Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Not? My Two Cents on Today's Controversy

Yes, I know I never finished my series on the Tension in Book Blogging. I still plan to. But as it turns out,discussions about the relationship between authors and independent book bloggers pops up every few weeks when an author has a negative reaction to a review.

Okay folks, here's what I think. First some quick points.

A book sent for review does not guarantee a positive review.
A negative review is not necessarily a bad thing. (or the end of the world)
I love (most) book bloggers.
I love (most) authors.

And now the heart of what I want to say. (which is bound to be met with disagreement) When you're worked really hard on something, it's hard to hear negative feedback about it. It is very easy to be a critic. It is very hard to read something written about your work that is less than what you hoped for or takes your intentions into doubt. And it takes extraordinary willpower to ignore someone when you feel like they misunderstood you. But they are entitled to their opinion and they are unlikely to completely change their mind. However, your response will greatly determine what they think of you and say about you to others. So authors, when this happens, my suggestion is to either graciously accept this one person's opinion, or don't read any reviews.

I'm not done.

Bloggers--when you've written a negative review and an author attacks you, my suggestion is to ignore it. Just let it go.

What I don't want to see happening is a battle between bloggers and authors. It doesn't make the book community look good at all. We all have a common love of books and a desire to share our reading experiences. But when we drag on these wars between authors and bloggers, I don't think we're really doing anyone a service. So bloggers, in other words, let's take the higher road.

Disagree? I know you're out there. Don't be shy, tell me why!


Jena said...

I think that, when this subject comes up every now and then, it's a good reminder that there are real people behind the books. We need these occasional reminders to be critical without being mean, an easy line to cross.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I have always believed that a reviewer should critique the book and not the author and remember that there are is a real person behind those pages. Authors should also understand that publishing their books opens them up to those critiques. Many feel personally attacked, after all it is THEIR book we are talking about. Today's events opened up a discussion about the expectations between authors and bloggers. I've posted more than one negative review and have had many nice responses from those very same authors. Simply for being that way they have earned my respect even if their book didn't. Many a author can "shoot themselves in the foot" by their reaction and I'm sure the same could be said of the same of bloggers.

bermudaonion said...

I believe in honest, but not mean, reviews. That said, there are times when it's just best to keep your mouth shut. You said it well.

Terry said...

Honesty is key, but that doesn't mean that you need to have a laundry list of what you don't like. It is about the book, not the author. As you say, authors pour their heart and soul into their work. It seems that we might be able to find one nice (or at least neutral) thing to say about their book. Even if we don't recommend it.

rjsbooklady said...

I agree that we should be honest and kind in our reviews, and that we should focus on reviewing the material and not the author. And I thin Trish did that in her review. I also think that as a community, we want to help and protect each other and prevent our fellow bloggers from nasty encounters with authors. I want to know if an author has attacked a fellow blogger so I can decline potential requests and avoid interactions with that author. We shouldn't be having battles, but we should absolutely be having discussions: discussions about what we commit to as bloggers, about what authors can and cannot expect from us, and about what is implied in our agreement to accept free books, whether for requested reviews or as giveaway prizes. Yesterday's discussion started out horribly but has led to something productive, with other authors starting to chime in and share their experiences with being reviewed, and I think that's useful and important.

Chris said...

You know, it's complicated because one person 'fair' is another's 'harsh'. I guess you just have to be true to yourself and stick by what you say if you believe it was fair.

I read a review of a book I really liked and felt it was harsh. The author is a Biggie so I'm sure he'll survive but I was a bit put off as a fan of the book.

cait said...

On my blog, I have a post that I wrote yesterday about a related but different matter, the whole 'relationship' between bloggers and the publishers/publicists.
Bottom line for me is that I do not 'work' for the author or the publisher. I work for the reader who is trying to decide how to spend their time and money. And they deserve honesty.

Yes, I want the book industry to do well. I want book stores and authors to make a living...but the best way to do that is by people getting their hands on wonderful book that will show them the magic of reading.

Heather J. said...

Hi Amy - I posted this comment on another blog but I thought it fit well here too so I'm reposting it. :) - Heather


I've been following along with all the discussions for the past few days and I'm hearing all negative things said about self-published authors. I'd like to throw in my 2 cents as well.

1 - I have not as yet read any self-published books.

2 - I'd treat a review request from a self-published author the same as I would any other (is it a book I'd read by choice? if so, I tell the author that I'll give an honest review.)

3 - NOT ALL SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS ARE HORRIBLE WRITERS. I know a gal who just decided to self-publish. She's been told my several publishers that although they like her book they won't publish it because she has no "platform" - basically, b/c she hasn't written anything before and isn't well known for anything. So she's taking the only route that is open to her, in the hopes that her next book will be picked up by a publisher if her first is successful on a small scale.

4 - Book bloggers need to remember that common courtesy will get you very far. It's not the reviews I'm talking about here, but rather the comments everyone is leaving on the various blogs. Just because an author acts badly doesn't mean we need to do it as well.

Ok, I'll hop off my soapbox now. :)


I also want to add that the purpose of my blog is to review EVERYTHING I read. That means there will be negative reviews from time to time. If it's a book I've received for review, I always let the sender know ahead of time if the review is negative. I also make it a point to list specific pros and cons, and I've gotten positive emails from authors/publishers for doing that.

