and I think dat store SUCKS ASS!!!1!!” Do you think the rep that manages the Best Buy fan page is going to then go one that person’s status and chew them a new one? NO. It would be HIGHLY unprofessional, though it would certainly be in their right to do so. If you don’t think that regular FB user’s friends and family wouldn’t come out and defend him tooth and nail, you are living in a fantasy.

GoodReads is the same way. It’s simply book social networking sites full of regular wolves people not professionals, where most do not receive ARCs or anything like that. The site was made for readers to hang out and discuss books however they wanted, which is why the staff is very hands off with policing its members. The site does not exist to stroke an author’s ego. Yes, authors and publishers are there, but they have a special interest–selling books. Do they also come to hang out with other readers? Sure, I don’t doubt it at all. But if you are selling a product a certain level of professionalism is expected. You don’t get to throw shit at your customers and expect it to be justified. You don’t get to be a total jackass in public and still expect people to want to support you financially by buying your book the next day. You just… don’t, okay?

Both Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling have had some of the harshest criticisms in their careers. From nasty reviews to book burnings. Yet, you don’t see them in the media going after reviewers. Why? Because they are classy ladies and they exercise the “If it don’t apply, let it fly” rule. I have exactly FIVE Twilight books and I have written three very negative reviews. That means she’s received at least $50 from me. Who’s the real winner here? Meyer is rolling in the green stuff from her fans and her haters.

So, yeah, I write negative reviews. Sometimes they’re harsh, sometimes they’re nice. It really depends on the book and how pissed off I was after finishing it. I write my reviews like I’m chatting with my best friend because I’m not reviewing for Little Author’s benefit. I’m not a beta reader and have never felt obligated to hold anyone’s hand while reviewing their novel. And I’m not going to sit and apologize for any of that. So, I guess that makes me one of those feared Big Bad Reviewers. But I struggle to understand why there is the notion of authors cowering in fear. Why in the world would someone give me, a random reviewer/blogger on the internet, that much power over their person? In the grand scheme of things many author’s readers may never stumble upon my review. Why does that one review matter?

So I’ve resolved myself to something. The next time someone “cries wolf” perhaps my reply should be a little more appropriate:

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

50 Responses to “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Reviewer?”

  1. Emma

    Awesome review.Perhaps this is the best way to respond to all that is happening out there

  2. April Books & Wine

    I like this a lot. Mainly for the kitty gif.

    But, I think as reviewers our currency is our honesty and we should be straight with our reviewers about whether we like a book or not, in our own voices be it snarky or super serious.

    And I was thinking about this Sunday when I came home to a nasty comment by an author’s brother calling me an animal killer because I eat meat (lulz), the thing that popped into my head was wow, if I was younger and not so sure of myself, that snide comment might scare me into silence, it might scare me into being more tame, it might make me doubt myself and my skills as a review blogger and that is not okay.

    I just, this whole 2012 author-blogger explosion bothers me because I do think maybe it does scare some people into being gentler or altering their opinions for fear of retaliation. As a reader and book purchaser, a person who drops a lot of money on books based on blogger reviews, this sort of thing is not okay. I just want full honesty, I guess.

    Anyways, sorry for the super long, super rambly, run-on comment. I do like this post very much though and totally think reviewers are not out to ‘get’ authors.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Dark Companion Marta Acosta Book ReviewMy Profile

  3. Rose

    Well said, Stephanie. That sums up many of my own sentiments of this whole situation.

    Though on a random note, I feel bad because I see that hilarious cat gif and I feel like I’ve seen it before and can’t remember where it’s from. >_>
    Rose recently posted…Review: Blood PromiseMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      Thank you. 🙂 It’s from the Emperor’s New Groove if I’m not mistaken. Kinda apropos when you think about it. Heh.

  4. Kat (AussieZombie)

    Shit! You mean us bloggers aren’t supposed to spend hours picking out books and just ripping them to shreds for shits and giggles? I’ve been doing this ALL wrong.

    In all seriousness, it’s time for a select handful of people to either chill out or get off the bus – it’s a tough world out there and the reality of it is, if you’re going to put your ‘baby’ out in the wilds, you accept that not everyone is going to like it.

    Maybe I’m being dense, but I really don’t see what these people hope to achieve by going off the deep end? That we’ll feel sorry for them because someone gave their honest opinion, go and buy all their books and then write nice fluffy reviews? Or that those people who DARE to say what they actually think will ‘realise the error of their ways’ and stop blogging? Um no – it’s just going to alienate a whole bunch of potential readers forever – and there’s many of us out there that will try and read another book by an author, even if we didn’t like the first one.

