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Readers and Reviewers Online Don’ts

Earlier this week, we posted an author online don’t list and to be balanced, Maili suggested we do a reader/reviewer online don’t list. Brilliant idea, I said.

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Taste is subjective.
When someone criticizes or slates one of your favorite books, they  aren’t criticizing you or your taste, they are making their opinion heard. Don’t ever suppress the opinion of another. If you disagree with their view, there’s nothing to stop you explaining why it works for you and how. Vigorous disagreement can be a thing of beauty.

I love the smell of constructive criticism in the morning

Constructive criticism is always good in a book discussion, but remember this golden rule: do not make it personal. As in, do not attack a person’s IQ or personality. If a character is stupid, it doesn’t mean its creator is stupid as well. Likewise for readers you disagree with.

Don’t assume some readers are uneducated if they couldn’t build coherent responses. Don’t pick on posters’ grammatical errors during a heated debate. It’s a pointless distraction. Don’t try to intimate them by waving your college degree or your ‘I’m an Academic!’ flag. Not only it makes you look a pompous ass, it defeats the point of having a book discussion. It’s not about you. On the other hand, don’t put academic-type readers down because you don’t like them big words they were using. It’s not about you, either. A book discussion should be about a book and your reactions to it.

Just don’t assume you know what anyone is really like on the basis of their opinions and interaction during   book discussions. We can guess at motivations all the time, but unless we have something concrete to back it up, it’s all just guesses.

You’re not alone
When everyone but you loved a certain novel, you’re not alone because there is always someone who feels the same as you. There’s nothing wrong with speaking up because if you did, someone out there will let you know they share your view.

When a group of readers or authors engaged in a heavy discussion, don’t feel timid or left out. The fact the discussion is out in the open means it’s an open invitation for you to join whenever you like.

You might feel what you have to say is silly, but it isn’t. We need your voice as much as everyone else’s. You’re a reader and that is the only qualification you need. Being a reader carries a lot more weight than you may believe. When in doubt, ask questions. When someone questions your view, don’t feel defensive. Rephrase or restate your view with a clarification. If someone argues you or challenges you, don’t be afraid to stick to your guns.

If you feel it’s getting too personal, walk away or lurk. Every debate online is usually forgotten within two weeks, so sit on your hands and be patient.

To be or not to be
Just because some readers like to interact heavily with other readers and authors, it doesn’t mean you have to do it as well. If being a lurker makes you feel comfortable, stay a lurker. When you want to say
something, say it. Set your own pace, your own rules and your own comfort zone and stick with it until you’re ready to change.

Authors owe you nothing.
They have a right to their lives. Be patient. If they still haven’t responded to your blog comment or email after a month or haven’t yet created a story you expected for years, let it go and move on. You are free to strike them off your to be bought list or to-be-read list, but you and the author are on two sides of the stream of commerce. You buy their books, not a right to their lives.

Such a Sad Tale of the Blind Flower Girl
Before you think of faking a sob story to obtain a free book from an author, consider this: don’t do it. Really, don’t.

You are not entitled to a free book.
Getting free books from authors is a sweet deal but remember that you are never entitled to a free book (unless you win one and then that person better follow through). It can be true that getting you a free book would generate publicity and help an author, but if the author is not smart enough to see that, then move on because you aren’t entitled to a free copy just like an author isn’t entitled to anything from you. The system works better this way, trust us.

Why did that author recommend this crappy book?
Don’t always assume that authors were pimping their author friends’ books. Authors have a different perspective of fiction. As in taking the technical side of the writing craft into account. They see   invisible lines in a novel that general readers don’t usually see. That doesn’t make the author right nor does it suggest you have bad taste. After all, the mass consuming audience won’t be authors. Just keep in mind that the author who likes a crappy book might be valuing “crap” differently. (Blurbs are an entirely different matter).

Authors aren’t a bunch of writing machines
There will be days when an author flips out and rages at a reviewer. Reviewers are easy targets for authors. Authors often have a difficult time divorcing themselves from their books. (I.e., their identity and self worth can be wrapped up in the work itself). If you know that author, you might be the one to be able to reign her in. If you don’t know the author and no one said it yet, leave it for the reviewer to deal with the author alone. If the author has a reputation for flipping out at reviewers or readers, it’s your choice to express your disapproval or quietly strike her name off your shopping list. Try not to engage her in a fight for the sake of entertainment.

DON’TS FOR REVIEWERS

Soliciting a copy means reviewing a copy
When you actively solicit for a review copy from an author, have the dignity to review it within a month of receiving it.

Many authors and reviewers do view review copies as “free books”, but in truth it is not. It’s an exchange of services. A solicited review copy has an invisible condition attached: you are expected to review it. If you do not review it, do not be surprised if you are not offered another “free book.”

If you were sent a review copy that you didn’t agree to review, you’re under no obligation to review it. You may want to make sure your site has some public policy regarding how you treat solicited and unsolicited review copies.

If the author of a book you’re reviewing is a friend of yours, it’s a fine line to walk on because not only your friendship with the author is on the line, your credibility as a reviewer is on the line as well. It’s worth taking the time to disclose this information at the start of any review.

If you keep giving great grades to authors that readers know you’re good friends with, it may affect their view of your future reviews or grades that in turn will affect your credibility.

If you’ve reached the point where when you write a review, you think about how the author may react or get anxious about hurting their feelings (or affecting your friendship), don’t do the review. Always remember your audience. Recognize and respect the line you’re not willing to cross.

  

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

47 Comments

  1. Keri M
    May 29, 2009 @ 12:32:45

    Good post Jane and you hit on some very valid points and thanks for not pointing out any grammactical errers i might have made alone the weigh. :-)

    PS I am teasing I am sorry I couldn’t resist.

    ReplyReply

  2. Julieb
    May 29, 2009 @ 12:53:35

    Taste is subjective.

    Frame that, please. ;-)

    ReplyReply

  3. MaryK
    May 29, 2009 @ 13:30:28

    a Don’t for Readers:

    Don’t whine about having to wait a “whole year” for the next book (not even jokingly). I’ve seen a lot of this lately. Jeez Louise, people! Do you have nothing else to read?

    Authors aren't a bunch of writing machines

    ReplyReply

  4. Bev Stephans
    May 29, 2009 @ 13:31:37

    Great post Jane. I hope everyone adheres to your guidlines, including me!

    ReplyReply

  5. Randi
    May 29, 2009 @ 13:39:28

    From a reader perspective, I would also add: If you have communication from an author (say an email) that pertains to a discussion, don’t just post it. ASK for permission from the author first.

    I remember a discussion about one of Lauren Willig’s books. In an email to me, she had explained something that a reader had questions about in the thread. I asked Lauren if I could post the portion of her email that clarified the reader’s confusion, and she (so nicely, I might add) gave her permission.

    and this:

    Just don't assume you know what anyone is really like on the basis of their opinions and interaction during book discussions

    I just had that problem in the thread on Nora Roberts’ Vision in White review. Someone wrote something that sounded patronizing, when it wasn’t meant that way. It’s always good to clarify if someone is truly throwing out personal attacks.

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  6. Jennifer Estep
    May 29, 2009 @ 13:42:08

    Such a Sad Tale of the Blind Flower Girl
    Before you think of faking a sob story to obtain a free book from an author, consider this: don't do it. Really, don't.

    I’d also like to point out that authors don’t get mountains and mountains of free books to give away. It’s usually a set number in your contract. When those are gone, we have to buy copies like everyone else (although there are usually discounts available). And, of course, we always have to pay to mail those books out in the first place.

    I try to be as accomodating as possible for charity stuff, but I’ve gotten a couple of requests for books for auctions, benefits, or whatever that made me wonder whether or not they were legit. But I figure karma will take care of the scammers in the end.

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  7. joanne
    May 29, 2009 @ 13:44:54

    Great idea but I don’t think this can be fair (or as much fun) if the authors aren’t allowed to be anonymous… with really great poster names.

    And more seriously and the most embarrassing one for many fans done by other fans:
    Don’t re-write the book. Not the authors’ last book or their next book or the one they will never write.

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  8. Jane
    May 29, 2009 @ 14:10:55

    @Keri M: If you see grammatical errors, I would hope you would point them out. We are definitely in need of editors.

