Thursday, February 10, 2011

The whole 'authors behaving badly' thing...

Always seems to be some author willing to stick their neck out -- whether in well-meaning ignorance or malice or genuine cluelessness -- and point the finger at someone who gave them a review they didn't like. Normally, I stay out of this stuff, but on this one, I have to comment. Rant alert. I warned you...

I don't get it. Really, I just don't. Being published means that people are going to read my book. Not all those people will like it. And not all those people will write a review that I think does the book justice.

So suck it up, and move on. This is the real world, and it does not owe me good reviews, or readers, or sales, or a legion of contented fans. It does not even owe me courtesy or a 'fair chance'. In an industry that releases several hundred books per week, I am lucky if my book gets read at all.

A reviewer has taken the time to read my book, when they have literally thousands of other entertainment choices. They have then taken the time to post a review. Whether I like what it says or not, that person has spent hours of his or her life on me and my book.

Sorry, but the only appropriate response to that is "thankyou". Even better, a private message that says: "Thankyou, and I'm sorry the book wasn't for you. Here's a link to your site on my blog, and would you like review copies of my other books?" Even if they say "no, thanks, I'd rather fork my own eyeballs out than read any more of your trash", I've lost nothing.

It's simple arithmetic, folks: readers are more willing to give a second chance to an author who is gracious than they are to one who's an asshole. Maybe they'll like my next book better. And if I can get one more reader by being nice, that's a win. Last I heard, "nice" is still free.

Remember, the reader doesn't know if this is the Book Of My Heart, or just something I tossed off during the cricket lunch break. What's more, they don't care. All they get is the words on the page. And all they care about is the entertainment value I've provided them for their money. I know this, because I'm a reader too.

Hey, I wish as much as any author that inadequately-explained "this book was rotten" reviews would go away. But like it or not, by publishing your work, you are putting yourself out there for criticism. It's not for the faint-hearted. You have to learn to be gracious. Retweet the so-so ones as well as the good. Offer copies of your new release, even if they didn't like the last one. And if the review was genuinely rude, inappropriately personal, or by someone who clearly has it in for your genre and is looking to pick fights -- maybe the best response is simply no response at all. And then ring your crit partner and cry, if it makes you feel better.

If you can't do those things? You'd better take a long walk in the hall of mirrors, snowflake, and ask yourself if you really want to be an author.

P.S. The worst review I ever got was for my very first book, from Kirkus Reviews (yeah, nothing like getting sniggered at as a debut author in the Serious Literary Press, in front of, oh, I don't know, thousands of potential readers?). They absolutely loathed SHADOWFAE. The review mocked my plot, laughed at my sex scenes, derided my writing style -- by quoting verbatim sections it thought were particularly disdain-worthy -- insinuated that I must be one sick mo-fo for even writing something like this in the first place, and concluded by saying something like: 'this book isn't for everyone, and hopefully it's not for anyone'.

I'm still here.


  1. It is bad that I look at a line like 'this book isn't for everyone, and hopefully it's not for anyone' and thing that's pretty cool :)

  2. Hear, hear, E.

    And yeah, Hayes is still out here! Hoo-yah!

  3. Nice post :) I do like an author who knows what its about. I always fear getting jumped or something when I publish a review where I just do not love the book. But the good ones get it.

    One author saw that I had not liked her book (my own book) and she asked me if I wanted to read her new book. She was very sweet about it, and I said yes. I ended up liking it.

    That last line from the Kirkus review, auch

  4. Huzzah :) and yeah. I could wish that reviewer was saying that line with an ironic grin... I suspect not :)

  5. No way, Blodeuedd -- do you get that many poor responses to bad reviews? That's sad. I would hope reviewers felt free to say what they liked... of course, it's easier to take if they say 'I didn't like it' in a nice way :)

  6. I couldn't agree with you more. I found your blog through the comment you left on Massara's post, and I'm so happy that I did. It's nice to know that there are authors out there that realize that one bad review isn't the end of the world! I always feel a twinge guilty when I post a negative review, because I know how hard it can be to take, but on the whole I find honesty to be the best policy. Gentle honesty, but honesty nonetheless :)

  7. Isn't that what boyfriends/husbands/lovers/BFFs are for? In other words, rant and rave to your nearest and dearest about your sucky review so that you can be gracious in public.

    Ah, reviews. Sure it sucks the big kumara if someone hated it. But it's part of the business. And not everyone's gonna like your writing. Sad but true.

    If you want to see how an author turned a less-than-complimentary review around by being gracious and funny, and ended up with half the commenters searching out her book to buy it, then check out the SmartBitches Trashy Books guest review of Carla Cassidy's Pregnesia.

    Here's the link -- make sure you read the comments, so you can see how she turned it around.

    That author.... truly a class act! She's my hero *g*

  8. Oh, and meant to say, Kirkus obviously don't know a fabulous book when they read it. I loved Shadowfae to bits and beyond. You broke the rules and did it with incredible style. Fan-freaking-tastic job, Miss Erica!

    A huge fan

  9. Oh this is so true Erica. We can't expect sweetness and light from everybody. Not everyone likes the same thing, it's what makes the world interesting. And it's a great response to give a reviewer - thanks for the for review, sorry not your cup of tea - because really that is professional.

    I suppose the times I have a problem with reviews is when the make up their minds BEFORE they read the book but again each person is entitled to their opinion....

  10. OMG. Just followed that link and just... wow. Unbelievable. I had an awful review for one of my novelettes (apparently she threw the book across the room :-/ )but it didn't even cross my mind to make any comment. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. Like you said, I'm just happy that a reviewer takes the time to read my books at all!

  11. That PREGNESIA post is a classic :) and a smart thing for that author to do. On a big site like SB -- or any blog site, for that matter, which is the whole point of this rant -- anything that endears you to the readership is good!