Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

On Bloggers, Reviewers, and Readers. #Ivegotyourback

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

84 Comments

  1. Mireya
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 13:49:07

    Jane, is the title of this article correct?

    ReplyReply

  2. Jane
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 13:58:26

    No I have no idea what happened here. Am away from the computer though so can’t investigate it. I hope it didn’t overwrite the original review.

    Edited: Thank god for the Apple store.

    ReplyReply

  3. Minnette Meador
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:05:35

    Interestingly enough, that my book got a B from DA was a plus… I was told I “dodged a bullet” by getting a fairly decent review. I look at it this way: If the perception is that DA gives good, honest reviews and your book made it “through the gauntlet” that seems to hold more sway than some other reviewers who whitewash the review. I was very proud of my “B”… Keep up the good work.

    ReplyReply

  4. SAO
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:09:22

    The internet and new innovations like the App Store all allow people to review books, music, hotels, underwear, employers.
    Why should books be different?

    Perhaps, there’s an inherent conflict of interest in reviewing in an industry where you’re a producer, but we need reviews. Readers will ultimately choose to trust reviews that are honest, not ones that are uniformly “nice”.

    ReplyReply

  5. Karen
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:30:55

    As a reader, this makes me terribly sad. When I first got online, way back in the dark ages, one of the only places to talk about books was the RRA mailing list. I remember posting a slightly negative comment about one of Mary Jo Putney’s books, and to my surprise, I found she was on the list as well. She responded by saying, “I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you – I hope you like the next one better”. And it made me more likely to pick up her next book, not less.

    ReplyReply

  6. LoriK
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:38:52

    On the subject of watching what one says and actions having consequences, as a reader when I see an author climbing on the “be nice” bandwagon or treating anything less than fulsome praise as an attack I immediately take that author off my mental TBR list.

    If an author doesn’t have enough confidence in her own writing to accept honest reviews then I can only assume that her writing isn’t very good and therefore isn’t worth my time.

    If an author doesn’t have the ability to separate criticism of her work from criticism of her as a person, and lashes out as a result I assume that her thinking is such that I’m unlikely to find her work interesting.

    On the flip side, if a reviewer makes things personal or seems to have an agenda beyond reviewing the book at hand or seems to be nasty just to show how clever she is then I don’t continue to read her reviews. As a reader I want what Jane wants—reviews that are honest and transparent and consistent and I do what I can to support people who I believe provide them.

    ReplyReply

  7. cecilia250
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:42:06

    I don’t understand how they think a “being nice” policy is going to be all that useful in the long term anyway. I recently read a book that was given 5 stars and high praise on Goodreads by another author (who I like). I could only give the book 2 stars and thought it was pretty hokey. I will never buy a book based on that author’s opinion again. So, sure, be nice, but be prepared to lose all credibility.

    ReplyReply

  8. Mina Kelly
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:54:20

    To be fair, I think “YA Mafia” needs some scare quotes too. The idea that authors who work together and share interests have ended up friends isn’t really a conspiracy. The point most of the authors are making is that authors (and wannabe authors) need to be careful about who\how they review other authors, not that reviewing readers need to be. I’m sure the wannabe authors are glad you’ve got their back, but you having their back isn’t going to help their career.

    It’s not about hurt feelings (at least, in terms of submissions it shouldn’t be), it’s about marketing and promotion. If author A negatively reviews author B, then it’s more difficult for the publishing company to cross-promote them. It also suggests there’s a difference in market between the two (if A doesn’t like B, are fans of A like to like B’s books, or vice versa?).

    Authors are attempting to give advice to wannabe authors. I think, given the evidence certain wannabe authors have presented over the years, there are some who need to take into account how their behaviour online can affect potential publication. Of course it’s not the same as slamming every agent that rejects you, but it’s still part of a professional footprint you’re leaving. If I wrote negative reviews of the products sold by local shop and later applied for a job there, I’d expect it to count against me. Why should writing be any different?

    ReplyReply

  9. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 14:57:37

    I can’t tell you how good it is to read this.

    I write, I review. I don’t see why I shouldn’t, because I was a reader first and I’ve always read a lot. Ever such a lot.

    As a reader, I count it a privilege to be able to review, and share my opinions on the books I love.

    As a writer, sure, I’ve been upset by reviews. But they’re not for me, are they?

    One word rules everything I do as an author and as a reader. Ethics. Does nobody know that word any more? As an ex business student, I’ve had classes on it. Are more classes needed? Behave ethically and you’ll have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.

    Last year at a banquet I ended up sharing a table with a bunch of Harlequin Presents authors. I hadn’t reviewed all of their books favourably, but none of them had a problem sitting with me. And what happened in Greenwich stays in Greenwich (I didn’t need to be told because I knew about ethics). We did have a very good time, though.

    At least one of the authors Jane has cited above has broken the code of ethics, so “being nice” can also mean “stab them in the back when they’re looking the other way.” Watch the person who is nice all the time, because nobody, absolutely nobody, thinks that way all the time for real.

    Thanks, Jane, and all the other reviewers who’ve lent their support to those of us who write and review (there are rather a lot of us around, I’ve learned recently!)

    ReplyReply

  10. Mina Kelly
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:01:05

    Also, as Holly Black points out, authors can’t affect other authors’ careers that strongly, no matter how hurt they are by negative reviews. A good book will get picked up sooner or later, and it’s editors who make that call. The whole point of an editor is someone who doesn’t have the emotional attachment to the book the author has, so unless the review specifically points at problems with the editing feelings (hurt or not) shouldn’t enter into it. It’s all cold, hard marketing.

    ReplyReply

  11. KarLynP
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:04:39

    Cecilia, I couldn’t have said it better. I’ve been duped enough by bogus author reviews I rarely take them into account anymore. (Sorry authors, you brought that one on yourself by playing nice-nice.)

    I often post comments and reviews about my romance reads at Goodreads and Amazon, both positive and negative. My group of reading buddies do the same and I find their opinion invaluable in selecting great authors and books to read. And I have no problem posting negative reviews on Amazon either knowing it will get many negative votes (and positive ones too.) But I really don’t care about that voting button or making nice-nice with all authors. I am just a reader and I only want to read good books.

    By the way, both Dearauthor and the other blogs Jane mentioned are highly credible in my opinion. I read them often.

    ReplyReply

  12. Julia Broadbooks
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:06:12

    @cecilia250: That’s so true. If I see a reviewer who only gives 5 star reviews, I do ignore their opinion. And to comfort authors who receive poor reviews, I also ignore the overly harsh reviews.

    It’s the 3 and 4 star reviews I am most likely to read. They tend to be the most thoughtful comments: honest and useful.

    ReplyReply

  13. library addict
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:21:00

    Most of the authors I've interacted with on-line have a more sensible approach to reviews in that they realize not every book they write will connect with every reader. I've only had one author I read regularly go off the deep end when one of her books went in a direction many fans didn't expect and we were told by the author we had read the previous books in the series wrong and some other stuff I won't bother repeating.

    One thing authors need to keep in mind is that I, and I'm sure many other readers, buy books that get C and even D reviews on sites such as DA because what didn't work for the reviewer is often something we know won't bother us and/or the book in question seems like something we'd like to read. Conversely, I've also bought books that received A and B grades which I just didn't connect with when I read. The review itself-’regardless of grade-’brings the book to the attention of readers who may otherwise have never seen it in the bookstore or skipped over it on-line. Every “negative” review is not necessarily a “bad” review.

    One thing I think authors should do that could be considered “being nice” is to simply thank the reviewer if they happen to come across a review regardless of the grade. Don't argue with what is, at it's core, one person's opinion of their work.
    But for the most part I think authors are just better off ignoring all reviews whenever possible. As Jane said, reviews are for readers.

    ReplyReply

  14. LG
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:27:23

    As far as I know, only one of my blog posts has ever inspired anger, and it was a small group of rabid fans of the author who got upset, not the author herself. Their anger was a bit frustrating, because I, too, am a fan of that particular author – I just don’t think being a fan of an author means that I have to like ever single thing they write.

