I was asked this week “what is the one piece advice you would give a new author?” After several minutes of thought, it dawned on me: Never Attack a Reviewer.
We’ve heard about the unprofessionalism of authors attacking bad reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, but what about the other places where reviewers congregate? For instance, blogs…
A few years ago, I reviewed a book by a British author. It was set in Nevada or New Mexico, I don’t remember now. Neither of those threw up red flags for me. It was listed as a “comedy.” Again, no red flags. I get British humor. I live in the US. I read stacks of books by British authors (sometimes, I cluster them up and then find myself typing words in a British way – tyres instead of tires, colours instead of colors, etc) and I tend to love them.
However, this book wasn’t humorous by any standards. The setting was weird, a ranch with an over the top Brit turned American cowboy. The main character was stiffer than a 2×4. And while I managed to finish it, it was an act of will. In short, I found the entire book ridiculous – decent plot, terrible characters and writing. (I admit that I don’t remember the name of the book or the author, but if you go back through my blog post archive searching for book reviews, you are bound to find it).
Now, I know that not everyone is going to love every book they read. That’s why I don’t mind getting negative reviews. Hell, I’m not going to love every book I read. However, this particular author crossed the line. He came at me in the comments section of my blog.
He basically told me I was an inbred, ill-mannered, idiotic American. His image of me was akin to the hillbillies in Deliverance, if they could read. Or at least, that’s how he wanted to portray me. He even demanded that I remove my review from Amazon (I didn’t).
However, it did leave an impact. In the time since, I have found myself more likely to leave reviews for books I hated than for books I loved. I can be objective about either, but I feel the need to warn potential readers like me of what they are getting into… If an author will attack me on my own blog for a negative review, I imagine they will do the same to others (but at least others will join me in the ranks of inbred, ill-mannered, idiots).
Chances of my ever reading the author again? None. Chances I will recommend his book to someone that might actually enjoy it? None. Chances that I would recommend the author at all? None. Chances that if someone asked me about a book by said author, I would encourage them to run away? 100%.
The problem is that he didn’t damage my reputation as a book reviewer, blogger, or author. He damaged his own author image. That is damage that cannot be undone. So, accept your negative reviews, even if you do believe the reviewer is an idiot, with a smile and move on. Or you will only hurt yourself.