I’m one of those writers who likes to know what’s going on in the publishing world, but a recent article in Guardian.co.uk caught me by surprise, and then it bothered me a little.
The article is about hostile responses to a negative book review. Apparently, one incident in particular recently invaded Goodreads and Twitter. I love Goodreads. It’s a wonderful place for readers and writers to gather and share a love of books, and although I only belong to a handful of groups, I’ve never seem flame wars erupt there, but it seems at least one has happened lately. The war apparently spilled onto Twitter where authors and even agents have also stepped into the fray.
According to the article, a much-hyped young adult novel called Tempest by Julia Cross received a negative review, which caused the author’s friends to put down the review and the reviewer. Even the author’s agent offered up comments. Their responses caused more backlash from readers until all hell broke loose on the forums, resulting in reader and review bashing on both sides. The article makes it clear that the author at the center of all this responded gracefully.
I want to reflect on reviews in general. First there’s a difference between a negative review and a bad review. In my mind, a bad review is a poorly written condemnation (or the exact opposite) that misses the point of the work, but caters to the reviewer’s agenda. Bad reviews, if totally off the wall, can be removed from places like amazon, if one is so inclined.
But why respond to negative reviews? Aren’t they simply one person’s opinion? Maybe some reviews will hurt sales, but maybe they’ll help. There is some merit to the line, “a bad review is better than no review at all”, and I know indie authors who’ve garnered impressive sales numbers, reviews notwithstanding.
The bottom line is do you want to harm your reputation as a reviewer, author, publisher, or agent by jumping into these types of name-calling squabbles? Is it worth it to create the kind of bad blood that will make future readers not want to buy your books, or read your reviews? Sure, lots of opinions on the Net are irritating. If we feel compelled to reply, shouldn’t we at least take time to think carefully before we reply? As the article demonstrates, words are powerful. Let’s use them wisely.
You can find the whole article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/16/ya-novel-readers-publishing-establishment
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