Musing Musers: “Y U No Like My Book?”

20 March, 2012 Musing Musers 37 comments

We’ve all been there. That awkward moment when you finish writing a less than positive review and the author asks you:

Umm… Did you read the review?

It’s every reviewer’s worst nightmare to be chastised for their opinion of a book. Reading is a very personal experience that is going vary from person to person and it can be rather daunting and intimidating when your own personal experience is questioned or challenged by the author. Disliking a book does not equate dislike of the author and yet this is what a lot of reviewers are being accused of. I’m not sure where the disconnect is coming from because it’s really not a difficult concept to grasp.

Though for whatever reason, this is becoming a huge problem, particularly in the YA reviewer/author community. And I just wish it would stop. Authors blasting reviewers on Twitter, sending reviewers emails questioning their intelligence, and antagonizing them in their review space; these things are not cool. I realize that hearing criticism for something you pour you heart and soul into for months can be hard, but it’s just part of the game. I know I personally have written some pretty scathing reviews myself, though I’ve never attacked an author personally, but that’s just how I roll. Hell, if I wrote a book and someone wrote a scathing honest review of it, I’d probably go drown my sorrows in a pint of ice cream, cry a river on Kat’s shoulder as she gently told me to “Man the hell up, Sinclair!” (tough love!), and go blow some shit up on Halo. Then, I’d go write an even better book.

“But, Y U so mean?” *sigh* I never set out to hurt anyone’s feelings when I write a review. In fact, I would bet a few signed books that most reviewers don’t. I know if I start thinking about “Oh, this may hurt ‘sensitive author’s’ feelings if I say…,” I’m not going to be able to give an honest review and don’t authors want those? Isn’t that the point of asking for reviews in the first place? I respond strongly to the written word as most avid readers do and I believe it’s a bit unfair for some authors to not expect strong reactions from both sides of the spectrum. It’s really unrealistic when you are writing to stir up emotions with your stories. Some people are going to fall in love and others are going to hate it with a fiery passion. That doesn’t mean they didn’t “get” your book or they are deliberately trying to ruin your life. A negative review can sell a book just as good as a positive one.

I also see an entitlement issue going on where some authors seem to think they are automatically owed 4-5 stars for simply writing a book! *headdesk* The arrogance is overwhelming. Back in early January during what we call The First Five Days on GoodReads, Veronica Roth touched on an important point about how authors and reviewers have a very unique relationship: we share the same Internet space. Sometimes I think authors forget that reviewers are not only part of the business, but also consumers themselves. And maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps we should be viewed as something like an extreme fan instead? Whenever I see an author lose their shit over a review (mostly well thought out reviews), I think of all the young teens who also blog and review. Not everyone who blogs has a ton of reader friends and followers to back them up in the event of an author attack. Thankfully, the reader/reviewer community is truly amazing. We have a knack for sniffing out the wank and defending our own.

So what do when you run across a review that hurts your feelings? Well, first off, I would hope all authors realize that it is still possible for a reviewer to dislike a book and love the author. I’ll give you a few of my own personal examples. I didn’t connect well with Anna Dressed in BloodWildefire, or Under the Never Sky but I love, love, love Kendare BlakeKarsten Knight and Veronica Rossi. They are so awesome about negative reviews and just all around fun people. And because of that, I’m probably going to read their sequels, maybe even buy them. So many times I don’t think authors realize that not only does your cover and blurb help sell your book, but also your actions and relationship to the reviewer community. The customers. Because at the end of the day we want to support authors to keep writing our alternate universes. If anyone interacts with Kat and I on GoodReads they would know how much we promote books and authors well love. We do it like crazy. Seriously, we have no lives.

So, you know what you do when you run across something that hurts your feelings?

Just close the browser window and hug your pillow close. Or go read and cuddle your 5 star reviews. Please, don’t blog about it. You will look like a complete douch. Please, don’t tweet about it where we all can see. You will resemble a bully. Please, don’t attack us in emails. The internet is not a private place. Please, don’t put it on FaceBook linking to our reviews! That is just wrong. Please, don’t send your rabid, die-hard fans to troll our review or blog. Reel those people in. Please, don’t send us emails asking to change our reviews. They are our honest opinion. Please, don’t give us crap about how we like to shelve our books on GoodReads. We are customers. Please, think twice before commenting on a negative review. You’d be toeing the line. Please, don’t give us a reason to dislike you.

A negative review is not the end of the world. Be happy people are adding the book to their shelves. Be happy people are reading your book! Be happy people know your book exists. Be happy someone cared enough to actually write a review longer than a sentence. Everyone has neagtive reviews: J.K. Rowling (people even burn her books!), Stephenie Meyer, Dan Brown, Stephen King… I could go on and on. And you know what? You don’t see them losing sales or their cool. Keep it professional and keep on writing. And for all those authors out there that don’t have these issues, keep being awesome. 



Now, can we all just gather around the campfire and sing “The Campfire Song” song?

Best hashtag ever===> #Kumbayathisshit 

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.

37 Responses to “Musing Musers: “Y U No Like My Book?””

  1. Luan Pitsch

    I’ve been on the fringes of this discussion. I’m not sure if it’s been touched upon, but for me the issue of trust comes into play when I’m reading a review. Do I trust that the reviewer is giving their honest opinion. If they are being “nice” I’ll eventually figure it out and won’t trust their reviews anymore.

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Very good point, Luan. Reviewers and bloggers are required by FTC to be completely honest in their reviews, especially if you received the book free for review. That’s why I could never bring myself to follow a blog that only gives 5 star reviews. I know that could be because they just don’t like posting negative reviews, but it makes you wonder if they aren’t being honest. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s wasting my money on a book I bought off a fake glowing review.

    • Kate C.

      I’m with Luan on this one. When I first “discovered” book bloggers, I had a nice long list. Now, I’m down to about 4. I can only read “This book was so great!” so many times before I figure out that you say that to ALL of the books. I would rather have honesty in my favorite reviewers than have to wade through a bunch of books I don’t like.

      That’s really why it’s such a valuable service, what reviewers do. I don’t think a lot of authors are GETTING that. John Locke(indie writer) says that the BEST thing you can do as a writer is find YOUR audience. What you want are rabid fans who will rush out and buy the next book ASAP, and most of all, enjoy thoroughly the process of reading it. As a reader, I look for the book bloggers who seem to match my taste and those are the ones whose reviews I follow. I imagine it’s the same with many other readers. The reviewers who DON’T like your books are doing you a favor and keeping people who won’t like your book from wasting time (and angry reviews because the book wasn’t at ALL like what they thought) on you. The reviewers who DO like your books will send all those with similar taste running your way. Those, hopefully, will end up being your core audience and that is a GOOD THING.
      Kate C. recently posted…Work For Your WeekMy Profile

  2. Bonnie

    It’s pretty amazing that this kind of behavior has gone on for so long when it seems to me that this is pretty common sense. Like you said, I can completely understand that an author may get upset over a bad review but what exactly do they seek to accomplish by being ‘internet bullies’? Bad behavior won’t get you anywhere especially if you’re out there attempting to sell a product.

  3. Cyna

    What’s always boggled my mind – especially in cases like the Unnamed Author, heh – is what they don’t understand about constructive criticism? Just because someone doesn’t like your book doesn’t mean that their review has no value to you. It probably has more, because the writer gives you things you can improve on. If lots of “negative” reviews give you the same thing, that’s definitely an area in which you could improve. Harassing reviewers for the same complaints, or flat-out denying it, is so many shades of delusional I don’t even.

    Someone in one of those threads in the your last news post a quote from one of those author who said something like “If all you’re getting are bad reviews, you just haven’t reached enough people yet.”, and I’m more inclined to think “If all you’re getting are bad reviews, maybe you’re doing it wrong.” There’s optimism, faith and confidence in your work (which are good, yes), and then there’s a refusal to acknowledge failure/weakness.

    Also, yes @ the Karsten Knight thing – I wrote a pretty scathing review of Wildefire (kind of embarassingly so, now), and he emailed me to say thanks for writing the review the way I did. Because of that, I’m going to give the next book a chance. It’s called CLASS, these authors need to learn some :/
    Cyna recently posted…061 – Goddess Interrupted by Aimee CarterMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      I completely agree, Cyna. I always say if more than one person tells you the same thing, it’s probably a good idea to look a little closer at what they’re saying.

      Ah, another testament to Knight’s awesome! 😀

  4. KT Grant

    And the moment you dare to tell an author to show some respect and leave a reviewer alone who doesn’t like the book, the author calls forth their minions to go on the attack against the reviewer and the person who spoke up on the reviewer’s behalf.

    The moment an author comments on a review and says the reviewer doesn’t understand what the author was trying to get across and they need to change their review to make it sound more positive is in that moment I’ll never, ever read this author and will warn other readers to stay away from said author’s books also.

  5. Laurie

    I believe a lot of these writers are coddled so much in their kind, little world of ya critique and writer groups that when the negative review hits they are stunned. Stunned, I tell you. When you are used to being told your sh*t smells like roses it probably hurts to discover someone thinks it smells just as bad (or perhaps worse) as everyone else’s. The other problem is entitlement, ego and superiority complexes (I got published, did you? Nanananabooboo, you stupid cows! You try writing a book!). Honestly I am all out of sympathy. This was going on way back in the 90’s with romance reviews when blogs weren’t even around but now it’s even worse because everything is so instant and easy to retweet. It’s a business and they need to act professional and stop the public bitching and whining and general unpleasantness. If I fuck up at work or someone doesn’t like something I did I don’t expect to be told I did a swell job and given a huggie so I’ll feel better. If they’re selling to the public they have to toughen up and stop expecting everyone to write the hearts and flowers type of reviews because it is not going to happen.
    Laurie recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday #2: Top Ten Books On My Spring To Be Read ListMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      I got pub­lished, did you? Nananan­a­boo­boo, you stu­pid cows! You try writ­ing a book!

      Lmao! That is so funny… and, sadly, true. I really hate when I see the line, “Let’s see you write a book!” I just remind myself that that’s their only argument and a piss poor one at that.

  6. Luan Pitsch

    Yikes. As an aspiring writer I’ve dealt with rejection. It hurts, I eat macho nachos, drink beer, yell at the wall, then go back and wonder what I was rejected for. It would be wonderful (in a masochistic kind of way) to get a review that wasn’t just a no thank you but had reasons why I was being rejected.

    This is the only book blog I follow so I don’t know if other reviewers say your writing stinks without the reasons why. I hope they are. Then I’d say we writers need to put on our big girl panties and deal with it.

  7. Donna @ Bites

    I review in the same way that I’d expect others to review my work: honestly. I don’t blow smoke, sugar-coat, or whatever. And I’d expect the same exact thing. If I suck, for the love of god tell me! Because I will certainly tell you, writer dude! That how one gets BETTER. Losing your shit and then sticking your head in the sand, not so much.
    Donna @ Bites recently posted…A Temptation of Angels by Michelle ZinkMy Profile

  8. Natalie @ Mindful Musings

    “I’d prob­a­bly go drown my sor­rows in a pint of ice cream, cry a river on Kat’s shoul­der as she gen­tly told me to “Man the hell up, Sin­clair!” (tough love!), and go blow some shit up on Halo. Then, I’d go write an even bet­ter book.”

    That comment had me completely cracking up, but it’s so true!

    Also, you make a great point about most reviewers not intentionally wanting to hurt the author’s feelings, and I TOTALLY agree with you that a person can hate the book and love the author. In fact, I often retweet author promotional posts of books I didn’t particularly care for because I know there will be people out there who might like the book and would appreciate a giveaway (or something similar). Some of the authors I have a lot of respect for are ones whose book I didn’t give a raving review. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind in the book blogosphere is realizing that the author exists separately from his or her book, just like the reviewer exists separately from his or her review. It’s okay not to like what a person writes. It happens. But maybe we should all try a little harder to keep the negative reviews about the writing, instead of turning them into (or taking them as) personal attacks.
    Natalie @ Mindful Musings recently posted…Tune in Tuesday: Book Playlist Edition (3-20-12)My Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Glad that made you laugh! My mother asked me a while back, “Stephanie, your reviews are kind of harsh. What would ou do if someone reviewed a book you wrote like that?” I told her I’d be happy someone took time out of their life to read what I wrote and respond to it, be it positive or negative. Then, I’d find a corner and stuff my face with Häagen-Dazs until I couldn’t feel my tongue or emotions. Whichever came first. XD

      That’s a good point about both authors andreviewers being separate frame their writing. Personal attacks are never okay.

  9. elena

    yes! I agree with your point where authors forget that bloggers are consumers too, we do this out of our own free time and money. I mean, I get that people would feel hurt after a negative review but most negative reviews AREN’T there attack the author, even thought it might feel that way. I especially love the point you brought up about how it’s possible to love the author but not the book, it’s so true. It’s just a matter of how authors behave that determines how people see them. It’s still really disappointing to see how certain authors behave because I really did expect more from them. I really wished more authors realised it goes a long way to actually be gracious or even silent rather than vicious.
    elena recently posted…giveaway: chopsticks by jessica anthony and rodrigo corralMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Yes! I know we often say it alot, but reviews ARE for readers. It’s our responsibility to honesty review for our peers and potential buyers. It has nothing to do with hurting anyone’s feelings. The best part is when you read a book you love and the want to help the author promote something you feel is genuinely a good story. For me, I love promoting authors I love (even if I didn’t love their books too). The review wars and complimentary interviews we do are a testament to that.

  10. Lexie B.

    There are so many posts you guys put up that make want to just give you both these enormous high fives. Or just flail around and be like “YES. THIS. WHAT SHE SAID.”

    There are going to be negative reviews. That is an inevitable part of putting anything under the public eye; there will never be a product that every consumer enjoys. There will always be negative reviews that criticize the product alone, and there will always be negative reviews that decide to criticize the creator as well. Is that out-of-line? Yes. Should you respond to it? No. The best response is, in the end, no response. Authors need to grasp the concept that ANY unpleasant response to a negative review posted ANYWHERE public will result in some drama. It will most likely result in blacklisting. Yes, there are those rare authors who can be incredibly classy in their responses and result in MORE people reading their book, but in general, it’s simply best to steer clear.

    And I fully agree regarding author behavior. There are many authors whose books I bought solely because the author themself is absolutely fantastic. My favorite authors will always be the ones who are both incredible people and incredible writers. Being awful may get you attention (read: hate and blacklisting), but being awesome gets you great fans and better sales.

    Basically, this post is wonderful and I agree with it 100%.
    Lexie B. recently posted…Teaser Tuesday (14)My Profile

  11. Ewa S-R

    Excellent post. Bookmarked because it’s always going to be relevant, it’s the nature of this internet beast.

  12. Patricia

    I think what many authors forget is that it isn’t about their feelings, but about a. giving recommendations, b. reflecting, c. writing down your opinion so you can later compare if you still like or dislike a novel, d. having fun, e. learning how to articulate yourself, f. wtfdoireallyhavetomentionmorethings? g. NOT THEIR FEELINGS

    I know that I often disagree with a very popular reviewer, so when she likes a book, I’m very certain that I will hate it. Most good (as in well-written) reviews mention the CONTENT of the book, so a positive review saying “I loved the lovetriangle” can be just as bad as negative review saying “I hated the dark setting!”.

    Something I can’t agree with, though, is the “not being personal” part. I love yours and Kat’s reviews, and I can’t point out if (and if so, then when) you insulted an author or their readers, but I know that there are many, many reviewers who write ranty reviews (like) and say some mean, personal stuff. (dislike) Often enough, though, I think these insult other readers who enjoyed the novel far more than the authors:

    [sort of off-topic]
    I remember reading Beautiful Disaster this January. (Let me mention that I grew up watching a dysfunctional relationship, that I had to beat guys from young and not so young women, and generally hate books that glorify abuse of any kind) I read two reviews that were really.. insulting. It almost hurt to read them, because I managed to enjoy the book well enough (not a great book, but not a 0 star read either) despite my problems with *many* things. And these reviews.. they implied (or stated) that me enjoying this was like spitting in the face of every man or woman who ever lived in such a relationship. So they told me that I just spat my best friend and my mom in the face, and sort of me myself, as well. Yeah, thanks. I still don’t dare reviewing the book because people might judge me if I point out one or two positive things, like that I loved the setting, or that I really thought it was a compulsive read, or that I didn’t absolutely hate the protagonists. It’s stupid, but I can’t *really* talk about several books, because this shit *is* getting personal. (There were many imo very good negative reviews, too, though & most people who gave a good rating didn’t even mention the unhealthy relationship, which sucks balls and makes me second-guess myself.) [/sort of off-topic]

    That being said, I think authors insulting readers = just plain stupid. So far the only person who told me that my opinion was *wrong* and that my review was stupid and rants are unprofessional (it was no rant) was a publicist from a relatively big and successfull German publishing house for MG and YA fiction.

    *makes mhe face*

    There should be a blog just for Authors Behaving Badly-posts.

    Great post as always!
    Patricia recently posted…Friday Memes — March #3My Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      I completely agree! I usually disagree with a really popular reviewer too. I pretty much hate everything she likes, but that’s hy there are so many reviews out there for other readers to make their own minds up about a book.

      Yeah, I always try (I really do!) to remember that even though I may really hate a book, there are going o be others out there that love it just as much. Sometimes I do wonder how anyone could like certain books, but that’s only because I’m trying to find one redeemable factor.

      And wow! A publicist told you your review was “wrong?” Bloggers aren’t professionals! We don’t get paid!

      • Patricia

        Most German reviews I came across so far are very different from those you or Kat write. No gifs, no jokes. It’s about being as neutral as possible.

        The thing Maggie Stiefvater said in one of her posts about reviews and that ours are no real reviews? My teacher told us that in ninth grade, so I’m pretty sure almost everyone here in Germany has at least heard that once.

        Most reviewers write two paragraphs about the content alone -nothing about whether they liked it or not- then one paragraph about the general setting and how they liked it, then the characters, then the romance or paranormal elements or suspense, then a conclusion. (Not entirely true. There are also many imo crappy four sentences long “I loved that book because it was awesome!” reviews. Yeah, thanks, that really was an explanation. You loved that book because it was awesome? *sigh* But the more ‘successfull’ bloggers here do write long-ish reviews and try to avoid any snark.)

        I wrote a few reviews for German publishers, and mine were.. well, long, and compared to what I write in my English reviews, probably also more professional. More like what I said above, that is.

        When I reviewed the book I’ve mentioned before I DID include one or two gifs, and made some jokes about how it’s not the book’s fault, it’s the author’s. Bad, evil Patricia. Shu, shu!

        Another reviewer told me that she got an email from the same publicist as well, with pratically the same statement, implying that the only reason why we thought it was slow-paced was because we were to young or dumb to appreciate the details (Yeah, absolutely. I might have been 18, but the other person was in her late Twenties.) and that we are too focussed on getting some Hush-Hush-like PNR trash (Yeah. Because I loved Hush Hush so much. XD) to appreciate how artfully the novel was written.

        I didn’t even know whether to laugh or cry.

        Two months later the blogger I mentioned told me that apparently said publicist isn’t working for the publisher anymore, or at least not when it comes to talking to reviewers. *g*

        But then, we also got ‘author’ John Asht. And that guy.. Well. Someone who says that women who want to work are obviously wrong in the head, because every real woman knows where her place is -barefeet in the kitchen- and that all the arguments about how there were brilliant women in the past are stupid, because those women only managed to do stuff because they had some strong men with them.. I don’t think it’s any wonder that no one takes his insults (“Bookbloggers are all stupid and ignorant, have no sexlife, no job, can’t appreciate fantastic literature cause they are too fixed on HP and co”) seriously. *grin*

        Drama Llamas everywhere!
        Patricia recently posted…In My Mailbox & Week in Review — March #4My Profile

  13. Rachel Hartman

    Great post, Stephanie (I keep wanting to call you “Sinclair” now. Is only Kat allowed to call you that?). One of my strategies for dealing with bad reviews (I have several) is to make my husband read them, and then he says in this little girly voice, “Ooooh, noooo! Somebody didn’t wike your pwecious booook!” Which somehow never fails to make me laugh.

    But you never know what’s going to hurt, either! None of my one-stars have hurt my feelings, but a four-star that comes across as a little condescending? That hurts. And yet the person liked the book! So yeah, the author just has to stay out of it as completely as possible, even the positive reviews.
    Rachel Hartman recently posted…What do you mean it’s not Monday?My Profile

  14. IoanaStefania

    This is perfect! I was wondering, a couple of days ago, how to handle an author who asks for a review, when I know I didn’t like the book. Very, very helpful. Now I feel better about just stating my honest opinions. 🙂

  15. W.R. Gingell

    Great post. I’ll never get why authors go off the deep end over ‘bad’ reviews.
    (Full disclosure: I’m an author, and I’m fully aware of how lucky I am to get ANY reviews as a new author.) I’ve brought a lot of books off the backs of 1* reviews.
    That’s not to say I’m gonna love the 1* reviews that I personally get. But I’m gonna get them. There’s nothing I can do about it. And sometimes they’re going to be helpful. Yeah, sometimes they’re not, but as surprising as it might sound, not everyone is gonna love me and my book. Bad taste, eh? But there it is 😀

    My way of dealing with lower starred reviews? I tell my mum I got one. She bristles up and says something along the lines of: “Rude! They mustn’t have read it properly” which then prompts me to snort-laugh and say: “No, no, Ma! It was a GOOD one! They gave their reasons, and it was all very useful. Someone’s gonna look at that and realise all the things the reviewer hated are things that they love.”

    Either way, bad or good review, it means someone read your work and cared enough about it to condense their thoughts into words. That’s a gift. You shouldn’t spit on it. What are we, llamas or writers?
    W.R. Gingell recently posted…Comfort ReadsMy Profile

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