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  9. Keri M
    May 29, 2009 @ 14:32:54

    @ Jane, now you know I was completely teasing and poking fun at myself. I have went back and looked at some of my post and wish I had an editor for some of my post and wish I could have claimed to have been drunk when I typed up the darn thing..lol

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  10. Michelle
    May 29, 2009 @ 15:21:03

    One of the best examples of authors owe you nothing is : http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html

    Sure to be a classic is Neil Gaiman’s response to all the complaining about George Martin being late with a book.

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  11. SarahT
    May 29, 2009 @ 15:25:47

    Great points, Jane.

    Although I love certain authors’ books, I don’t consider myself anyone’s Fangirl. Therefore, I’m always surprised when a fellow reader takes personal offense to criticism of a book they enjoyed. I once mentioned a particular author's style didn't do it for me due to an overabundance of secondary characters. One commenter shot back that I if I couldn't appreciate the richness of said book, I should stick to reading shorter novels. Ouch! I usually ignore insults but that one pissed me off.

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  12. Miki
    May 29, 2009 @ 16:03:52

    It might be worth adding readers and authors have different points of view on hardback books. And maybe authors don’t have control of when their books go hardback.

    I hate hardbacks … (okay, I really prefer digital, but this is from when I bought paper boks). I especially hate when I buy a series of books that go from paperback into hardback.

    As a reader, I think it sucks.

    On the other hand, I know for authors, going into hardback generally means they’ve reached a milestone they’ve looked forward to crossing. I also assume (dangerous, I know) that it means more money for them.

    I try not to whine on author lists or to authors about their books being in hardback. I happily whine about it on reader lists, though!

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  13. SonomaLass
    May 29, 2009 @ 16:30:14

    Thanks, Jane. Good points all. It’s important to remember the commercial nature of the author-reader relationship. Web sites, blogs, online chats, conferences and Twitter all make it possible to get to know each other better, and that’s great. But ultimately it’s about buying books, a fair exchange of money and time for talent, hard work and time. The parties on each side get to decide how and what to invest, no strings attached, really. Even though it feels like an author has “committed” to you by starting a series, or that you are “breaking up” with that author when you stop reading one. (And don’t get me started on “betrayal.”)

    In romance especially, where it’s all about emotion (right?), both authors and readers tend toward dramatic and emotional language about their experiences. Keeping it all in perspective is good, IMO. It’s nice when an author writes something that brings out strong emotional reactions, but directing that emotion at the author personally, or taking it as if it were meant personally, is a distortion of author and reader roles.

    ETA: The grammar and language thing is HARD, but you’re right there, too.

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  14. MarilynS
    May 29, 2009 @ 17:02:30

    Jane, thanks, this post was very informative.

    ReplyReply

  15. kimber an
    May 29, 2009 @ 17:16:44

    While I agree that authors don’t ‘owe’ readers anything, I think authors ought to be doing their darnedest to deliver the goods the best they can in the most timely manner possible and with a smile on their faces and gratitude in their hearts that readers actually want to spend their hard-earned money on their books, that they love those stories so much that they’re upset when someone insults them and can’t wait for the next book to come out. And a fan re-writing a book, this is the height of flattery! Remember, *readers pay the bills.* It’s in the authors’ own best interests to at least present an extremely grateful attitude. And it’s just good professional manners to respond to email in a timely manner.

    Readers are not required by law to buy books or to buy them new, which is how authors and their associates make money. Readers can go to the library or the used bookstore. It might be a good idea to remember we’re in a recession here too.

    As a reviewer, my policy is to mail back, at my own expense, an ARC I’ve requested which I cannot review. I’ve only had to do this once. I thought I’d love the book, but I can’t make myself read a book which will give me nightmares. The book was beautifully written, but it child-rape in it. I figured it wasn’t the author’s fault I couldn’t stomach that and so I mailed it back so she could send it to a reviewer who could.

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  16. L
    May 29, 2009 @ 17:24:26

    “Why did that author recommend this crappy book?”

    Hahaha

    Love it!

