August 30, 2012

Attacking the Reviewer

I think I arrived a bit late to the game but yesterday one of my Facebook friends (and a published author) shared a link to a post on another blogger's site titled "Authors Behaving Badly."  The post is exactly what the title suggests - - a well known, published author (whom I shall call Ms. Author) who not only bemoans her bad luck to only be #2 on the bestseller list but who rallies her troops (her fan base, her assistant and even her husband) to go to battle for her against Amazon reviewers who give her book a low rating.  As if that isn't bad enough (and it's pretty bad in my book, no pun intended), one reviewer was called, harassed, called names, told she should just kill herself and even received death threats.  Ms. Author's response to that?  "If the reviewer is getting death threats, she should remove her review."  Unbelievable.  And all this started from an initial reviewer who gave the book in question one star and found it disappointing.  That was when Ms. Author's husband jumped in to call the reviewer "psycho", criticized how an "avid reader" could only have one review on Amazon and cautioned others to beware. 

Is this what we've come to?   Getting so angry over a differing opinion that employing harassing and threatening tactics to get them to change their opinion or remove their opinion is acceptable? 

There are so many things about this story that make me infuriated.  Let me start first with Ms. Author's incredibly entitled and pissy attitude about "only" being #2.  I know several book reviewers like myself who write, not just reviews, in their spare time and would practically sell their firstborn to be able to list "writing" as their career and able to make a living at it.  With the sheer volume of books published every year, to make #2 is a huge accomplishment.  It's not the tragic situation Ms. Author is trying to portray to her fans; what's tragic are the people who have lost their homes due to foreclosure or the members of our military who are separated from their families for up to a year at a time, or permanently when they give their lives for our freedom.  That is tragic. 

Secondly, why is Ms. Author and her husband so up in arms about one or two Amazon reviews?  Is she such a special little snowflake that she can't handle someone not liking her work?  If that's the case, honey, you definitely should not be in publishing.  I am an avid reader (go check my reviews, Ms. Author if you're in doubt) and I cannot think of a single book that every single reader has rated 5 stars or been over the moon about.  I can only speak for myself but a few negative or indifferent reviews don't keep me from reading a book if I'm interested in the book or like the author.  In fact, when I see nothing but 5 star reviews that gush "this is the best book ever!" I am suspect.   Frankly, I believe that if the original "avid reader" reviewer had given Ms. Author's book 5 stars, his/her sole review wouldn't have been met with such derision.

Thirdly, in what world does Ms. Author live in that the answer to death threats is to remove an "offending" review?  How can she justify the call to action she incited by posting about the "offending" reviews on her Facebook page, putting it on Twitter, and allowing her assistant and husband to join in the fray?  I think the incident would have ended with Ms. Author's husband posting on Amazon, for the most part, had Ms. Author not chosen to share the details on her Facebook page. 

The owner of the blog linked above had given the book in question a 4 star review but decided she could not in good faith support an author who supports the kind of behavior that went on after the initial one star review and so changed her review to a 1 star and explained why.  That's when the situation blew up and out of control and the name calling and threats kicked into high gear. 

I support the blogger 100%.  I believe that reviewers have the right to post their opinions on books, whatever they may be.  I can understand taking down a review if the review is vulgar and offensive but not removing it because the author got her little feelings hurt. 

This kind of behavior is unacceptable.  By anyone, be it an author, a fan, a reader, a reviewer.  It's becoming more prevalent and that's scary. 

As reviewers, we take our writing seriously.  The majority of reviewers/bloggers that I know thoughtfully craft their posts and spend their time to do so.  We strive to be honest and yet tactful and considerate.  We understand that a book is an author's baby.  We don't get paid for our work but we treat it as if it was a career.  This is time that we take away from our family, our friends in order to do what we are passionate about.  We love to read and we don't want that love affected by the disgusting behavior of others. 

I have been fortunate in that I have had to deal with very little sarcasm and criticism from authors and fellow reviewers.  In general I have found blogging and reviewing to be a wonderfully rewarding experience and I cherish the many people (fellow bloggers, authors, publicists, publishers) that I have been fortunate to meet since joining this terrific community. 

But harassment should not be tolerated and will not be tolerated.  None of us should tolerate it and authors certainly should not foster it.  Ms. Author's books will never be featured here for that reason.  I have removed her books from my Goodreads list and have no intention of ever putting a cent in her pocket or boosting her sales, either by direct purchase or by suggesting to others to read her books.  There are many authors out there who may not have her name recognition but just as much talent who would appreciate the purchase and the time for a review and I would rather give that to them.  The best way to get the message across to Ms. Author and people like her that such childish and improper behavior will not be tolerated is exactly where it will be felt - - in sales. 


Tales of Whimsy said...

OMG unbelievable! Wow. I can't believe someone as big as EG would act this way. And the way she treated her fans on FB. WOW.

Thank you for making me aware of this story.

Lori Johnston said...

Isn't it amazing, Juju? I couldn't believe it either.

It certainly reveals how ugly the author is. I think she has screwed the proverbial pooch based on comments from the original post. Fans of hers are not only no longer fans, they have thrown out and burned her books.

Orsayor said...

