Many book reviewers have often complained how the authors or the author’s friends, fans, and relatives harrass the reviewer for portraying a book negatively. Examples of these behaviors are numerous.
C.S. Lakin gave a poor review to a bestselling author. “But this author sought me out, somehow found my e-mail address, and wrote to me. Not just once but many times. At first she was polite and friendly and tried to persuade me to remove my review. Then the letters got more demanding, hostile, and she even enlisted other author friends to threaten me (in numerous ways). I was astonished and shocked. It wasn’t so much her immaturity that got to me; it was seeing how her joy was so easily destroyed by one not-so-complimentary review.” (Writing For an Audience Can Be Dangerous; April, 2012)
Another book reviewer left a comment on Mike Duran’s site. She said, “My review elicited a private email (NOT from the author but a fan/friend/relation of hers) saying that I had just killed any chance I ever had of getting published in the CBA.” (Review. Rinse. Repeat.)
You can’t bully or threaten a better opinion. If someone doesn’t like a book, they don’t like it. Part of our responsibility as book reviewers is to tell the truth in love. It’s up to the readers to determine what books they will buy. I am happy to say even my poor reviews have helped to sell books on more than one occasion. I’m here for the reader. You can post fluff reviews just to sell books, but as I am observing, fluff reviews are backfiring. People aren’t trusting them.
Mike Duran said in In Praise of Bad Reviews, “When it comes to book reviews, many reviewers deserve a thumbs-down. Is it because they are too harsh, too nit-picky, or too critical? On the contrary, it’s because they’re not harsh, nit-picky, and critical enough! Which is why I ignore certain reviewers — not because they pick everything apart, but because they praise everything. A reviewer who likes everything they read is either biased, dishonest, or dense. I can forgive a reviewer for liking a book I hate. I can’t forgive them for liking everything they read.” (April, 2012)
Another offender are anonymous reviews. One review on Barnes and Noble listed as anonymous raved about a particular book. The person listed the author’s age as they praised the author’s wisdom. How would they know that if they didn’t know her personally? It’s possible the author’s age might have been mentioned inside the book, but that’s not normally the case. A bio rarely includes an age. Like I said at an ACFW meeting earlier last year, bad reviews aren’t terrible. Bad reviews make a book credible. It means not all the reviews were from family or friends or fanatic fans. An epidemic of attacks against reviewers of books or products says much about our narcissistic culture. Even a best selling author turned on her reviewer.
The Atlantic Monthly reported on August 28, 2012 about the best selling author, Emily Griffith who became upset over one bad review. Emily’s husband called the negative reviewer psycho which began a host of attacks from Griffith fans against that reviewer. Another reviewer, Corey, saw this and changed her star rating on Amazon from four to one because of Emily’s alleged bad behavior. Emily then allegedly said that Corey changed it from a five-star review to a one star.
“It was never a five-star.” Corey writes. The attacks occurred on Amazon, email and by phone from crazed fans.Then, I received a couple of emails from an angry man about a negative review I wrote. He even switched to a false name to avoid my spam folder using a different email to call me names when he didn’t get what he wanted from me.
As I told the angry man, we are a large Body of Christ filled with many opinions and different likes and dislikes. As one comment on The Atlantic Monthly stated, at least people are talking about the book. Isn’t that the point? So why all the sour grapes?
I like how C.S. Lakin put it in Writing For an Audience Can Be Dangerous. “I learned a tremendous lesson from that encounter. Actually, a lot of lessons. One being that I never want to become like that if I ever sell big. I want to be gracious, kind, accepting, and respect others’ opinions–even if it means they hate my books.” (emphasis mine)
Unlike C.S. Lakin, I won’t take down my bad reviews. We grow through trials. In fact, because of one particular site changing their terms and removing my two-star review after it posted, I now have a book review policy. Whether it’s from a strange need as C.S. Lakin describes in Writing For an Audience Can Be Dangerous or because authors’ friends or relatives want their author to be successful, a reviewer should not be attacked in any way. Discussion is always welcome, but accusations, manipulation of the system, manipulation in the disguise of a “discussion,” name-calling, threatening, or bullying are strictly forbidden. If you are guilty of doing this, let me put it another way—your name in their mind will always be associated with that encounter. Why not let your name be linked to a positive experience instead?
More on that Friday as I share an example from years ago on why a good attitude is important. Meanwhile, tell me your story. If you are a book reviewer, what experiences have you had with book reviewing?