On reviewing and losing your mojo

I can’t speak for how it is in the adult book blogging world, I used to keep up with it but now that my blogs (and job) have become so entrenched in the YA genre it is something I know nothing about. However, I do have a thumb to the pulse of the kidlitosphere and this past year has been dark and dirty. Several times last year I thought about quitting. Several times last year I was scared to post negative reviews. Several times last year I saw friends and colleagues hounded for reviewing negatively. This behavior and these tiny wars between authors and bloggers need to stop.

Last year I was publicly mocked (on a genre forum) by an author for reviewing a graphic novel for the first time and apparently doing it wrong even though I gave him five stars.

Jordyn from Ten Cent Notes quit blogging for a while because she was afraid she would never become published if she continued to review negatively.

Authors wrote posts asking reviewers to ‘be nice’. (This particular thing set me into a rage.)

And most recently Wendy Darling was called a bitch by an agent. Please visit that link, she has put a timeline of happenings there.

Here’s the bottom line. Reading is fucking SUBJECTIVE. We are not all going to love the same books. We are not all going to love every book we read. After four years I have gotten pretty damn good at vetting books I will love just by synopsis but still every once in a while something slips through and I end up reviewing negatively.

Bloggers:
-Stop harping on people who only want to review positively. Some people only want to deal with the happy.
-Stop telling (me) others that they have lost their edge. Maybe they just stopped reading books that didn’t speak to them.

Authors:
-Stop telling reviewers who aren’t professional to play nice. Or if you are going to do that, do it to Kirkus and the NYT as well.
-Stop Googling yourself.
-Ban Goodreads from your computer.

In the end one bad review (even on Goodreads) will do NOTHING to the sales of your book. The GR crowd (myself included) just like bloggers (myself included) are a very small number of your whole readership. While we may be the loudest, we are the minority of your readership. When you call attention to these negative reviews (even if you feel they are snarkfilled and just mean) you bring awareness of this bad review to your whole readership.

You may think you can do it quietly. You may think you are right (but you aren’t). You may think that you HAVE to speak up for your book. Just don’t do it. It is that simple. It will never end right for you, dear author, even if you are ACTUALLY in the right. Chances are however, that you probably are not.

I would love to continue to review on my new .org site for four more years. So if we could all just coexist that would be awesome.

Here’s a secret: I really didn’t like The Selection. I felt that the stakes weren’t high enough. I thought that the Prince’s dialogue was laughable, there were so many exclamation points after things he said I wondered if crack was still legal in this universe. It was wholly subjective but the book didn’t jive with me at all. But I was afraid after Wendy’s trouble to say that. So I didn’t. This doesn’t sit right with me, and I am ashamed for having been afraid to post a review. It hasn’t happened to me before, and no matter what my job is, or who I need to not bridge burn with it will not happen again.

19 Responses so far

  1. Gravatar

    I think it is understandable to not want to post a negative review. It is scary…you are opening yourself up to be vulnerable.

    I love the message you give on this post. Everyone has a right to run their own blog the way they want. Everyone has a right to read whatever book they want and they are allowed to feel their feelings. Feelings are not wrong. My goodness, are authors going to go to every book club meeting and defend their book as well? The internet is just another medium for book lovers to talk and communicate. I’m getting myself riled up here, I’d better stop. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    I hadn’t heard about any of this stuff about The Selection until today (I think, but honestly there has been so much author/blogger poo lately that I can’t remember). What Wendy had to deal with is pretty shocking and what is really shocking is how these were people who write for young people. It’s wrong on so many levels.

    As for negative reviews on Goodreads, I read the highest and lowest ratings before I decide whether or not to read a book. 9 times out of 10 a negative review doesn’t make me not read it (dozens of 1 stars now, that’s different). I like seeing the different reactions from readers. However, an author freak out makes me never want to read that book.

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    I’m glad you’re speaking up Pam. Your honesty is admirable!

