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Thursday Midday Links: Maggie Stiefvater on Reviews

Because apparently the YA author flameouts are unending, we’ve got two more for you.  First up is agent Elena Roth and author Kiera Cass ineptly plotting “quietly” on twitter to upvote positive review and downvote a “bitch”‘s negative ones. Then we have Maggie Stiefvater (she of the romances are “trite, formulaic” mentality) who tries to argue that the only legitimate reviews are ones that are in the form of an academic thesis. She knows this because she wrote history papers in college. And the “pro” reviews, the ones with “tiny supporting sentences” are the only ones that matter:

Because they’re fair and thorough, they’re prized and respected in the publishing world. Authors celebrate positive pro reviews. They sigh and learn from negative pro reviews. Publishing houses bend over backward to send review copies to these journals in time for a timely review, because good reviews can make or break a book’s success with libraries and booksellers.

But those negative reviews.  The ones with all caps, gifs, swearing and snark? Those aren’t reviews.  Plus, the animated gifs, swearing and snark make the non review personal.  Yes, animated kitties and a few curse words magically transform the non review into a personal attack:

Bloggers who regularly write them cannot expect to garner the same respect and treatment from authors that pro reviewers or non-pro reviewers do. They can’t expect authors to read their posts and learn something from them. And they cannot expect authors to not take it personally. They’ve made it personal.

Let’s repeat Stiefvater’s argument here.  Bloggers who use animated gifs, curse words and snark should expect the treatment that they get from authors.  Because, as Stiefvater says, no matter how funny those non reviews are, the non reviewers are being a “jerk” and they are “unprofessional” and the gifs, curse words, and snark make it a non review.

Ultimately, the reason why I find the Guardian article to be incorrect is because YA authors don’t have a problem with online book reviewers. There is rarely any drama over the dozens of bloggers who write hundreds of great reviews every month, both positive and negative.

Right.  Of course.  That is why this review here made Julie – woke up googled myself – Halpern .   Hmm, no gifs, no curse words, no snark.  Or how about Kira’s review? Again, gifs? No.  Curse words?  Yes, she uses “A Hole” in reference to herself.  GASP. THE HORROR.  Snark? Not really.  Further, effort isn’t what defines reviews and even if it was, have you guys ever tried a GIF review?  That shit is hard.

I don’t know how many YA reviewers read this blog, but I hope you all keep on keeping on. I love how you are transforming the way readers interact with books and discuss them online.  Publishers and publicists want the bloggers to talk about the books in a way that connects with their readership and lolcats, gifs, curse words haven’t seemed to deter publicists and publishers from seeking out bloggers.  The only thing that publicists and publishers really care about is platform.  Do you have a platform from which you can spread the word about the book?

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

100 Comments

  1. Janine
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:26:06

    I find the “academic thesis” argument bizarre. Even in the days before the internet, reviews did not resemble history papers and could often be quite scathing.

  2. ReadingPenguin
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:26:09

    Yep, I saw the Maggie Steifvater post and it made me seriously cranky. For one thing, those online reviews that she thinks don’t matter because they’re unprofessional have probably sold a decent number of books for her. Word of mouth online, especially among bloggers, is a BIG DEAL when it comes to promoting books.

    I try to write nice, professional sounding reviews. That’s just my style: I’m trying to be helpful, not funny. But I like snarky reviews, and guess what? They SOMETIMES influence my opinion as a potential reader. So you can try to downplay those reviews all you want, but they matter. A little

    Honestly, the impression that this leaves me with is an author trying to “Poison the Well” by discrediting potential reviewers before they write a single word. Why would you want to upset reviewers? Why make it personal?

  3. Jia
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:34:40

    @Janine: I was thinking the exact same thing. Before Kirkus changed its format, it was pretty infamous for writing very harsh, sometimes just plain nasty reviews. At least in SF/fantasy circles.

  4. blodeuedd
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:39:47

    I did not like her post, academic paper..right…

  5. Janine
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:44:45

    @Jia: I remember looking up reviews for Anne Rice’s 1980s books in The New York Times once, and some, at least, were equally or more snarky than anything you would find on Goodreads or on the blogs. I don’t know what makes Stiefvater prefer them, unless it’s their higher profile.

  6. Michelle
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:51:10

    After reading Maggie Stiefvater’s post and comments, I have two things to add. Shiloh Walker is awesome, and the only reason people don’t like her post/or are offended by it is because they are reading it “with hostile eyes”.

    Shaking my head. Do publishing houses need to host seminars about how not to offend readers. Also not a good idea to call readers bitches or cows.

  7. jennifer armintrout
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:55:30

    Stiefvater made a good point, that there is a line between snarking an author and reviewing a book. Unfortunately, that totally valid point seemed secondary and accidental to the one that she was trying to make, which is apparently that only scientists should do book reviews and the rest of us should keep our uneducated opinions to ourselves.

  8. EGS
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:59:17

    “Romances are ‘trite, formulaic’ mentality” – this makes me laugh considering Stiefvater’s books are EXACTLY that. So trite and formulaic.

  9. sula
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:00:48

    Blech. What an attitude. I write enough academic papers for my graduate degree program, thanks. When I read romance novels for fun and write reviews for my own distraction and to dialogue with other readers, I’ll be as snarky as I want. If I understand her argument, good reviews are professional, bad reviews are amateur. Huh. Sort of like, tails I win, heads you lose. Neat trick.

  10. KB/KT Grant
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:02:40

    The majority of these authors complaining don’t want any negative reviews to be posted at all anywhere. They only want rave reviews, as if that will help their sales. Good luck with that.

  11. Jia
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:11:37

    @EGS: The hilarious thing is that when she first made that argument, she said that she loved Twilight in the same breath. Because apparently the Twilight books aren’t romance.

