Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Blogging and Reviewing Etiquette

et·i·quette [et-i-kit, -ket] Noun

1. Conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
2. A prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official or other formal observances.
3. The code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other: medical etiquette

Etiquette of Reviewing and Blogging

I feel this has to be addressed in the only way I know how, write and post about it.

I love books; I love books so much that it is deeply embedded in every fiber of my being. I live for books and when I am lucky enough, the first thing I do when I buy a brand new book is go home settle in and upon first opening it… I cannot help but smell it. I have to do this book “Sniffing” because I really do love books that much. I really have not been at this book review or blogging thing for long but I enjoy sharing. No one else cares as much about my obsession as my wonderful amazing followers and fellow bloggers. I treasure the insight and knowledge I have gained in this adventure people call blogging.

With that being stated we can move on to the issue. The issue for me is if people love books so much how can they bash them so hard? In my mind if you love them you could not hurt them could you? Could you abuse a child in anger and still love it? Everyone in this world has very different tastes and appetites. I tend to stick with shorter reads that get a bit romantic, you could even go so far as to say I enjoy fluffy reads. One the other hand I can get into darker reads that are more geared at the amazing strength of women in crisis. I learned my lessons a very long time ago that if you do not enjoy a book why finish it? Or to go even farther; why waste the time and energy it takes to write a hateful review on blogs or even Amazon? Is it worth the time and effort, for me it is not. I would rather be reading or doing something more productive with my time.

I have accepted that many people are not going to like what I like that is just how the world is. My policy is if I do not finish, I do not review it. But if I find it was not the best read to me then I will honestly review it. I do try to highlight the positive reasons why it is that I finished it and what kept me going to the end. I almost always write my reviews immediately after finishing my read that way I stay true to my feelings on the read.

There also seems to be another trend as far as personally attacking authors. These attackers have been labeled the "literary terrorists" for many reasons. One reviewer even went as far as to call a very prolific author physically obscene names. Or better yet attack an author for their professional choice of pen name. I also find that personally criticizing any author is a very bad way to leave your mark in the review world or blogging community. This is beyond the rules of etiquette. Do we as reviewers have a right to judge an author for changing a pen name or changing a title in the reprint? I personally do not think we are entitled to go to the “no no” zone. Much of that is not up to the author but up to the publisher. I have noticed that some such individuals consider etiquette to be an unnecessary restriction of freedom or of personal expression. In reality these people are obviously unhappy with some occurrences in their lives and their blind hate seeps into the digital world for all to read. Why else would theses literary terrorist feel the need to be cyber stalking authors for a book they did not like? One that really gets me was when I discovered that one reviewer went so far with revenge that in an Amazon review posted the authors personal wedding registration with her husbands name in it; like ha ha for a good laugh go buy her something. I find that  type of behavior absolutely despicable.

For me I just cannot see authors as gods because in reality they are just like you and me. Working hard, paying bills, stressing out about children and family are part of their daily lives too. They are not these all-knowing gods who are perfect human beings, they are just living their lives fulfilling their passions and we as lucky readers are able to reap the benefits of their labors of love. In being human we as a species have to accept that we make mistakes. Sometimes authors, publishers, and editors make mistakes and how can you not give a little to the fact that we are all human. I found it very disturbing to hear that a very well known author was receiving hate mail and death threats because of a clerical error on Amazon.

No matter how much I love books and how mad I would be if I got a bundle deal on the Tudors and one version was the UK one and the other US version, never would I even consider for a moment in my anger crossing the boundaries of my moral fibers to go so far as to threaten a persons life! No matter how much I love books I would choose life over them no matter whose life it was even if it was some of those nasty reviewers lives. I personally sneer at those who feel the need to purposely shock and rant readers because personally I do not like negativity and I just find it callus and the easy way out of having to write a really good review. But hey who am I, just another blogger that is an aspiring writer and just wants to experience the good things this community of bloggers really have to offer. Cheers to the positives in life because when the negative comes I cannot take it seriously.
 “You will get more bees with Honey then with Vinegar”

For all my historically obsessed fans here is your etiquette tasty tidbit.
“In America, the notion of etiquette, being of French origin and arising from practices at the court of Louis XIV, is occasionally disparaged, especially by those unfamiliar with etiquette's social foundations and functions, as old-fashioned or elite, a like code concerned only with apparently remote directives such as which fork to use".
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  1. What a great post, Lizzy, and you are so right! The Negative Nancy's that I have come across have bordered on absusiveness and the sad part is that this hate begets more hate. As you said, what's the point? Get a life, and find something that DOES make you happy, and maybe then we would care.
    Obviously, they are unhappy people to have this sick need to spew their foul opinions all over the internet. The sad part is that innocent people do get hurt by the online bullying that it comes down to.
    We are talking about Books, which are entertainment vehicles. If they didn't like it, move on. Don't trash a book, give your opinions in a classy manner and be done with it. The same person trashing the same book from Amazon to Goodreads to blogs is so immature. And the same book is like that author's child, but why would they think anything beyond their own personal satisfaction of creating a torrent of snarky remarks everywhere they go....