    Personally, if an author gets all up in arms about a review that is not 100% positive, I end up with a negative view of the author. If it’s an author I already read, I’ll probably still continue to read them, although my feelings about their future books might be tainted. If it’s an author I’m not already reading, I’ll be much less likely, after reading their comments, to want to seek out their stuff, even if certain things in the review might otherwise have intrigued me. If an author can’t handle a “negative” review with cool-headed class, then they need to take a deep breath, keep themselves from pressing the “submit” button for whatever comment they were going to make, and move on.

    I like reading book blogs that have the occasional “negative” review – too many A-grade reviews, even if it’s just due to careful book selection, looks like a potential red flag to me – who’s to say the reviewer isn’t actually editing themselves to avoid offending the author?

    I want reviews I feel I can trust, ones that list the good, the bad, and the ugly and make it clear where the reviewer is coming from. For example, one book blogger I read hates paranormal romances that contain the soulmate trope but still occasionally reads and reviews them. I love the soulmate trope. She might give a paranormal romance a C or D review because the soulmate aspect and other things irked her, but her review might still cause me to desperately want her book, because I know my tastes are not hers.

    ReplyReply

  15. Janine
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:29:23

    @Mina Kelly:

    I'm sure the wannabe authors are glad you've got their back, but you having their back isn't going to help their career.

    You never know. Jane is encouraging writers who want to review as well as to publish fiction to follow their hearts and review, and it is possible for reviews to bring a writer to an editor’s attention in a positive way.

    I’m not going to dispute that it is possible for some discomfort to result from wearing the two hats of fiction writer and reviewer, but I think the warnings being put out by authors are out of proportion. Jane’s advice to “Concentrate on writing the best damn book you can” is much more constructive IMO, and not just to writers but to the entire community.

    ReplyReply

  16. Karen Scott
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 15:52:13

    The fact is, reviewers who gush over every single book, and have seemingly never met a book they didn’t like, don’t get taken as seriously. It may make the author feel all warm and loved for a few minutes, but even they themselves would secretly acknowledge that they’d rather have a positive review from a more critical source. You could call it The Simon Cowell Effect. All the contestants on American Idol always wanted to impress Simon the most, and didn’t really give a shit what Paula thought, even though she was always ‘nice’.

    ReplyReply

  17. Cult of Nice | Solelyfictional
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:13:53

    [...] Becca FitzPatrick’s Be Nice Stacia Kane’s Publishing: It’s a Business! And it’s Hard Sometimes Holly Black’s YA Mafia and the Ruination of Careers Dia Reeves YA Mafia Stacia Kane’s Reviews are for Readers Cleolinda’s My New Layout is Teal and so are my Deer Sarah Rees Brennan’s Hang up the Fedora: Reviews and the YA Mafia Jane Little’s On Bloggers, Reviewers and Readers #Ivegotyourback [...]

  18. Susan
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:17:09

    This whole issue brought outcome very interesting discussion and lols, but I think the point a lot of people seemed to willfully miss was the matter of professionalism. It is one thing to provide evenhanded criticism about books as a professional or even amateur blogger. But it is quite another to be an aspiring author and to build a large portion of your web following based on writing so-called ‘entertaining’ reviews aimed to snark, criticize and tear into every minute flaw in the book. I mean who was that particular blogger trying to kid when she stated the reviews were purely to serve as serious discussion about antifeminism in YA? The reviews link back to a online community named ‘bookfails’. And the whole situation looks even worse when you come to find that there were authors she particularly reviled and actively tried to tear down at every opportunity.
    I for one used to be a huge fan of this blogger in the earlier days until she became vitriolic towards certain authors, deliberately trying to start Internet drama for no reason.
    True, there are some unfair blows dealt to reviewers – and reviewers shouldn’t feel scared to share their true opinion about a book. Frankly speaking, we all have little time on our hands and limited funds. Why waste it on a subpar book?

    ReplyReply

  19. JulieB
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:18:19

    A corollary to this should be: “act professional.” That doesn’t mean a reviewer has to be “nice” and only give glowing reviews. A professional review (and you don’t have to be a pro to act like one) brings up both positive and negative aspects of a work without resorting to personal attacks.

    As an author, I may be disappointed by a negative review, but when it’s delivered in a professional manner, that reviewer has my respect.

    ReplyReply

  20. JulieB
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:19:56

    Susan and I must have been typing at the same time. Yeah, what she said. ;-)

    ReplyReply

  21. Lisa
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:24:56

    I read this post after my c- review. I wasn’t upset over the C-. Sure I want everyone to love my books. My job as an author is to try to write the best book possible and I very much WANT to do that. So yes, its disappointing to feel you didn’t deliver exactly what a reader expects.

    But, that said, the only reviews that upset me are those that seem intentionally vicious. Like an amazon reviewer that seems to have created an account just to post some nastiness on a few books.

    I also wasn’t thrilled to get 3 stars on a particular site for an e-book that I not only wrote 8 years ago, but that haven’t been available — with reason and by my choice — for almost that long. You can only get the book from illegal downloads. It was published by a very small press and I sold maybe 100 copies.You can’t tell me they were bought years ago and someone just read them and reviewed them. So a review on a pirated book ticks me off.

    Otherwise — reviews are opinion and each of us have our own opinion. I’ve seen DA give a book an ‘A’ that RT, PW, or Booklist hated. I’ve seen them give a ‘D’ for books that were starred reviews at PW. I’ve seen them agree with those places as well. A book is an experience that is individual, just likes movies and television are.

    If you get too prickly about reviews you’d never have the confidence to write another word.

    Lisa

    ReplyReply

  22. Mina Kelly
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:26:01

    Janine:

    Jane's advice to “Concentrate on writing the best damn book you can” is much more constructive IMO, and not just to writers but to the entire community.

    Oh, I completely agree there. If you’ve written the best damn book you can, you would have to have one heck of a bad reputation for an agent/editor/publisher to turn you down on the basis of what you’ve said online.

    The thing is, apart from the inital Be Nice post, most of the authors are saying precisely the opposite to what’s those arguing against them seem to suggest. They’re all talking about how authors have no impact whatsoever on whether agents/editors/publishers pick a book up or not. Sure, they can choose not to blurb it, but that’s got a pretty limited impact on sales anyway (and if the other writer doesn’t like their books, well, they’re probably not the best choice for a blurb anyway, are they?)

    As far as I can see, it’s all about behaving professionally. There’s plenty of examples of both authors and reviewers behaving unprofessionally other reviews, and frankly, I think that’s what’s going to count against them in the long run. Readers won’t trust reviewers who only give As or Fs (whether they’re authors or not), and they won’t buy from authors who behave badly towards their preferred reviewers. It’s not about being nice, it’s about being professional, and being professional means owning anything you say in a public arena. If you behave professionally but others don’t, the public will judge them, not you.

    ReplyReply

  23. Has
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:38:59

    @Janine:

    This is one of the reasons why I am hating this Be Nice or don’t blog thing which is annoying me no end. I can understand that as a reviewer/blogger that a post might get a critical reaction but most reviewers have stated why a book doesn’t appeal to them. I am really uncomfortable with the fact that other authors or even reviewers dictate that other authors shouldn’t review or blog – it is stifling speech/opinions, and it is even worse when they think only positive reviews are the best approach.

    Those authors who review know what to expect they will get a reaction and most of the time there has been no issue. But I don’t see why they shouldn’t and their careers shouldn’t be affected or be threatened. And in my experience most authors who do review are thoughtful and have well written reviews and I suspect that most people don’t realise they are authors themselves. It only becomes an issue when it does come out especially when the review is a negative one.

    I think that reading/reviewing and blogging will always bring out the crazy/strong feelings its hard not to because it is a personal thing. But I hate this idea that there should be a ‘right’ way to do this. This is wrong. We are always honest with our reviews and with our opinion posts and we may not please everyone but I’d rather be known to be an honest and trusted reviewer than someone who has taken lessons in the school of Harriet Klausner….