  12. Jane
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:14:18

    Stiefvater’s post, along with these past few weeks of authorial opinions about the legitimacy of reviews, particularly in the YA crowd, bothers me tremendously because it feels like they want to stifle critical voices as they are emerging. But it is true that authors will not respect or like certain reviewers and I hope that YA bloggers and reviewers understand being critical won’t win them friends amongst some authors.

  13. LG
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:16:17

    @Jia: I had someone complain when I called Twlight a romance novel, wanting me to remove the romance genre headings I put in our catalog record (I’m a library cataloger). I couldn’t understand how someone could NOT consider it a romance novel, regardless of how one feels about the book.

  14. Brie
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:19:26

    That post was astonishing. This particular quote made me laugh:

    “A review is an unbiased, careful look at a book — basically it is a little academic paper. It involves an itty-bitty thesis on your opinion of the book”

    How can an opinion be unbiased? How can you write a thesis based on an opinion? Oh my! Someone should have told me that before. All this time collecting data was for nothing!

    It seems to me that there’s an underlying assumption that readers will buy, or not buy, a book based on one single review. If that review is gushing and goes something like: “OMG! Best book ever! You better watch out Bible, this book will dethrone you!” then of course everyone will buy that book. If it goes something like: “This book was so bad I wish I were blind”, then no one will buy it. Apparently reviews are the most powerful thing in the world and readers behave like sheep, they have no discerning abilities whatsoever, and you have to be careful with what you tell them because they will blindly believe anything they read.

    I find this to be disrespectful to readers, because that’s what reviewers are, readers.

    ETA:

    she of the romances are “trite, formulaic” mentality

    Did she really say that?

  15. Rosa E.
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:21:33

    Er . . . to be honest, I’ve read an awful lot of academic papers that were worth a heck of a lot less than your average review here or half a dozen other romance sites. Using highfalutin’ language isn’t the only guarantor of quality; honesty, a sense of humor, and above all clarity are to be prized, and there’s plenty of papers and academic articles that lack all three. Sounds to me like Ms. Stiefvater is really just after reviews with lots of nifty long words in them.

    As for Elena Roth and Kiera Cass . . . *sigh* Honestly, guys? Some of us would kill for reviews, period. Grow up, por favor.

  16. Janine
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:28:52

    @Brie: Oh yeah, the unbiased chestnut. All reviews, positive, negative or indifferent are biased, because human beings are biased. Heck, even scientific research can often be biased. It is very hard to get the bias out of research papers, but the work of reviewers is exactly the opposite — to express their biases clearly enough that readers understand how and and why those biases inform/color their opinions.

  17. Jia
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:30:44

  18. Sunita
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:32:14

    For someone who wrote “massive history papers” Stiefvater seems quite spectacularly uninformed about what reviews in professional journals look like. There are some seriously snarky reviews in the flagship journals. Humanities scholars are notorious for carrying on feuds through book reviews. Sometimes I wish the social sciences were more like that; our reviews tend to be so anodyne as to be almost useless.

    If she means Kirkus and PW, I understand why those might be useful for librarians and booksellers. But I like some evaluation along with my description. Here’s a review that seems pretty normal for Kirkus: http://bit.ly/zxPGV9

    I counted three words that could be construed as non-description: singular, winning, and subtle. I can see why an author would prefer that kind of review, but as a reader it doesn’t do much more than a good blurb would.

  19. Ellen
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:45:34

    I’m much more likely to purchase a book after reading a snarky, entertaining review of it than I am after it’s brought to my attention the book’s author has a dysfunctional attitude, as the latter is akin to rewarding a toddler with a cookie for throwing a tantrum.

    One day perhaps everyone will learn what you say about yourself is often far more damaging than anything anyone else says about you.

  20. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:47:30

    2012 is the year of the YApocalypse.

    This stuff is getting old.

    Fortunately most of the YA authors I know are awesome.

  21. Annie
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:53:23

    I also didn’t like the implication that readers are incapable of forming opinions on the reviews. I’m neither an author nor a blogger, so I don’t have a dog in this fight.
    Sure it must hurt to get a negative review, but if a review is bad or unhelpful the reader can figure that out. There have definitely been times when I’ve read a review & realized it didn’t really review the book & went off of a ranty-tangent. Most of the time if a book sounds good- or was completely trashed- and my interest is piqued, I look at other reviews/blogs to see what other people are saying. I don’t use a single opinion and mindlessly follow it.

  22. Berinn Rae
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:57:28

    @Shiloh Walker: Everything you said :)

    I would love to see someone post “snarky review of the day” on their site. They’re entertaining and informational.

  23. Isobel Carr
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:57:53

    I think Stiefvater must have somehow missed the entire world of literary reviews that often consists of authors who hate each other personally sniping about their rival’s books. And then there are the non-fiction ones. *shudder* Academic prose wars are legendary, LOL! Nothing professional about them at all.

  24. Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 11:58:45

    @ReadingPenguin: I think that her post is incredibly short sighted. Why do authors tend to forget that reviewers have one other important role in their relationship? They are also READERS, and many, many bloggers purchase the books that they review. How does that make their opinions of their work less important? It should make their thoughts MORE important than those of a “scholarly” review. Or am I the one who is confused?

  25. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:03:49

    I think pretty much all these authors who go off the rails are irrelevant, and I’m not sure why time gets spent on them.

  26. Susanna Kearsley
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:32:17

    Oh, for the love of… These people who keep on insisting there’s some magic line that divides Real Reviews from “reviews” are just making my brain ache.

    I’m going to play a little game here that I sometimes play with my own kids, called “Chase the definition”, wherein we take out the dictionary and try chasing down the meaning of a word by following each of the words used to describe it in the definition. Ready? Here we go:

    Review: A critical evaluation. Critical: Consisting of or involving criticism. Criticism: the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature; also : writings expressing such evaluation or analysis. Evaluation: The noun derived from the transitive verb evaluate. Evaluate: to determine the significance, worth, or condition of [object], usually by careful appraisal and study. Study: careful or extended consideration. Analysis: an examination of a complex, its elements, and their relations. Appraisal: An act or instance of appraising. Appraising: A form of the transitive verb appraise. Appraise: to evaluate the worth, significance, or status of [object]. Complex: a whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts.

