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2021 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (4)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut (1)
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (4)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine
- Maryland (1)
- Massachusetts (1)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico
- New York (4)
- North Carolina (1)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee
- Texas (1)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming (1)
- *Washington, D.C.

Australia (2)
Canada (3)
England (6)
France (1)
Ireland (1)
Switzerland (1)
The Philippines (1)
Wales (1)

My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2021 Fall Into Reading Challenge

My Progress:

0 / 24 books. 0% done!

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
(Hosted by Yours Truly!)

My Progress:

6 / 25 books. 24% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:

33 / 50 books. 66% done!

Booklist Queen's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

35 / 52 books. 67% done!

2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

The 52 Club's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

39 / 52 books. 75% done!
Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mean Girl?

I've been mulling over the topic of negative reviews—both the writing of them and the receiving of them—for a while now, wondering if I really wanted to address the issue and just how many people I might offend in the process. Then, I thought, "What the heck?" I'm known in the book blogosphere for telling it like it is, so why shy away now? Here you have it, then, my unfiltered opinion on a subject that affects all authors and reviewers: negative reviews.

First of all, I have to say that we book bloggers do what we do because we love books. We love reading them, we love promoting them, and we especially love discussing them with friends, family, neighbors, even random strangers at the dentist's office. We spend our free time (because, remember, no one's paying us to do this) analyzing what we read so that we can spend even more of our free time typing up a review, replying to reader comments and emailing links around to authors/publishers/publicists. Doing this takes time. Lots of time. Time that could be spent on family, friends, sleep, housework or myriad other things. Why would anyone do such a thing? Simple: We love books.

Why, then, do we sometimes trash them in so public a manner? I can't answer for every book blogger, but I can explain my own rationale and here it is: reading a book requires the expenditure of time and, often, money. Because both are precious, readers want to know if a certain book is worth it. My job, as I see it, is to answer this question for them. The best way I can do that is to evaluate the book in-depth, asking the same things I would of any other product—Did it work for me? Did it live up to its hype? Was it well-crafted or hastily thrown together? Did it fulfill its intended function? Am I happy that I bought/used it? Giving glossed-over or half-baked answers doesn't help me or anyone else. So, I say exactly what I think, because even though it's just my opinion, that's the reason people come to my blog in the first place.

Now, what I call honesty, many people (including this author) call mean. For this reason, lots of book bloggers opt not to publish negative reviews at all. While I understand their decision, I don't agree with it. I don't want to waste my valuable time on books rife with dull characters, stilted dialogue, flat writing, glaring copyediting errors, etc. Neither do my readers. Just as I rely on straight-talking reviewers to steer me away from lousy reads, my readers depend on me. I refuse to let them down. So, I'm honest. Fair (at least I think so), but always, always honest.

Because of my conviction that honesty-is-the-best-policy, I often write things that could be construed as mean. Especially if you happen to be the author I accuse of creating a boring cast, drab scenery or a plot so holey it could rival Swiss cheese for ... you know, holey-ness. I get that books are authors' babies. I get that criticism can hurt. I get that me giving a book a "D" might make its author want to punch me in the nose. Believe me, I get it. But when a "baby" is made public and its "parent" is asking people to spend their precious time and money on a product that may or may not be worth it, it's only fair to expect people to evaluate it and share their feelings—however positive or negative—with other would-be customers. My evaluation of a book may make a writer spitting mad, but I'd rather have them upset with me than to have one of my readers say, "Why did you lie to me? I trusted you."

Just as book bloggers struggle with the question of whether or not to post negative reviews, I know authors wrestle with how to react to them. Should they shoot off a nasty email to the blogger, letting him/her know exactly where he/she can stick his/her review? Should they post their own nasty comments on the reviewer's blog so that everyone reading it can see just how much the writer's been wronged? Or, even better, should an author write their own post, publicly shaming book bloggers and their mothers, too? Should authors call attention to a negative review? Ignore it? Laugh about it? What's the most appropriate response?

Well, that depends on how much a writer cares about his/her career. I know it's a terrible double standard, but the fact is, if an author wants to succeed, the best thing for him/her to do is to take negative reviews in stride. They happen. Reacting in an outraged and public manner will only paint an author as a thin-skinned whiner, losing them readers while, at the same time, gaining the reviewer followers (because who doesn't love a good drama?). Even if the blogger's attack is vicious and unfounded, it's probably best to just let the review slide and move on. A terrible double standard, I agree, but that's the way it is.

Does this give book bloggers license to say whatever they want? Of course not. Professional writing (many published authors, of course, argue that blogging does not qualify as "real" writing, which makes me wonder why, then, they care so much about negative reviews written by hacks like us?), in my opinion, should be respectful, well-founded and, above all, fair. If I say a book is dull, I explain why. If I cite bumpy writing, a bumbling plot or characters who are paper-doll flat, I try to back myself up with examples. If I give a book a D, you better believe I've got my reasons.

Speaking of my reasons, let me make one last point: A review is simply one person's evaluation of a product. Maybe you agree with their opinion, maybe you don't. I can't count the number of times people have responded to a less-than-favorable review I wrote by saying, "I know you didn't like this book, but I'm going to go ahead and try it," or "You might have loved this one, but I couldn't stand it." Which is fine—wonderful, even—since I always dig a lively book discussion. My point is that I don't think negative book reviews do nearly as much damage as some people think they do. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there's really something to that old adage about any publicity being good publicity. I mean, would authors rather deal with negative reviews or no reviews at all?

So, here's my advice for authors: Remember that a book review is an evaluation of a product, not a person, and that reacting to a negative one in a public way does more damage to your career than good. And for bloggers: Regardless of what anyone says, you hold a lot of power in those little fingers of yours. Use it to promote books in a way that's engaging, honest and fair. Together, we can blast the world with book love, while, at the same time, promoting a community where the free exchange of ideas/opinions leads readers to books they'll love, resulting in writers getting attention from fans who are devoted and sincere. Because, really, isn't that what we all want?

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