Thank You for writing this story.. I don't know which author you are referring to.. but I have had heard my share of Author Terror Stories..

Marja said...

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! I received my first not-so-good review recently. My feelings were hurt for a few days, I found myself wondering if the reviewer actually read the book, and then I decided it wasn't worth worrying about.

Based on what you've described, the author was somewhere beyond Diva. What a shame.

mnleona said...

I gave a review and gave the book a 3 *. I explained why. The comment I got from the author was she was sorry I did not like the book and was gracious.

Lori Johnston said...

Orsayer, if you click on the link in my post ("Authors Behaving Badly"), the author's name is mentioned there, as well as copies of the original reviews and her Facebook posts.

Thank you for stopping by. It's horrible when we are attacking by anyone for expressing our honest opinions on a book!

Lori Johnston said...

Shooting yourself in the foot, indeed! Ms. Author made things much worse for herself and seems to have lost a healthy number of previous fans in the process.

I am a writer as well and it does sting when someone doesn't like what you have poured your heart and soul into. But that's life and you pick up and move on. (And yes, I do think some reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere don't actually read the books. Case in point - the 5 star reviews that are given out for books before they are released, before even ARCs are out because the reviewer "can't wait!" and has liked the author's previous work).

Thanks so much for stopping by and posting!

Lori Johnston said...

Leona's Reviews,
I wonder if the author would have responded differently had you given the book a 1 star rating? I only ask based upon how the two reviewers I mentioned in my post were treated. Frankly I think authors should be gracious of anyone who reads their work, whether the reviewer loved it and it didn't gel with them. It still increases their readership and gets the word out on the book.

Thanks so much for stopping by and posting!

Teressa Morris said...

Leona - I think it's ridiculous that an author considers a 3 star review negative. That still means it had more good points than bad!!
I think EG's behavior (and especially that of her husband and assistant) was atrocious, but I also disagree with the reviewer who changed her review to one star based on the behavior. I think a review should be based solely on the merits of the book, not previous work and certainly not an author's personality. I can think of plenty of famous A-hole authors whose books are phenomenal.

Lori Johnston said...

I don't think Leona was implying that a 3 star review was negative. She mentioned giving the book a 3 star rating and getting a gracious response from Ms. Author.

You did bring up a very good point for discussion though and that's whether or not Reviewer #2 should have changed her star rating on the book based on the author's actions.

I can see both sides of this argument but I do think maybe Reviewer #2 should have added a caveat to her original review, stating the issue she had with Ms. Author's actions and those actions of her "posse". Maybe then it would be clearer that Reviewer #2 didn't have terrible issues with the book itself but doesn't wish to support an author who conducts herself in such a fashion. That will leave it up to the buyer to decide their choice based on the merits of the book versus the actions of the author.

That said, I do dislike it when people rate books and other products on Amazon based on the shipping time and the condition of the container the item arrived in. Really unfair whether it's a 1 star or 5 star.

Thanks so much for posting and stopping by these parts!

Anonymous said...

What is most important to we all is trusting reviews, having confidence that most reviews are honest opinion. Some trashing reviews are just spiteful, but we must hope that most aren't. On the other side, some five star reviews are written by best mates and paid deceivers. We have to trust that most aren't.
When an author is trashed, rightly or wrongly, it hurts. That is though par for the course of having a public profile.
Authors, readers and reviewers, if you allow me to split the roles for a minute, can all get around the problem by following up reviewers. If an author is trashed by someone who hides behind a false identity, and regularly trashes or only posts once-discount them. Equally the credentials of writers and their good reviews can be checked. It is time consuming, but if one has suspicions either way it is easy enough to do.
For an author to attack a reviewer is never acceptable, though of course fair criticism is fine in both directions. Thank you for your well very sensible post.

MelinaMason said...

What a great post. Glad that you addressed this issue. I am new to blogging and book reviewing. I've done a few on Amazon. I just figured that if I read a book and didn't like it, I wouldn't leave a review unless it is for a publishing house or review crew that I review for. I recently read a book, one that I read on my own, not for a publisher, and didn't really like it, but was afraid to leave a negative review for this reason and because I didn't want to hurt the authors feelings. I know how hard they work and I would love to be able to write. But it is sad that some authors can't take a little critisim. Not everyone is going to like their book.

Lori Johnston said...

I do think most reviews are honest opinions and most reviewers aren't writing out of spite. There are always a few, of course, but I think the majority are readers who want to share with others. Unfortunately, as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the oil and so the bad behavior generates a lot more buzz than the good behavior.

I agree on fair criticism. So long as it's fair and is a critique, not a bashing.

Thank you so much for stopping in!

Lori Johnston said...

I am on the fence about posting bad reviews. I hate to do it as well but if we're going to be honest and give an honest assessment . . .

I do like to point out something positive as well. For instance, I may not have cared for the book but I liked the heroine. Or while the story itself didn't gel for me, the writing was excellent or the dialogue was crisp. Those types of things.

So while I don't like leaving bad reviews, I also think it does "even out" the review system, if you know what I mean (and maybe balance out those 5 star reviews from people who are giving 5 stars because they think they will like the book, or the book arrived very quickly or the author's mother wrote the review, he he).

Thanks for stopping by. Happy Friday!