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  17. Janet W
    May 29, 2009 @ 17:49:21

    Having a bit of a hard time phrasing this, since I’m such a fangrrrrl for Balogh and Beverley (JoBev, I MISS your occasional and always informative comments on AAR … in fact, verra few authors engage in such forums lately — altho I understand why, I miss it) … OK, I wanted to say that when Dear Author, Smart Bitches, other sites … have reviewers that are self-admittedly and unabashedly Fangals (the Brockmann debacle comes to mind), it’s a tad harder for less enthusiastic readers to respond.

    Maybe transparency, that overlooked phrase, is the answer. I think Heyer should be Canonized but there are Heyers I read less often. Same with Balogh. Same with others — maybe this is possible but I personally think there’s not a writer alive who doesn’t have a book or two that doesn’t quite hit the gold standard. So I don’t care for reviewers that like/lurv/adore everything a writer has written. To me, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

    A bit of a dilemma then for readers of said reviews.

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  18. Rowan McBride
    May 29, 2009 @ 18:32:14

    One tip for readers–please don’t assume that I actually *am* any of my characters. Trust me, I am not that cool. ;)

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  19. azteclady
    May 29, 2009 @ 19:30:44

    In the same vein as Ms McBride’s comment: do not assume you know what the writer was thinking (or what her beliefs are) from what her characters believe, say or do.

    There was a discussion here about Linda Howard’s Death Angel in which certain beliefs were ascribed to Ms Howard based on the plot. I find that to be both dangerous and unfair.

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  20. Tae
    May 29, 2009 @ 20:17:35

    This is a great post. I have to remember rule number 1 as well since I feel personally slighted whenever someone doesn’t LOVE my favorite books. I feel like they’re telling me I have bad taste.

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  21. Maya M.
    May 29, 2009 @ 20:30:29

    @ Jane ref comment #8 – in that vein – the first part of recommendations has the the phrase ‘don’t try to initimate them…’. I’m guessing that was intimidate?

    /pedantic comment complete/

    All very valid points, though. Though honesty makes me admit I still struggle with not wanting to hurt authorly feelings in my reviews, so complete reviewer candor is a goal, not an accomplisment for me.

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  22. Danielle Thorne
    May 29, 2009 @ 20:42:36

    My biggest beef is authors having friends review their books. I’ve reviewed for years; I’ve never reviewed for a “friend” although frequently I do become friends with authors after I review their books. If I read a book of an author who I do know and I do like it, I will write up my positive thoughts at a book sharing site but I don’t write an official review.

    Now that I’m an author, I have gone to great lengths not to ask for a review from a fellow author in exchange for something. I don’t even ask for a review from someone I know. My comment/thought is–I wonder if this is hurting me. It seems like authors on some writing loops are posting all these 5 star reviews, yet they are all from people they know. Okay so not always–but it happens. Meanwhile I have to be satisfied with okay reviews, warm, or even good ones, but while no one is jumping up and down, it makes me wonder do I need to learn and continue to try to become a better writer, or do I give in to the “everyone does it” principle.

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  23. Kathryn Smith
    May 29, 2009 @ 21:19:49

    Great post. Re the ‘sad flower girl’ tale I would add a ditto. I would especially not send such a request to several authors from the same house. For example, I’m friends with quite a few fellow Avon authors and we talk about stuff — like requests from readers for free books. Not because we have nothing else to talk about, but because those requests always set off warning bells.

    Oh, and I agree that an author owes it to readers to deliver the best book he/she can on time. Sometimes, though it doesn’t happen. Sometimes you’re late. I wouldn’t make a habit of it, though. But a reader rewriting a book? I have to respectfully disagree that it’s a good thing. It may be intended as flattery, but it’s copyright infringement and if I can rewrite someone’s book and take credit for it, I don’t think anyone should be able to rewrite one of mine.

    Just my two cents.

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  24. dotty
    May 30, 2009 @ 03:52:59

    @Kimber an (15)
    While I am not an author, I have trouble with the expectation that they should be grateful that readers are purchasing their books.
    If I am at work and doing my job to the best of my ability and my employer is happy with my work and pays me wages, should I be grateful for those wages or do I believe that I have put in a days work and earned those wages, so it’s a fair exchange.
    Writing a novel (or anything) is work, it maybe full time or part time or indeed a second job, but never the less it’s a job. If an author sells the book then that’s their wage for the book.
    To me an author writing and selling a book is not different to me going to work in a shop, it’s a job. It can be done with passion and enthusiasm etc but it’s still with the expectation the hard work will result in an income. I don’t see where gratitude enters the equation. And just as I have the right to resign from a job if it’s not right for me, so has an author the right to not write a book, subject of course to contractual agreements.

