Book Reviewing Isn’t Simple – The Dark Truth of Author Bullying

A good review is not guaranteed. Bad reviews hurt (like a particularly bad burn) but reviewer abuse is not cool. I have been a reviewer and have struggled at the point where a bad review is inevitable. These days though I don’t solicit nor particularly accept books for review, and choosing to talk about only the books I want to talk about has been an immense stress relief. So usually if I’m writing about a book in my Blogger on Books series, it’s because I like it or found it interesting enough that I want to tell my readers about it even when this means telling what I assess doesn’t work well in it.

As a writer, I encourage reader, blogger, and professional critical engagement with my work knowing I might not like what I read (steeling myself to receive it). I’ve received poor rating and bad review – I put that in the singular because thankfully this hasn’t been plentiful. It isn’t fortune. I work hard on craft and crafting, and because I’m traditionally published my books also go through the ringer; and even then, apart from picking excerpts for presentation, I don’t usually read the books after they’ve been published because I know I’ll find something to nit pick about, some copy editing miss. I try to move on to the next book; I try to keep growing as a writer. I do read the reviews because part of my promotional model is using the positive reviews – including the reader reviews to push the work. But I never respond to the reviews though I have been invited to (by the publication), because, having been on both sides of this, I believe a reviewer should be free to engage with the work honestly and critically without the author looking over his/her shoulder. You’ve written the book, if you choose to engage with the review at all, and you don’t have to, read it, take it in, pick sense from nonsense, glean some insight, agree, don’t agree, dismiss – that’s our prerogative – but for the sake of all that is literary, leave the reviewer alone. You might think the reviewer is sub-par (doesn’t have the literary skills and tools needed to engage critically with the work) and it might even be true; I mean if writing/books can be sub-par, it follows that reviewers can be too – we are all human works-in-progress after all. But no reviewer has to read our work, whether paid to do so by a publication or doing so freely on their blog or wherever for the love of books. Give thanks. Keep it moving. Do not stalk, threaten, write a long diatribe explaining to the reviewer why they’re wrong – or if you do that, do it in private, cathartically, and then burn it. The note, not the reviewer. Repeat after me, do not burn your reviewers.

Finally, I engage with books as an editor, which means I’ve seen many books in their messy stage. I am honest with the author (not brutally honest – honesty doesn’t require cruelty but it does require candor). That’s what they pay me for, an honest assessment of the work, prescriptive advice re what could make the work better if it is at all possible. I’m not doing my job if I tell them “nice, nice” and let them put out something that simply isn’t ready or should not at all be in the public marketplace. That marketplace is a cruel space and the books that show up there better be at their best. So, I always respect the indie authors who take the time to get it right; and do my best to do right by the ones who trust me to edit their work. Where a publishing house outsources editing of a manuscript to me, I give it the same meticulous treatment.

When push comes to shove, whether wearing my editor, reviewer, or writer hat, I am a reader first and all I really want is a quality book, a story well told. And isn’t that what we all want?



*Ok, I’m honestly a little scared of posting this as I don’t want any more harassment from the wrong people…

The above picture pretty much sums up how I feel today.  I’m exhausted and drained from all the horrible things that have happened recently.  I’ve faced cold distant treatment, attacks on facebook and now I’ve been bullied privately, all because I wanted to be honest and help out an author.

Back in October I wrote this post A Tough Decision – Don’t blame the Book Blogger Blame Your Fellow Indies 😦 after facing a load of abuse from some indie authors.  In the post I talked about my tough decision to stop reviewing indie books, but several weeks later, after having only good communications, I took back my ‘no-indie’ policy and started receiving indie requests again.  BEFORE I go on I must point out that this post isn’t talking about all the…

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