The Daydreamer’s Ramblings is something new I’m going to try here at Ramblings of a Daydreamer. It will range from discussion posts to rants to raves about my favorite things. I had originally thought of calling it ‘From the Author’s Perspective’, because I feel that I might have a bit of a unique perspective, being both an author and a book blogger. Most authors these days are bloggers, but few are book bloggers, so I thought I might take that perspective and talk about issues that bloggers are concerned with, but from the perspective of an author. I might still do that, but it will fall under the umbrella of The Daydreamer’s Ramblings, rather than having a bunch of different features to confuse you all!
Check out the first Daydreamer's Ramblings discussion about reviews and star ratings.
I think by now most bloggers are aware of the big hoopla that went down on GoodReads a few months ago when authors were leaving snarky comments on negative reviews. The blogging community, as well as much of the writing community, was in an uproar, and many questions were asked - as a blogger, can you really consider yourself a ‘reviewer’? Should some people tone down their reviews and be less nasty? Does anyone have the right to attack an author in their review? Do authors have a right to leave hurtful comments on reviews?
At the time, I sort of just sat back and shook my head. I didn’t actually see any of the offensive comments, but I heard about it on Twitter, Facebook, and on multiple blogs. I was disgusted that authors would attack bloggers, but I also know some bloggers who are unnecessarily bitchy in their reviews. I felt there were enough people weighing in on the subject without adding my two cents, but now that the chaos has settled there are a few things I want to say, and I’d like to hear your opinions as well.
The whole point of being a blogger is to share your thoughts and opinions, whether it’s on books, movies, celebrities, or life in general. That’s part of why blogging is so popular - it’s a platform for us to express ourselves and our interests. I’ve heard countless book bloggers say they don’t have many friends in ‘real life’ who enjoy reading, so the blogging community has been a godsend for them because they get to share their love of books with people who understand the obsession.
That being said, I can respect people sharing their honest thoughts and opinions about a book, and I can even handle a little good-humoured snark once in awhile, but what I hate is people who clearly have a stick shoved so far up their you-know-what that they can’t share their opinion without sounding like a nasty, condescending know-it-all.
As an author, I depend on reviews to sell my book. At first, I read every single review that was written for Blue Sky Days, because I wanted to see what people were saying about my baby. When an author says they put blood, sweat, and tears into a book, they’re not kidding. After all of that, plus months of hard work, worries, and fears, I sent my baby out into the world for people to love or hate, admire or rip to shreds. I knew that going in. In general, I’m a very sensitive person, but I knew I’d have to develop a thick skin to deal with some of the reviews, and I think I’ve done a good job of doing that. It’s a process, like anything else.
I’ve had a few negative reviews of the book. Some are extremely negative, some have said the book just wasn’t for them, and some have provided constructive criticism, which I can take and work on. Those opinions, when presented in a respectful way, are appreciated and I do take them to heart - I’ve been working on those things in my next book. But even if there’s something I completely disagree with in a review, I bite my tongue, because I don’t feel it’s my place - or anyone else’s place - to tell a reviewer that their opinion is wrong.
During the Blue Sky Days blog tour, I commented on every single review and thanked the blogger, even when their review was negative, because I appreciated the fact that they took the time to read the book. Have there been times when I wanted to rip a reviewer to shreds? Absolutely. One such case was a reviewer who said the cancer storyline in Blue Sky Days didn’t cause ‘the reader’ (not just the reviewer herself - she was taking it upon herself to assume that all readers would feel this way) to feel a deep enough pain, and that it wasn’t powerful enough. This was the only comment so far that has made me livid. Like seeing red livid. I can respect people’s opinions - we’re all entitled to our own. If a person doesn’t like my book, that’s their prerogative, and I can accept that. We don’t all have the same tastes and we don’t all like the same things. But this, I took personally.
I kept my thoughts (read: extreme rage) to myself, and thanked the blogger for taking the time to read the book, but in my head, my response went a little something like this:
I’m so very sorry that my own real life pain at having watched someone I love waste away for two years and suffer immeasurably wasn’t raw enough for you. I poured my heart and soul out, and if you’ve never been through that experience yourself, you have no idea what it’s like to not only live it, but as an artist, to relive it for the sake of your art. I ripped myself open and bled the words onto the page, and it nearly killed me - all that agony, all that pain, all that heartache and fear. But I’m sorry that wasn’t ‘powerful’ or ‘raw’ or ‘heart-shattering’ enough for you. I'd like to see you do better.
**Note: Since this is primarily a YA blog, I feel quite proud of myself for keeping that rant G-rated because it sounded a lot different in my head.**
But these are the things I’m not allowed to say to a reviewer because I’m the one who would look like a jerk, even though it’s perfectly clear to me - and I’m sure to plenty of other people - that some reviewers don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. And I don’t just mean in the case of my own book - it’s fine if this blogger felt that way, but come on, we all know at least one reviewer who’s completely over-the-top or obviously has no clue what they’re talking about.
I can think of one reviewer in particular who gives a negative review to almost every single book she reads. All the books in the world cannot possibly be that bad! How does a person come to have such high standards that everything they read sucks so much? Why would you continue being a reader, let alone a reviewer, if everything you read is so unsatisfying? I also happen to know that this same person has been attacked repeatedly by authors (as well as fellow bloggers...interesting, yes?).
Some reviewers are harsh. Some are unnecessarily harsh. Some pick at every little thing. Do I think some bloggers take themselves way too seriously? You bet your ass I do. Get over yourself! Have you written your own book? Have you gone through the excruciating process of prodding the muse and pulling words from your heart and mind? Have you sent your precious little baby out into the world for others to judge and ridicule and rip apart? No? Come talk to me when you have actually done that, and then tell me how you feel about people who write nasty reviews.
If a reviewer is stating their opinion about the book itself, great, that’s what a review is. I can respect your opinion, even if I disagree. What I don't think is acceptable is when an author decides to rip a reviewer apart for sharing their honest feelings, even if they were harsh. Authors who bite back not only lose respect, they also lose the support of the reader. I know that if I wrote a review and an author got nasty with me, I’d never read one of their books again.
Is it worth damaging your reputation because you have hurt feelings? I really don’t think so. If it is, you’re in the wrong business and you should get a job where nobody will ever state their opinion or tell you when you do something they don’t like. Good luck with that.
On the flip side of that, for bloggers: do you want to risk your reputation as a reviewer by being consistently vicious or contrary? The blogger I mentioned before, who seems to hate every book she’s read - I no longer read her reviews, because I don’t respect her opinion anymore. She seems to enjoy being purposely negative, and that just doesn't fly with me. Do you really want people to stop reading your reviews? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of being a reviewer?
What do you think? Have you ever had an author leave a nasty comment on one of your reviews? Do you think you’ve ever been too harsh in a review? How do you feel about reviews that are overly negative, or that attack authors? Have you ever stopped reading someone's reviews because they were overly harsh and critical?