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  25. Nora Roberts
    May 30, 2009 @ 05:09:29

    ~But a reader rewriting a book? I have to respectfully disagree that it's a good thing. It may be intended as flattery, but it's copyright infringement and if I can rewrite someone's book and take credit for it, I don't think anyone should be able to rewrite one of mine. ~

    Big giant agreement. I would not be flattered, on any level. You want to write–go for it–but write your own book.

    I guess I have a problem with the gratitude idea, too. I can and do cheerfully thank anyone who buys and enjoys any of my books, but–at least the way I read the comment–gratitude feels like owing again. I don’t think readers are required to be grateful I wrote the book. We can all be pleased, delighted, happy, excited the book was written, purchased, enjoyed (if it was), and that seems fair on all counts.

    Yes, without readers writers couldn’t make a living–a fact I never forget and always appreciate. But without writers, readers wouldn’t have anything new to read. So we have an important relationship. Let’s not require one side of that relationship be grateful for the other–unless it swings both ways.

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  26. KristieJ
    May 30, 2009 @ 09:13:23

    All good rules. I can’t for the life of me though ever imagine writing an author requesting a free book! Do people really do that??????

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  27. Ally Blue
    May 30, 2009 @ 10:53:58

    Another great, thoughtful post! I just want to say — and of course I can only speak for myself here, and I know not every author feels exactly the same — I can’t remember a single poor or “meh” review that ever actually hurt my feelings. And I’ve had a few real doozies. Especially for Oleander House, which people tend to either really love or really hate. A few readers have gotten pretty uncomfortably personal in their hate of that one, LOL. That’s usually just on Amazon, or in email; review sites and readers’ blogs are MUCH less likely to get personal, at least that’s been my experience.

    The reason those ugly, personal comments don’t bother me is, I don’t know these people. They are not my friends, or my family, or anyone in whom I have any emotional stake. I’m glad they bought the book and I’m sorry they didn’t like it, but that’s as far as it goes. To be blunt, I could not care less if that one person hates me and thinks I’m a stupid, talentless hack. I don’t think I am, and frankly my own opinion of myself is more important than one angry stranger’s opinion. It has to be that way, for my continued sanity. If a friend got ugly and personal in a bad review, THAT would hurt, but so far that hasn’t happened. Not all of my friends like everything I’ve written, but I’m blessed with friends and crit partners with whom I can be honest, and who can be honest with me, without our friendship being negatively affected.

    Maybe that’s what has given me the ability to let the occasional ugliness slide off my back. Having a crit group tear your work apart and help you put it back together again, all while remaining your BFF, helps you divorce yourself from your work like nothing else can. Hmmmm…

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  28. Anon76
    May 30, 2009 @ 11:05:09

    Yeah, Kristie J, it happens more frequently than you think.

    At the start of your writing career, it is mostly family members and friends making the requests. It’s almost like winning the lottery in the fact that people who are quite distant from you end up appearing with their hands out.

    I remember being hounded by a woman for a free copy because a) we had just started working together at a place, and most importantly, b) I’d been a friend of her uncle twenty years previously, so, we are kinda like family, right? Needless to say, I brought in a copy for my co-workers to share amongst each other and…it magically disappeared. Hmmm, wonder who took it?

    Later on comes the reader requests for free books. But see, most of those people do it regularly with a wide variety of authors. It’s like coupon clipping to them.

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  29. Ciar Cullen
    May 30, 2009 @ 11:46:22

    Since Ms. Roberts commented, it made me think of Vision in White, which I devoured last weekend.

    Ms. Roberts owed me nothing. I owed her nothing. I bought the book (and broke a vow to buy only ebooks in 2009–but hey, it was in Target and on sale) with my eyes wide open. I knew the length, the price, the genre, and there was a good blurb that gave me a sense of what the book was about. I’ve read a bazillion of her books, so I’d come to expect at the very least that it wouldn’t be a wallbanger. It wasn’t. If it was? Well, that would have been my opinion, and still, she wouldn’t owe me anything.

    The result of this purchase is that I look forward to the next in the series. Am I obliged to buy it? Hell no. Is she obliged to put it out quickly? Hell no.

    As for reviews: I sometimes review friends’ books, but I always, always say whether I’m the friend of the author, and only post recommendations, and why. If I can’t recommend the book, I don’t review it. So I’m not a “real” reviewer.

    My reviewer pet peeves: “This wasn’t erotic enough.” “I think this should have been a m/m.” If a book isn’t marketed as erotic romance, don’t judge the story on the erotic content. Finally, “The heroine wasn’t kick-ass.” Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

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  30. Joe-the-writer
    May 30, 2009 @ 13:12:30

    There will be days when an author flips out and rages at a reviewer. Reviewers are easy targets for authors.

    There are exceptions, but it’s usually the new authors who do this. Those of us who’ve been around for a while, and will continue to be around in the future, smile and move on. :)

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  31. Throwmearope
    May 30, 2009 @ 13:19:53

    As a fan of romance, I think everybody in romanceland, authors, publishers, editors, readers should be grateful that we are invested in a genre that enjoys a huge popularity.

    My hubby only reads hard SF. Oh, he’ll make an exception for somebody like Gaiman and he adores Bujold. But hard SF is his love. And hard SF is becoming rarer than hen’s teeth. (He hates the Star War/Star Trek authorized fan fic stuff.) In fact with Father’s Day coming up, I’m considering replacing his toolbox rather than trying to find a new book or two.

    So when we go to the back of the BN where they “hide” the romance books, be grateful (all of us) for the 5 full racks of different styles of romance books.

    When I hit SF, they shelve romance books that are paranormal or futuristic there just so the shelves don’t seem empty. I can just imagine bringing home a shapeshifter romance for my husband. Fan meet—-oh, never mind.

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  32. SonomaLass
    May 30, 2009 @ 14:15:05

    @Throwmearope: has hubby read John Scalzi? His stuff is straight SF, and quite enjoyable. For other ideas, you might check this archive on Scalzi’s blog, where he has a lot of interesting writers.

    /hijack

    I agree that we’re lucky to be in a growing and popular genre, writers and readers alike. That symbiosis between writer and reader is wonderful, and I think it is why some of us are drawn to blogging and social networking — we learn more about the people on the other side of that relationship. That puts us in a position to be disappointed if they don’t live up to our expectations, such as when a writer gets unprofessional, or a reader/reviewer gets nasty and personal. It’s a two-edged sword for sure.

    I for one am very grateful that there are authors who write the books I want to read!! Including Nora Roberts and a bunch of others.

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  33. » Romancing the Novel Carnival
    May 30, 2009 @ 22:31:24

    [...] Author came out with a list of Reader and Reviewer Online Don'ts. The list is pretty straightforward but it's nice to have because there's explanation of policy [...]

  34. Jessa Slade
    May 30, 2009 @ 23:51:36

    @Throwmearope How about Peter Watts? Sorry to continue SonomaLass’s hijack, but I loved the Starfish books.

    Re: Authors/reviewers recommending friends’ books. Romancelandia is such an open-hearted community, I’d think it would be hard to avoid becoming friendly with your reviewers/commenters.

    Re: Owing and gratitude. Finely adapted symbiosis is funny that way.

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  35. darkened jade
    May 31, 2009 @ 02:03:54

    This is a really good read and

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  36. darkened jade
    May 31, 2009 @ 02:05:54

    This is a really good read and I think it is something that all people reading and reviewing should have a look at. Though – I also think you should add a point.

    As a reader, even if the characters and plot of a story are detestable, there is always some redeeming quality in writing. I have never read anything where every single line is trash. When criticising, remember to reflect on the good points, even if they are few and far between. I think this adds weight to your other, more critical comments as it is obvious you aren’t just trying to tear something apart and readers of the review are more likely to take you seriously.

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  37. MPH
    May 31, 2009 @ 11:56:27

    Reviewer Do:

    Please exercise consistency. You are free to like or to not like my book and I prefer you provide honest consistent statements supporting your position. Giving me a 5 star rating and then terming my book “boring” makes no earthly sense. I cannot market the book with that review, nor can I analyze and improve my craft based upon that kind of a review (“Gee, my book’s very good but it’s boring. How do I fix that? Write a bad non-boring book?”) Use professional objectivity. The book may not be your cup of tea and that’s all right and if you can identify that the book has good points and may appeal to others, wonderful. Please say so.

    Reviewer Don’t:

    I’ve written a lesbian romance. We all know this genre hasn’t found its footing in the epublishing world. If you agree to review an unpopular genre book and you like the book and give it a favorable rating/review, stand by your position. I have multiple reviews for my ebook where it almost sounds like the reviewers are apologizing for liking the book due to its genre. (“It’s a good book, even if it is *insert genre*.”

    If you’re uncomfortable providing an opinion about a particular genre, you can always decline to review that genre.

    And finally, I’d like to thank all reviewers for taking the time to consider and read books and provide their opinions and recommendations on them. Your time is valuable and authors appreciate you very much.

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  38. Kaetrin
    May 31, 2009 @ 20:34:57

    Do people really write to authors asking for free books? Srsly?

    It never even occurred to me.

    I did email Meredith Duran recently to ask if Duke of Shadows was available in an ebook and she responded that it wasn’t but that her new books would be. She then very kindly offered one of her author copies if I had trouble finding it it in paper form locally (I am in South Australia). I didn’t have any luck so I emailed her back and offered to pay for the book and the postage but she declined the payment and sent me the book anyway.

    I was very touched by her kindness and enjoyed the book too.

    But, srsly? – people just ASK for them? Wow, you learn something new every day I guess…

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  39. Joe-the-writer
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 08:50:43

    Use professional objectivity. The book may not be your cup of tea and that's all right and if you can identify that the book has good points and may appeal to others, wonderful. Please say so.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. But sometimes that’s not the way it works. Different people have different agendas, and objectivity disappears. I read a review recently that was more like a book roast instead of a review.

    Writers have to learn how to deal with all kinds of reviews, and not take the mean, vicious ones to heart. Bad reviews, written objectively, usually help the writer produce better work. But when it comes to the mean, subjective reviews, the writer just has to learn how to smile and take the heat…hard as that sounds.
    Good luck with your book. And try not to take the petty things, when they come, too seriously :)

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  40. MPH
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 10:17:38

    @Joe-the-writer:

    The only value reviews have are the following: 1) if constructive and specific, a writer can benefit and 2) a favorable review MAY (and this is a big MAY) help increase sales.

    If the agenda of the review has any other purpose (ie, entertainment for the reviewer/readers, roasting an author, etc.) it is essentially useless and not worth bothering with.

    I read a poll some time ago indicating that although readers may read reviews, a sizeable number of readers are not influenced by the reviews as far as their purchasing decisions. That makes sense to me, I’m a voracious reader and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped buying a book that I thought seemed interesting because of an unfavorable review. For that matter, I’ve bought and read books with unfavorable reviews that I considered good reads. *shrugs* So beyond the publicity/advertising the review doesn’t serve much purpose.

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  41. Joe-the-writer
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 17:59:39

    MPH…you make a great point. I fully agree. I’ve done the same thing, too, buying and loving books that have been poorly reviewed. One of the funniest things I’ve seen so far this year was a book that got slammed by a reviewer, in such a horrible, mean way that it resembled a roast more than a review. The reviewer trashed the book, laughed at the writer, and questioned the writer’s credentials. It was mean and very trashy. She either didn’t know this writer has been around for a long time, with publishing credits from large print publishers, or didn’t care. But the funniest part of the whole thing is that the writer went on to win a fairly well recognized literature award just this month. Ha. So much for her opinion.

    I thought that was funny, and great karma. I hope the writer eventually comes out and talks about it so people will begin to question this reviewer’s credentials. But most writers don’t like to do that. And, I guess it’s not really worth the time or energy. He won the award. She’s still hocking poorly written book roasts as thinly veiled reviews.

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  42. Jane
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 18:04:38

    @Joe-the-writer &@MPH: I have to take exception with the idea that reviews have no value unless they meet MPH’s a/b criteria. That may be the only way you measure reviews, but other people value reviews differently. Further, a review is not for the author. They are for readers. They can be an emotional response that invites readers to agree or disagree. Reviews can be, in their own way, entertainment and works of literary art (think Samuel Clemens).

    Authors can win all the awards they want and readers still have the right (without bad karma return) of stating publicly what they think of that book.

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  43. MPH
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 21:02:30

    @Joe-the-writer:

    I thought that was funny, and great karma. I hope the writer eventually comes out and talks about it so people will begin to question this reviewer's credentials. But most writers don't like to do that. And, I guess it's not really worth the time or energy. He won the award. She's still hocking poorly written book roasts as thinly veiled reviews.

    Bingo. An opinion is only as valuable as the intent and the integrity of its owner. Have I had a good laugh at some rather vile reviews? Absolutely. They are what they are, meant to draw attention and to express strong opinions. Has it affected my decision to purchase and/or read a book? No. The “flamey” style reviews can even benefit an author since they attract attention more than a bland review might. You know the old saying “All publicity is good publicity.”

    As for the well-received award winning author, why should s/he be bothered addressing the “flame” review of a person who is utterly insignificant to his/her career? As you know, writing is involved time-consuming work and most productive happy well-adjusted people do not make time for negative insignificant people.

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  44. MPH
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 21:41:44

    @Jane:

    Jane, I am not talking about professional (or at least professionally minded0 reviewers who are able and willing to read an entire book and to provide an articulate and intelligent evaluation of the work’s good points in addition to any failings in question.

    Perhaps you noticed in my earlier post I thanked reviewers for their time and effort. As a writer, I am going to evaluate a review for my own work based upon how it might prove beneficial to me.

    A review clearly meant to mock or denigrate the book is not “for” the author, nor is it “for” the readers. Such reviews are self-indulgent, and like self-indulgent books, are insignificant to people with critical thinking skills. I don’t know any unintelligent people who are regular readers. I don’t know any regular readers who are easily susceptible to irrational opinions presented in a manner poorly formed and lacking a degree of professional self-control.

    A reviewer having a “meltdown” or other comparable “fit” over a book s/he strongly disliked or could not relate to is no different than a toddler having a temper tantrum in the mall. Passers-by may turn their heads and notice, some may feel concern, empathy, annoyance, or other emotion towards the child for being disruptive and making noise, but ultimately they go on about their business and the child and his tantrum are delegated to where they belong. Forgetfulness.

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  45. MPH
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 21:51:40

    Sorry. Forgot this.

    Authors can win all the awards they want and readers still have the right (without bad karma return) of stating publicly what they think of that book.

    1. Authors can win all the awards they EARN, not all the awards they want.

    2. Regarding bad karma, intent is everything when it comes to karma. If a reviewer is peeved when a book does not meet his/her expectation and hurls abuse towards the book, the author, etc.. you can believe two things: a) God don’t like ugly and b) God reads book reviews.

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  46. Joe-the-writer
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 08:51:03

    Authors can win all the awards they want and readers still have the right (without bad karma return) of stating publicly what they think of that book.

    I agree with everything MPH said. And I also agree with you, Jane, when it comes to reviews. Readers need them and want them. Writers can learn from them…even the bad ones. But I’m talking about real reviews, not book roasts where excerpts are taken out of context and the writer is made to look like a fool. Maybe you’ve never seen any “reviews” like this? I don’t know. But I know for a fact this happens, and I know you wouldn’t disagree with me, because you’re such an excellent reviewer yourself. You’d never review/roast a book based on petty jealousy or a hidden personal agenda. You’re much too professional for that. And I’m certainly not including you when I mention this. I have too much respect for what you’re doing here.

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  47. links for 2009-6-5 « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
    Jun 05, 2009 @ 07:08:53

    [...] Readers and Reviewers Online Don'ts | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Comme… My favorite: “When a group of readers or authors engaged in a heavy discussion, don't feel timid or left out. The fact the discussion is out in the open means it's an open invitation for you to join whenever you like.” (tags: books blogging) [...]

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