    ReplyReply

  24. T
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 17:35:28

    This is an awesomely good post on the subject of reviews and replying to them,

    http://editorannescott.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/reviews-again/

    which just found on twitter.

    Jane, your post is awesomely good as well, thank you very much. I think this whole author/reviewer thing tends to overlook what are the readers´s interests (and rights).

    I just want to add a couple comments:

    “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. “. Yes. And they are to help filter out both what books are likely to work for us, and also to filter out if the *reviewer*´s opinions matches ours. Dear authors, keep in mind that a review is just a person´s opinion and revealing of their own taste, which might not always match the taste of the person reading it.

    Reviewers who like things I thought were very bad are not likely to make me want to read everything else they liked very much. An author whose work I never read who blurbs something I tried and think very bad will in my mind be associated with that book, I will be less likely to try it. If you love everything, I do not care what you think, or even to follow your opinions till you find a book you did not love.

    BTW this works in an opposite way – authors who review other authors, specially authors who review much more popular authors do be careful of looking silly.

    Lisa, you are making me sad. I got books bought more than 8 years ago I have not yet read. I got ebooks, or at least short stories on eformat on a number of harddrives throughout some (a lot) of hardware upgrades I have not yet read. I still might read them one day. And I would feel entitled (I am entitled) to give a scathing review to one book and just one book. If I get sufficiently mad, not all books drive me mad enough to need to exorcize my opinion by writing it. It would be my right to do so. But I am pretty sure I am not your reviewer, any of them, I can not recall reading anything, particularly ebooks by anybody called Lisa in many years.

    ReplyReply

  25. Lisa
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 17:41:50

    I am not saying you can’t hold onto a book for 8 years and wait to review but this book sold a whole 10 copies and only recently went up on pirate sites. So if the person bought it honest– then I have zero issue with the review. But do I think its likely — no. Not in this case, with this tiny distribution. But hey, I could be wrong and if I am in this case, I’m sorry.

    ReplyReply

  26. Lisa
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 17:42:36

    Sorry — I meant 100 copies, not 10.

    ReplyReply

  27. T
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:02:43

    Lisa, you can not know for sure. Blowing off with friends is fine, but please (for your sake!) do not go checking that with the reviewer. (But do go after pirate sites or hosting sites, or whatever you can).

    your comments just made me sad because I am indeed one of those crazy people spending good money in books she is not going to read soon. Or maybe not even actually read. Sad I said.

    ReplyReply

  28. Janine
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:08:12

    @Mina Kelly:

    Perhaps I’m oversensitive to this issue because I am a writer/reviewer. But it seems to me that the vast majority of posts by authors on the topic of writer/reviewers are aimed at admonishing them for “unprofessional” behaviors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blog post by an author praising a writer/reviewer for their contributions to the community.

    I think reviewing can help a writer’s career just as it can hurt it.

    A reviewer develops the skill of analyzing books for strengths and weaknesses and that’s a skill that can come in handy for a writer.

    A blogger develops the practice of writing regularly and putting her words out for public consumption. Both very important habits to writers.

    And if the reviewer/blogger/writer in question has some skill, it is not impossible that an editor will notice and express some interest in that reviewer’s fiction writing.

    But I never see any of the above mentioned in authors’ blog posts on the subject. A writer who wants to review would get a one-sided picture from reading the posts out there in the blogosphere. The emphasis is generally on the negatives, if not the potential career suicide than the social discomfort.

    Yes, reviewing as a writer can be uncomfortable at times. But it can also be immensely rewarding, for multiple reasons.

    ReplyReply

  29. Lisa
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:11:22

    I haven’t even looked at the reviewer. It wasn’t even a review — just a present day rating. I think it irritated me because this is a small community and if only 100 people bought the book that means one of those 100 had to be the one who just circulated it to pirate sites.
    I think maybe you took what I said wrong, or maybe I typed it in a way that it came off negative. My irritation is the pirate factor in the equation, not the review. And I won’t apologize for being irritated over the pirating. But certainly I didn’t mean to imply you can’t review a book honestly and even years later. I feel quite the opposite. Heck I have books I read years ago I keep meaning to put up on goodreads and just haven’t had time.

    I am regretting even mentioning this now because I intended to be very supportive of open, honest review, and in fact, am.

    ReplyReply

  30. Janine
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:18:43

    @Has:

    I'd rather be known to be an honest and trusted reviewer than someone who has taken lessons in the school of Harriet Klausner.

    This. Harriet Klausner’s reviews are no help to me so I hope my reviews do a better job of communicating my likes and dislikes so that readers can judge whether or not their tastes match up with mine.

    I also want to add that perhaps partly for selfish reasons, I would love for there to be more writer-reviewers and author-reviewers. It would certainly make me feel like less of an oddball, but more than that, I truly believe that it would benefit the entire romance community.

    ReplyReply

  31. Author On Vacation
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:19:17

    @Lynne Connolly:

    “One word rules everything I do as an author and as a reader. Ethics. Does nobody know that word any more? As an ex business student, I've had classes on it. Are more classes needed? Behave ethically and you'll have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.”

    This says it all. Thank you, Lynne.

    ReplyReply

  32. may
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:19:21

    As a reader, I only want honest reviews. The ultimate rating doesn’t sway me for or against it so much as what the reviewer says about the content of book itself. THAT is what wins (or looses) me.
    I appreciate knowing that __ book has a heroine who is TSTL, or that ___ book is really is more mystery than romance (or whatever). It’s helpful to hear from a fellow book lover how their experience with the book was.

    *NOW*

    If I were an aspiring author or a published author that is successful, I’d think long and hard about how I approach reviewing books. Personally? I think I would adhere to just talking about favorites, rather than ranting on the crappy books I’ve read. But that would be my decision as a professional writer who wants to make sure and play nice in her field.

    But do I think it’s ok for authors to choose to write bad or critical reviews? Of course! after all, we’re all readers.

    ReplyReply

  33. LoriK
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:53:15

    Perhaps I'm oversensitive to this issue because I am a writer/reviewer. But it seems to me that the vast majority of posts by authors on the topic of writer/reviewers are aimed at admonishing them for “unprofessional” behaviors. I don't think I've ever seen a blog post by an author praising a writer/reviewer for their contributions to the community.

    The lack of any positive comments about writer/reviewers is one of the reasons I suspect that the focus on “unprofessional” behavior is a largely a smokescreen.

    Some people can’t handle any review that’s less than glowing. If they go after reader/reviewers they end up looking ungracious at best and mentally ill at worst (we’ve all seen it) and it doesn’t change the way readers write reviews. Authors simply have no leverage over them.

    The same isn’t true of author/reviewers. By cloaking their complaints in the language of “professionalism” they can get, or at least create the impression of, leverage over author/reviewers.

    ReplyReply

  34. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 19:25:25

    Thanks Jane. I’ve been meaning to write a post about why I review, but I have so many mixed feelings about it and the situation is quite touchy for me. I don’t know if I want to respond, either directly or indirectly, to any specific comments made by my peers. Public disagreements between authors can be even more awkward than negative reviews. Do I want everyone to like me and think of me as a professional? Well…yes. But I have to accept reality and own the choices I’ve made. It would be hypocritical of me to feel as though I should be able to review without anyone criticizing ME for doing so!

    Okay, so I just want to make it clear that I don’t expect authors (or aspiring authors) to review. I respect the decision to talk about books in a positive way only. But I also support honest criticism, from any source. Janine, Lynne Connolly, Katiebabs and whoever else: I’ve got your back.

    There’s one thing I’d like to address, and it’s the question of what’s so important about reviewing for an author. Why risk any harm to your career…over a book?

    As if “a book” some small, insignificant thing.

    The reviewing community is full of readers who care enough about a book to talk about it. Sometimes they didn’t like it, sometimes they did. Either way, reviewers are doing an important service (for readers and authors) and I appreciate it.

