Leave reviewers alone
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.
My computer is on the fritz, so I'm using the TV to write this (Ah, technology...please forgive typos and auto~corrects).
Thank you, Kristi! As you said, most people only review a small part of what they read - and it's just downright ungrateful for a writer to bitch about actually getting a review, much less do something as disgusting as the attempt of public shaming on that website.
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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.