Sunday 14 January 2018

Nerd Church - Yes, We Damn Well Need Fair Reviews

To my non-blogging readers (hi! don't leave! I neeeed you!!! 😉 Lol) and also my blogging readers who haven't seen the ripples on bookish Twitter lately, let me explain something:

There seems to be an attitude, at the moment, for authors to defame, abuse, harass, and denounce, book bloggers for giving them 'bad' reviews.

star made up of books

Now, I'm not going to go into the semantics and the 'he said, she said' of the thing. But I am going to make some comments regarding fair and critical reviews.

Because this isn't something that's new. It happens.

Unfortunately, it seems to be happening with increasing frequency, but that's another matter.

Those of us involved in the Diversity Movement are probably the least surprised. Diverse reviewers tend to be the first in the metaphorical firing-lines.

What puzzles me is that authors seem to believe they have the right to positive reviews?

No, you don't. Bloggers and other reviewers are, first and foremost, READERS. We respond to what we read. 

If we disliked a book? We're not going to lie about it. And believe me, we work just as hard as authors do. Authors do not deserve a positive review simply because they are authors.

I'm not talking about reviews that get unreasonably personal, or direct hatred against race, sexuality, disability, etc.

That kind of thing is simply unacceptable. And I'm not so naïve as to think it doesn't happen. It does.

But there are authors who take any and all criticism against their BOOK as criticism against THEM PERSONALLY.

And that's just not the case. I can adore you as a person, but really hate your book.

And, if anything, I'm purposely harsher on authors I know, or have had contact with, in order to combat any pro-author bias I might unknowingly write in. That doesn't mean I'm criticising THEM.

It's important that we, as reviewers, are honest.

We need the ability to discuss, to criticise, to praise, to scorn, and to just plain voice our opinions.

Silencing reviewers is silencing dissent. Silencing dissent is censorship. And that's supposed to be something that authors oppose.

Given the current world that we live in, dissent really shouldn't be something we cut off at the source.

If you are an author, you're going to have to accept that there will be times when reviewers don't like your book - for whatever freaking reason they want.

We have no obligation to authors, except to be fair and honest when reviewing your books.

Our main obligations are to ourselves - our own consciences - and to our readers.

Most book bloggers (the ones who care, anyway,) are ever-conscious of the potential consequences of our words.

Because many of us are devoted to our readers in the same way that authors should be devoted to their readers.

I want you guys, my dearest nerdlets, to find books that you enjoy; books that stretch and challenge you, but don't hurt you.

I want anyone who reads this blog to be able to find books that reflect them, and books that reflect others.

I want people to have all the information they need to make the decision that's right for them - to think for themselves, based on fair and open information.

I review. I'm not here to fawn over the egos of authors. I'm here for the readers, and for the books.

But I know of very few bloggers who would purposely harm an author's reputation unjustly.

If anything, most of us have a tendency to sugar-coat things, or not complain about people who can act like jerks. Because, my God, some authors act like freaking jerks.

Also, we reserve the right to NOT review every book we read.

I read around 210 books a year. I quite simply cannot be ar*ed to write a review for each and every one of them. I don't have the time, energy, or inclination.

I review the books I have been given review copies of. I review other books if I have the time and, y'know, want to. The end.

But authors who DEMAND reviews from their readers (and there are some,) or guilt-trip their readers ('you read this, so if you don't review it, it's like stealing!' Um... how?) will not get any reviews from yours truly.

If you want to ask for reviews, do so politely. A simple 'please consider,' or a reminder that reviews help authors, is plenty enough.

Do you really want someone who doesn't want to write a review for your book leaving one out there in Internet-land anyway?

To roughly summarise, then:

  • readers are not obligated to give authors anything but the price of the book at point of sale (not even that, if they've borrowed it.)

  • bloggers don't have to put up with this level of sh**

  • freedom of speech protects critique

  • everyone has a different opinion

  • acting like a jerk is not a good promo strategy

So, whatcha think my nerdlets? Are readers obligated to leave reviews? Should authors argue with negative reviews? Leave a comment and let me know!

You can follow me on Twitter @CeeArrBookNerd, on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin, and on Google+. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page

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  1. I totally agree with you, Cee! It is absolutely impossible for a blogger who reads over 100 books to review every single one in a reasonable timeframe. Also, if course we have to be honest in our reviews! If we could only say good things about a book, then what’s the point of putting up reviews?

    1. Preach! :) I only review a fraction of the books I read - but I just don't have the time or energy to do more (I already have a backlog dammit!)

