Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TL:DR - Don't be a dick

I've made no secret of my opinion on the importance of book bloggers and book reviews in general (SPOILER: I love them to pieces like crumbles of awesome pie), so it probably doesn't come as a surprise that this whole mess involving thriller author Jon Stock and his practice of tracking down and "outing" people who leave him bad reviews makes me feel stabby. If you're interested in the whole sordid affair, Dear Author has an awesome write up including the aggrieved reviewer's side of the story and a breakdown of why Mr. Stock's argument that he hunts down people who didn't like his books in an effort to provide "customer service" is about as bullshitty as you would assume. I'm actually not going to go into this situation any further because Dear Author already said pretty much everything I'd want to, plus more I hadn't even thought of. I would, however, like to take a moment and talk about this mess from an author's perspective.

I love book reviews. I love them in theory, I love reading them, and I love what they do for sales. Counter intuitive as it sounds, even bad, awful, flaming reviews sell books. It's win all around! That said, (confession time) I don't actually pay that much attention to my reviews.

Now wait wait wait, don't get me wrong here! I read every single review I can find. I appreciate them all, the good ones that make my day and the bad ones that bum me out, and as an author I have taken reviewer complaints into account when writing future installments... THAT SAID, I'm a firm believer in not getting your panties in a wad over things you can't change, and since all book reviews are, by definition, beyond my ability to do anything about, I see absolutely no point in getting upset over them.

You see, by the time reviews start coming in for a book, it's done for me. The story has printed and is now out in the wild, and even if a reviewer brings up an amazing point that I really should have thought of, I can't do shit about it. That ship has sailed.

This is how it should be, because book reviews aren't there to help the author, they're there to help readers decide if this book is right for them. To put it more plainly, it ain't about me. It's about the book and the reader and the reviewer's opinion. Therefore, for me, as an author, to track down a reviewer so I can tell them how their opinion is wrong is so pointless, aggressive, and insecure I can't even begin to contemplate it.

Tracking down a reviewer who gave you a bad review is like calling an agent who rejected your book to tell them how wrong they were. Not only is it rude, it's actively counter to your objective to sell a book, whether to a publishing house or a reader. Let's say you read a book you hated and posted a review explaining why to warn others, would you want the author coming to you trying to explain how you're wrong? Of course not. You'd think that person was crazy.

Now, this isn't to say you can't think the reviewer/agent/whoever is wrong. You are entitled to your opinion, just as the reviewer is entitled to theirs. But you are not entitled to act like a creep and go all vigilante on a bad reviewer who was simply expressing their opinion freely.

On some level, I can understand why authors like Mr. Stock do what they do. It sucks to put so much time and effort and love into a project only to have someone rip it to shreds. It's hard not to take it personally, but here's the thing: if you're going to be an author, and you're going to read reviews, then coping with criticism like a mature individual is a skill you will have to learn. No book is universally loved. If you have written a novel, someone out there thinks it sucks. That's the writing life, folks, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

At the end of the day, a writer's only job is to write the best books they can. Lovely as they are, book reviews have very little to do with this. In fact, it would probably be better is authors didn't read their reviews at all, but we do. And that's fine, so long as we keep things in the proper perspective and remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it's your opinion that their opinion sucks. If you can't handle that, then just don't read your reviews. But whatever you do, don't be a dick. ESPECIALLY don't be a dick online where everything is easily recorded for posterity. If you do, people will know your name for exactly the wrong reasons, as Mr. Stock is undoubtedly experiencing right now.


Anonymous said...

You think that's bad? Check out this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victoria-foyt/judging-a-book-by-its-cov_1_b_1721066.html

It's basically Victoria Foyt defending her book (which, I think, isn't that great) and calling her reviewers (the ones that gave her bad reviews or one stars) racist. Isn't that nice? XD

Paul Weimer said...

At the end of the day, a writer's only job is to write the best books they can.

I'm not sure, Rachel, that's entirely true anymore, in the world where authors need to be promoters and publicists as much as writers.

Ruth Madison said...

I completely agree!

Reviewers need to be able to freely express their opinion and experience of a book.

It's better that they do that so new readers will have an idea of whether they would like the book. If you don't have reviews warning off the people who won't like it, then you just have more people telling their friends how much you suck as a writer.

Ciara Quinlan said...

"I'm not sure, Rachel, that's entirely true anymore, in the world where authors need to be promoters and publicists as much as writers."

I understand what you mean Paul but isn't the best way to do this by writing the best book you can and then write an even better one?

I also don't like the fact that he's so proud about 'outing' a woman and doesn't share his encounters with other men...if there are any.

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