Thursday, 5 January 2012

Coffee Break - The Author-Reviewer Relationship

Happy New Year! Bit late to the party...but that's me, late to everything. I never used to be a 'late person', however that's another coffee break moment.
So yesterday I saw a bit of drama unfold between an author and a reviewer which shocked me quite a bit. The gist of the situation was that the reviewer hadn't liked the author's book and had said as much in her review. The author felt rather hurt by this and retaliated in the form of a scathing email to friends (name-calling was involved) asking them to click on the 'no' button on Amazon to the review being helpful. The email found its way, through an anonymous source, to the said reviewer and a big status discussion started up on Goodreads.

I understand the need to vent when a bad review has gotten to an author. I don't know anyone who wouldn't throw in a few choice names as well if they were venting to friends, with the understanding the conversation wasn't going any further. What I'm stunned at is that she would then rally her friends to ruin this reviewer's Amazon ranking. However, in her view, she wasn't messing with the Amazon voting system, she just wanted the review to stop being the first thing potential readers see. Call it what you want, she was getting people to mess with the system because the review didn't fit to her liking, and that sort of behaviour I can believe my teenage nieces would do, not a grown author with children herself.

The point of this post isn't to condescend, as we've all done some things in anger that we wish we'd thought twice about, but just to ponder out loud about the situation, as this isn't the only author to have some questionable behaviour towards a reviewer. Quite a few well-known authors' names were soon thrown around with examples of their behaviour at bad reviews. The common factor with all these authors was that they all write in the Young Adult market.

I think the problem is that a wealth of book review blogs (and social networks) came about as the Young Adult market boomed. So there are a lot of Young Adult authors who are starting out in the industry to accommodate the demand for new fiction in the market and they've not got the thick skin to go with it just yet. It appears they feel the need to retaliate or 'troll' forums because most of the reviews are not from professional reviewers but from people who do this as a hobby and want to share their book experiences. This means the reviewers are easily accessible to start a 'hate campaign' against. If a review similar to this reviewer's had appeared in a newspaper or magazine by someone who was paid for their opinion, I wonder if the author would have acted in the same manner? Would any of the authors that seem to be holding a little bit of a grudge to bad reviews do what they've been doing?

When I think about the authors I read in the adult fiction market, no matter the genre, I can't name one who has reacted this way about a bad review. I've even seen them point out a bad review on Amazon and laugh about it because they know it's an opinion and their book won't be for everyone. Some have been really scathing reviews, to the point of ripping apart the book just because they can, and even then they grumble a bit and maybe ask the question why this person would have persevered with their book if they hated it so much. They certainly never went about asking them to click the 'no' button to get the review hidden.

However, I'm happy to have my eyes opened if there have been adult fiction authors who have taken part in this kind of behaviour. I just believe that they probably aren't likely to do it because they've been around longer and had a chance to grow a thick skin when they've had bad reviews from paid reviewers (who don't hold back), never mind people who do it for a hobby. I also know many Young Adult authors who take their bad reviews with a pinch of salt too, but again, they're a bit seasoned when it comes to the book industry having worked in other areas of it and know what reviewers can be like.

After all that, I just want to make it clear that I'm not ranting, or having a go, I'm just pondering the situation because as a person who likes to review books when I can and share my feelings on what I thought, it has made me nervous to continue down this path for fear of offending anyone that they think I've made it personal and then become personal with me. I wholly respect all authors. Even the ones I've had my eyes open to, because they've done something I haven't done yet- they finished their novel and got it published. But please remember, a review is an opinion, it's not right or wrong, and for every negative review, there's going to be at least ten people out there who thought the opposite. Focus on that and remember that you have a book published. In this climate too!

P.S Please ignore the strange gaps in this post, Blogger has been a nightmare for some time now when it comes to adding images to posts. And text. I can't seem to fix it no matter what I do with it.

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