    A book, a single book, is still important to me.

    ReplyReply

  35. DM
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 20:30:21

    @Mina Kelly

    “If I wrote negative reviews of the products sold by local shop and later applied for a job there, I'd expect it to count against me. Why should writing be any different?”

    Because some of the most valuable feedback you ever receive will come from these sources. People who both create content, and think critically about it. Who have confronted the same storytelling problems in their work and overcome them. Because if you are mature enough as an artist, their reviews will help you make your next book better. And instead of a shallow acquaintance based on false flattery and log-rolling, you’ll develop a real relationship through their thoughtful input into your work.

    ReplyReply

  36. Author On Vacation
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 20:32:45

    I am an author and I review books.

    I do observe a few self-imposed restrictions. I won’t review books by authors to whom I’m related or with whom I’m friends.

    I don’t review DNF books. This is a personal choice; I don’t consider myself qualified to review an unread or partially read book.

    I don’t accept free (review copies) of books. IMHO, purchasing the book is an important element in the reviewing process. When I plunk down $X for a book, I have made the same financial investment in the author and his/her work as any other reader. It does figure into my evaluation of the book as far as determining “Did I feel I got my money’s worth in this reading experience?” I sometimes make exceptions for free reads if those are available to everyone.

    If I have doubts about a book’s rating/s, or if I’m having difficulty assigning rating/s or grade/s, I accept responsibility for my own shortcomings to that end. I’ll postpone completing the review until I’ve re-read or at least skimmed the book a second time. Some books do improve with a second read; not all do. Sometimes my ambivalence is related to personal matters impacting my attention and emotional investment in the book.

    In short, I make a reasonable effort to give every book I review a fair chance to “sweep me away into the fictional dream.”

    I don’t make fun of a book’s content, nor do I attack or scold the author or the publisher in any way. Yes, I have “Huh? S/he wrote WHAT?” moments like any other reader. I just think it’s more important to articulate what spurred the “Huh?” than it is to make fun of an author’s effort even if people reading my review consider it clever and humorous for reviewers to do that.

    If my system isn’t professional enough and fair enough for some authors, that’s really too bad. I admit, I’m a tough customer and books lots of reviewers offer raves and high ratings don’t suit me.

    ReplyReply

  37. Michelle R.
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 21:08:13

    Reviewing books on Amazon is a mini-hobby of mine and, as you say, my thoughts are with the reader.

    I value writers and writing. I never forget that someone — usually several someones — put real effort into the book. That means I treat writers with respect, but I discuss the book honestly.

    I also never act as if my opinion is fact. I aim to share what I thought of a book in a complete enough way that readers can come to the opposite conclusion from my own — buy the book I didn’t care for because it has their favorite trope, reject the book I loved because it doesn’t seem like their bag, baby.

    The way I see it is that the reviews when taken together reflect my love and enthusiasm for reading. Anyone who claims I’m mean-spirited has only to see how many books I’ve liked and how even when I dislike something I come to it regretful at not having enjoyed it and sincere in hoping people who would like the book will still find my words helpful in assessing that.

    I think we also have to take into account the changing publishing paradigm. Sure, a reviewer turned novelist might end up soliciting a publisher or sitting next to an author with an issue with her reviews, but in just a handful of years, with ereaders the up and comers, self-publishing is more viable than ever. That’s not to say there won’t be repercussions, but no one can do the whole “You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again” speech with the same menace — not if the writer’s work is out there and good.

    Or, I could be delusional.

    ReplyReply

  38. Phoebe
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 00:14:51

    As one of the aspiring authors/reviewers heavily involved in this whole thing (I jumped in feet first and left a long comment on Holly Black’s blog post that got tossed around the blogosphere quite a bit), I’d like to say two things:

    -Finding the Dear Author blog was huge for the development of my stylistics as a reviewer; it solidified for me that there were many reviewers out there committed to honesty, excellence, and open dialogue.

    -Thank you so much for your support, and for reiterating for me that reviewers do perform a service. I’ve had authors and bloggers contact me in private, but few have publicly come out and said that, while reviewers/authors might be risking something, that risk might be worth it. I know that my commitment to honesty, excellence, open dialogue, and the improvement and growth of the genre I love is important, and that it’s possible to contribute these things through both my fiction and my critical work. I know the type of figure I want to be, and knowing that there are readers out there who are supportive of that is deeply touching.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ReplyReply

  39. Phoebe
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 00:52:49

    @Mina Kelly: As for whether readers having my back will help my career, I’d rather think that the support of the actual consumers of books helps quite a bit–or, for the very least, can’t hurt.

    ReplyReply

  40. MaryK
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 01:16:58

    I always hear the “be nice” mantra, as used in the book world, in Woody’s voice from the “PLAY NICE” scene in Toy Story 1.

    ReplyReply

  41. Connie
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 03:12:45

    I came really jaded to romance novels in English because I had read so much of it in Chinese though I only started really reading English romance two years ago.

    I have to admit that my habit on DA is usually go straight into the A category (especially after the site remod) and read the reviews there. I don’t even bother with B+ reviews…so I can see how authors may be affected by even a B+ review. But I am only one person and most people who are avid readers most likely don’t do what I do.

    It’s sad really…that there would be authors out there who wants not-negative reviews…I mean reviewers are just expressing an opinion right? I would hope that if an author received a negative review that they would take that as constructive criticism (which is what the best reviewers on this site usually gives). Maybe some of these authors need to put themselves in a reader’s shoe to think about this issue more objectively.

    ReplyReply

  42. Ros
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 03:35:11

    You know, one of the romance authors I’ve got to know best in the last year or so is Kate Hewitt. The very first interaction I had with her was when I posted a very critical review of one of her books and she left a comment:
    ‘Hi Ros,

    Thanks for reviewing the Balfour books. I'm sorry you didn't like Zoe's Lesson! I freely admit Max is a difficult character; not everyone's cup of tea, I guess!

    Kate’

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is how to deal with a negative review. I’m really looking forward to meeting Kate in person one day and I know we’ll be able to have a good, honest conversation about her books.

    BUT, as an aspiring author, I’ve found it increasingly hard to write reviews. I do feel constrained by the ‘be nice’ rule, to the extent that I’ve basically stopped reviewing books at all. Which is a shame because I used to enjoy it a lot.

    ReplyReply

  43. Jadette Paige
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 08:15:06

    Interesting you ask about the C rating. It is human nature to go beyond what is considered average or normal. In their eyes, a C is average. I once had a student at the university I work at come into my office in tears. Why? Because she made a B in an upper level Physics course.

    I was stunned and told her that that was an awesome grade considering the difficulty of the course material. She shook her head and said, “No, you don’t understand. I never make less than an A.”

    This I think relates to this post. Most authors expect to receive a high rating on their books especially if they have received them before. All their hard work is considered average which is below an A rating, and of course, is what they expect and have, probably, received in the past. It’s a shock to their system. A C rating is still a great rating. I’d be happy with that rating. Thanks for the insight, Jane!

    ReplyReply

  44. Cris
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 10:00:23

    There’s a romance review blog out there that I used to check regularly, but I hated so many of their positively reviewed books, that I just deleted them from my feed. But I trust SBTB and DA so much that I just bought two books by an author I’ve never read, in a genre I dont ordinarily read (gay mysteries) based on a B- review at DA (and loved the books so much I squee!)

    A “C” or above, as long as the reviewer is clear about what they didn’t like about the book and what they did, is just as good as an A for most readers, I think. In fact, I’m always a little suspicious of “A” books. That means the book hit every single happy place of the reviewer. What are the odds that s/he and I have all the same happy places?

    ReplyReply

  45. Mandi Schreiner
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 10:24:23

    Very nice post Jane :) Honest, Consistent, I’ve got your back – yes, yes, yes.

    ReplyReply

  46. Jane
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 10:36:20

    It occurs to me that these “Be Nice” posts imply a few other disturbing things:

    1.) That editors lack professionalism. I mean do the editors of these authors really appreciate the things that are being implied about them in these “be nice” posts.