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    I am glad you wrote this post Pam. I have also been considering laying low with my reviews. I almost deleted my personal blog a couple of times and just keep reviewing as a staff member for the other two.
    What if one day I decide I want to write a book? I know that I will get negative reviews, but the reviews that I post now, today on others’ books that I read, will that have a negative result on the selling of my own book? Things that are posted to the internet do not go away. I feel one way about a book now, but if I read it in 10 years and have a whole new outlook on it, will that past review be brought up and me called a hypocrite? You never know.
    I have huge doubts about why I ever decided it was a good idea to start a blog in the first place, and think it’s sad that I have to remind myself why on a monthly basis. But I am proud of how Wendy Darling handled her own problems. I find her very intelligent and well spoken, as I do you.
    It’s all a messy black hole and I hope that in time, this too shall pass. But until then, I just may be one of the bloggers that sticks my head in the ground waiting for it to do so and hoping that the people I respect and read their reviews don’t disappear. Blogs like yours and The Midnight Garden are ones that I read consistently and they are thought provoking and interesting. Don’t know what I’d do if they just gave up. But every person has to ask themselves at some point is it worth it.
    Negativity really takes the love and enjoyment out of something I really like doing and putting my time into. I don’t want to be afraid to state my opinion and least of all attacked for my opinion. If it’s today or 10 years from now.
    thank you for giving us something to think about :)

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    Sometimes I’m glad I live in my own little bubble and don’t pay attention to what other people post — about me or otherwise. (Because some of my reviews can get brutally and harshly honest about what I thought.) People need to learn to grow up and understand that people have different opinions.

    Thanks for the post, Pam! :)

  6. Gravatar

    Here is an example of your subjective. I read the same book and I was into it. I didn’t even notice the punctuation, while some of the dialogue was a little dicey, I enjoyed how I get just getting pushed forward…until it ended with an “on the next episode”.

    I agree with the rest of your post, it is getting ridiculous. I keep my head down and I don’t speak up very often because I don’t like to be involved in ANY sort of drama but…when it gets to the point where my friends are afraid to speak thier mind…I have to say something. THanks for this post and please…do what you gotta do! Be yourself and don’t let anyone compromise that.

  7. Gravatar

    Pam, have you seen Beth Revis’s “How to Respond to Negative Reviews” post?

    it’s pretty awesome and great advice for authors :)

    http://bethrevis.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-respond-to-negative-reviews.html

  8. Gravatar

    I’m glad you wrote this post, Pam. I’ve only recently gotten into the book blogging biz, and I try and join blog tours and stuff to get networked but then I get these e-mails saying that if I have a negative review, to notify the person running the tour to be reassigned to some other task rather than posting it.

    It’s made me wonder more than once whether I should ever write negative reviews, whether it’d affect my readership or clout in the book blogging world. I have dealt with it in other platforms – I already review statues/figures and other media like movies and TV shows, and when I write negative reviews I get some oddball responses. I’ve even had a reader demand a public apology from a site I write for (we didn’t give one) for stating I disliked a particular cartoon character. I get people commenting on my not-so-positive regular posts asking why someone who clearly doesn’t like the subject is being assigned such posts.

    I have dealt with it up until now, but I’m not sure if it’ll be the same with book bloggers and authors because they’re individuals, not whole teams of people working on a show or whole factories/manufacturers working on a comic statue that made something I criticized.

    This has been my solution so far: Whenever I have negative views on a book, I turn my “review” into a “response post” and write out my issues with it in a way that I feel makes the whole thing look more subjective than “official” in terms of labeling. There has only been one instance in the past few months that I’ve skipped a review/response altogether because it’s one of those “this author can do no wrong” situations and I simply didn’t like the book, and don’t know how to approach my response to it.

    So, I’m glad someone wrote this post.

