Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Frightening Side of Book Reviews

Earlier today, I saw a negative review of a Spencer Hill Press book on Goodreads (not one of mine). No big whoop--we all get some negative reviews, and this one, while I disagreed with many of her points, was clear and logically-written, although I strongly disagreed with her statement that one of the characters was depicted in a racially insensitive way because she doesn't speak English at the start of the book. 

However, when I read the comment thread, one responder, R***, said, "I get that you didn't like the book and that's great. Not everyone will. But, damn, you trashed it." 

And then, the attacks on her began:

"Anyone tell you to go f*** yourself recently? Well I'm here to preach the good word!

"F***. OFF. Don't come on here and criticize a well-written, fully articulated and intelligent negative review just because you don't agree with the reviewer. It makes you look like a tw**."

"Thanks to R***, I am NEVER touching any work from this author again." 

People posted memes asking, "Are you retarded?" and calling her an a**hole. Others blacklisted the author for the comments of R***, saying it must be the author using a fake name (side note: it wasn't the author). To me, these seemed completely inappropriate for a book review.

But then I did something really, really stupid. I engaged.

For the record, NEVER respond to negative reviews of your own work. I don't. No author should. But this *wasn't* my book, and I just wanted to mention that the character who doesn't speak English at first learns fast, and the fact that she didn't speak it from the start made sense. I also asked people not to post profane personal attacks. And I mentioned my connection to SHP, since that's the disclosure policy when any SHP editor, publicist, etc. posts on a review site.

*face palm*

Yeah, I know. 

As you might expect, everyone then turned on me. They decided to mark all or her books--as well as all of my books--"not-for-me."

They called me several unflattering things. One even tweeted a link to the let's-call-Kate-several-unflattering-things thread to Twitter.

Another of the responders took a screenshot of my comment and then used it in a new thread to expand at length on my shortcomings. One person on *that* thread asked:

"And what is there to defend her from? She's not even on the thread and the review is about the book. Getting a negative review is nothing anyone needs defending from. This is ridiculous, that so many authors need to be coddled to not feel "attacked". It's a book!"

Here's the thing: a book isn't just a book to authors--it's a piece of their soul. If that causes non-writers to eyeroll, I can't do anything about that. But books are like children to those of us who write. If someone says your baby is ugly, it hits you hard. And being accused of creating a racially insensitive character is an accusation of being a racist. Authors *do* read their reviews. They see the nasty things people post about their books. And those reviews stick in their souls and fester. Sure, we need to have a "thick skin", and I can take bad reviews of my books, but I get strongly protective of our authors. 

Yeah, I made a mistake. I should not have posted on that thread--it didn't do anyone any good. I publicly apologize to anyone I may have offended. I did not set out to offend--I merely wanted to set the record straight on behalf of the author, who knows better than to respond to her own negative reviews.

 *   *   *

I've specifically avoided giving identifying info in this account, since I don't want to make things worse. But I feel sick inside. Why do people have to be so nasty to one another? 

(Asterisks added for anonymity and to take out the worst of the bad language)