    2.) Did you watch the Apple event this past week? Steve Jobs’ first 15 minutes was spent deriding the competition, even mocking the president of another corporation. Was that “unprofessonal”?

    3.) Authors are not co workers. They are not employees. They are not co workers. They are colleagues. Completely different thing.

    4.) Isn’t this a whacked out publishing universe where Cassandra Clare, a known plagiarist, is feted and curried and part of the “in crowd” but some unknown aspiring author will find the door closed to her because of some “negative” reviews? Dude. Is that what the YA authors want their genre to be known for?

    ReplyReply

  47. KB/KT Grant
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 10:44:31

    With agents and editors being so crazy busy, do they really have the time to Google and aspiring author and see how many negative reviews they may have written? Do they have the time to listen to their client rant about an a new author looking for a blurb that may have said a few not so nice things about the published author’s work?

    It seems if you’re a big time author and say a few choice words about another author, such as Stephen King putting down Stephenie Meyer and in turn Meyer putting down Melissa Marr, it’s okay. Why do they get a pass? Because they made a boat load for publishing? I guess the same rules apply for Steve Jobs because of his role and how much money he has made for Apple.

    John Scalzi has the best post on this:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/03/04/dear-new-writer-im-sorry-i-dont-have-time-to-crush-you/

    The smashing the poopy authors part had me dying.

    I haven’t read Clare, but I find it interesting as well for her copy fan fiction of other people’s fan fiction. Is it really a big deal that she did this? And with her going to RT and speaking on panels, will anyone from the audience be brave enough to ask her about it?

    ReplyReply

  48. CupK8
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 11:01:59

    @Jadette Paige: Yes! An A is a grade that many covet, but it shouldn’t be a standard – you don’t start with an A and drop. As my mother says, you start at zero, and earn your way up.

    —–

    I have not blogged in ages, primarily because of school. I started out with the intention of reviewing theatre, but I run into this issue in that field as well. If I post a negative review of a show directed by x, will they not cast me? The field is incredibly competitive. I have a friend who is an actor/reviewer, and he is very honest in his reviews. I admire his chutzpah, because I certainly don’t have that courage and confidence in my own critical ability.

    There’s also the trend in theatre reviews to be nicer to the directors in the town where you write – at least at the major houses. Out of town directors are less likely to get that special treatment. However, knowing that, I tend to take those reviews with a big, fat grain of salt. And I turn to the friends I know who’ve seen the show instead.

    I treat reviews by authors who only post glowing reviews the same way. As much as I love reading me some Quinn and James, I’m hesitant about the books they recommend. Every so often, I’ll be able to tell when they REALLY like a book. There’s a difference in language when you do nothing but praise and then hit upon something that you truly adore.

    For me, I’m hoping that once I have more time to read and post (and update my blog format and such), I’ll go back to reviewing, and hopefully reviewing honestly; but I greatly admire any professional in any field who reviews honestly within that field.

    Perhaps it has to do with why my students demand As in every class. As a culture (and I include myself in this), I think we want to coast along on our mediocrity, rather than challenging ourselves to constantly improve. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it feels goooooood. This is a generalization, obviously, and only my opinion. *hands some salt over*

    ReplyReply

  49. JulieB
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 11:02:49

    There seem to be varying definitions of “professionalism” here. I’m in agreement with what Author on Vacation said above. It’s possible to be tough, but fair. Don’t attack the authors.

    If you’re a reviewer or blogger, someone will disagree with what you write. Someone will possibly be offended, even if you didn’t mean offense. Handling criticism and disagreements with grace and dignity (as an author or reviewer) is professional behavior, IMO.

    Nope, and editor isn’t going to Google you and turn your work down on the basis of bad reviews. Your writing on THAT submission is what’s going to win the day. However, if they see you acting pissy in response to reviews, might they think twice? I don’t know. Personally, I don’t want to find out.

    ReplyReply

  50. Joanne
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 11:27:21

    How is it “not nice” to give an honest review of a book the reviewer didn’t care for? It’s dishonesty in reviews that point at the reviewer as a tool rather than a promoter of the genre and/or reading.

    @KB/KT Grant: I’m not so sure that King got a “pass” so much as his fans rushed in to counter any comments that disagreed with his opinion. We all know what it feels like to bang our heads against threads that are only ever going to go in one direction. The dissenters get tired and go away and those that agreed with the original poster pat each other on the back about another job well done.

    Steve Jobs and Company make some bangin’ products but he is just awful. Awful.

    ReplyReply

  51. Author On Vacation
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 11:33:41

    @Cris:

    “A “C” or above, as long as the reviewer is clear about what they didn't like about the book and what they did, is just as good as an A for most readers, I think. In fact, I'm always a little suspicious of “A” books. That means the book hit every single happy place of the reviewer. What are the odds that s/he and I have all the same happy places?”

    I agree. If I assign a “C” grade or “average” rating to a book, I consider the book well-written and worth my investment (time and money.) I think other readers would not be disappointed in the book. A “C” book or an “it was okay” (2 stars at Goodreads) is competently written and has a well-executed storyline.

    When I assign higher grades, it’s because I found the read particularly compelling, or I found myself wonderfully surprised in some way. “A” and “B” grades are for superior and exceptional reads, not good reads.

    ReplyReply

  52. Christine M.
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 11:49:28

    @KB/KT Grant:

    Yeah, it is. I’ll never pick up one of her books and when I worked at a bookstore I always veered people away from her work. She made indirect profit from her HP fanfics and that’s always pissed me off. To me she’ll only ever be a plagiarist and a pathetic poor writer because what she was ‘appreciated’ for was in fact the work of others she merely put together to create a larger piece of writing.

    ReplyReply

  53. Perry
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 12:32:00

    I don’t know that being nice is the best thing for reviewers. It’s not just readers who can benefit from a clear honest critique/review, authors can lean too.

    My advice to reviewers, be respectful – it took the author a long long time to get the book on the shelf (e – or otherwise). But don’t be ‘nice’. If something isn’t right with the book, you are entitled to your opinion.

    ReplyReply

  54. Jane
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 12:39:45

    @Ros I find this so sad but understandable due to the vocalness of published authors out there. I noticed that there were other YA bloggers taking a “hiatus” because of this “helpful” advice. And it isn’t negative or scathing or trashy reviews. It is “just reviews where they didn't like the book.” From Stacia Kane’s blog:

    And one of the participants asked about her online reviews; I think it was whether she should link to her blog in a query. The agent who answered, Jill Corcoran, basically said, “Go ahead and link if you want, but it's a good idea to take off any bad reviews of any of the agent's clients before you do, and the same goes for editors.”

    This led into quite a long discussion, in which I, of course, poked my nose.

    The asker asked if by “bad” reviews Jill meant nasty/mean ones, or if she just meant reviews where they didn't like the book. Jill and I both replied-and I believe Weronika Janczuk, another agent, joined us as well, in saying…well, yeah, even just reviews where they didn't like the book.

    ReplyReply

  55. Morgan Karpiel
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 14:06:56

    Author bullying. Authors in dark sedans with tinted windows, snipers at the meet and greet, roving bands of disillusioned YA authors breaking windows on Goodreads…Glenn Close boiling rabbits. What planet is this? Stephen King reviews books all the time. He’s been called one of the best (and worst) writers of our day. He stated publicly that he thought Stephenie Meyer had no talent. Doesn’t matter, because people will gobble up millions of her books anyway and he knows that. This is the information age. Keyword: information.

    Are we trying to create a sweetness bubble for romance? Sounds fun, but what would be the point? All products get reviewed. Only honest reviewers develop a following. Shunned reviewers, who have developed a following, are lost opportunities—whether they are authors or bloggers.

    I’ve seen books get panned on DA, only to have the author come back with a solid ‘A’ given to their next offering. A book lives though continued interpretation, through being read. An author lives through continued publication, through lots of books and lots of reviews. Not just one book. Not just one review. A shunned reviewer, an intimated reviewer, is a failure to plan ahead, and a lost connection with the readers.

