This has been a bad week for readers/reviewers in general. A YA author took to Twitter to display her Goodreads Bingo that basically mocks how readers review a book. Of course, Facebook also has its share of author ranting about a reviewer on Goodreads who dared one-star her masterpiece.
Hence, this post. I have been thinking about writing about this for a while but never got around to it until now. This is just my view on the matter. Many might not agree with me but that’s okay. This is an opinion piece about a topic that I’m passionate about–reader/reviewer rights.
Authors, I understand your frustration about readers posting negative reviews. After all you did spend a lot of time crafting a story only for someone to say it’s a pile of horse shit. But you have to remember that one, it’s an opinion. Two, it’s an opinion about a product. Do reviewers cross the line sometimes? Yes. But that’s not unique to the book community. It happens in other industries, too. Go check Amazon and come back to me. Third, it’s nothing personal. Anyone with half a brain would recognize if a review is being helpful or not. Readers are not dumb. We can form our own opinions. Trust me on that. More often than not, negative reviews help me make an informed decision.
Same goes for spoilers. Some like them, some don’t. Some reviewers post them, some don’t. Here’s the thing: readers who don’t like them know how to avoid them, and readers who want them seek them out. Having your book spoiled isn’t the end of the world. Readers are built differently. Personally, spoilers make me very happy. It saves me from reading a book I might end up hating.
I’m not saying authors are not allowed to vent or bitch about it. It’s your right. But do it in private with your street team or your author friends. But never humiliate a reader in public because more than likely it won’t be her negative review that people will remember, it’ll be your behavior.
Here’s another thing…readers review a book. We are reviewing the product, not the person. Contrary to popular opinion, books are not babies. It’s never personal because it’s about this product. When I say I hate this book, it isn’t me saying I hate you as a person. But when an author takes to social media and call out a reader because of her opinion on a product, it becomes personal because a reader’s review is not a product. It’s a personal opinion.
There is such a marked difference between a reader reviewing a book for what it is, a book, and an author calling out a reviewer for something as intensely personal as reading. Personally, when an author goes on a social media rant about a reviewer and allows her fans to attack a reader, it makes me angry.
Reviews are not up for criticism. There’s nothing more annoying than an author or a fan engaging a reader in her own review space to “explain” the book’s meaning, the plot or whatever it is the reader got wrong. Reading is such a subjective experience. Author intent doesn’t equal reader perception. And that’s okay. We take away different things because we are all built differently. The thing is I’ve it happened a number of times. An author goes into a reviewer’s space to explain her/his book and come out with a bruised ego, take to social media and mock the reviewer and her review. Newsflash: You will never ever be able to convince that reviewer to change how she feels about the plot or the character. Never. Why even try? You cannot control how readers are going to feel about your book, nor can you change it.
And lastly, let’s talk about the evilest of all social media — GOODREADS. That’s right. Every time an author moans about a review on Goodreads, fans of said author would then jump on the Goodreads hate train. “Goodreads are filled with evil trolls and mean girls bullying authors!” Or “ZOMG, I never go on Goodreads because the people there are EVIL, E-V-I-L!! They eat authors for breakfast!!” Or “I hate Goodreads. I only go on there to post positive reviews for my favorite author!” And of course, my personal favorite: “OMG! There are so many haters on Goodreads. People there are unhappy with their lives!”
If those comments weren’t so pathetic, I would laugh. But I won’t. And guess what? Goodreads isn’t any more evil than Facebook or Twitter or any other social media out there. All users adhere to GR’s Terms of Service (TOS), which means that readers/reviewers like me can’t write a review about an author’s behavior. Reviews that are construed as author bashing gets deleted. If you say something about an author’s behavior on GR, you bet your ass your review will get deleted. GR reserves the right to boot out a reader. Our reviews can get flagged or reported, and yes, deleted, sometimes without warning.
Which is why I find it ironic when an author goes on a rant on Facebook about a reviewer on Goodreads. No one would come and say, “Hey, you’re already personally attacking a reader.” No one. In fact, she’ll be lauded by her fellow authors and fans while the reviewer is called a hater, a jealous twat, a bitch, a no-name person who can’t write to save her life who is jealous of the author’s success. But when a reader goes on Goodreads and goes on a rant about an author, her “review” gets deleted. I don’t know about you but the whole “Goodreads is the devil” narrative is getting old really fast. Not to mention untrue.
I have been very lucky in my blogging and reviewing so far. Most of authors I’ve met and whose books I’ve reviewed have been nothing but gracious. I’ve penned my share of negative reviews but I’ve never had anyone rant about my review or about me — at least, not that I know of. I’ve never been doxxed or stalked. But some of fellow readers have, and it’s frustrating to see it happen time and time again.