Mar 5 2011
I’ve been reading some posts about this YAMafia theory running around the internet. Regular readers of Dear Author should be very familiar with this given the past history in romance. It’s almost a relief to see the “be nice” mantra being preached outside of romance. Huzzah, all fandoms are dysfunctional.
Essentially the theory is that there are a group of YA authors who are banding together to prevent or impair the publication efforts of those who give “negative” reviews on goodreads, Amazon, blogs or other review sites. I use the scare quotes around the word negative because in my interaction with authors and from reading these posts about negative reviews, negative generally means anything less than fulsome praise. I wrote a post about “what is wrong with a C review” and received multiple emails from authors about how horrible a C review was. We’ve even heard that authors have been upset by B and B+ reviews here on DA.
The thing that is missing in all these “helpful” posts by authors about reviewing is the reader. All of these admonitions to bloggers, reviewers, and other authors such “be nice” and “be careful” and “think about your future” inadvertently exclude the reader. Because that is what reviews are for. They are for readers. They are conversation starters for readers. They might help a reader decide how to allocate their book funds. They are entertainment for readers. They are not for authors. And any limitations authors place on what reviews can be put out there by certain classes of reviewers impairs the marketplace of ideas where readers gather.
Here’s my counterpoint. To those reviewers, bloggers, readers who write open, honest, critical reviews. I’ve got your back. You want to engage readers about the books you’ve read, even if you didn’t like the book. I’ve got your back. You want to be part of the reading community by participating in conversation about books. I’ve got your back.
I, and thousands of other readers, appreciate your efforts. We appreciate your candor, your consistency. We’ve got your back.
Yes, you may not be able to sit in the back seat of a town car with an editor without feeling uncomfortable or maybe if you go to a writer’s conference, you’ll be snubbed, shunned or talked about in low whispers. But remember, we readers have your back.
You might be called names, kicked out of organizations, blackballed by other authors. But the readers with whom you’ve developed relationships, we’ve got your back.
Bloggers and reviewers who are aspiring authors, here is my advice. Concentrate on writing the best damn book you can. Damn good writing will trump your “negative reviews.” But writing negative reviews (which can be anything less than fulsome praise) will hurt feelings. It may be that some authors and friends of authors you have criticized will NOT want to be your friend. Don’t blog or review with a critical eye if you want to be friends with every one in the industry because that is pure foolishness. Your reviews aren’t for authors anyway. The book is done. It’s written. It’s published. It can’t be changed, no matter how brilliant your critique. But we, the reader, appreciate your efforts. We’ve got your back.
No actions are without consequence. Clearly in this environment and with some attitudes out there, writing critical reviews can hurt you. Some authors won’t want to sit next to you in a signing, they won’t want to eat with you, they won’t want to give you a blurb, or help you find an agent. I’m not sure we should expect that of them but the fact is that there are some who just won’t be able to get past your three star review on goodreads that said “I just couldn’t get into this book.” Accept this as a truism and move on because we’ve got your back.
But what are you a blogger for anyway? Are you blogging to make friends with everyone else? Get free books? Be lauded at conferences by fawning authors? Are you trying to engage other readers? Are you honest and transparent and consistent? I think the latter two are more important to strive for than the former because there will also be those in the genre mafia who want to take you down. We’ve seen it before and it will happen again. But remember, in your attempts to be part of the community of readers, we value you. We’ve got your back.
Clearly, I’d like to see more community support for readers and their right to honest, consistent reviews and I think if we bloggers and reviewers stand up for that right, the community attitudes will change. The reason I say this is because back in the mid 90s to early 2000s, there were few openly critical review sites on the internet for romance. The Romance Reader and All About Romance were real trailblazers and I remember Laurie Gold taking a lot of heat over the reviews and conversation that took place at AAR. But these two sites and bloggers like Rosario, SuperWendy, Keishon, and the like empowered other readers, like me, to start to blog about our opinions regarding books. And other bloggers have arisen like The Bookpushers and The Book Smugglers, Book Binge, Literary Sluts who all share their honest, consistent, reader oriented reviews. They’ve supported us at Dear Author and they’ll support you.
And the attitudes in romance have changed for the better. There are more authors who openly speak out for the right of reviewers and readers to get honest, consistent reviews. There are even editors who have spoken up and repeated the truism that reviews are for readers. These people have your back too.
The more that we support each other, the “be nice” mantra will become an outlier as opposed to the “be honest and consistent” mantra. Understanding what you do for the reader can impair your relationships with authors and accepting that? I view that as the high road. A rewarding high road. You are not alone. We’ve got your back.
- Becca Fitzpatrick’s Be Nice
Whether you believe in karma, the Golden Rule, or the old saying, "What goes around comes around," all have stood the test of time. If you want agents, editors and authors to respect you, take the first step. Extend kind words. Talk up books you love. Be polite and respectful at conferences. Attend author book signings. All of these things will go along way.
- Ally Carter on “Cliques and Cabals”
I’m not proposing censorship, and this is certainly not a warning–not a threat–just a general FYI. You never know who you’re going to be squeezed into a car with at BEA. You just don’t. If you’re an aspiring author, then towncars and BEA might seem lightyears away, but trust me, a year from right now you might be the one shoved into that backseat.
- Dia Reeves “YA Mafia”
In Holly's post, in the comments, the bloggers who are worried about this seem to want to have the freedom to write whatever reviews they want, negative or otherwise, but still be welcomed with open arms by the author/authors' friends/agents/whoever whose feelings they've hurt. That's what I think is naive.
- Stacia Kane has a whole series on watching what you say.
As I've said several times now, sure it's very possible nobody will care what you said. They may not know. Or it may become a huge thing. Or they might know what you said about them and decide not to help you one little bit. They might tell all the writers they know that you're a fucking bitch and should be avoided. They might tell their agent and/or editor about you.