    So…when someone takes a book (a complex) and examines its elements and their interrelations (analyses it), attempting to assign it worth and status (appraising it), through careful consideration (study), in order to determine its significance and worth (evaluate it), then they are, in fact, engaging in criticism, and the product of their evaluation is, in fact, a review.

    Not a “review”. A review.

    The addition (or absence) of “animated gifs, swearing, and snark” is irrelevant. Whether I, as an author, like or don’t like a review, learn from it, frame it, or burn it is also irrelevant. And by definition, the only qualifications anyone needs to create a review are the ability to read (or to listen to an audiobook), and to think.

    In my view, at least, all the people who try to define Real Reviews are just making up rules to keep other kids out of their sandbox.

  27. Mireya
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:50:13

    I think there’s something in the water…

  28. P. Kirby
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:52:56

    “Bloggers who regularly write them cannot expect to garner the same respect and treatment from authors that pro reviewers or non-pro reviewers do. They can’t expect authors to read their posts and learn something from them. And they cannot expect authors to not take it personally. They’ve made it personal.”

    Ya know what, Cupcake? Reviews aren’t written for authors. They are not after-the-fact critiques written just…for…you. I know…who knew?

    Therefore, if you spend all your waking moments engaged in the self-absorbed exercise of checking Google Alerts, scouring the web for any mention of your masterpiece, chances are you will encounter a review that isn’t helpful, that hasn’t undergone rigorous peer review. Some may even contain snark.

    If reading all that raw opinionation gives you the vapors, then maybe it’s time you stepped back from the Google Alerts and, uh, I dunno…write your next book?

    Warning: This comment may have contained snark.

  29. Jane Davitt
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:54:27

    What kind of a book prompts an objective review? A dull one.

    You should reach the end of a book with an emotion or two, even if they’re negative. Negative reviews are based on personal taste, but most people have the sense not to assume it means they too won’t like the book. Unless maybe it’s a question of truly dire grammar and even then someone out there will like it.

    Books are like food; tastes vary. One person’s melt-in-the mouth rare steak is another’s bloody and raw chunk of cow.

    But we all know when we want second helpings.

  30. Laura
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:55:35

    “Yep, I saw the Maggie Steifvater post and it made me seriously cranky. For one thing, those online reviews that she thinks don’t matter because they’re unprofessional have probably sold a decent number of books for her. Word of mouth online, especially among bloggers, is a BIG DEAL when it comes to promoting books.”

    This. I depend heavily on online reviews these days and it’s clear the bloggers who are being slammed are the reason many authors are doing so well. Stiefvater is a perfect example of an author who owes much of her success to the “unprofessional” reviewers who love her. I no longer trust “professional” reviewers and I know I’m not alone.

    It feels as if popular/successful authors (mainly YA) think they are more than writers. They think they are our teachers, our heroes/heroines, our deities, our employers. And it’s frustrating, not to mention infuriating.

    During a time when authors should be grateful to have a place in the publishing world, I find I shake my head at the huge sense of entitlement these authors have. Everyone is supposed to like their book or shut up? I blame it on the celebrity treatment many of the hyped authors receive from their publishers and the deferential treatment they receive from some bloggers/unprofessional reviewers.

    I’ve taken to crossing many authors off of my to-read list because of their behavior.

  31. Keishon
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 12:56:59

    who tries to argue that the only legitimate reviews are ones that are in the form of an academic thesis.

    Thanks for the laugh but I’d have to strongly disagree with that statement.

  32. LVLMLeah
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:10:13

    They can’t expect authors to read their posts and learn something from them.

    This is what critique partners and beta readers are for.

  33. Janine
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:16:50

    @Susanna Kearsley:

    * claps hands *

  34. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:29:36

    I didn’t get a lot further than “cheese danish,” because the Homer in me kind of took over.
    okay, back and looking at it again. It makes less sense now. I thought academic papers (does she mean essays, or just writing stuff with big words?) had to have a central argument, but this seems awfully muddled.

  35. cbackson
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:35:50

    Someone needs to point these wimpy authors to that masterpiece of negative reviewing, “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” For example:

    There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now[.]

    Rest assured, had Mark Twain had access to an animated “ALL ABOARD THE FAILBOAT” gif, I think he would have used it.

    I encourage you to read the whole thing, if you haven’t – the nineteen rules for fiction writing are golden. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/hns/indians/offense.html

  36. Kate Hewitt
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:41:23

    Any written opinion of a book is, in essence, a review. I’m not sure how Steifvater intends to disqualify certain reviews, or what effect that could possibly have on reviewers and readers in total. However, I will say that I personally, as both an author and a reader, dislike the snarky/make you laugh reviews, and yes, I have smiled at some, uncomfortably. Because when you stop being respectful of the work and making jokes, sarcastic remarks, etc, about it in a public space, it does seem personal. I’m quite sure in most cases the reviewer doesn’t mean it as a personal attack on the author, but when someone uses your created piece, whatever it is, as a source of amusement for others, it feels cruel. It’s still a review, it’s still valid, and readers have a ‘right’ to form their opinions however they like, but… I think it’s both unkind and unhelpful.

  37. ReadingPenguin
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:48:59

    @Julie @ Manga Maniac Cafe:

    No, you’ve hit the point exactly. I’m a reader, sharing my thoughts, opinions, and advice with other readers. I do so analytically. I review respectfully. I don’t make personal attacks on authors in my reviews. I may not be a “pro”, but my opinion matters, to me and my fellow readers.

    @Susanna Kearsley:

    Yes, this.

  38. Karenmc
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:50:41

    @P. Kirby: Permission to use “Ya know what, Cupcake?” as a silent preface any time I have to explain something obvious to someone who should know better.

  39. courtship
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:58:42

    I sort of agree with Shiloh and Moriah. I wish we could stop drawing attention to these nuts. Readers must be starting to believe most authors are self-googling, megalomaniacal drama queens and I don’t think that’s true.

    Out of all the thousands of reviews left daily, most don’t blow up into such a mess. I don’t really see it as a huge problem or even a huge YA problem, just a case of a few authors gone off the deep end.

  40. Sarah
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 13:58:45

    I read both YA and romance (A LOT of both) which is why I visit DA. I’m glad you cover the YA aspects because I find these author antics embarrassing. I’m the youth librarian at my library and I do all the purchasing. And in all honesty, I won’t buy a book now when an author has a big flame-out. I cannot support someone who is that rude and downright childish in their online presence. I know I won’t be purchasing the Kiera Cass book, that is for certain. Does it hurt my library teens? Yes it ultimately does but I’d rather support an author who can suck it up and accept the bad reviews right along with the good ones.

  41. azteclady
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:02:33

    @Susanna Kearsley: (not done reading all the comments but…thank you, Ms Kearsley, that was wonderful!

    (A fellow word chaser)

  42. P. Kirby
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:04:37

    @Karenmc: *Snerk* Yeah, have at it.

  43. Alan Tucker
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:23:06

    @P. Kirby: Well said but you should have put your snark warning before the comment ; )

    As a new, struggling author (read 99% of the known world) I welcome ANY review. If someone took the time to read my work, I’m extremely appreciative. Do I expect everyone to like it? Hell no. I don’t like every book I read. Why should I think that everyone will like my books?

    If a review says, “This book sucks!” with nothing else, then it’s not a “good” review. If it says, “This books sucks and here’s why …” with an explanation, regardless of whether you think the points are valid or not, it’s a “good” review. Same thing goes for “This book rocks!” with no supporting reasons.

    Great post and excellent, thoughtful comments all. Bravo!

  44. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:47:45

    @Moriah Jovan: Word.

  45. Charlotte Stein
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 14:50:02

    @courtship:

    I’m honestly starting to believe – and I know I’m not alone – that some of these dust-ups are being engineered. That some authors are seeing them as a shortcut to publicity. Hell, they’re right! Makes me so sad when I think of authors I love who never get a word said about them – in part because of their “good” behaviour! Whereas this bad behaviour is inadvertently rewarded.

  46. Naomi
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 15:02:16

    I wish more of these authors would read Stacia Kane’s excellent blogs on this issue. They might learn something: http://www.staciakane.net/blog/

    Why don’t they realise that acting like an entitled twat online is going to do more damage than a negative review here or there?

  47. EGS
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 15:06:07

    @Jia I’m kind of surprised she would say that about romance novels when her werewolf trilogy is basically Twilight with wolves. I mean, hate on romances all you want, but it seems silly to write what you supposedly hate.

    Also, accusing someone of being “unprofessional” is really just “I’m butthurt that you were mean about my book.”

  48. azteclady
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 15:46:34

    It’s pushing my buttons that a couple of the commenters at Ms Stiefvater’s blog are actually thanking her for explaining to them that what they write are not reviews, just “book posts.”

    Is she trying to educate this would-be reviewers to keep their potentially less than complimentary “non-reviews” to themselves, or something?

  49. Jess
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:01:04

    @azteclady:
    That bothered me, as well. I’m guessing these folks are fans of hers and they want to stick up/support her, but it’s okay for them to say “You’re one of my favorite authors and I plan on buying your books as long you keep writing them, but I have to disagree with you here. These things I write are book reviews.” The worst that can happen is she gets mad at them for disagreeing with her and writes a rant about some of her “horrible” fans. From my perspective, maybe their book reviews would’ve been helpful for other readers (I’m not sure how many of the commenters considered themselves dedicated book bloggers before this) and if they don’t write them we’re missing out on important info.

  50. Katie
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:10:42

    @courtship: of course author google their name and read their book reviews. We all want to know what people think of our work. Why publish if you don’t.

  51. Sue T
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:24:56

    I’m surprised that all this discussion has been on the article and not the twitter stream between that author and her agent. And wow, how unprofessional of that agent. I’d have thought we’d all be all over that.

  52. becca
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:29:10

    I’m disappointed that you didn’t mark this post with an animated gif of a bunch of swear words.

  53. Author on Vacation
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:37:48

    @KB/KT Grant:

    The majority of these authors complaining don’t want any negative reviews to be posted at all anywhere. They only want rave reviews, as if that will help their sales. Good luck with that.

    I really don’t believe this is true. I mean, it could very well be true with some authors and aspiring authors, especially if they believe negative reviews have the power to impact book sales. But I don’t think I’ve read any of the author “melt-down” blog entries or review responses that led me to believe authors expected only rave good reviews about their books.

    I’ve reviewed about 100 books and I have yet to hear a single author express offense about my negative reviews. Authors have thanked me. From time to time they’ve offered insight on a point I didn’t get about their book or answered my questions about potential sequels. No one has ever insulted me or accused me of mocking them or anything else like that.

  54. Dana S
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:40:39

    @Susanna Kearsley: Yup, this.

    And excuse me while I do a little fangirl squee. I love your books. I discovered you through Dear Author during the dabwaha tournament. Which is most definitely not a “proper” professional review site/event. But totally entertaining and painful for my wallet.

  55. Author on Vacation
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:50:20

    @Katie:

    I actually don’t google or search for reviews of my published work. I used to do it, but I stopped after reading all the rumpus people make on line about reviews not really being intended for the author.

    If someone wants to tell me anything about my work, they can always email me.

  56. Author on Vacation
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 16:55:47

    @Charlotte Stein:

    I’m honestly starting to believe – and I know I’m not alone – that some of these dust-ups are being engineered. That some authors are seeing them as a shortcut to publicity. Hell, they’re right! Makes me so sad when I think of authors I love who never get a word said about them – in part because of their “good” behaviour! Whereas this bad behaviour is inadvertently rewarded.