    Okay, so not everyone looks at it that way, and perhaps I’m sheltered by my independence, but being blacklisted from the heady world of signing tables seems like a horror story of 1980, as does being sandwiched between teeth-gnashing publishing executives in the back of a limo. Do any of them have limos anymore? I thought they were trying to sell books at ice cream stands and hair salons. You’d think the support of credible bloggers and reviewers might be a little helpful there.

    Ultimately, if you’re an author and it’s your day to get destroyed on Smart Bitches, or DA, or by another author or blogger, it’s an experience you’ll have in common with some of the most successful writers in the business. If you’re not aiming to be one of them, then it’s time to mutter a few curses and take up painting, right? Just my opinion.

    ReplyReply

  56. Susan
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 16:43:35

    Jane, as a response to your collective comments – the implications of the ‘Be Nice’ posts are exactly why YA authors such as Holly Black responded to the situation in the first place. It’s because there were increasingly bitter theories and insinuations being made about the so-called YA mafia.

    Becca Fitzpatrick’s post was blown way out of proportion. True, she should have had second thoughts about it because it could (and was) interpreted wrongly. But what reviewers, bloggers alike should have taken out of it is, authors are people too. If in your past life as a reviewer, you wrote a particularly malicious review questioning the sanity of the publisher in publishing an author, and the agent’s taste for agreeing to represent the author in the first place, and the author inadvertently stumbled across it … let’s face it, who hasn't googled themselves before?… if they recognise your name, they would be less inclined to want to blurb you. Is that so surprising?

    In the corporate world, the equivalent to this situation would be a college student writing comments dissing certain corporations' employment processes on a drunken weekend. Should that corporation research said student thoroughly prior to offering a job, said job offer would be withdrawn. There are numerous newspaper articles in recent years that have stated clearly: employers will research your Internet presence prior to offering jobs. If you write inappropriate things online, post inappropriate images of yourself, offer up an image that is contrary to your claims of suitability for that job on your CV, the employer won't want you.

    Why should that be any different when you're in publishing?

    The discussion in recent days has more focused on honesty in reviews. It's important to say: yes, in the past, authors have reacted badly in the face of reviews, and that's unprofessional, it makes them look bad. The consensus is: authors should just stay out of replying to bad reviews. But the thing is, honest reviews were never the issue in this debate. Readers should continue posting honest reviews. Writers should continue posting honest reviews.

    But consider this: when an author queries a writer queries an agent to represent their manuscript, one of the things they have to discuss is WHY they feel this agent is a good fit. Usually, this point is made along the lines of ‘you represent XBESTSELLINGAUTHOR, I loved it and hey, I wrote something along those lines as well!' Say agent really liked the book. Prior to offering, they decided to google the writer. And then they stumble across a blog entry reviewing XBESTSELLINGAUTHOR's book – but contrary to what the writer wrote in their query letter, the writer didn't like the book at all. In fact, they found it a ‘good idea, badly written' (as an example).

    However, the very fact that the agent represents XBESTSELLINGAUTHOR implies that the agent enjoyed their client's style of writing very much. In this circumstance, why wouldn't the agent have doubts about representing the writer? Is there any sinister #YAMafia forces brewing here? Not really. Just bad judgement from the writer's part.

    You were right Jane, in that the implications of YA Mafia is damaging to YA authors. It implies a high degree of lacking professionalism in all levels of children's publishing.

    I'll conclude on this note: a large part of this YAMafia discussion originated from LiveJournal. LiveJournal has been long linked with the Harry Potter fandom, and some of the largest HP fandom communities are located there. Regarding the comments on Cassandra Clare, it's no secret that there are some very bitter feelings in the HP fandom about Clare's publishing and consequent worldwide success.

    Notably, some of the most prominent commentators in the YAMafia discussion are/were actively part of the HP fandom. This is less important than the fact that the followers of their blog are mostly people from the fandom. The same fandom, as I mentioned before, that has lingering, very bitter feelings, and who are inclined to believe the worst/actively try to sabotage the industry which has embraced their former member.

    ReplyReply

  57. Phoebe
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 17:05:48

    @Susan: For what it’s worth, Susan, I was a blogger active in this discussion and have never been active in Harry Potter fandom. Neither was, to my knowledge, the writer of the Sparkle Project (which came up many times throughout this discussion), Jordyn of tencentnotes, or many of the other commentors/bloggers involved.

    I can’t help but feel saddened by this attempt to undermine our arguments by attributing them to spite. For the record, I’ve never even read Cassandra Clare, and have no feelings about her, positive or negative. Hell, there are lots of Russians on livejournal. You may as well accuse us of being communists–it would be just as (un)persuasive of an argument.

    ReplyReply

  58. Keziah Hill
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 17:26:28

  59. Susan
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 18:21:22

    Phoebe, I never said ‘all’ the discussion. I said, a lot of it. Also, note the word ‘originated’. The conspiracy theories have been around since last year. I browse some book and etnertainment blogs on LiveJournal, among other forums and bloging clients, and I noticed the discussion was particularly prevalent in LiveJournal, from ex/current HP fandom members. I don’t think bringing up this point undermines the discussion at all. In fact, I only brought it up because Cassandra Clare was mentioned on this thread, linked with the implication that the very act of her being published was a sign of the YA industry’s lack of regard for professionalism.

    I’ll directly quote Jane’s comment: “4.) Isn't this a whacked out publishing universe where Cassandra Clare, a known plagiarist, is feted and curried and part of the “in crowd” but some unknown aspiring author will find the door closed to her because of some “negative” reviews? Dude. Is that what the YA authors want their genre to be known for?”

    This builds into the greater conspiracy theory batted around LiveJournal, also implied in this very comment thread, is that all you need to get published in YA is to lick the boots of successful authors/ agents/editors, aka have connections. And that is, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    There’s some very valid points about honesty and transparency in reviewing that has come out of this discussion, and it’s a very good thing. But there’s also several other comments that have been made about getting YA published specifically that needs to be nipped in the bud.

    If you’re an aspiring writer, finish your book. Polish it up good. Query agents who represent books you like (Why on earth would you want representation from an agent if that agent has a client list you revile?). Should you be lucky enough to find a publisher there on in, the intracies of blurbing and whatnot will be sorted by your editor.

    There are no short cuts. If you get introduced to an agent/editor by a friend, good for you – but the agent/editor is going to have to love the book before they’d offer to buy/represent it.

    No matter Cassandra Clare’s sins in her past life as a HP BNF, she wrote a book which people all around the world fell in love with. You know what? I entirely agree, the nature of the universe is unfair. But there isn’t a way to set things right. And if an aspiring author wants to even out a score, writing snarky ‘book flog’ reviews ain’t it. Commenting ‘damn, I should just go out and write a YA book and rake in the billions’ also ain’t it. Pirating the book? Not even close. And believe me, I have seen comments on public LiveJournal entries that mention pirating Clockwork Angel to ‘even the score’.

    This kind of sentiment is very damaging not only to children’s publishing, but all book publishing in general. Like with any industry, there may have been people who got their through ‘shady’ connections. But they are the minority.

    What everyone should take out of the ‘Be Nice’ posts isn’t ‘don’t write bad reviews!’ but rather, don’t trash talk about published authors. Don’t trash talk about the industry. Trash talk is NOT the same thing as writing a critical review.

    ReplyReply

  60. Sarah Frantz
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 20:41:42

    I love the little circle we’ve got going here:
    1. Only “qualified” people should review books.
    2. Only writers really count qualified.
    3. Writers shouldn’t review other books.

    Oh, okay.

    ReplyReply

  61. Phoebe
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 20:47:25

    @Susan: Susan, could you share the parts of this discussion that are arising out of HP fandom? An example or two of active participants’ blog posts, perhaps, that seem to be writing in response to Cassandra Clare? I’ve read every single one of the posts linked over at YAHighway, and you can imagine that I’ve been following the whole thing very closely, and I haven’t seen any sign of it.