So again, that's just my 2 cents (or maybe more like 50 cents ...).

Serena said...

I've already commented on this issue from both sides of the coin, but I want to say bravo amy! we all should take the higher road...writers and bloggers alike!

photoquest said...

I do not have a blog site but do send in reviews to someone eleses. I try to keep in mind that the person that wrote this book put alot of time and themselves into writting it so keeping that in mind i have never bashed anyones work however if i dislike a book i'm reviewing i give a honest reason of why i didn't feel it was for me not saying someone eles may really love it. I am a book-a-holic so i read alot of reviews to help me select books to go on my shelf and i look for honest opions of reviewers to help me select my books i'm putting hard earned money into thats why i go to people's book sites to read the review.Nothing is more disapointing to read a review that has built a book up and you spend 25.00 on that book and you can't get past the first 2 chapters and you think why didn't they say this in their review? I started a book and barely got to page 98 then it's like another writter took over the story and it's gone on my keeper shelf I included that in my review so they would know hey don't give up it get's better so i believe in giving honest review someones reading them! I also believe in common courtisey

MissDaisyAnne said...

I don't give negative reviews, if it was a book that I did not like, which is very, very rare, then I post very little about the book, giving it another words very little attention. I refuse to use a star system of ratings, and of course I don't give books away, too expensive. I focus on more of a synopsis of the book, and then personalize as many books I've read as possible. Sometimes I find more information I researched on the true life characters of the book, this is done especially if the book is a biography type.
So far I have received several very good comments from authors, including a comment from the curator of the Jewish Historical Museum in NY City.

Amy said...

Jena--yes, but maybe I read too many blogs b/c I feel like it's coming up every couple of weeks! ;)

Natasha--well said. I've had incredibly gracious repsonses to my negative reviews as well, for which I am very thankful. Those authors are tops in my book.

Rebecca--admittedly, I didn't have enough time to read all the discussion yesterday. I just thought, oh here we go again! I will take the suggestion to write a review policy. Even so, some of the backlash from authors is not always in response to a review copy.
If a blogger feels that they are threatened, that's another story. But I still feel that one of the best ways to deal with such a situation, is to ignore it. Maybe we need a super secret blogger email list to warn each other about difficult authors. ;) In fact..I actually really love that idea. Can someone else set it up? I'm not sleeping much lately.

Chris--Good point. I think I write gentle reviews, but some bloggers have such sharp and distinct voices that you know it wouldn't be true to their voice to write like me or you or someone else. It's funny, b/c even as a fan of a book I can feel put off by a negative review. It's sort of like when you're a teenager and someone likes different music than you.

Cait--right, hence being independent book bloggers! :) I'm happy to help out as well, work darned hard at it, but I'll never lie either.

Heather--well said, friend. I read a self-published book this year that I loved.

photoquest--oh I definitely agree about honest's more the reactions to the reviews I was getting at here.

MissDaisyAnne--I also don't have a star system. I tried but it didn't work for me. That's so cool that you additional research. :)

dawn said...

I didn't post about this yesterday, and didn't even comment much on other blogs so I could have time to cool off and digest what was written from both sides. I hope that if I felt I was being attacked personally I could hold my tongue (fingers?) and take the higher ground. But, I don't know if I could.

I review most books I read - review copies, books I've won in a drawing, books I just want to read. I write honest reviews - not all glowing (two examples are more mainstream; I didn't care for *Three Cups of Tea* or *The Necklace*). I try to point out something positive in a book I personally didn't like ("you might like this if you like .....")

I'm going to post a review policy on my blog, as a CYA.

RAnn said...

I've posted a few really scoarching reviews, the most recent being for The Vagina Monologues (and I'm sure Eve Ensler is used to it). I posted some negatives about one book, and the author contacted me, and thanked me for my comments and indicated that if there was a second printing, one point would be corrected.

Holly said...

I went back and followed some of the exchanges about Trish's review and the author's response. Good grief!

I had one author take offense at a negative review. In hindsight, I was probably a little too harsh and I did go back and soften up a few bits. But, I truly found nothing redeeming about the book. I think you need to be honest in reviews. I've had quite a few people comment that they come to my blog because I'm honest. And I know that I appreciate honest reviews myself.

I think it's important to review the book and not the author. I think this is one of the reasons I offended the authors of Chasing Diana--they fictionalized their true experience and so the characters in the book were based on the author and her husband. Unfortunately, I didn't find the characters at all likeable and said so.

And I think that while authors invest themselves, personally, in their books, it's unrealistic for them to think that every reader will love and adore their book the way they do.

I commented back to the author, but never heard anything else, and that is fine with me. I've also learned that there are places I can accept ARCs from and others I can't, because the chances are I won't like the books.

Elizabeth said...

Whew~ I take a week off to become and aunt and the whole blogging community goes crazy! =)

I agree completely that you have to write honest reviews, but I also think it is appropriate to keep reviews free of attacks and cruelty. I think it is possible to dislike a book and still respect the author for putting their work out there. I've had wonderful experiences with self-published authors as a whole, so feel lucky there. I have, however, started to state in writing before I accept any new books that I DO NOT guarantee a positive review - just an honest one. So far, everyone seems to be okay with that.

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