    There, I feel better now 😀
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…My Opinion – What About the Nice Authors?My Profile

  5. Jessi @ Auntie Spinelli Reads

    I love this!! I personally love to read a good rant review!
    No matter what subject we’re talking about in life, there are always going to be people who agree and people who disagree. I doubt there’s a single book on the market that EVERYONE loves. There’s always going to be somebody that doesn’t like the same thing that everyone else does, it’s a fact of life. I don’t know why some people get so torn up about an opinion.
    Opinions are like assholes, we all have one!!
    Jessi @ Auntie Spinelli Reads recently posted…Undersea Spoils (4)My Profile

  6. Kayto

    Well-said! I can understand a knee-jerk reaction, but I’d also think that an author would *think* before responding: haven’t we seen enough stuff go viral online to know to avoid at least the really obvious ways of acting dumb?

    I think it also shows a spectacular lack of understanding how people work. You go see a movie and love it? You tell people. You go see a movie and hate it? You tell people. Why should books be different?

    Plus, let’s be honest: sarcasm is fun. I’m a lot more eloquent when I write a negative review because it’s easier to articulate why I feel that way (my favorite books get reviewed with lots of CAPS and “it’s super awesome go read it now!” but fewer specifics). And I’m more likely to search out/comment on/”like” reviews that I agree with–I’m sure others are, too, which is why my single most popular review is a one-star of Finnikin of the Rock (sorry).

    Let’s look at it this way: in the not-so-distant future, classes on communication will use this time as a case study.
    Kayto recently posted…Independence Day AmusementMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      Thank you. I don’t get it either. People have said some hurtful things about me online before, but you don’t see me blowing it up. 1) Those people aren’t worth the time of day 2) They don’t pay my bills, so I don’t give a damn what they think. Just close the browser. It really is that simple.

      You one-starred Finnikin?! I challenge you to a duel! LOL, just kidding. My most popular negative review is Fifty Shades and we all know *that* has no problem selling.

  7. Donna @ Bites

    I completely agree but then you’ll get the cranks that’ll cry BUT YOU’RE TRYING TO CENSOR PEOPLE! And then we all look at them and go, um, no. We’re not saying don’t say anything; we’re just saying don’t be a total dick. Goodreads is a place to post reviews. It does not say anywhere that a review can’t be negative. So I’m not understanding why authors are losing their shit over less than stellar opinions from random readers. Your Lumburg photo pretty much takes the cake.

    If these people were ranting and raving on the street others would avert their eyes and keep walking. They are crazy dicks. Period. You’re voicing a dissenting opinion? HOW DARE YOU! Please. But I love how it’s the reviewer’s fault for masterminding a vendetta against said crazy author. LOVE that. I’m pretty sure the psychiatric profession would call that delusional. Someone should write those guys a memo or something.
    Donna @ Bites recently posted…YA Boys That Make Shitty ToysMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Donna @ Bites:

      *sigh* Yes! Dicks, dicks everywhere. It’s because we are little and easier to pick on than the NY Times or Publisher’s Weekly who have both published a few scathing ones. What they fail to realize is that people generally don’t like puppy kickers.

  8. Claire

    This is a fantastic post and I’m so glad I stumbled across it! Before I started blogging/reviewing, I wouldn’t have even imagined this to have happened. Quite frankly, it really annoys me as I’m sure it does other bloggers too.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and putting this out in the open 🙂 <3
    Claire recently posted…"Waiting On" Wednesday – #19My Profile

  9. linda

    I absolutely agree that reviewers are under no obligation whatsoever to be nice. I wish it were true that “You don’t get to be a total jack­ass in pub­lic and still expect peo­ple to want to sup­port you finan­cially by buy­ing your book the next day.” But unfortunately, it would not surprise me at all if an author did something rude/awful/assholish in public and still sold a ton of books.

    I think it goes both ways, since authors are not under any particular obligation to be nice, either. There would be a lot less drama if both authors and reviewers chilled out about someone calling them names, insulting their friends, or saying mean things about their writing — but hey, no one is under any obligation not to start drama, right?

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      Completely agree. The internet is a public place and I think some people forget that. Things do not easily go away here. I know I have seen so not so nice things said about me, but I chose not to respond and incite those people further. In the end, it accomplishes nothing.

  10. Ceilidh

    Spectacular post, as usual, Stephanie! All of this poor, poor little author/big bad reviewer drama just reminds me every day of why I hated Junior High. I mean seriously, do you go crying to your mommy when someone says something mean about you or do you put on your big girl panties and suck it the hell up? Sigh.

  11. Kate C.

    The thing that kills me about all this—besides that things have gotten so out of hand (example: Lucy)—is that it makes us forget what we love about goodreads.

    I LOVE goodreads. I love it as a reader. I have found so many authors I love over the past year because of reviewers like you and Kat.
    I love it as an author. I have connected with a ton of fans that I never would have known existed otherwise. Sure, there are plenty of people who don’t like my books. But that’s okay, there are plenty of people who do. If I were just relying on emails from readers to tell me that, I wouldn’t have met some of the others.
    Kate C. recently posted…Vacation… All I ever Wanted!My Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      @Kate C.:

      Yes! I have connected with so many other wonderful readers. I don’t have that many friends that read as much as I do, so it’s refreshing to have a place to go to discuss my obsession with like minded individuals. And I have discovered so many different books. It’s an amazing site.

