I actively support fellow authors … for the most part. Recently, a fellow author brought to light – or rather, she created a drama about – something that touched on several topics we, as writers deal with almost daily, including the dreaded “bad review”.
This particular author got a review on GoodReads marked DNF (Did Not Finish) and complained about it in a few writing groups we’re both part. Normally, I’d link to the review so you can read it for yourself, but I’m trying to be classy and protect the author by keeping her name, book title, and any description of the contents of her book private so she’s not publicly embarrassed anymore than she has been by her own unprofessional behaviour.
Reading the review in question, a few really important things jumped out at me:
1. The author gave this lady an advanced copy of her book and asked for an honest review to be posted publicly.
2. It wasn’t a negative review. The reviewer had an issue with some of the events in the book that made her lose interest. She simply left her personal opinion as to why she couldn’t bring herself to finish it. (Note: I personally couldn’t finish another book by this author. When she had the female lead gang-raped, I had to skip past that chunk of the book. However, when that character then decided she needed to screw the next handsome, dangerous dude she came across mere hours after being raped, I was done. Period. I couldn’t open the book without feeling sick.)
3. By marking the book as DNF (Did Not Finish), the reviewer was actually protecting the author’s rating score.
4. The reviewer praised the things she liked about it, saying things like, “The story was original, and writing was really nice”.
As both an author and a reviewer, I can confidently say: This lady is really good reviewer and gave a reasonable, objective review. She shared her opinion and commended things about a book she didn’t like. Plus, she pointed out the good things she found, leaving it to the reader to decide if this was a book they wanted to take on. I was impressed. Personally, this is the balance and class I strive for when I write a review for something I didn’t enjoy.
The author, on the other hand, was neither classy nor fair in her response. She could have done one of two professional things at this point:
- Be gracious and thank the reviewer for her time and thoughts, then move on; or
- Ignore the review and focus on the positive reviews she received.
Instead, the author made a public deal about what was, in her opinion, a “bad” review, calling the reviewer a “f*ckwit” and “c*nt”.
This, of course, inspired her friends and followers to demean the reviewer’s opinion, mock her comprehension of and ability to writing in English (which is not her first language), and question her validity to write reviews – both in the groups and, to my horror, directly to the lady in the comment section of her review.
Part of my horror is because, as an author, I would never abuse my readers like this. Without readers – even those that don’t dig what I write – I could not be a professional author. I’d be a hobbyist, scribbling thoughts to myself. As a reviewer, I’ve been under public attack much like this lady has been.
So to this fellow author and those who will undoubtedly be in her shoes at one point:
Don’t be a dick to the courageous few readers that actually leave you a review.
Don’t like the review? Tough nuggets. Writing, like every other art, is subjective. Not everyone has the same tastes. Write to the best of your ability and learn from the feedback you get. If you’re too thin-skinned to handle bad reviews, either get a job where your tender soul isn’t exposed to the vicious teeth of critics or have someone else read them and give you an author-friendly version.
Author Raphael Merriman summed it perfect in his reply to this post: