AUTHORS AND NEGATIVE REVIEWS

Urg...just urg! Okay, so I recently (very recently) read a self published story that I really found a lot of problems with. I rated the book two stars and wrote a negative review. I pointed out what I felt to be really off with the story, and yes, I was sarcastic in my review because I was just dumbfounded by the story. You can read my review here.

Of course every author thinks they have a five star book, otherwise what would be the point of publishing it? Some authors take criticism better than others. This particular author felt the need to defend her writing. She felt my review was "mean spirited" and an "unfair assessment" of her writing. She went on to imply I either had a "bad day" or an "agenda". Really? Here is the initial email sent to me by the author:

"Hi, Cynthia!  I just saw your review.  Thanks for reading it  and doing a review.  Appreciate your taking the time to do it.  Sorry you did not enjoy it.   The review was brutal and, in part, I feel  it was a pretty unfair assessment of my writing.   I can accept that you did not like it, although I wish you had expressed your opinion in a less mean-spirited and hurtful way.   But that aside,  I'm hoping that you did not intend to spoil the story for others (it is a suspense after all) by putting in all the spoilers you did in your review and giving away various plot twists.   As I said, I don't think you meant to do that and I don't believe you have/had any other agenda/intention other than to do a review.    Sorry if the tone of this email seems negative, but when someone stomps on you and your work, it's pretty upsetting.   Can't say that I understand where you're coming from.  Bad day today perhaps?  I can understand that.  We all have them.

I ask that you reconsider removing all the spoilers at least.

Thank you."

So, I decide to reply to this as best I can, after all, this is the first author ever to email me about a negative review. Here is my reply:

"Ms. Pacelli,
 
I'm sorry you were upset by my review of your book. I know it's hard to be an author and put your work "out there" for others to basically judge. Not every reader is going to have the same experience with an author's book. I pride myself on being very honest with my reviews and experiences whether I loved, just liked, or didn't like a particular book at all. My reviews have never and will never be motivated to hurt an author, or any means of having an "agenda" to do so. Had I loved your book, I would have absolutely raved about it and encouraged others to buy, but unfortunately with this particular book I could not. With every book comes positive and negative reviews whether you are a "big name" author or a self-published author--no one is immune. 
 
I have added a spoiler alert warning to the top of the review on all sites it was submitted to. With that said, I do stand behind all reviews that I write. I wish you luck with your future works.
 
 
Thank you,
Cynthia"

I thought I handled that pretty well with my reply. Apparently that wasn't enough to appease this author. She replies back:

"There's a difference between offering a thoughtful, honest opinion in a way that does no harm  and writing in a no holds barred manner.    Spoiler alerts don' t do anything to prevent to the story from being spoiled  They're just a means the system created to justify the spoiling and  people feel even more compelled to read them.   Perhaps you can do me the courtesy of removing the review altogether then.  I guess it certainly serves me right asking for assistance in my email that if you enjoyed the book, if could you help me out by letting others know about it.  Figured if you did not like it and couldn't in good conscience offer any assistance, you'd just do nothing or decline privately.   ** hits self in head **  Thanks."

So, she only wanted positive reviews?? That certainly sounds like what she's asking for and just using the spoiler issue to press me to remove my review. Not everyone is going to enjoy your book. If you can't handle criticism, maybe you should second guess your profession. Like I've said before, I've never had an author to email me and basically freak out over a review. My review was honest and that is the bottom line. And yes, I did reply to the above email:

"You really need to adapt a better attitude toward criticism. Use it to better your writing, not take it as a PERSONAL attack. If you prefer not to have honest reviews maybe you should state BEFORE giving your book away *Please write only positive reviews*. Reviews ARE personal opinions and my review was my HONEST opinion."

At this point, I could feel my ears start to steam. I sent the above reply this morning. Hopefully the author will choose not to contact me again and use this as a learning experience about negative reviews. You have to take the good with the bad and move on. I can only assume this author has not had much experience with negative reviews being a fairly new author. I can not express enough how critical it is for authors to NOT reply to negative reviews. It doesn't make you look good at all. 

Has anyone else had this happen before with an author? How did you handle it?   



 
 
  
 

 






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+ comments + 17 comments

January 15, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Oh goodness!
It's the way of life. No everyone is going to like you or your work. We all have that happen to us. It's unavoidable. To me this sounds like the author just needs to put on some big girl pants and learn about the ways of negative and positive reviews.
Thankfully this hasn't happened to me...yet but I know most authors out there know they will inevitably get negative reviews.
-Martha

January 16, 2013 at 4:47 AM

Being an author I've gotten a few negative reviews, not very many but I've gotten a few. Do appreciate it when there is a review written regardless of it being positive or negative. I'm sorry you had such an experience with any author.

January 16, 2013 at 8:46 AM

I wish I could love/like every book I read, but in reality that just isn't the case. I haven't had to write a ton of negative reviews (thank goodness). I understand for an author negative reviews just plain suck. I get that--I really do. However, replying to negative reviews really isn't a great idea. Let your work speak for itself. If the work is really good, the positive reviews will out weigh the negative.

Thanks for commenting Martha and Brian! Your comments made me feel much better about this situation :)

January 16, 2013 at 10:40 AM

You are a reader taking time out of your day to not only read this novel but to review it for the author, is that right? Did she say from the get go that you were doing this to "offer any assistance"? Isn't that what beta readers and editors are out there doing? Isn't that their job? If this was a finished copy that she was sending out into the world she needs to develop a thicker hide before sending out her newborn to strangers to critique because once it gets into the hands of readers who pay for it all bets are really off.

Honestly, after reading your review I was intrigued to read the book. It sounds crazy and like something I might probably like but after reading about this special snowflake behavior I won't be spending my money on it. People need to realize that all reviews have merit. What one reader despises might be the reason another loves or buys it. The all positive, all 5 star style of book reviewing is a HUGE turnoff. I much prefer an honest review to a "trying desperately to be nice and not hurt feelings" type. Those reviews are useless to me. I'm glad you stood your ground and didn't delete your review.

January 16, 2013 at 11:06 AM

This particular book was listed in a Member Giveaway at LibraryThing--for review. That's exactly what I did--I reviewed it. The emails she sent speak for themselves. She was basically looking for positive reviews only. I don't get it lol! How can any author learn from only positive reviews? It just had too many problems for me to give a good review. Any HONEST review is a good review whether is positive or negative.

I think my review (as sarcastic as it is) is important for other readers to make the choice of whether they would like to read this particular book. As much as the author would like for this review to disappear, I won't be taking it down :)

January 16, 2013 at 11:23 AM

I can't stop thinking about this and have to purge it by writing a blog post. I feel bad for this newbie author but this behavior needs to stop.

January 20, 2013 at 7:43 AM

I've read your review of that book Cynthia, and it wasn't mean-spirited at all - it was just honest. Honest reviews are the best. Your responses to this author via email were mature and, may I say, much better written than hers, which doesn't bode well for her. Unfortunately there are a lot of authors who react badly to criticism and I've heard of similar cases to yours and this sort of thing needs to stop.

January 20, 2013 at 8:34 PM

It is a somewhat discouraging when something like this happens. It was a learning experience to say the least.

January 21, 2013 at 8:02 AM

I don't think your review was bad at all! I didn't even find it overly sarcastic. It always makes me sad when authors think they can dictate what reviewers write in their reviews. It's not as if we dictated what they wrote in their book, right? Yet, we pay for their book (at least a lot of the books we read, we pay for) and then, we do a review for free - just because we love books, and want to share our impressions with other readers and bloggers.

I'm glad you are sticking to your guns!

January 21, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Your review was spot on, and actually, THANK YOU for the spoilers because I wouldn't want to read about cannibals...
Anyway, she needs to understand that we aren't a free marketing service; we blog for other readers, NOT the authors and publishers. If the latter were the case, I wouldn't bother reviewing books I actually BUY.

January 21, 2013 at 9:17 AM

See I would've bought the book for the cannibals, until the author tried to butt in and silence the review. A "thank you for your time" to Book Hollow would have been sufficient if she felt the need to say anything at all but now she's gone and a lost a sale.

January 21, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Sorry you experienced that. It reminded me how grateful I should be for the wonderful authors I've worked with. Just today I posted a two star review, the author politely said thank you for the time, I wished her well in her career, end of story.

Don't let it shake your confidence. Opinions are just opinions, too bad some people can't accept that.

January 21, 2013 at 9:16 PM

Thanks to everyone who have left comments, and to those who have taken it a step further to blog about this.

It is somewhat discouraging to have this kind of interaction with an author, but I will not let it guide how my future reviews are written. I will always be completely honest in my reviews and not hold back in fear of backlash from an author. I blog for the readers.

I've had so many great experiences with authors I've encountered (minus the particular author who inspired this post) up to this point. This has been merely one negative experience I've had with an author compared to the many, many wonderful experiences I've had. I think I'll take that with a smile and continue to do what I love--reading and blogging about it :)

January 22, 2013 at 10:28 AM

There is absolutely nothing wrong with your review. It's honest, straight-forward and makes complete sense.

Really, the special snowflakes need to get a reality check - life is tough and sometimes people just need to suck it up and move on.

Interesting way of trying to get you to take your review down, by claiming it's too spoilerish rather than coming right out and saying it's too negative....

You've handled the whole situation with grace - I wouldn't have been able to hold my temper!

January 22, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Thanks, Kat.

When I got the first initial email from the author after the review was posted, I honestly didn't know what to think or how to reply. I was a bit speechless for a few moments. This was my first negative experience with an author and I wasn't sure how to approach it. I certainly wanted her to understand my reviews are honest and not "agenda" related. I suppose that is what ticked me off the most about the whole ordeal.

My honesty should have never been questioned. It was obvious I read the book or I wouldn't have been able to describe certain scenes in the book that were outlandish to me. I never waged a personal attack on the author in the review, it was kept to the story and the writing. She could've easily looked up my profile on Goodreads and seen that my average book rating is around 4.0. I don't go around rating books 1 and 2 stars for the heck of it.

January 27, 2013 at 12:23 PM

I've had this happen before as well, and for a while, I have to admit that I felt guilty for writing negative reviews. It still happens now sometimes. I'll finish a book, go to mark it as completed on Goodreads and then see that it's got all 4's and 5's and feel guilty because I didn't like it and am going to give it a 1 or 2 But, I've come to realize that I owe my honesty to myself, the author, and the readers of my blog. It's like the others have said. Not everyone will like every book they read. I completely agree with you that negative reviews are just part of the process, and they shouldn't be taken as personal attacks.

I don't quite understand where the author was coming from in saying that your review did not "offer her assistance." I'm of the mindset that all reviews are helpful, even the negative ones. They give the author new perspective on their work, and if they decide to do edits, they are then able to incorporate reviewer's suggestions into their work.

I think you handled the situation very well.

January 27, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Hey Melissa, thanks for commenting. Everyone's has a different experience when reading a book. You should never feel bad that you hated a book when so many loved it. I remember reading a book called "Haunted on Bourbon Street" and I didn't like it, but it had tons or 4 and 5 star reviews. Apparently lots of people liked it, but it just wasn't for me.

I believe negative reviews are just as important as positive reviews. I suppose it's all in the way you look at it. As for the particular book in question, "In the Arms of Madness", I felt the characters weren't fully defined and didn't make me want to care for them, or hate them. It left me very indifferent about what happened to them. Then when it came to situations in the story, the reactions from the main characters were just not plausible.

I really appreciate all the support everyone has given. It has made me feel so much better about the situation.

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