    You might be on to something here. I’m always stunned by the reviewers who chase drama about “badly behaved authors.” Really? I mean, seriously?

    Surely that’s time and thought better spent reading and reviewing (favorably or unfavorably) other books.

  57. Cathy Burkholder
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 17:18:09

    Wow.

    For the first two-thirds of this post, I assumed the writers mentioned and quoted were doing fun tongue-in-cheek parodies (a la Meljean Brook’s hilarious “Diary of an Author” series of posts http://meljeanbrook.com/blog/archives/6649 ) and this post was treating it seriously as a fun way to continue the parody.

    So sad to realize that’s not the case.

    If they HAD actually carried out a twitter exchange pretending to plot out how to game the system and get their books to the top, I would have tried their books. That is a sort of humor and perspective I can get behind.

    Troubled, I also looked up the post you quoted about Maggie Stiefvater. I hadn’t heard of her before nor read her books, so I have no context, but I didn’t get the same sense of it that you did. To me, she didn’t seem to have a problem with negative reviews. Instead she seemed to be trying to draw a distinction between professional reviews (in which the reviewer is trying to describe the strengths and weaknesses as objectively as possible) and a run down (which is also useful, but not constrained to be objective or professional). I don’t know whether the distinction is necessary, but it didn’t seem like she was degrading run downs, as much as saying that they generally aren’t created with the same aim or format.

    She also seemed to be trying to say that that sometimes reviewers and bloggers try to be mean-funny but end up getting personal (e.g. saying nasty things about authors as people, not just about their work). And when they do that, they should realize that some authors are going to take it personally, even if they shouldn’t. And I can see her point there.

    Anyway, really funny post until I realized that I wasn’t reading the Onion.

  58. Laura
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 17:21:50

    @azteclady: I stopped reading the comments because they made me so sad. It’s that kind of stuff that also gives authors huge egos.

  59. Jayne
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 18:26:39

    @Author on Vacation: So these are kind of like the Paris Hilton sex tape?

  60. JL
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 18:39:41

    I suspect a lot of the author anger towards some reviews is the fact that there are (probably? possibly?) some horribly offensive and personally attacking reviews out there. The thing is that this ‘problem’ is more or less controlled naturally by readers choosing to follow certain blogs or not and choosing to be influenced by goodreads/amazon whatever posts or not. I personally don’t like snarky or mean reviews. Well, guess what? None of the dozen or so blogs I follow are snarky or mean. And they are mostly very popular blogs because most people don’t like overly snarky or mean reviews and gravitate to these sites (DA is a good example).
    Saying there is a difference between good and bad reviews is a bit like saying ‘hey, don’t murder people. It’s bad if you do,’ in the sense that most of know that already. The ones who don’t or don’t care aren’t going to listen anyway. But you can’t then say that the entire human race sucks because humans murder other humans. Maybe that’s a bad analogy, but hopefully it gets the point across. Either way, no one likes sanctimonious people. We’re smart enough to choose whether a review works for us or not. We don’t need authors to dictate that to us.
    Speaking of bad analogies, comparing reviews to academic papers is just plain stupid. To be honest, most people who come out of their undergraduate degrees still have no idea what makes a good paper or not (and it’s not simply having a thesis and being unbiased). So why expect reviews to be of such an exacting standard? Not to mention writing history papers does not give you english paper writing skills. Somehow I doubt Ms. Stiefvater’s ‘review’ is going to be as wonderful as she thinks it will be.

  61. Parajunkee
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 19:41:44

    Seems someone that wanted to stay out of the kerfluffle or whatever academic word they are using to describe this ridiculous mess is sure producing a few unhappy readers. I do believe that publishers might have to start paying for authors to take some proper social media PR classes.

  62. Jane
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 19:43:51

    I stopped posting about Authors Behaving Badly a while back because there is always some author going crazy over at Amazon, but I do feel like there seems to be a pushback against YA reviewers and I want to show my support for those YA reviewers, some of whom are teens.

  63. Author on Vacation
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 20:10:45

    @Jayne:

    I’m sorry, Jayne. I’m not up to speed on Paris Hilton, much less any sex tape she’s made. Paris Hilton’s celebrity is one of things I hope will go away if I ignore it long enough. No offense to Hilton’s fans.

    Regarding reviewers taking it so much to heart whenever an author comments or blogs in a manner the reviewer perceives as threatening or “bad behavior” or whatever, I’m not sure why this has become such a sore subject or such a hotly debated one. I see a lot of really smart reviewers investing a ton of emotional energy in this issue for what is (I assume) intended to be a recreational activity.

    I have witnessed authors attack reviewers before and I think it’s not very professional or appropriate, but I’ve also seen instances where all an author does is indicate what I’d think everybody already knows. Not all reviews are equal. This isn’t to say that one person’s opinion is more valuable or less valuable than another person’s. However, the quality involved in that opinion’s expression varies by the individual.

    I don’t see the merit in devoting X hours of ranting and complaining about “so many bad-behaved authors” if the reviewers truly feel this way. All they’re doing is providing attention and publicity for the author and/or the author’s book/s.

    So yes, maybe there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

  64. cecilia
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 20:35:55

    @Author on Vacation: I don’t particularly have a problem with it if an author wants to drone on like a smug windbag on her blog, making sweeping generalizations about book-posters (because according to her exacting and irrelevant standards, they’re not reviewers); I do think the harassing and bullying behaviour of some of the other recent author flameouts – where authors used their platform to rally the fan-troops against some individual who didn’t like their book and wrote about why – is seriously inappropriate, and I can understand why people were indignant.

  65. Julie
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 20:48:13

    Well, I actually thought that MS’s blog post, along with the follow up discussion in the comments, was interesting and thought-provoking. I’m sorry, Jane, but I don’t think the post fairly represented the gist of MS’s intent. For example:

    “…the only legitimate reviews are ones that are in the form of an academic thesis.” I think that the way you worded this statement and others implies that MS doesn’t see value in something that does not meet her definition of a review. I don’t think implication is born out by MS’s post and comments. Yes, MS defined what she thought qualified as a “review”, and it was rather narrow. However, if you read the entire discussion, she specifically says that simply because something does not qualify as a “review” (by her definition) does *not* mean that it is not a legitimate or useful reaction to or discussion of a book. For example, one of her statements from the comments: “I think there are loads of different ways to talk about books that are useful (both to me and to others) that don’t fit the narrow definition of review. Not being a “Review” doesn’t make them illegitimate.”

    Plus, the animated gifs, swearing and snark make the non review personal. Yes, animated kitties and a few curse words magically transform the non review into a personal attack: Actually, she says that the negative reviews that authors are lashing out about both often contain gifs, swearing, and snark *and* (not *therefore*) are personal towards the author. I don’t think she worded this very well in the post, but what I got from entire discussion is that she’s talking about correlation rather than saying the snark makes it personal. And in the paragraph after that one she gives examples of personal attacks that she’s had in such reviews, and well…her examples *are* personal attacks.

    Because, as Stiefvater says, no matter how funny those non reviews are, the non reviewers are being a “jerk”… Her line “Folks, that’s just being a jerk.” immediately follows her legitimate examples of personal attacks in reviews. Why do you think – particularly in light of her comments in the discussion that follows where she says “I don’t think that snark is bad in reviews – I actually don’t think snark is bad in any sort of book talk.” – that she believes anyone posting a snarky review is being a jerk?

    Ok, that got rather long, but my point is that I don’t think the gist of the entire discussion was well represented in this post or in some of the comments above. I don’t agree with MS about how a book review should be defined, but since she acknowledges the value in many types of posts/discussions about books, even negative ones, I’m not inclined to think badly of her because of her semantics. And criticizing MS for statements or opinions that are contradictory to what she wrote in that post seems a bit counter-productive. Just my 2 cents. YMMV.

    [I’ve had a long and crazy day, so I hope what I wrote above made sense and didn’t offend anyone because that wasn’t my intention.]

  66. Author on Vacation
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 20:54:37

    @cecilia: I’m actually impressed with authors who find time to blog. When I’m not up to my ears in the creative process, I’m reading and reviewing. I have other work beyond my writing and other relationships and involvements that are a bigger priority to me than blogging.

    As to the idea that authors encourage their fans to attack reviewers, well, that may be so or it may not. I don’t know. I’ve never read a blog where an author instructed readers to attack reviewers. I’m not saying that bad element doesn’t exist. There are only so many blogs I read.

    I have, however, witnessed reviewers encouraging their fans to penalize authors by not buying their books, not reading or reviewing their books, and other comparable mistreatment.

    I would have to say I find both scenarios equally distasteful and lacking in professionalism. I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. “A” says what s/he thinks and “B” says what s/he thinks. Differences of opinion don’t automatically equal personal attack.

    Any author who reads my review of his/her book is free to hate my review. S/he is free to vent about it wherever s/he likes. It’s not going to make a difference in my life.

    I agree with Jane’s earlier comment, though, that authors of YA fiction should be especially careful in addressing reviews, particularly those written by younger people.

  67. Ridley
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 21:15:24

    @Author on Vacation:

    I’m actually impressed with authors who find time to blog.

    Some authors blog. Other authors monopolize blog comment sections.

  68. SHZ
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 22:01:51

    I’m willing to bet the cringeworthy PREGNESIA sold ten times more copies because of the Smart Bitches snarky “non-review” than it ever would have otherwise.

    Maggie Stiefvater had put her foot in her mouth many times over the years. Nothing new there – her online persona has certainly never made me buy one of her books.

    I don’t get why YA authors insist on behaving at the maturity level of their characters.

    Shiloh Walker on the other hand… If I wasn’t already a huge fan…

  69. azteclady
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 22:32:39

    @Ridley: ouch

  70. SHZ
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 22:39:50

    @Sue T: “I’m surprised that all this discussion has been on the article and not the twitter stream between that author and her agent. And wow, how unprofessional of that agent. I’d have thought we’d all be all over that.”

    That’s true. For the love of all that is holy… Do these guys not realise everyone can see their Twitter discussions? Or do they honestly not care because they’re so superior to the rest of us?!

  71. bchan
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 00:33:00

    @Julie: It’s unfortunate then that her entire post seems to be framed as a response to the Guardian article. She may or may not have intended it, but I don’t blame people for reading it that way.

    Besides, the review (of Tempest) that was mentioned in the article was NOT a personal attack. Yet she said this:

    Ultimately, the reason why I find the Guardian article to be incorrect is because YA authors don’t have a problem with online book reviewers. There is rarely any drama over the dozens of bloggers who write hundreds of great reviews every month, both positive and negative.

    implying that since it didn’t meet her definition of a book review, those authors’ reactions don’t count, because who cares about a bunch of no-name goodreads users right?

    The examples she gave are indeed personal attacks. Funny though, I’ve yet to see an authorial flameout over a personal attack like that, because no one in their right mind would take a review like that seriously, and authors know that. It makes me think that despite her giving only extreme examples, her range of what she considers ‘personal attacks’ is considerably wider than that.

  72. cate
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 05:28:32

    Really.. Anyone who uses the the phrase “itty-bitty” in conjuction with the word thesis definately needs to get a grip !

  73. Jess
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 06:02:16

    @Julie:
    And criticizing MS for statements or opinions that are contradictory to what she wrote in that post seems a bit counter-productive. Just my 2 cents. YMMV.