  9. Gravatar

    Thank you so much for this post, and for also including this:
    “Stop harping on people who only want to review positively.” I am one of those people. I wrote a blog post full of reasons why, actually. I fully support the decision of those who want to post negative reviews, I just don’t feel the need to do it myself. And it gets rather wearisome hearing that my head is in the rainbow and unicorn clouds or that I’m not a “real” blogger. Sigh. Why can’t we all just get along, bloggers and authors alike? My rainbows and unicorns get along just fine… ;)

  10. Gravatar

    I’m going to disagree with your advice to authors about Google and Goodreads. I’ve managed to stay active on GR without losing my cool. The more negative reviews I read, the easier it gets. And I’ve learned a lot of important stuff. So ignoring criticism isn’t the best solution for every author. Learning how to accept it gracefully (or just silently) is a better lesson, perhaps.

  11. Gravatar

    I’m so happy you wrote about this! Over the past few months I’ve heard more and more about battles between authors and the people who take the time to review their books. In a way, I feel as though it’s necessary for aspiring authors to know that published books don’t always appeal to everyone, because it helps with the querying process. One book won’t be right for EVERY agent, just like not everyone will love the same book. It’s just how life works.

    I will always enjoy reading a review, so long as the reviewer has given the book a fair chance. So review on, Pam!

  12. Gravatar

    “Reading is fucking SUBJECTIVE. We are not all going to love the same books. We are not all going to love every book we read.”

    Amen. :)

  13. Gravatar

    [...] (which you can read about here) brought this issue up in the blog and Twitter-sphere yesterday. Pam van Hylckama, an agent at Larsen Pomada and runner of the Bookalicious blog, and best-selling YA author Beth [...]

  14. Gravatar

    My blog is my journal and a way to express my sentiments and feelings regarding reading, books, libraries, and issues affecting all of the previous. It’s my little soap box in the interwebs.

    First Amendment says I have a right to have a voice and use it. Not that it has to be heard. If people don’t like it, walk away. Click that back button…whatev’s.

    I try hard not to be mean or judgmental. I doubt I’ve ever come across that way. Snark is not in my DNA, however, I live vicariously through those like you who I applaud regularly for grabbing their First Amendment right by the hand and taking it for a ride on the tallest, curviest, scariest ride at the amusement park and let us enjoy the thrill of your opinions.

    Reading is subjective as you noted. You cannot please all the people all the time and you can’t demand their praise either.

    And for bloggers/reviewers who worry about things so much they never take one side or the other and just try to stay middle of the road . . . they accomplish nothing but getting run over by those speeding down the opinionated freeway and becoming a road kill pancake.

    Not that those opinions have to be rude. But at least have the cajones to have them, share them, defend them, and even take them back if you feel you were wrong. It happens.

    I love co-existing with you here on the webs, thanks for sticking it out. I would miss you…a lot.

  15. Gravatar

    With all of the drama, I grew out of love with reading for a while. I took a break for 6 weeks and am just going back to what I was doing before — reading the books I want to read and reviewing them on my blog. I felt like I was afraid to write anything overly negative about a book — especially if it was a review book that was given to me from the publisher. But you’re right! Reading is subjective and I shouldn’t be afraid to voice my opinion.

    Great post!

  16. Gravatar

    Some time ago I also wrote an “Open Letter to (fellow) Authors” about the way they respond to negative reviews. Pam’s great post above reminded me of it a lot. It’s at the link below, for whoever is interested. Just so you know that not all authors are idiots. Well. You probably know that. But so many are, I think it bears reminding.

    http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/blog/2011/4/3/an-open-letter-to-authors.html

  17. Gravatar

    Oh…Nt to take up too much space here, but I also said, in another post in defense of bloggers:

    “The most snarky, nasty review I ever got was from Time Magazine. Anybody want to go tell them it was unprofessional, and they should find something nice to say about the books they review? I’d do it myself, but I’m allergic to caustic laughter.”

    That reminded me so much of Pam’s first point of advice to authors. Full post here (only) if interested:

    http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/blog/2011/2/5/more-about-book-bloggers.html

  18. Gravatar

    hey,
    i would like to know the looks(appearance) of Solange and Lucy for my english…………tht would really appreciated…………
    thnxxxxxxxxxx

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