  2. Marie, stated like a true classy lady. I guess we all just have to accept that some people never get over their own hateful view of books. Why write about them if you hate the? For me it is a time issue I wasted so much of my own life being hateful and spiteful I just do not make room for it in my life anymore. Between having a family, working, reading, and blogging, I have very little free time to waste on such a hateful venture. How they find the time to troll all the book sites and post hateful poison I will never understand.

  3. I applaud you in sharing your opinion about this, Lizzy. So many are afraid to speak up because the people in question mock everyone, not just authors, but anyone--bloggers, reviewers and even friends and family who dare to have a nice word to say about a book. They are hateful, nasty people and they must be unhappy. How can someone with so much negativity coursing through them be happy? I agree with Marie... if you DISLIKE something, stay away from it. Common sense. But these people feed off of the dissension. They crave it. They enjoy the high of feeling important because they have a scandalous opinion (which they think makes them smarter than everyone else, but in reality it makes them appear close-minded). Yawn. Imagine spending all day checking Amazon reviews to see if there was a reaction to your review. Can we say, "Get a life!" I'd rather spread some good into the world and be an honorable person, but then again I use my REAL name on my AUTHENTIC website. I don't hide behind a cat icon with a fake user. And, yeah, it is much easier to trash a book than to write a well-worded, thoughtful, classy review.

  4. Lizzy Thank you for posting this! It's about time some etiquette standard got posted when it comes to book reviewing.

    I'm just like you when it comes to a book I can't finish reading...I just give it up! What is the big deal about that? Why bother with wasting precious time writing something despicable and negative?! I can't for the life of me figure out what makes a reviewer go out of her-his way to do this...It's just plain nasty. And when you think about the repercussions for the author- I mean come on- this is their bread and butter! There is no sense in WARNING others about it as though it were something downright dangerous that begs for people to know!
    There is simply no reason for a reviewer to knock and destroy an author's reputation by writing a horrendous review- These reviewers (if you can call them that)choose to be mean. What I've also noticed is that these type of people are usually jealous, negative and frustrated! Thanks Lizzy:)

  5. SUCH a well-stated argument for etiquette in reviewing. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but there is a way to state that opinion without crossing personal boundaries. The Amazon stuff w. the literary terrorists is out of control. They're like little book Nazis. And the best part is that half the conversations end up revolving around the weather in Seattle, and then all the minions check "helpful" so Amazon doesn't take down those ridiculously irrelevant comments re: snowfall in Utah, soccer in the UK. Some people need to not take themselves so seriously and chill the hell out - crikey!!

    Like Arleigh said, though, many, many people think it's "cool" to diss what's popular, and that in and of itself is not a very original concept! Word to the wise: if you're really looking that hard for a way to come across as unconventional, you'd best stop resorting to such obviously conventional methods!

  6. Well-does anyone feel it is worthwhile to advise others that you did not like a book so they will not waste their money on it-a lot of bloggers live in places where there are no libraries so if someone warns me away from a book are they doing me a favor?-On my blog most of the authors I write about have passed away so there are no feelings to be hurt-of the 100 or so books I have posted on since I began my blog I have been positive on about 97 percent of them-If I do not like a book I will say so and try to explain why-before I write a negative review I try to search within myself and see if it is me who has the problem-Virginia Woolf said that all books should be judged by the same standards

    I understand those who review mostly arcs (I have reviewed one that I liked a lot and I have 7 others I probably will not read far into and I will not review a book I do not finish.

  7. First of all, let me just say that I absolutely agree that personally lashing out at authors, death threats, and putting out personal information of authors as some sort of strange "revenge" is despicable and ridiculous.

    However, I must say that overall I'm slightly confused by your post. Ultimately, the point of a review is to review whether or not you liked it and whether you would recommend it to others. This often includes listing or pointing out things you particularly liked or didn't like. I get the sense from your post (and I could be TOTALLY misinterpreting it) that you say if you don't like it, don't finish it, and if you don't finish it, then don't review it. But that would basically mean no one would ever get anything but 3-5 star reviews. And that seems to me would kind of ruin the point of a review. If I'm browsing Goodreads (I don't bother with amazon anymore) and every single book has nothing but positive reviews and star ratings of 4-5, how does that help me as a potential reader? I dunno, I think negative reviews, done honestly but professionally (if that makes sense) have their uses. I am a historical stickler with my fiction, and if someone posts "I didn't like this book because it got all these things wrong about this era/person/event" then that's a good flag to me to avoid it.

    I hope you don't think I'm trying to be snarky or rude or push your buttons; I agree with 90% of what you've said. Like I said above, I avoid amazon.com now because it's ridiculous and immature and you end up with the same type of pointless, horrible comments that you have on like...youtube, which is just pathetic. But it seems to me that reviews that are only positive kind of negates the whole point of a review.

  8. Well said, Lizzy. I believe it was me that coined the term, "Literary Terrorists," for a Huffington Post (that was the title of the piece) that I wrote last month but for some reason they chose not to publish. I may have pushed a wrong button when I submitted it (and they are very fussy about that).. In any event, perhaps I should publish it on the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table as a guest post, since my blog for "The O, JULIET Love Games" is kind of dormant now. Would you and the other Round Table women like that?

  9. Lizzy, this is a marvelously provocative post (surely there are ways to offer an intelligent critique without bashing the author -- and blaming an author for something that is in fact in the publisher's control is just showing the blogger's ignorance of the publishing world).

    Not only that -- I gasped when I saw the graphic you used to illustrate it! I have a signed copy of that Michael Parkes litho in my home office!!!

  10. Thank you for this article. Having been at the receiving end of some of these attacks, I am glad someone decided to speak up about this nasty and really nonsensical trend. I also have a book review blog, and I have always been guided by my belief that books are like candy, some people like lemon drops, some people don't, and some can take them or leave them, same thing with fudge, caramels, and red hots, just because I don't like a book does not mean someone else won't. When I read a book that does not appeal to me personally, I still know, being an author myself, how much work went into creating it, and the author's work doesn't end with publication, they have to promote as well, so I will always find a way to say something good about it or else I will not review it. I admit I am not the most enthusiastic blogger, I basically have the blog because in today's publishing world it is considered a promotional necessity, but I absolutely refuse to use it to be mean or hurt other people. This clique of reviewers reminds me of the girls I knew in school, the pretty popular set, who thought it was their right to put down and hurt anyone who was not just like them. I hated school because of people like that, now I try to avoid looking at my reviews at Amazon and online discussions about my books for the very same reasons, I have worries and stress enough in my life, I am living proof that authors are not these blessed problem-free beings who are happy and have everything, and I don't have the time or energy to deal with the negativity and spite of people who hate my book so much they have to go to the trouble of comparing and reviewing all three editions of it, it makes me wonder if when the Turkish and Czech editions come out if they will go to the trouble to do the same with those as well.

  11. Oustandingly sane, sensible and timely post, ma'am; there are some real arrogant, insensitve usually unproductive geeks out there in blogoland (or blogolake as I prefer to call it these days, cos I'm near the bottom of it all) who need confronting and preferably shutting of. Rant over. Well done you!

  12. I both agree and disagree with this post.

    Firstly, I agree very strongly that a book review should never be used as a vehicle to attack either an author or a fellow reviewer, to call names, threaten or in any other way behave deplorably, and that things like changes of titles are outside of the author's control and should be recognised as such.

    However, I do think that there is value in reviewing books that you didn't like. What doesn't work for me as a reader might well work for others, and I have had very interesting discussions with people where they gave me their viewpoint and shared the things that they learned. Each of us brings our own history, our own baggage if you like into our reads, and so can often see different viewpoints than I can. There have been times when I have been prompted to pick up a book that someone else didn't like, just because I wanted to find out for myself whether or not I would share those opinions.

    I am one of those readers who finds it incredibly difficult to stop reading a book even if I am not enjoying it. I also am pretty lucky in that I am pretty good at picking up books that I end up enjoying. I certainly would never go and deliberately pick up a book that I probably won't enjoy just for the pleasure of writing a scathing review.

    The decision about whether you choose to review books that you don't like is just that - a decision, a personal choice - and I am happy to respect those decisions. I am not sure that that particular aspect is etiquette as such.

    Crossing the line when people start attacking authors, other reviewers etc is definitely not good etiquette though.

    Hopefully this makes sense. Perhaps should not be posting late at night!

  13. Excellent post.

    One thing that I've noticed in the Historical Fiction Community is the huge amount of mutual support and respect that exists between professional, published authors and good blogger/reviewers like yourself who go out of their way to support books they love.

    On the other hand, there is a snarky backlash on the part of a very small number of anonymous reviewers who seem to love to trash every new title that comes out. What's behind this extreme negativity? Jealousy? Bitterness at being unpublished, perhaps?

    I've written reviews myself and have always tried to be honest . . . but I've always signed my full legal names to each review, never hidden behind a pseudonym.

    Ultimately *everything* you do that is read by the public contributes to your public image, even if one thinks to be anonymous. Those lurking behind pseudonyms, should they ever be fortunate enough to have a work accepted for publication, might have to beg one of the authors they've trashed to write a blurb or endorsement for them one day.

  14. I just wanted to reiterate for Lizzy that I am all for stating your opinion about a book. Especially if you are book blogger/reviewer. That's what we are supposed to do. What Lizzy was touching upon here are the few people that are makign the death threats against authors, or doing the online bullying such as making fun of errors in multiple forums and just being crude and unclassy about it. And obviously, posting personal information about an author that invades privacy is a bit too much.
    And whether I like or don't like a book, I post an honest review, without hatred.
    I don't go around making comments on other people's reviews and making them feel low because they had a different opinion. This hateful behavior is what Lizzy is referring to in her commentary here.

  15. I think you've raised some valid points and some of it has gotten entirely out of hand and does remind me of middle school. Unfortunately,groups like that exist in every "community".

    I love books as well - but no book, whether you are an author, a reader, a blogger or whoever is worth or could ever justify making threats against someone. I don't think I've seen threats made against an author (but then I haven't been looking for any and I try to avoid all of the nastiness as much as possible) but there was the incident last year when an author claimed she had tracked down a person who had posted a critical review on Amazon and that she knew where she lived, who her family was etc and made some threats against her.

    I don't think the fact that someone uses a pseudonym or are not comfortable posting their picture or true identity automatically makes them suspect. I do most of my online stuff that way as more of a safety mechanism and I was trying to set a good example for my teenager at the time about not putting too much of your personal information online!

  16. Thank you everyone for putting in your two cents, I appreciate the feed back. It is nice to read how others feel about this issue I have been wrestling with it for some time now in my conscience. With that being said I think everyone brought some very excellent points to the table. I think my rant went a bit off course so let me clarify.

    I view books as a thing that must be enjoyed, they are a hobby for me and what is the point of having a hobby if you do not enjoy it? Usually I know if I will not like a book with in the first pages or so. Violence and bodice rippers are a big turn off for me personally and normally that will show in the first few pages. I do this because there are just way too many wonderful books out there to be read, why waste time on a read I might not enjoy? I had to learn my lesson the hard way on that one the first time. I once forced myself to finish a book I did not really like and I found that by the time I finally did finish it I hated it with a passion and still do to this day. The reason I hated it was not any fault of the authors it was just that I did not like their take on that historical person. My policy for not finishing is I add it in goodreads that I could not finish and leave my comment. I do not think it is fair to pick a rating for a book I could not finish. To get my honest rating it has to be completed, honestly there has not been a book I could not finish for over a year now.

    As far as my meaning, yes I do see the value in being honest about a low rating for a book. Honesty is always the best policy but on the other hand there are other things going on out there that I had to touch on that have nothing to do with a book review which is why I wrote this post. Take Amazon for example, how as human beings can we accept the fact that in our field of blogging there are some out there who take things too far...death threats really over a book? That is by far the most extreme case but what about the smaller cases where one of my favorite authors had a reviewer post her wedding registry info in the comments of her review on Amazon, is that necessary to go to that extreme to get a taste of revenge for not liking a book? I think not and it goes beyond the bounds of common etiquette. What is funny is that this same reviewer acts like they does not have a grudge against the author but then once again proves that she really is cyber stalking her. How do I know this? I know for sure because this reviewer has not been known to comment on my blog at all until... oh low and behold I post about this said author and sure enough guess who comes out of the wood work to comment, the one who said she does not have a grudge. Coincidence I think not.

    I have to believe that as book reviewers we should be able to extend a "professional courtesy" of etiquette. For me that means not dragging anyones personal life into a book review. What does a wedding registry have to do with a book review? The answer is absolutely NOTHING it has nothing to do with the read or how you felt about a book so why does it matter? Now just because I say we should extend it does not mean that others feel the same way but there has to be a way to get your point across with out attacking someone. I think we should have some form of comradely between us and that we all be honest and enjoy what we do.

  17. Wow. Terrific post, Lizzy. I'm going to have my first historical novel published next year and I have to admit, after reading some of the snarky reviews posted on Amazon where a certain cadre of reviewers just gang up on an author, often for things that I am learning are completely beyond his or her control (like the price of their book -- c'mon!) or the changes to a title or a pseudonym, I despair of ever reading any of my reviews.

    I have a friend who moderates workshops composed of professional authors, all designed to make the work stronger -- to helpfully critique what they've read or heard aloud, but not to criticize. There's a HUGE chasm between a reasoned critique and just plain nasty criticism.