    This statement caught my eye. I haven’t followed all of MS’s internet activity, but I’ve seen a little bit of her…interesting…responses to negative reviews of her work. I can’t speak for everyone else posting, but I found it ridiculous that in this post she was saying “Authors, don’t be jerks!” while she herself had shown evidence of being a jerk over some negative and valid reviews. I know she later admitted she had made some mistakes in responding to negative reviews in the past (and while not necessary it would’ve been interesting to know if she meant all her responses or just a particular instance) but I find it ridiculous for her to be telling other authors (and reviewers) how to behave. Long story short, I would completely agree with you if people were going off-topic about their thoughts of her, but here they seem to be bringing up relevent points to counter her post. My observations, anyway.

  74. dick
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 09:26:58

    Seems to me that discussing these matters, as this post does, gives them an audience they don’t deserve.

  75. KMont
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 10:20:43

    Discussing when authors behave this way is -apparently – important to some of us because there are folks that want to/are thinking about reviewing and they are being intimidated by these authors. People who are afraid to review critically as a result. Are people actually suggesting that speaking up when these things happen is a bad thing? I don’t think it matters so much that the authors in question might get a little free PR – calling attention to what they’re causing is what matters. I guess if all the people who feel trampled on never said a word, nothing would ever change.

  76. Sirius
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 10:48:41

    @KMont: Absolutely and I can tell you that if I know that author is known for abusing reviewers, I am not very likely to leave a review on Amazon. Why should I open myself to the possibility of patronising, dismissive lecture about what the review really should be saying and should really look like and thats if author decides to stay within those limits and not issue a truly personal attack? And I realize that this is a disservice to other readers, but I am sorry – I am choosing my mental calm and serenity as my first priority. Of course if I chose a book for the site I review for, thats a different story, since I feel an obligation, but on Amazon? Most likely not. If I am not aware of any history, I will leave a review of course. Sadly, if those authors want to scare the critical reviewers away, in my case they succeed with gusto :(. Obviously I have not read most of them, but like the infamous Beatiful disaster was DNF for me. Did I want to leave a review? Absolutely. Will I? I really dont think so, because I do not relish the idea of getting the remarks from the author. And I am NOT a teenager, had not been for couple decades. I can definitely see how at least some teens could be more vulnerable to those remarks.

  77. Author on Vacation
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:07:08

    @KMont:

    “…there are folks that want to/are thinking about reviewing and they are being intimidated by these authors. People who are afraid to review critically as a result…

    But if people are so easily intimidated, why is that someone else’s fault?

    If I review a book and post a negative review, “This book didn’t suit me. I found A, B, and C wrong with it. I don’t recommend it … ” And the author (or anybody besides the author) posts comments that I am irresponsible, unprofessional, stupid, don’t really know how to review a work properly, none of that will make a difference in whether or not I continue reading and reviewing books. I respect the nay-sayer’s right to an opinion, but that’s it.

    If a reviewer feels threatened or intimidated, it’s the reviewer’s responsibility to analyze those feelings and deal appropriately with them. Complaining that authors or fans of an author should curb their tongues so that reviewers will feel less insecure makes no sense. Reviewers are making their opinions available to the public, they should be prepared for all types of responses.

  78. Sirius
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:18:33

    @Author on Vacation: but thats not up to you imo to determine whether reviewers are easily intimidated or not. If what the author of Beatiful disaster told to the reviewer would not upset you in the slightest (obviously I keept bringing that incident, because I found it to be the most ugly of recent examples), what can I say? Good for you. But I think that your standard of being upset/ not being upset should not be held as the most reasonable one for other readers, unless a lot of other readers would agree with you. I thought it was verbal abuse and yes, it definitely upset me enough to not want to ever deal with discussing anything with this writer ever again. In other words, for me to be upset after reading those words is VERY reasonable thing to do and does not show that reviewers are easily intimidated at all.

  79. Sirius
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:23:00

    @Sirius: To add, the example in this article certainly did not make me upset, just exasperated and annoyed and if I were ever to read the books by this writer and I hated it, I would leave a review, but would still be a little worried. So, I guess I agree that there are degrees of negativity, but I would still say that it is reasonable that reasonable person would get upset after any of those kerfuffles and would not want anything to do with reviewing those books critically. Who is to determine whether the person gets easily intimidated or not? How about we put the burden on the person who lashes out with hateful words in the first place? Obviously it is their right to say anything they want, but I do not have to tolerate it either and to say that I am easily intimidated (or any reviewer who is really) is IMO showing disrespect to perfectly normal reactions.

  80. azteclady
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 12:28:33

    @ Author on Vacation (77)

    If the people being intimidated are say, young readers? intimidated by what they quite likely perceive as a public figure/figure of authority?

    I thought we called that bullying and didn’t particularly liked it.

    But beyond that, why shouldn’t we speak out?

    Snarky reviews of books may have called my attention to books I wouldn’t have considered otherwise (all publicity is good publicity)

    Repulsive/abusive/arrogant/condescending author behaviour warns me against buying any of their books–I’m not about to spend money or time on a person who looks down on me, and/or is stupid enough to do it publicly, thanks.

    I have always appreciated other readers efforts to call attention to authors who do this, and I’m happy to pay it forward, so to speak.

    YMMV and all that jazz, of course.

  81. Author on Vacation
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 13:55:04

    @azteclady:

    As I already said (comment 66, I believe) “I agree with Jane’s earlier comment, though, that authors of YA fiction should be especially careful in addressing reviews, particularly those written by younger people.”

    There is no reason whatsoever you should not speak out about anything that bothers you.

    @Sirius: It’s just as much my place to formulate an opinion on whether or not someone is overreacting as it is any other casual observer’s place.

    However, any person willing to post an opinion in a public venue is accepting responsibility that his/her opinion may spur various responses. Not all of those responses can be deemed constructive or gratifying. One can either accept that for what it is or not.

