The wonderful review blog The Book Smugglers this morning tweeted something that caught my eye:
“This whole thing with authors tracking down reviewers is fucking scary but also so ridiculous, I can’t even.”
I expanded the Twitter feed and found they were referring to a blog posting from Dear Author entitled : “Ladysplaining the Value of A Literary Culture for Commercial Fiction”. It’s a great piece about the need for trust and respect between authors and reviewers. What sparked this posting? Well, this.
It’s a polite enough piece written by author Jon Stock chronicling why he took it upon himself to seek out an Amazon reviewer that he didn’t agree with. Stock writes:
To be fair to my latest Amazon reviewer, she is not your average punter. She is a professor of English at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and her review was 700 words of well-reasoned, if flawed, criticism. I know this because I tracked her down. Without wishing to sound like a serial killer, I track down all my hostile reviewers, sooner or later, particularly the anonymous ones (although I’m still working on “FleetStreetMan”). In this age of “sock puppetry”, when authors attack each other online under false names, it’s a necessary part of the job.
A necessary part of the job? Granted, I’m no commercial fiction superstar but the very notion of contacting a reviewer because I didn’t like the headline for their review or the review itself has never once crossed my mind. And yet time and time again, we’re seeing this happening. I’ve argued before that 2012 seems to be the year that authors lost their shit with reviewers. But what strikes me about Stock’s opinion piece in The Telegraph is that nobody at the newspaper seemed to think that it might be just a little bit strange for an author to contact a reviewer in the first place.
Like … seriously. WTF is going on here? Stock seems to justify contacting the reviewer, who he admits used her real name in the review and left contact information, by suggesting that “you just can’t be too sure if an author is attacking you under an assumed name” as opposed to being perhaps a bit ticked that the headline for the review might have rubbed him the wrong way. (“Stock: misogynist and serial killer”)
Perhaps authors losing their shit in 2012 is the direct result of the sheer dominance of Amazon as a venue to buy books. Perhaps it’s because book promotion is being dumped onto the shoulders of authors by publishers who are struggling to make financial ends meet. Perhaps it’s sheer vanity.
You know, I’ve had bad reviews for my books. I’ll continue to get bad reviews. Whatever – that comes with the territory when you put yourself out to the universe. Writing books is a deeply personal thing – we authors pour our hearts out into our works-in-progress and we want to make the reader smile. Yet more and more, we’re seeing authors taking it upon themselves to police what they believe to be unfair reviews and for the life of me, I’m just not getting it.
I think the Dear Author posting is a step in the right direction, but first authors need to decide what’s more important – the writing or the reviews. Me? I don’t write for reviews. I write because I need to write, it’s as simple as that. Were I not published, I would still write because it’s how I’m hard wired. I’m blessed to have four published works and a fifth hitting book stores in 2013. One of the nice things about being published is interacting with people who love your books – I do this primarily via Twitter. Occasionally I will meet bloggers who’ve reviewed my books – like I did during my recent trip to London. But it’s book-related relationship based on two things: my love of writing and their love of books. At the heart of this is something that I’m starting to wonder is lost on a growing number of authors who’ve lost their shit at reviewers: I have a right to produce books that I want to write and, believe it or not, reviewers have a right to express their point of view.
I’m mindful of the fact that social media is something we’re all trying to understand. I’m mindful of the fact that thanks to Amazon, authors might feel they need those lovely little stars to promote their books – I get that. But contacting reviewers has to stop. If you want to lose your shit on your own author blog and write a three thousand word rant about an Amazon reviewer, you have that right. (It’s still authors losing their shit, BTW) You’ll wind up being eviscerated in the blogosphere if you choose to go that route, but it’s still your right. (I don’t recommend it.)
And yet this issue continues to happen – seemingly on a weekly basis. Word of advice to Stock and really to anyone who wants to get published: suck it up, sunshine. Grow a thick skin. Get used to bad reviews because it comes with the territory. Better yet, instead of contacting a reviewer to call them on what you perceive to be an unfair shot at your latest epic tome, why not channel your righteous indignation into, I don’t know, writing another book?
Yes there are sock puppets on Amazon. Yes there are reviewers who like nothing more than to slam an author’s latest book using the most inflammatory and vitriolic language available. But guess what? Most readers aren’t stupid. Most reviewers aren’t stupid either. Why not just sit back, take a deep breath and simply respect the right of the reviewer? It’s the nature of the business and if an author truly can’t control their shit, they need to get out of being a published author all together – it’s as simple as that.
Nuff said. Respect the reviewer. Get over it. Move one. Write another book and if you truly do feel the need to contact a reviewer, get some freaking help with that.