Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Do Author Freakouts Chill Negative Book Reviews?
There's been a lot of talk about book reviews on ye olde intarnets this last week. A YA author got a bad review and lost her temper in a truly spectacular fashion (oh snap, she wisely took that page down). This prompted another round of back and forth about who reviews are for (they're for readers, yo) and whether authors should respond to reviews (probably not). One of the things that I found unfortunate about this entire thing, however, was the contingent of people who said they simply don't review books they don't like. I can't help feeling like this sort of author freakout chills negative reviews, which is a bad thing for all of us readers.
So heads up, book bloggers: Not only is it okay to post negative reviews, it's also a critical part of your job.
Now, mind you, we do a few book reviews here, but we aren't a review site. I'm talking about sites like All Things Urban Fantasy or Wicked Lil' Pixie. Both of those sites tell you exactly how it is and pull no punches about the good, the bad, and the ugly in every book they review. That's why I read them and I recommend them to you. I've found that my taste in books runs pretty similar to WLP's, so I pay special attention to her reviews. If she likes something, chances are I will, too. If she doesn't, chances are I won't.
Not everyone is as blunt or assertive as the reviewers on the aforementioned sites, however, and I was taken aback by how many bloggers talked about not even mentioning books they don't like. It makes me wonder if the Author Freakout is actually a pretty good way to crack down on negative reviews. I think most people would be terribly upset and/or furious if they wrote a review of a book and an author picked it apart with bitter fury as only a professional writer can. How many people who were tempted to review a less-than-beloved book read the latest freakout and decided to simply not say anything at all?
Personally, if I thought a bad review of mine would prompt a profanity-laden freakout, I'd find that hilarious and also sad; I try not to be overly mean in any reviews, but I'm not afraid to hand out the Dramatic Chipmunk if you've earned it. I looked at the reviews I've written for Stellar Four and it's mostly praise of books I loved. This is because I read for pleasure, and if something sucks, I find that displeasing. I tend to put down books I don't like. It's tough to review something that you didn't actually finish.
It occurs to me that my approach is probably not the greatest. If I'm willing to tell you what I love, I should probably also tell you what sucked and why. That way, if you have tastes similar to mine, you won't spend money on that book. That's a big benefit of a negative review - you can help guide your fellow readers away from the suck. Alternatively, if you have spent money on that book and you also hated it, we can commiserate. And, hey, if you like a book I hated, it's always neat to hear why. Sometimes, I change my mind after reading another person's rebuttal to a review of mine, and that's the coolest of all.
One more thing. It's possible to write a negative review without being an asshole. WLP is especially good at this. She gets her point across without ever being mean or unprofessional. If you hate a book so much you can't review it without descending into assholery, then you have my permission to skip reviewing that one. Otherwise, if you can't say something nice, come sit over here next to me. We'll kvetch together, my friend.