    I think it’s natural that people are going to comment on what they view as unfairness or instances of nepotism within a genre when discussing the career difficulties those reviewing within a genre might have (for what it’s worth, my personal feeling is that of course bad books sometimes get published because of industry connections. But I’m really not upset about it. That’s how the world works!). But I really, really think that you’re wrong that this is even a small bit about Cassandra Clare.

    ReplyReply

  62. Jane
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 22:37:32

    @Phoebe I have to agree. I am baffled by the accusation that this stems out of any animosity toward CC. What point I was trying to make is that it seems strange that intellectual honesty doesn’t prevent you from being publishing but writing negative reviews would. Obviously that CC and Janet Dailey still get published means that the book (and sales) trump bad behavior.

    ReplyReply

  63. Jane
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 22:37:58

    @Sarah Frantz No, writers shouldn’t review other books in a way that suggests that there is anything wrong with those other books.

    ReplyReply

  64. Julia Sullivan
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 23:09:48

    Publishing isn’t a slumber party to which only the in-crowd gets invited. Anyone who suggests that that’s a way to do business is someone I’m going to steer very clear of.

    As to the “Well, if you want an agent to represent you, you have to remove all of your negative reviews of her other clients’ work”—I wouldn’t want an agent that thin-skinned. I can’t think of one agent on Earth whose client list I dig 100%, and I am sure there isn’t one agent on Earth who loves 100% of my own favorite writers.

    In my daily Twitter reviews, I tend not to include books about which I can’t find anything good to say, but that’s because I see that venue as all about giving people recommendations for stuff they might enjoy. When I’m assigned a book for review by someone else, I call it like I see it for good or ill.

    ReplyReply

  65. Jordyn
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 01:27:54

    I can’t believe I just found this post.

    Hello everybody, I’m the girl who started this whole mess with my “should I mention my book blog in my query?” question during a #querychat last month. I did close down my review site because of it, however I’ve recently reconsidered and reopened the blog. (I just missed reviewing too much.)

    A few points I’d like to bring out:

    1. THANK YOU, epic thank yous, for approaching this as an aspiring-author-who-is-also-a-reviewer issue instead of just a reviewer issue as some posts seem to have.

    2. I’ve heard it said from authors that reviewing is fine if you’re okay with the possibility of not getting published and I’ve also heard bloggers say things along the lines of, “if this is how publishing is, who cares? I’d rather not get published than deal with it.” The entire reason I stopped reviewing last month was because I AM NOT OF THAT VIEWPOINT. If someone told me that there was a good chance I wouldn’t get published because of blogging I’d stop it in an instant. I’d take down every post, delete the blog for good. The sad but true fact is that I want to be an author so bad it hurts and there are things – including blogging, which I love – that I’d be willing to give up. However, amidst all this talk of being nice and professional (which I believe I am), bloggers have still gotten agents and book deals. Part of the reason I felt okay in bringing the blog back was because honestly, if my honest but super-polite and obviously book-loving, author-supportive blog is going to be what stops me from getting published then I really have no chance in the first place, because SOMETHING I say on Twitter or in blog comments will trip me up if it really is that big of a deal. And yes, I do want everybody to like me. But not everybody’s going to and that’s okay; I don’t like everybody either.

    3. Many others who have tackled this issue seem to see it as very clear-cut; thank you so much for tackling the intricacies of the matter and showing your support to us authors/aspiring authors who continue reviewing.

    4. Also, I’d like to bring up this predicament: obviously it would be rare for a reviewer to love every book that an agent represents (or even that an author writes, in many cases) and I completely understand an agent not wanting to take on a blogger/writer whose tastes were completely different from her own, but what about if the blogger likes (REALLY likes) most of the books represented but has a few less-than-stellar or even critical/negative reviews of books the agent has represented? This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, just as a side note.

    Thank you so much for this post. I absolutely love it.

    ReplyReply

  66. Jordyn
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 01:53:30

    Oh, and 5. I’m so glad you pointed out that reviews are for readers. I’ve heard too often that authors “need critical reviews” in order to improve, which I don’t agree with. The book is already out there. Writers have critique partners, beta readers, agents, and editors for that. Reviews are for readers.

    ReplyReply

  67. Laine
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 01:56:17

    I buy all the Harlequin Presents ebooks every month. I subscribe to The Romantic Times. I sometimes take a while to get to all the books but I love to read any book that scores a 2. And I often disagree with that score. The same as I often disagree with with the 4.5 best pick scores.
    A book appeals to someone based with where their life is at that point in time. Your tastes change over time. A review that tells you what the book is about lets you decide if you want to read it. One that gushes or pans doesn’t necessarily.
    I want reviewers to be honest. I can then decide that why a book didn’t work for them means it might work for me. And vice versa.

    ReplyReply

  68. Ros
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 02:50:51

    @Jane: Yes, I’m sad about it too. It’s not that anyone has said to me to stop reviewing if I want to get published. And, in fact, all the published authors I’ve met through reviewing their books have been lovely. I suppose I’m more worried about editors thinking I might be difficult to deal with. Especially since I’m targeting Harlequin/Mills and Boon and I think there is quite a strong sense of collegiality between their authors. I don’t want them to think I wouldn’t fit in.

    But I am going to try and start reviewing again. Even if I am a bit more cautious about which books I pick to review.

    ReplyReply

  69. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 06:34:45

    @Jordyn: Jordyn, when I was asked if I wanted to
    review for TGTBTU, I asked my editors and my publishers if they minded. I explained that the site expected critical reviews as well as praising ones. They said they didn’t mind at all, in fact they didn’t much care.
    The decision not to review books published by anyone who publishes me is mine, not theirs, part of the ethics I talked about earlier. Not because I’m worried that nobody will like me, but because writing is more important to me than reviewing, and that sometimes I’m privy to information I can’t make public – nice stuff like upcoming series, as well as things about fellow writers’ private lives. It makes any chance of a review less about the book, and so less useful to the reader.
    Don’t worry. All publishers and agents want is a book they love, that they can sell to readers who love it.
    Ros, I’m targeting Harlequin too, but I review their books all the time. I know some of the authors personally, so I don’t review their books without making that disclosure. Harlequin really aren’t that petty.

    ReplyReply

  70. Michelle
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 07:11:05

    It seems sad that a “bad” review would be more damaging to a career than being a known plagiarist. But it doesn’t matter that Cassandra Clare is a known plagiarist. It is just the horde of pesky, jealous and bitter people that keep bring it up. Ok glad that was cleared up for me.

    ReplyReply

  71. Miss Moppet
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 08:20:16

    Thank you Jane for such a supportive post.

    I agree that reviews aren’t intended for the author of the book but I think they can be enormously helpful for aspiring authors, which is why I am so grateful to all readers and writers who are willing to write critical reviews.

    ReplyReply

  72. Thanking our March Advertisers | Dear Author
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 10:01:36

    [...] of each month which would have been the 5th for March. And, well, I forgot. Can I blame this on the #YAMafia too? In any event, these 8 advertisers for the month of March are helping us to pay for hosting fees, [...]

  73. Gail D.
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:01:12

    I am an author, and I do Short reviews on GoodReads, because I just can’t write long ones. I also do occasional reviews for the newspaper where I work part time–and even there, the reviews are Short, because I’ll talk about two or three books in my 500 words.

    Thing is–if I give a book 3 stars on GoodReads, that means I LIKED the book. And I do honestly like most of the books I read, because usually, if I don’t like one, I don’t get around to finishing it. And the book has to be really special for me to Really Love it. I have a number of people who follow my reviews on GoodReads, but I can’t find where to look and see how many do. Oh well.

    ReplyReply

  74. Author On Vacation
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:41:22

    I think it would be very interesting to know how, exactly, a “bad review” is defined by different people.

    The more I read this thread and consider some of my own experiences, the more convinced I am that people define “bad review/s” differently.

