I've written about this in the past but I feel the need to re-visit it for a moment because it's been weighing on me lately with all the ridiculous stories of authors harassing reviewers. And in the past I've had more opinions on what exactly a review should be, but I don't think anyone can really put parameters like that on reviewing. I do have some further thoughts though. Things that I think both reviewers & authors ought to take into consideration with regard to reviews. And lists seem to be my most preferred method of getting my thoughts gathered in some semblance of order. So let the listing commence.
- That's not a review, it's a bitch slap! -- I think respect must have gone the way of the dodo for some so-called reviewers. Respect does not entail holding back negative feelings or reviews. What it does entail is remembering that authors are actual people with actual feelings. Bashing the author personally because you didn't like his/her book is just poor reviewing.
- That's not a review, it's a pot(ty) shot! -- To me it's just lazy reviewing to cop out of actually explaining why you didn't like a book and instead stating something like you felt the need to scratch your balls & meander to the refrigerator when you were finished reading. That, my friend, is not a review. It's a bodily function. Not exactly something normal people mention in public.
- That's not a review, it's a re-cap with commentary! -- Recounting the book in a play-by-play can actually be constituted as copyright infringement. Especially if you re-tell it in an obtuse, mis-directing manner. Not to mention it's not really a review. It's re-telling the story in your own words. Reviewing is about expressing why a book either lived up to expectation, rose above, or sank below for whatever various reasons make sense to you.
- That's not a review, it's a personal problem! -- To pick up a book about love, when you don't believe in it, then fault it for being about love is just, well, ridiculous. The same goes for any other personal belief you have. If you read a book about angels, then think there were just too many angels & you don't really believe in them anyway -- why did you read it in the first place? You can't possibly think it's okay to write a negative review on that basis, can you? You knew what you were getting into when you picked it up.
- Reviewers Will Dislike Your Book -- Get over it. Don't read the 1 or 2 star reviews if you're easily incensed into Momma Bear mode about your baby. Resist! Because when you get riled up & take it out on reviewers you get noticed & not in a good way. There have been a few authors recently that have made national news for abusing reviewers. But it's especially important if your main source of reviewers are bloggers because there are some pretty powerful ones with their fingers on the pulse of what's going on between authors & reviewers. If they blacklist you as I've seen them do, your reviewer pool shrinks significantly.
- Reviewers Will Dislike You -- For whatever reason, for some, if they don't like your book, they don't like you. You personally ruined their reading experience by not producing exactly what they wanted to read. Take that with a grain of salt & avoid getting into any form of dialogue with them. It's not worth it & it could leave you wide open to criticism for taking any kind of action against a reviewer for any reason.
- Reviewers Will Be Bullies -- Yep. Some of them definitely will. There are tons of stupid reviewers who have nothing to do but write nasty, negative reviews to puff themselves up. It's a form of bullying & it won't stop unless they are ignored & not given that negative attention they are so desperately craving.
- Reviewers Will Be Right -- And here it gets tricky because sometimes, in all that negative stuff that may come your direction, there's truth. If your facts are wrong. If your copy-editing is atrocious. If your story lacks character depth or growth. If it lacks world building or coherent structure. If there are plot holes! Reviewers WILL spot them & they WILL write about them. Most seem to manage to do it respectfully & that should be seen as a learning experience. Not a reason to bash the reviewer.
In conclusion, Ladies & Jelly Spoons. Reviewers, I call on you to temper your visceral & snarky responses to book with a little realism & respect. Authors, I ask you to think before you go down the path toward anything remotely looking like you take issue with a reviewer or his/her review. We don't have to have mutual admiration societies (unless you want to!) but can't we live more in the realm of live & let review? Or maybe that's just a utopian idea... Either way, now that's off my chest. Whew. I can move on.