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)


Disgruntled Bear said...

So, I apologized, and people are still making nasty comments about how people are entitled to their own opinions... and that I was completely inappropriate for expressing mine.

For the record, I seriously, truly didn't think posting a comment on someone else's review of someone else's book was crossing a line, but apparently many people feel differently.

I took down my post.
I publicly apologized.
I just wish people would stop raining the hate.

The worst part is how people are saying they won't read the author's book because they didn't like *my* comments.

My actions are my own. Please don't take them out on other people.

I just don't know what else to do. How can I make it right?

Anonymous said...

You can't make it right with them, once you've engaged. Believe me, I've tried. The best you can do is just walk away. Whatever you say will never be enough. They feed on your comments and apologies, as good-intentioned as they may be. Starve them. And don't ever engage again (though I am sure you learned by now!)

BTW, I'd never heard of PODS but after reading the review, now I'm interested! So it's not only bad things that come from bad reviews. :)

'Copter Mom said...

I find it so disheartening that the anonymity of the internet affords people ample opportunities to bully others.

I am an author, and today on my Facebook page, I posted a short rant- I'm not even sure it could be called a rant, it was more like a short, sad observation- about how I steer clear of Goodreads because of all the bullying that goes on there. In later comments, I mentioned the status update was made only because I'd read a bunch of one-star reviews on a favorite book by another author.

Unfortunately, I lost a "like" over that status update, and was called closed-minded because apparently authors are more prone to bullying reviewers than the other way around. This kind of attack is not at all unusual in the book reviewing world, where authors aren't allowed to make innocent statements for fear of offending someone- anyone.

Bullying happens on Goodreads, and it's out of control at this point. I'm so sorry this happened to you.

Deniz Bevan said...

I can't stand hearing about this kind of thing. I wonder what it is about being online that makes so many people resort to lazy language and ad hominem attacks?
Why can't they just be polite???
There have been soooo many times when I've stepped back from the brink of becoming embroiled in scenes like this. I just want to slap those name callers!

jabelfield said...

This isn't the first time I've heard about bombarding authors with hate over the smallest things, and ganging up on other members. It's like there's some kind of mob going on over there and you're best to try and steer clear if at all possible.
It makes me very sad, though.

Disgruntled Bear said...


June G said...

So sorry to hear of your painful encounter, Kate. People often indulge their dark sides. It's an effect of the "sin" factor. Read your bibble to learn more...

Disgruntled Bear said...

Thanks, June. I think people sometimes don't realize that their actions are as hurtful as they are. And as for the Bible, I read this story yesterday, and it's still with me: http://the-wopr.newsvine.com/_news/2013/09/19/20572264-church-members-mistreat-homeless-man-in-church-unaware-it-is-their-pastor-in-disguise

Unknown said...

a very good job

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