Reviewers, Authors, and the Ice Cream War
By Julie Butcher-Fedynich
I leave the internet alone with you people for a couple of weeks and all heck breaks loose. The vitriol I’ve been reading for the past few days may have burned little holes in my brain. The invisible war between writers and reviewers went from a ghostly whisper to a full-blown corporeal monster.
2012 may well be the end of the world, but when the Mayans made their prediction, I didn’t think the apocalypse would be brought to term in a tsunami of hissy-fits. Writers, it doesn’t matter that your vocabulary is a big as Webster’s when you post rebuttals to a less than stellar book review. A hissy-fit is a hissy fit and every man, woman, and yes, child, who reads your words, knows the truth.
Name calling, personal digs, and rampant mayhem troll book review sites. With the fierce teeth of a mother bear protecting her cub, writers tear into reviews, and then into reviewers. Newsflash people: Your book is not your baby. It is a story. Sure it’s your story, but it is a product of your imagination, not the fruit of your loins. No one called your kid ugly.
Writers provide a product that they hope to sell. We write stories and wish for the brass ring. One in a gerjillion manages to grab hold and ride the rocket to the top of the charts. Let’s get one thing straight. Thousands, or hundreds of thousands of small actions need to align in order to put the ring within the writer’s reach. One review absolutely cannot stop the flow. Answering the review can and will put you forever in the reader’s mind as a spoiled two-year-old kicking and screaming on the kitchen floor.
The internet is forever sweeties.
When you start out as a beginning writer, your goal is to get someone, anyone to read your stuff. After you develop a voice, your writing is cleaner and faster paced. But, it has a distinct flavor. Think about it like ice cream. Maybe you made strawberry. Maybe the reviewer loves chocolate-mocha-coconut-ripple and only likes Strawberry on every other Saturday.
Also, you may have made booger ice cream.
Author Josephine Damian said: “Writers need to realize they get the reviews they deserve and be grateful someone took the time to not only read their book but write about it.”
Reviewers do not write their book reviews for authors. Their sole purpose is to inform readers. They have opinions, they write their views. Authors, if in your Natzi-fied, restricted, worldview, there is no room for a descanting voice, you seriously need to ungoogle your name and stay away from reviews of your work.
You cannot control anyone’s opinion of your book All you can do is toil to make your words and plot as real and as interesting as possible. If you write chocolate, the vanilla contingent will not want your precious story. You can’t make them change their favorite flavor with the bulldozer of your will.
Jack Vaught, a friend of mine since kindergarten, says “The key to it should be maturity and honesty. An accomplished author should be able to weather a bad review and keep charging along, and a good reviewer should be able to write as many bad reviews as are warranted and also keep plugging away.”
So why do so many authors make the Big Stinko online? They snap, and flush years of hard work down the toilet of fail. Most reviewers are nice people who really want to love your book.
“I’ve been a reviewer for five years now and I actually like it when an author answers back. Not nastily, of course (absolutely avoiding any personal insults, which I avoid in my reviews as well.) I like knowing they’ve seen my review, especially if I adored the book. I’m okay with answering questions, maybe because I’m an author as well and useful opinions are hard to get! Also when I give a less than glowing review and the author thanks me anyway…I automatically try that author again because grace and class should be rewarded!
As a former bookseller as well I can tell you we DO still recommend and sell books that we didn’t completely fall in love with, because any good book gal knows that it’s not about what you want to read, it’s about what the person you’re recommending the book to wants to read.”
Review Editor MonsterLibrarian.com & Reading Bites
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best writer in the world. Asshattery will cost you sales, future reviews, and a ton of people who long to be your friends and fans. If you absolutely must answer a bad review, simply write “Thank you for your time.” That person shared a part of their life with you. Time is a precious gift. Anyone in publishing knows that time is the rarest commodity available. Authors, Agents, Editors, and Reviewers squeeze minutes like a miser pinches pennies. Any gift of life you receive should be appreciated.
I went through this week’s New York Times Hardcover Best Sellers list looking for bad reviews. The #1 hardcover was GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. On Amazon, there are sixty, one-star reviews. “I kept reading through all the drawn-out, detailed story for the sole purpose of seeing how justice is dealt. The ending is simply ridiculous because it does not match anything that the story leads up to. This poorly thought-out ending ruined anything I did like about this book.”
On Amazon, #2 THE NEXT BEST THING by Jennifer Weiner, has six, one-star reviews. “It could have been an interesting plot if the emotional relationships weren’t creepy.”
Reviewers have hit these authors upside the head and kicked them in the knees. And yet, they still managed to make the New York Times Bestseller list at position one and two. There has never been an author who didn’t get a bad review. Period. In fact, I would venture to say that if you do find an author with all five-star reviews, there’s either been a glitch, or they have a whole lot of writing friends.
Quit being a douche and go make your ice cream.
Written By Julie Butcher-Fedynich