    What I've seen most often on these forums is people trashing an entire book because they found an error or to (whether a typo or content error that didn't get caught). Hey, most of these reviewers are reading ARCS where it states right on the cover that it is an "uncorrected proof." Hel-lo!!

    Other common snarks are trashing a book because something happened in it (plot point, character development) that just would not have been the way the reviewer would have written it, had it been her book. To me, that's the 100% proof that the reviewer is really a frustrated author. My workshop-giving friend always states that it is imperative that the people in the room critique the piece they just heard and not the piece they would have written themselves!

    This technique, whether a reviewer likes the book or not, would, in a classy way instead of a bitchy one, go a long way toward addresssing what worked and didn't work for that reviewer, and would be helpful to other readers

  18. Have a care on how you phrase reviews, because like it or not "what goes around will come around" you can't cheat Karma.

    Well said Lizzy!

  19. I have not seen any of this cyber bullying of authors or reviewers, and I'm glad I've missed it.
    I review honestly, but not negatively or meanly. If I like I book I state it clearly. If I don't care for it, I don't say it because it may be that the book just isn't for me. I try to focus on what I see as the positive aspects of the book.

    I would love to read Robin's post that she submitted to Huffington on the HFRT!

  20. Why shouldn't I review a novel I didn't like? It's just like Marg said - just because it doesn't work for me, it might for someone else. Plus, if I receive an ARC from a publisher/publicist/author, than I'm going to review it. They were kind enough to send it to me in the first place, the least I can do is give my opinion on it.

    M has a good point to. Where's the credibility in a reviewer if everything they've read has high scores? For all I know, that reviewer could be getting paid for their reviews and that's why everything is so good. I want to know if someone doesn't find something to their taste - no one is going to like everything they've read. There's no way.

    And finally, I have to agree with Mel U. I don't buy every single book out there. I can't afford to, so I rely on going to the library to find new books. I want to be told if a book isn't worth my time so I don't waste those precious three weeks on something I'm not going to enjoy.

    Ultimately, it's not up to anyone to tell me what to read. It's my choice to pick up a book and a negative review can also make me pick up something I wouldn't normally.

  21. So far, I've seen people kinda sorta trash "positive" reviews. This completely puzzles me, because it seems to me that the commenters here are saying that a negative review has credibility because it could discourage a potential reader from buying a book, but that a postitive review has no credibility.

    So, if a reviewer hates something, then as a reader you need to know that it so you DON'T buy it -- but if a reviewer loves something, or liked it a lot, and cogently states her reasons for doing so, then that doesn't encourage a potential reader to consider BUYING it. It's tantamount to saying that only a bad review is credible and a good one doesn't count. Honestly, does that make any sense?

    Everyone wants to be careful with their dollars these days, and after all, a blog review is just one person's opinion (and how do you know whether their tastes accord with yours?) It just sounds to me like a couple of the commenters here are creating a double standard by awarding credibility only to negative, or at least less than stellar, reviews.

  22. I wasn't saying only those who post negative reviews has credibility, just that a blog has more credibility when they post both positive AND negative reviews.

    To me, it all comes down to the fact that no one is ever going to like everything they read. There's no way. There are too many books and taste vary so much.

  23. I don't think anyone is 'kinda sorta trashing' positive reviews at all. I love reading positive reviews of books and, especially love it when a book that I wasn't interested in or that I hadn't heard of before gets a spectacular review, and then it turns out to be a book that I love too .

    I am merely saying that having both positive and negative reviews can help provide balance. If a reviewer says that they don't like a book that I really liked then it comes down to a difference of opinion. If I regularly disagree with that reviewer' opinions about books we have both read, then it becomes clearer that we have different tastes. By following various reviewers over a period of time I have a fair idea of other blogger's who have similar taste with me and those who don't.

    Can I ask the authors here if they expect a positive review from mainstream publications or is it only on blogs and Amazon that they want to only see good things written about their books?

  24. I don't think anyone said that negative reviews should not be published.

    Negative reviews should absolutely be published. All the reasons why have been stated here.

    But there IS a classy way to write a negative review, and there is an underhanded, classless way to go about writing a negative review.


    PS. I also cannot fathom people who purposely choose "shameful books" that are clearly going to be terrible (at least terribly suited to that reader), for the sole purpose of ripping them apart for entertainment's sake.

  25. Marg, in answer to your question, I don't think any author alive is naive enough to think that everyone will love their book. I'm grateful to everyone who gives my books a try, even if they end up not liking them. I don't begrudge anyone their honest opinion.

    Just like there are many popular and acclaimed books that I personally can't get into. It doesn't mean the books are "bad"--it's just down to my subjective taste.

    I think it's the vicious, underhanded bullying of some anonymous reviewers that people here object to.

    If you say what you didn't like about a book in a rational, honest, fair way, that's absolutely fine and it is your right to do so.

    However, there also seems to be a double standard regarding positive vs negative reviews. I think it's a fallacy to assume that positive reviews are necessarily any more biased or personal than negative reviews. In the hands of certain reviewers, negative reviews can be *very* personal and biased in a bad way.

    There's the recent case of the British historian who wrote anonymous reviews trashing the books of his rivals and praising his own book to highest heaven. I think there is a case for encouraging people to use their real names on Amazon reviews which would help prevent this sort of thing.

  26. I agree with Mary Sharratt. I've been the target of anyonymous vicious reviews on Amazon, left by someone who was angry with me at the time (we have since kissed and made up and I believe she genuinely regrets having done something so rash and personal), but the reviews were posted before Amazon created its option for the reviewer to delete a review they wanted to rescind for whatever reason. Perhaps reviews from years ago that were permitted to be posted completely anonymously cannot de deleted.

    In any event, this means that those incredibly nasty reviews, meant to wound me are on Amazon forever, and no one but the two of us know that they were posted in rage and have a lot more to do with this person's anger at the time than they have to do with any of my novels.

    Oddly, ironically, or however you choose to see it, those nasty reviews were posted by someone who knew me in real life and although she channeled her rage unprofessionally, at least there was a method to her madness, so to speak.

    But what's the excuse for reviewers who don't know the author they're trashing from Eve, and go so far as to issue death threats or "out" their wedding registries by trolling Amazon for some sort of "gotcha". This is beyond unprofessional and whether a reviewer is a paid professional journalist or merely a book lover with a blog, Liz is right, there should be some standards and practices in place.

    If a writer for the NY Times Book Review (e.g.) was caught issuing death threats against an author or otherwise stalking aspects of their private life, they'd be looking at a pink slip before you could say "you're fired."

  27. One of the biggest problems with Amazon is indeed anonymity. There have been countless instances of authors and their family/friends making anonymous (and nasty) comments on reviews of their books. For the life of me I have never understood this. Then they get very angry when someone exposes who they really are and how they lied about who they were. (Well *that* was a convoluted sentence that was clear as mud, LOL, sorry!)

    I don't spend very much time over on Amazon, but as a thinking adult I'm bright enough to read through all reviews (negative and positive) and come to my own conclusion whether it's a book that I might like. I think that is true of almost everyone who visits Amazon. But when I see an author or their family/friends going berserk over a negative review, I won't buy the book. That ties in to professionalism.

    It's weird....you never see "big name" authors having fits over negative reviews. I've never heard of Penman or Gabaldon getting angry with a reader who disliked their book. Similarly, most readers (or the ones I know, at least) do not get all upset when someone posts a negative review of their favorite author. For example, I happen to love every word DeMille has ever written down on paper. But I'm pretty sure I've seen more than a few scathing reviews of his books over on Amazon. It doesn't bother me....really. I'm pretty sure it doesn't bother DeMille either, LOL.

    Now death threats are another matter. As I said, I don't spend too much time on Amazon, but I've never seen that and can't imagine that it wouldn't be removed if reported to Amazon. If someone knows of such a case, point me in the right direction and I will personally report it to the Amazon Police! Does anyone actually know where this death threat is?

    There are some great comments here, too, that I enjoyed reading. I especially liked Marie's point about comments made on reviews that don't agree with your own opinion. I also like Marg's comment regarding finding other reviewers with tastes similar to your own...this is a big help finding books you might enjoy.

    And one last thought (I know, I've used my quota already!). I think all authors -- no matter if they are a best-seller or not -- ought to be proud of their accomplishment. It's a great thing you've done, getting published in today's world. But it would be a mistake to think that every negative or "meh" review of your book was written by someone who is a "frustrated," unpublished writer. While your craft is an admirable one, many of us lowly reviewers have our own fulfilling careers and have no inclination at all to be an author. (But again, kudos to those who are!)

  28. Michele, Anne Rice, Alain de Botton, and Alice Hoffman are famous writers who have thrown spectacular public hissy fits over negative reviews. In the case of de Botton and Hoffman, the drama was over print reviews (NYT, Boston Globe) rather than Amazon reader reviews. Martin Amis complains quite often how nobody understands his brilliance, la de da.

    So, yes, it happens. A-list authors make fools of themselves over negative reviews or even when they think they don't get *enough* praise.

    Obviously it's very unprofessional and makes the author look bad!

    And I don't think anyone in the above conversation was saying that all negative reviews are written by the bitter and unpublished. But personal, nasty, unprofessional negative reviews might well be written by someone with issues that go far beyond the strengths or weaknesses of the particular book they have reviewed.

  29. Even if it's the worse novel ever written, I would not bash it. At least the author had the stamina, knowledge,strength, and creativity to write a novel from beginning to end, which is more than I can say for myself. For that they deserve some kind of praise!

  30. Ladies, I do not think the issue here is bad review versus good review here. I think it is more about the delivery of a bad review. I think like all things in life there are classy and trashy ways of doing things. I think it is trashy when someone feels the need to post a bad review that takes a personal attack route on a author. What a authors personal life or decision have to do with a read I will never understand. I guess I am just tired of the negative Nellys out there because I get this feeling that if everything is so negative ALL the time and nothing ever positive then do they even enjoy reading?

    I believe no matter what that all author hope that reviewer will like their books but do not expect them too. Also that everyone should post their true feelings so others benefit from those choices.

  31. Mary - thx for the examples...I found the Hoffman broghaha on Twitter and got a chuckle out of it. ;)

    Lizzie - I understand what you're saying. And after a bit of thought, I believe I know the person you are referring to in the original post (or at least I'm pretty sure....Arleigh left a thinly veiled description in her comment). So I went over to Amazon and looked up this person's reviews. She's written a lot (over 450!) over the years, so of course I didn't have time to go through them all. But I did take a gander at the most recent 30 reviews she's written. Of those thirty, the breakdown goes like this:

    5 Stars - 3 books
    4 Stars - 7 books
    3 Stars - 12 books
    2 Stars - 5 books
    1 Star - 3 books

    That seems like a reasonable breakdown of negative v. positive reviews. Keeping in mind what you said that it's not about posting a negative review, but *how* it's written, I took a gander at the two and one-starred reviews that were written. But I still don't see personal author attacks in those reviews. (Note: I didn't read the comments on all those reviews....I'm time limited here, LOL).

    I'm going to go out on a limb here (mostly because no one seems to be able to tell me where these death threats are) and wonder if perhaps some of the problem might be when someone writes a negative review of a book we absolutely loved or written by an author we are friends with or love their work. I know from personal experience that it is very, very difficult not to take those reviews personally because one feels naturally protective of our friends (and that includes our favorite authors). I've also been on the receiving end of things too when a "meh" review of mine ticked off another blogger who was friends with that author. No big deal for me, but it certainly had that other person upset, which is kind of sad.

    I think reading books is such an emotional experience (at least for those of us who love books, right?) that sometimes emotions rule. That applies to writing a negative review that maybe goes too far *and* reading a negative review of a book we loved.

    Bottom line is that we are all voracious readers. We all have different styles (thank goodness or blogs would get very boring, LOL). I suppose it's just like the different opinions on this post of yours --- diversity makes the world go 'round, eh?

    Keep up the nice work and provocative posts!!! :)

  32. Marg writes:
    Can I ask the authors here if they expect a positive review from mainstream publications or is it only on blogs and Amazon that they want to only see good things written about their books?

    I'd like to thank personally every one of the anonymous reviewers who gave my book a "one" on Amazon. I think they helped boost it to number one fantasy and number one paranormal romance all those weeks. If you read a review saying "Too bad for free!" could YOU resist clicking to find out?

    An author once said, "Any ink is good ink."

    Another said, "I hate those three-star reviews. I want to hit a nerve. Come back and give me the 'one' I deserve!"

    A third said, "Every publisher in the pit of his heart prays that his new release will be denounced from the pulpit by a bishop. It adds fifty thousand in sales."

    And a shout-out to the anonymous writer who sends hate email on my birthday, it's nice to be remembered. But ever since I took my birthdate off my Facebook page you stopped writing. Was it something I said? My new book is up on Amazon, hint hint...


  33. Thanks so much for this wonderful blog! You said it so well. As a reader I have my own personal tastes. I reviewed books a really, really long time ago, and it wouldn't have occurred to me in a million years to be as spiteful as I've seen some people be on Amazon and other venues. As a writer I've been praised highly and heavily maligned. I think reality television and the current idea that snark and cruelty is "hip" and "cool" is partially to blame for some reviewers thinking it is okay to rip some authors a new one. I'm thankful for every thoughtful, professional review I get, even if the reviewer didn't find my book their cup of tea. The operative word is professional.

    Thanks so much for taking time to write this blog and review so many great books!

    Denise A. Agnew

  34. Wonderful blog. As a author I appreciate all reviews with thoughtful, professional comments, even if the reviewer is not a great fan of the book. I have been maligned pretty heavily on one of my books on Amazon, and it did make me wince because a few of these reviews were nothing short of nasty.

    I reviewed books a long time ago, and yet it would never have occurred to me to write an unprofessional review filled with snark. I did state what I didn't care for, but always qualified it by saying not every reader would agree with me. I understood that reviewing is subjective just as most things are.

    I believe snark is considered "cool" and "hip" as much in the past as it is in the present, but more people are likely to express hate and negativity because the Internet gives them what they think is a "safe" forum for their negativity. Plus, reality television has made it acceptable to demean other people in a much larger fashion.

    Thank you for the thoughtful blog. I appreciate it. :)

    Denise A. Agnew

  35. Comentators, I really appreciate the wealth of impute you have all added. This is a very touchy subject that I wanted to see how everyone else out there felt about it. There have been many prospectives brought to the table that I had not been able to see before which I appreciate.

    Michelle, I think it comes down for me that there are many problems with in the Amazon Vine program that need to be fixed asap. I do not think it is cool like Allie said to be talking in the reviews comments about BS crap like the weather in Seattle. A large amount of comments on one review make it seem like oh what the heck is going on there and if it is a bad rating it draws a lot of attention to it that does not need to be there just for dumb senseless comments. I just feel that if I ever feel the need to give low review rating then I stamp my real name on it and I am not afraid of the backlash because I know I was honest in my feelings. I just think it is funny that some who are negative hid behind a avatar and do not use their real name as a screen name. I know Daphane it is a "security issue" and I am all for being safe but for the most part we are grown adults and I do not need a nick name that is not even realistic to hid behind my everyday name is LIZ and I am not afraid to tell everyone.

  36. To maintain credibility as a reviewer, I have resorted to following my own set of rules on my blogs.

    First,I express exactly what I think of those who pursue fame on reality TV shows. I do not make personal attacks, but I will critique the actions or products of people who are competing for fame and money in a commercial show. (My latest review of Work of Art is snarky, for example.)

    Second, if I cannot abide the book and the author is not well-known or has just published a first or second novel, I will ask to do an interview or ask that author to send me a piece about their creative process. I will not review such a book, but will often just hold a giveaway. There are plenty of people who will like it.

    Third, if I have purchased a best-selling book or if the author is well-known and is taking advantage of a trend (vampires, for example, or Jane Austen sequels, as with Colleen McCullough), I will feel very free to express my opinion about the work itself. Again, I will refrain from expressing a personal opinion.

    Fourth, my tongue in cheek reviews are generally cleared ahead of time. Sometimes I will find a book's premise so absurd that it tickles my funny bone. Most recently, Ben H. Winters and I bantered in a most friendly fashion about his book, but he was in on the joke and his publicist supported my effort.

    Fifth, In the past I have treated some very sensitive authors with such gentle kid gloves that I felt like a sell out. So, there are some books that I simply will not review. Ever.

    One must continually tread the fine line between expressing one's sincere and honest opinion and hurting an author. I have sold my artwork at shows and galleries. Most viewers felt very free to express their thoughts about my paintings. Some, not knowing that I was the painter, would trash my work in front of me. If one goes for the brass ring, one must develop a thick skin and take the good along with the bad.

    Having said this, etiquette is important in critiquing another's work, and too many people bash books for no good reason.

  37. Vic, your insight is a mirror of my own personal reflections. I too have put on kid gloves before. I have noticed that since I have posted this I am really picky about what I choose to review and I have tightened up my ratings. The way I did that was by giving myself at least 24 hours to ponder the read in depth before I write the review.

    I just think there is a difference between trashing and offering a good review that is well written. Thank you Vic for your insight it is much appreciated.

  38. Reviewers attacking authors? Hardly. There's a posse of writers who think that they're entitled to five stars all the time, and they're actually calling peoples' jobs, not to mention doxxing reviewers online. One doesn't even have to review, either; commentary is enough.

    There's a whole website and movement devoted to harassing reviwers. Leaving out all mention of this looks biased at best.

  39. Ginamar, first off this post is over 3 years old and back when I wrote this YES there were a specific group of book reviewers that were surfing the web specifically looking to attack certain authors that they some how deemed unworthy HF authors. I bet that there are some authors who have said too much of their own personal feelings and have felt the consequences of expressing that. Biased I think not but when I post a review and I try to very hard to be completely honest and I get chastised like I am the bad guy for liking the book then how is that freedom of speech? Am I not allowed to enjoy the books I read and praise them on MY own site? Also FYI yes authors I know have received death threats and I have read where reviewers have gone above and beyond to attack an author like for example, posting an authors wedding registration as a form of harassment really is not cool in my book. So before you go throwing stones maybe you should research this a little more and by the way I have never heard of the website for book reviewers who are being harassed by authors. If that is really happening then I have no knowledge of it and I defiantly do not condone that type of behavior on either end. This post was meant to just drag some of this into the light so everyone and anyone can have a way to vent or just see my point of view because I was tired of the hateful negativity that was floating around the HF novel world.

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