  82. Sirius
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 14:42:35

    @Author on Vacation: Sure, it is your right to say so from your point of view, actually, no scratch that, it is your right to say anything you want from any point of view you want, but I will strongly disagree with the idea that your standard is a “reasonable person” standard.- simply because for that I need much more readers to adhere to that standard, actually I just realized something. I dont know what your standard is. You keep saying in general that you saw authors abusing reviewers in the past, but at the same time it does not look like you agree that any of the recent accidents were such. And then you keep saying that reviewers are overreacting. So let me ask you a direct question, do you consider the blog entry which author of “Beatiful disaster” now deleted to be a verbal abuse of the reviewers, or not? Maybe depending on your answer I will at least know how much I disagree with you or not. And I absolutely agree that a person stating their opinion in the public venue can receive any responses and has to be ready for that. What I do disagree with however that we should let the person who decides to respond with verbal abuse get away with it. Be prepared to get all kind of responses is not the same as to “have to” accept all kind of responses IMO.

  83. Sirius
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 14:47:38

    Again, posted too early. By the same token, I would not automatically assume that my response is a reasonable person’s response either. If I had not seen a lot of people responding to that entry very similar to me.

  84. Michelle
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 15:18:29

    Bravo to a community that stands up for members, especially vulnerable ones, and states that bullying won’t be tolerated.

  85. Charlotte Stein
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 16:51:24

    Just wanted to state for the record that I wasn’t in any way suggesting that it’s not a good idea to comment on these situations. I’m a firm believer in everyone being given space for their opinion/comment – no matter what that opinion or comment may be. It’s just unfortunate if authors are using stuff like this as a quick route to notoriety, and I wish there was some way to allow for criticism of them without this unwanted side-effect.

  86. Sunita
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 17:14:09

    But if people are so easily intimidated, why is that someone else’s fault?

    If a reviewer feels threatened or intimidated, it’s the reviewer’s responsibility to analyze those feelings and deal appropriately with them. Complaining that authors or fans of an author should curb their tongues so that reviewers will feel less insecure makes no sense.

    Sirius is doing a terrific job of rebutting these questions and assertions, IMO. I’ll only add that the “reasonable person” test is well established in US and UK law:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_person

    I like the quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his classic, The Common Law. For society to function, “a certain average of conduct, a sacrifice of individual peculiarities going beyond a certain point, is necessary to the general welfare” (p. 108).

  87. Robin/Janet
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 17:31:15

    @Jane: I agree.

    I remember when these debates were really prevalent in the online Rom community. While some of us are naturally mouthy and have no problem being publicly critical of a book, there was some real discomfort and ambivalence on the part of more than a few readers and reviewers who needed the encouragement and support of others within the community to state their honest opinions and resist what I thought was a kind of bullying from authors who — in some cases — went to crazy lengths to punish readers who refused “play nice” (with no apparent awareness of the astonishing irony there).

    Even though we see the “mean girl” bullshit now, there is an entrenched history of critical reading and reviewing that serves as a countertext to the ‘be nice’ meme. And I think the overt and vocal pushback is necessary, especially when the community is still establishing itself and its behavioral parameters.

  88. Sunita
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 17:39:58

    @Robin/Janet: This YA stuff is very reminiscent of the 1990s/early and mid 2000s in romance, isn’t it? Same shit, different genre.

    But most of the people in the romance wars were a bit older. Going after newbies in their teens and early 20s is beyond reprehensible. And whether you’re lecturing them about how to review or calling them names, it all has the potential to undermine their legitimacy and/or their confidence.

  89. RKB
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 17:58:30

    @Jane

    Stiefvater’s post, along with these past few weeks of authorial opinions about the legitimacy of reviews, particularly in the YA crowd, bothers me tremendously because it feels like they want to stifle critical voices as they are emerging.

    So what you are saying is that they are trying to censor reviewers? I guess “freedom of speech” only applies to people who give rave reviews in their opinion, eh?

  90. Tiko
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 19:14:06

    I’m not at all surprised at Stiefvater writing about this. She is the one who once commented on an excellent snarky review of Shiver with the implied threat that negative reviews of YA books would lead to the reviewer getting blacklisted from publishing any of her own original work in the future.

    http://ceilidh-ann.livejournal.com/71585.html?thread=611489#t611489

  91. azteclady
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 19:38:39

    @Tiko: That’s an old and often seen “I’m not threatening or trying to bully you, it’s all in your own best interests, dearie” tactic.

    Gah.

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    Jan 20, 2012 @ 19:43:45

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  93. Robin/Janet
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 20:37:33

    @Sunita: I was thinking about the age difference, too. I figured it’s worth noting that it’s not always about chronological age (some is experience online and basic personality), but I think your point about the particular despicability of targeting younger voices is crucial.

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    Jan 21, 2012 @ 04:58:27

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  96. Rebecca
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 22:15:59

    I’m a blogger that mainly reviews YA. I don’t think I’ve ever been called mean names for writing a “mean” review, but I don’t write that many negative reviews simply because I tend to stop reading a book I don’t like and get rid of it and forget about it rather than write a DNF review. But I hate seeing it happen to other people who were just writing honest, fair reviews. It does seem to be happening a lot lately, and it makes me sad. And sometimes negative reviews sell books. I can recall several times where I read a negative review and thought “Well, the reader said she didn’t like it because of x and y, and I usually love books with x and y!” and ended up reading and enjoying the book.

  97. Ridley
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 13:07:47

    @Tiko: Thank you! I had the feeling she’d been in a kerfluffle over criticism before, but I kept mixing her up with the Becca Fitzpatrick “Be Nice” to-do.

  98. Cervenka
    May 31, 2012 @ 00:43:39

    I’d be curious to know what people have to say about this blog entry, in which the blogger, while claiming to “out” a bully, posts the real name of a Goodreads reviewer, including a link to the review’s husband’s Twitter and LinkedIn pages (both now deleted) and a photograph of the reviewer. She doesn’t say how she linked the actual identity to the online identity, merely states that because the information about the actual identity was “public information,” it’s just fine for her to post it in the blog entry.

  99. Jane
    May 31, 2012 @ 08:32:33

    @Cervenka – I find that very disturbing.

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