  12. Jennifer

    Can I be apart of your wild review wolf pack thingy??? Please….pretty, pretty please!!
    But seriously there is absolutely nothing wrong with a bad review. If you spent your money on that book, then you deserve to review it however you see fit. Great post Stephanie!

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      Sure, we are handing out the tats behind my shed in the backyard. Bring your own tattered shorts. Chest glistening spray will be provided. 😉

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      This year had gotten off to a very bad start. I was hoping it would improve, but it’s just gotten worse and worse. What I’m really afraid of is reviewers not giving honest reviews for fear of backlash. Reviews are so subjective. Anyone can take offense to anything and seek retaliation on a reviewer.

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      How do you think I felt typing up this post? 😉 I kept getting distracted. Heh.

      And of course! The pack wouldn’t be the same without ya!

  13. Camille

    This is a really great post and I enjoy your reviews as well…particularly the snarky ones 🙂 You’re just so forthright, so don’t change that. I wish you/someone would also address the Little Author’s die-hard fans that troll Amazon and Goodreads with tar and pitchforks ready to light into anyone who dare *gasp* have an opinion and critique the L.A’s work. Book bullies are a highly disturbing phenomenon and something I would have considered an oxymoron (somehow having priorly believed that people who read would be more refined) had I not seen and experienced it myself.

    • Stephanie Sinclair


      Thank you, Camille. I certainly don’t plan on changing! And oy the die-hard fans are the worse. I’ve seen some truly vicious ones and it boggles my mind every time.

  14. Jenn Cooksey (@Jenn_Cooksey)

    I’ll admit up front I didn’t read all the comments, but it’s 2:30 AM now and I’m pretty much sick to death about the shitassery going on, but I got a good giggle or two from this post so I wanted to say thank you. From an indie author who feels like her career is being flushed down the toilet by a lunatic she’s never even heard of before today, thank you for the laughs. Also, just so you and all the bloggers out there who feel so inclined to check it out, I wrote a blogpost about this earlier in the week. I’m not going to link it here, because I don’t want to spam or be rude. 😉

    Fav line: “Yooooo! I just got back from Best Buy and I think dat store SUCKS ASS!!!1!!”
    I really heart the 1 in the middle of the exclamation points. Priceless…

    Rock on!

    Jenn Cooksey (@Jenn_Cooksey) recently posted…Check here to Subscribe to notifications for new postsMy Profile

  15. Chris Ward


    I found your blog pretty interesting. Just as a disclaimer I have absolutely no idea what the original fallout of all this is about as I spend the majority of my internet time watching cricket. But anyway, I think a lot of the problem with self-pubbed authors going off the deep end when they get a bad review is because very few of them have gone through the process of developing a thick skin which traditionally writing is all about. I’m 33 now. I submitted my first short story at age 18, and finally sold one nine years later. It was a further two years before I sold one professionally, and when I decided, on the back of several partial requests, that my novel was worth giving a try in the self-published world, I had collected some 400 rejections from magazines, agents and editors over a fifteen year period. That’s a lot of rejection, but I imagine that’s a drop in the ocean compared to some people. A lot of those rejections were forms, but others were downright scathing. Not once did I ever respond, just wrote “rejected” on the spreadsheet and moved on.

    Because self-publishing is so easy a large number of authors have just bypassed all the skin-thickening (which in general weeds out a lot of the more sensitive types) and therefore when they get a bad review they can’t take it. Some will seethe inside, some will explode. The problem is that the vast majority of self-published writing is utter junk, but to each author their novel is their baby. It takes time to learn how to handle it when someone tells you its actually crap, and its a big part of the learning process to become your own biggest critic, a process few bother with. The novel I self-published in March was the seventh I wrote, and even that is far from perfect. A lot of writers these days upload the first thing they churn out and expect everyone to love it, then get angry when they don’t. A professional will take it on the chin. The problem is that in the self-publishing world you can’t be sure whether you’re dealing with a professional or not.
    Chris Ward recently posted…52 Short Stories in a Year – 1 month updateMy Profile

  16. darlingmagpie

    I’m glad this controversy happened because I found your blog through it. Much love <3

  17. irish_banana

    I WANT A TATTOO! I can strut on social media with the best of them! 
    Seriously, people get so worked up about this. It’s like my mommy told me in 2nd grade, “You can’t make everybody happy. You can’t get along with everyone.” I’m allow to think a mysoginistic book that demeens women sucks as much as someone else is allow to love it.

  18. Yodamom

    I’ll take an honest review anyway it comes out. I want to hear all sides from different eyes. There are no two people who ever read the same book after all. What kind of author would want total acceptance without criticism ? That is a first step in evolving. Great article

  19. Jessica

    Very astute comments. The only thing I would question was the use of the word ‘ladies’…

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