    I’ve always considered the following elements indicative of a bad review:

    1. The review is poorly written and/or edited. Yes, to me, this matters. Writing is the communication used to review the book. Just as I won’t pretend a ho-hum book is as wonderful as a great book, I won’t give a ho-hum or substandard review the same credit I’d give a well-crafted analytical review.

    2. The review lacks substance. “Great book!” and “Horrible book!” just don’t go deep enough for me. I want substance. I want a carefully considered opinion. WHY is a book great/horrible?

    3. The review contains inaccuracies concerning the book’s content. This one point will turn me off a reviewer forever. Whether it’s an honest mistake or misunderstanding or a deliberate attempt to sabotage the book, it’s irresponsible.

    4. The review focuses mainly upon mockery and/or ridiculing the book, author, and publisher rather than exploring the book’s content and why the book worked or didn’t work for the reviewer.

    From what I’m reading, I think some people feel any review that isn’t the highest rating and doesn’t say anything but wonderful things about the book is “bad” or “negative.”

    ReplyReply

  75. Emily P.
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 14:18:04

    There’s a missing point that I haven’t seen made in this convoluted argument. Bloggers-who-are-aspiring-writers-but-write-scathing-reviews encourage other bloggers to greater heights of scathe. That’s fine. That’s freedom of speech. We can all be as scathing as we like. Have at it.

    But those bloggers-who-are-aspiring-writers will find out what it feels like when their book is published and the atmosphere to which they have contributed turns on them. And they won’t be able to blame some mythical YA Mafia for that one. They’ll be wondering where to get their mafia membership card.

    ReplyReply

  76. T
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 15:16:51

    GailD, on goodreads main page http://www.goodreads.com, while logged on, look at the upper right corner. Your user name should be there and clickable. click on it and you get to your profile page, title Gail D´s profile. On the right side bar, the first field should be “Gail´s friends” and the number – anybody you friend is getting your reviews (if they are reading, and they are not filtering by top friends whatever). Then right below you got a box of “people Gail D is following” (as applicable) and right below another number, that “Gail D is being followed by XZ people”. So your friends+ people who follow you is the number who gets your reviews. In my case 74, of which maybe 5 or 6 (though not always the same 5 or 6) actually are influenced.

    About Livejournal and Cassandra Clare and conspiracy theories, of for goodness´s sake, do not get into conspiracy theories. This discussion likely occluded on livejournal for two reasons:
    - livejournal is still huge for sf/fantasy/YA fandom and community, as including authors and reviewers. I think it is that fandom (And ohnotheydidnt) keeping LJ still alive.
    - livejournal causes drama and wank (technical term) in disproportionate terms. It is beyond understanding. But if LJ is involved ( and for sf/F/YA fandom it will be involved) there will be drama. of course this is IMO because of the first point, but nevermind that.

    If getting published is somebody´s dream up to people censoring themselves, then chances are it will be precisely those people reacting more strongly to criticism.

    I do not know if authors should criticize other authors – but keep in mind something, not necessarily because they are right in their negative criticism and breaking some sort of authorial comradeship and omertà rules, but because they might well be wrong in their criticism and making themselves look very silly indeed. Any reviewer can criticize a book´s pacing, or characters, or general writing, or originality of setting without needing to prove they CAN DO IT BETTER. An author-reviewer reviewing negatively or luke-warmingly a book can make me think “oh yeah, like you can do it any better”. This is particularly cruel (for reviewer´s image) when the author being reviewed is orders of magnitude more popular and/or IMO a much better writer overall.

    Same sort of applies even for positive marketing-helping reviews and blurbs. When I do not know the author reviewer´s work, but I know the work being reviewed and I totally disagree with the reviwer´s opinion, I will think the reviewer´s work is the same type as the reviewed and will mentally assign the same “do not like” category to the untested reviewer´s work. This is just how I think. I do not much care.

    Oh, I do trust author reviewer´s when I like the reviewer and the author being reviewed is dead before the review got written. Much less chance of backpatting or whatever then.

    If people with publishing ambitions want to review, then do it. Keep in mind that reviewing can attract attentions and make friends (Whether traditionally influential or not. Even non-establishment friends can help spread word of mouth tremendously). If a reviewer´s voice is “kind of a prick” then chances are that might put off people wanting to do business with you as in anything in life. But like Holly Black and Scalzi said much better, it is all about money and authors who do not like you will probably have no influence at all on that.

    And dunno, I see truly good books disappear without any hype or impact in the internet. They say any publicity is good publicity, maybe it is better to have lots of enemies who are aware of you, than have nobody recognize you or your work.

    ReplyReply

  77. Tasha
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 15:22:29

    For me, a reviewer who does not post “negative” reviews is not a true reviewer. As a reader, I don’t look for a reviewer who tells me which books are good and which books are fantastic. I look for a reviewer whose reviews give me enough information for me to determine how similar our tastes are–and the only way for me to determine that is to know the reviewer’s dislikes as well as likes.

    A review should be an analysis, not a synopsis or an exhortation to go out and read this book because it’s so great. Tell me WHY it’s so great. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? Your review is supposed to help me, the reader, be able to judge for myself whether I want to read a book. And I think a lot of self-proclaimed reviewers have forgotten that.

    ReplyReply

  78. azteclady
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 22:21:55

    @Sarah Frantz: Yup, yes, indeedy. Brings to mind an old incident involving Tess Gerritsen’s blog and, much more recently, Bob Mayer commenting over at The Book Binge.@Author On Vacation: This! It’s one of my pet peeves–one I tend to bring up with boring regularity.

    ReplyReply

  79. Jackie Barbosa » Blog Archive » Do Unto Others…(On Authors Writing Reviews)
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 15:26:39

    [...] pretty much the way I feel about the whole YAMafia brouhaha and the question of whether authors should/should not be reviewers. To me, it honestly seems as if [...]

  80. MaryK
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 21:08:09

    @Ros: Boo! I like your reviews!

    @Susan:

    What everyone should take out of the ‘Be Nice' posts isn't ‘don't write bad reviews!' but rather, don't trash talk about published authors. Don't trash talk about the industry. Trash talk is NOT the same thing as writing a critical review.

    This directly contradicts Stacia Kane’s advice.

    ReplyReply

  81. Links of interest: March 11th, 2011 « A Modern Hypatia
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 16:59:57

    [...] got a further link round up in a later post, and the DearAuthor site has some thoughts, links to past discussions related to the romance community, and links to other notable posts [...]

  82. Luce
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 15:41:10

    To me, there’s a different between writing a thoughtful “negative” review and “being nice.” If a reviewer didn’t like or finish XYZ book, I want to know why. Especially since I’ve only so much money to spend on ebooks each month. The latter kind of review might be seem as a positive for the author (ego ego ego), but there’s a chance that it’ll leave *me* with a sour taste in my mouth for both author AND “nice” reviewer.

    Like others have said upthread, I want an honest review.

    I mean, let’s face it, not every book is a great work of literature nor does everyone share the same taste in books.

    ReplyReply

  83. Alex/AnimeGirl
    Mar 16, 2011 @ 15:29:32

    Okay, I’m know I’m coming late to the discussion but I do feel like I should say something.

    I run my blog based on two things: a) Reviewing is entirely a matter of personal taste b)be honest and consistent.

    Since I buy 98% of the books I review and before NetGalley I had probably gotten my hands on 2 ARCs (for review), I don’t feel like I owe anything to the authors, I don’t feel like I owe the ‘nice’ people keep talking about. I paid my money (and importing books is very expensive) and in my blog I get to say whatever I fell about the book.

    I don’t bash, I don’t turn it personal, but I always say what I think. The lowest grade I give is 2 out of 5, and I’ve never gotten a negative reaction to those reviews, even though I have given them to widely popular books.

    ReplyReply

  84. Being Nice on the Internet: What’s the Big Deal? «
    Nov 24, 2011 @ 21:58:18

    [...] (Learn more about this here…) [...]

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: