So. I've debated with myself for the last day or so whether I should comment on this issue or not. At first I decided not to - simply because I didn't want to give these people more attention. And because it made me sick. However, I've decided to speak up.
The issue is writers harassing reviewers. It was first brought to my attention by the BBA (Badly Behaved Authors) threads on Amazon. It was fascinating to watch how one author after another imploded in fury when they got a negative review. The most amusing thing was how they always started their defense like this: "I welcome honest reviews, but..." and then continued with how they liked any reviews - if only they weren't negative. The "but" was the keyword every single time.
As I said, I found it highly amusing, but I didn't really take it seriously. I mean, it had to be a few wacky people with too little insight in the business, right? Apart from that, I didn't really understand what those authors were talking about; I've gotten negative reviews, but even those readers who simply despised one of my books had clearly read and understood the book. They just hated it, and that's any reader's right. I was tempted to conclude that I simply have more intelligent readers than those imploding authors;).
Then, however, this blogpost was brought to my attention. It seems that some people have made a website where they expose readers who have made negative reviews. And by exposing I mean with real names, pictures, names of family (even pets!), and generel ridiculing of tweets and other public appearances. And I find that disgusting. It's not necessarily illegal, but if you use a pseud on the net (most of us do), then that should be respected. Ironically, they're anonymous themselves.
Furthermore (and far more important in my opinion), what they're doing is clearly trying to scare readers from making negative reviews and punishing those who have already made them. And yes, the people behind the website use all the right words, but calling it "bullying" when somebody reviews a book simply isn't true, and I'll tell you why.
When a pro book critic reviews a book, there are some requirements (I know, because I make a living as one): It must give an accurate rendition of the book's theme and plot as well as an evaluation of it, it must be reasonably entertaining - and the length has to fit in next to the Sudoku in the Hicksville-Plainvillage Gazette. Lots of demands, and not always easy to do.
What about a review on Amazon or Goodreads, then? Here's the point: There are no demands. Because readers are reading for their own pleasure. They don't exist to help authors become better authors (although many do in their reviews), they don't even have a duty toward their fellow readers (although even more are really, really good at that as well). Readers read for fun, and some of them use some of their precious time reviewing the books they've read. It's a great help to the authors and to other readers, and nobody - NOBODY - should harass them for it.
The worst thing is that it seems to work. I've read quite a few comments along the line "the author kept pestering me until I changed my review" or "I'm not reviewing much anymore; it got too scary to get mails from angry authors." And I can't even blame them; I'm deeply sorry about it, and I desperately hope that they'll continue writing about the books they love or hate, but I can't blame anybody for losing interest.
From a professional's point of view, I think that that's exactly what harassing authors lack: Professionalism. I often hear authors calling their book their baby, and I cringe every time I hear that. Because yes, you have to love your story. But you also have to correct it mercilessly, wring it into shape, and pester it until you have a finished product. If you do that to your baby, then it's time to call the CPS. If you don't do it to your book because it's your baby - well, then perhaps you shouldn't be an author.
Because being an author, in my opinion, is being a professional. That means that when I read a negative review of, say, A Russian Bear, then I read a review of a product by CB Conwy, author. Not of the person behind those initials who's currently sitting on the couch writing this. This is a vital distinction, because the professional can use a negative review and learn from it (even if me-me on the couch whines about it and insists on drowning the sorrows in Ben & Jerry's).
Sorry for rambling; I'm not even sure I got my point across clearly. If not, Stacia Kane did an awesome job of it. But I think it's important; readers should be allowed to review a book however they like. If I take their money, I get their opinion (those brilliant words aren't my own, by the way - they're stolen from someone very wise on the BBA thread). It's as simple as that.
So, to those people who're allegedly trying to "protect" authors against reviewers: Thank you, but no thank you.
As a matter of fact, it's in the top 10 on the Fictionwise website. And I'm so proud! It's always amazing - and very rewarding - when real people read the stories I've spent all those long weekends and evenings putting together. Furthermore, the Himiko books are quite different from my kinkier books; there's actually something resembling a plot in them as well as a lot of minor characters. Or rather, not that many, but I took the time to develop Aki and Robbie and Sam and Jerry until I knew their back story. It was quite a trip to get to know these guys.
I've gotten the first reviews, and they're amazing as well - you can find the links here.
I was so happy to find out that Alphabet Soup is a Bestseller on Fictionwise - it's actually number 2 in its category at the moment! And it's selling very well on other sites, too.
Perhaps it's because I'm a relatively newly published author (it has only been a year since my first book came out) but I still think it's a little bit of a miracle that people read what I write. Not only because I feel flattered (even though I do, big time!), but because it's an amazing thought that there are people all over the world, sitting in their sofas or beds and reading about MY characters, sharing MY fictional world. And the whole e-book thing makes it even crazier; I got the first reader mail less than 24 hours after Alphabet Soup was published. Writing in itself is wonderful, but getting read and appreciated? Words can't describe it. And that's saying something, coming from an author:).
Yeah, yeah, so yesterday I was all academic and philosophical about reviews. Today I'm ruining any attempt at scholarly distance by running around in happy little circles after reading this amazing review from Coffee Time Romance, which gives Alphabet Soup five cups out of five. Not only is it an amazing review, but I found the definition of 5 cups: "Ultra Rare Extraordinary Read. Not many books will be rated a 5. It is a superior work!"
I mean, how can you not be stupidly happy after that:)
Lately, I've heard authors talking about reviews. There are some different approaches.
First: Those who claim they never read reviews. When I heard that, my first thought was "yeah, right!". My second thought was that they lie. Because honestly, we all comb the Interwebthing regularly to search for something about our literary babies. Whether we want to admit it or not.
Then there are those authors who claim that you shouldn't read reviews because the readers are too stupid to understand your work of art anyway. To my astonishment, there seem to be a lot of those types in some forums. I might be able to understand the reaction as some sort of defense; it hurts to get a bad review. Still, it's not exactly the best approach in my opinion. Especially not the part where you call your readers stupid.
Then there are the defensive authors who comment on every review on the net and explains why the reviewer is wrong. I do see why that is tempting; readers are people, and sometimes, people do get things wrong. But here's the deal: It's the author's responsibility to write in a way that ensures that people don't get it wrong. This is where a good editor is crucial, by the way; at the end of writing 85,000 words, you're completely incapable of seeing what's wrong with your story.
Of course there are reviews that annoy me as well (I am only human. And an author), but generally, I find it really interesting to see what people get out of reading my books. I learn a lot about what readers notice and appreciate - and sometimes about what they hate (note to self: Do not end story abruptly). And most of all, it's amazing to realize that people actually read what I've written. That never ceases to amaze me.
So, my point? All those authors who don't read reviews should begin doing so. And to the readers: Please keep reviewing. I read them, I learn from them, and I really appreciate them.
Oh, "Going Home" has got the most wonderful review from Dark Divas Reviews! I'm so happy about it, especially because writing short isn't that easy for me (my characters tend to talk a lot. I've no idea where they've got that from). But I really wanted to do something for Doctors Without Borders, and the story was there. I only had to use less than 8,000 words to tell it... My hair is a lot grayer now than when I started writing!
Read all of the lovely review here.
I read and I write - everything from corporate to kink. My naughty fictional friends are always there to make my life interesting. And pester me, of course. Pesky creatures.