  2. Cee, I genuinely feel very anxious about reviewing things on Goodreads. In general, as a total n00b when it comes to writing creatively, I understand the importance of feedback. But, I also recognize that sometimes it hurts to see yourself suck at something (I, I don't suck at writing. *hides all the papers with question marks about my rather weird writing*). Anyway, I think most reviewers are, like you said, very careful with their wording. (Hang on. I will sound like a fangirl in John Green once said that he views his writing as not "his." It's his while he is in the process of creating the text, but once it is out there, it is a personal experience for each reader. Some people connect with things, and others don't. I just have a problem with mob mentality in the book community, from authors and from book reviewers. We don't seem to like nuance very much. It's like, "Either the book gets 100% positive feedback or someone is lying!" Like, no, man, no! We all have an entirely unique essence and we react to things differently. Just, like, listen and respect people's opinions.
    *stacks papers*
    *removes soap box*

    1. I keep my Goodreads private - that's for several reasons, but one of the main ones is that GR gets so... intense, sometimes. And sometimes it's just plain full of drama!

      And you can totally fangirl around here as much as you like!

      And hopefully I add a li'l nuance here and there! Lol.

  3. I agree there are two sides. I understand that there are some reviewers who get personal and attack the author, who are just mean, who are bashing on books w/o reading them, etc. I can understand authors upset about that. But to get angry about negative reviews in general is not ok. Authors are absolutely not entitled to positive reviews only. They're not entitled to any reviews at all unless they have made an agreement with a reviewer and given them a review copy.

    And what you said about how acting like a jerk is not good promo strategy? That's what really baffles me. Like, even if they didn't see the moral problem w/ attacking reviewers, how have they not learned that it's only going to hurt their sales?

    There are a lot of great authors out there who accept criticism w/ grace. It's unfortunate that the few out there who don't are giving authors a bad rap and ruining things for everyone.

    1. So well put! I really have nothing to add! Lol. :)

  4. Hi, just stumbled on your blog as it followed mine on google's 'next' button! But yes as comic creators, we hope to receive honest reviews and feedback and luckily we've found a few out there that do that but sadly they're in the minority making us cherish them all the more. Our pet hate though is folk blagging free copies at conventions on a promise of a review, never to be heard of again, but that's just life. Good luck with your endeavours :)

    1. Well hello and welcome!

      People taking review copies they have no intention of reviewing is a no-no to most reviewers - we frown on that sort of thing!

      A lot of the time though, we will end up posting late reviews because life happens, or find that the thing we were intending to review is not quite a good fit for our blogs. If this happens, sometimes we won't review - although we'll try to contact the author/publisher to let them know, especially if it's an indie author.

      Honesty and fairness is integral to what we do - but unfortunately some people react v. badly when we point out things we didn't like about their book or comic. Some people won't write any negative reviews at all (another reason people end up not reviewing something!) but that tends to leave a skewed view of people's reading experiences, so I think it's important to be critical but fair :)

  5. I'm not sure that this is happening more recently, honestly---I just think there have been a few prominent cases of it that have been made obvious recently. I agree that we have to be honest when we review, though. It's hard not to cave to pressure sometimes, but critical reviews are important too!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. *shrugs* It's possible that I've just seen more of it recently - you've been blogging longer than I have!

      Yep, def. important to give an honest opinion, no matter what!

  6. Nope, no one HAS to review a book. And negative reviews can be good for their book too! If it's all positive reviews, I sometimes get skeptical and wonder what the game is. There usually is at least one negative review! And all reviews are opinions in the end, and those who read them know that. Sometimes I find books I love through other people's negative reviews because although they don't like something, it doesn't necessarily mean I won't.

    In my negative reviews it goes I didn't like this book because of this and this, but YOU might like it if you like this and this.

    REGARDLESS, negative reviews don't need a justification. It's about the book, and not about them. It can be hard when you've written something you want everyone to love, but in general life doesn't work like that...

    1. So much greatness in this comment!

      How are you so smart?! Sometimes I swear it's not fair ;)

      I totally agree - if a book has a ton of reviews (instead of like, 2 or 3,) and they are *all* glowing... something fishy going on there!

  7. Great post Cee. I guess I have been lucky I haven't run into a author that has not taken well a bad review but I've heard many reviewers talking about this. I was wondering what would be your opinion of a review like this though

    "I'm against burning books.
    People should have access to any book they want. I'm just not sure what people would use this book for? I hope they rip out the pages and blow their noses or wipe their private parts because - to be honest - it's sad to see paper wasted like this, so at least they're putting it to good use in the end.

    P.S.: Toilet paper has a better plot though AND isn't sexist so if you consider buying this or toilet paper alway be safe and choose the latter."

    It received many negative comments [on GR] because people though it was disrespectful. I liked the responses the reviewer gave to the commentators which explain why she didn't like the book [it's sexist and romanticizes abuse] but I wasn't too sure about the review per se. I don't think I would write a review like that no matter how upset I was with the book.

    1. I think it's a little harsh/crass (and in no way made me giggle *shifty glances*)

      I wouldn't ever write something like - it's just not in me to be that mean. But neither am I going to tell people *not* to write reviews like that - that's they're business. Where things would get even worse is if the author responded - authors need to just let it be, no matter how mean it is.

      (Again, unless someone's being clearly racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Then the rules are forfeit!)


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