Badly Behaving Authors

When I joined Goodreads, the big attraction was to be able to organize my books. In addition, my friends could go to any of my books and see my review. I had been posting my reviews for my friends on Facebook, and posting on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and my library’s online catalog. But for my friends to find one of my reviews on Facebook, they had to scroll down all my posts until they came to the one they wanted to read. I knew there had to be a better way, besides making notes, in which case my book reviews would be intermingled with my recipes- still not the best method.

I was so completely impressed once I had joined Goodreads and took the time to search around a bit. There are pages and pages of giveaway opportunities. There are discussion groups for individual books and there are groups that are more like book clubs. There are lists of books for almost anything- best 2012 young adult fiction, favorite zombie books, badly behaving authors… oops, we’ll get to that later. Trust me, there is a ton more. And what is neat is that a lot of big name authors are also members.

I joined a group titled Apocalypse Whenever. It’s awesome. The sub-genre is apocalyptic/ dystopian fiction, which includes zombies, vampires and apocalyptic, end of society as we know it situations. We nominate books each month. The top ten are selected and then we all vote. The winner is the book assigned for the next month. There are about three to four weeks to acquire and read the book before discussion begins. Then there are all kinds of other discussions. We have a thread discussing the television shows Revolution and The Walking Dead. Did I mention, it’s awesome?! Moderator, you know who you are- you rock!

Something I was so excited to find out is that authors, mostly independent authors, offer a free eBook in return for an honest review. I thought this was a great idea. These are books I would not normally buy because if I am unsure of a book, I prefer to borrow it from the library. Unfortunately, most independent books will not be acquired by libraries. This way, not only would I get to read it, I would own it. Authors do this because in theory, the more reviews a book receives, good or bad, the more attention it receives. This is a good thing- again, in theory.

In the past five and a half months, I received 11 books to review and I have to be honest, I am having a great time. The only problem is that it never occurred to me what would happen when I came across a book that I did not like. So far, the lowest I have scored a book I received to review is 3 out of 5 stars and I have not had any negative, immature reactions from authors. Others have not been so lucky.

Some authors take it very personally when someone gives his or her book a bad review. These reactions range from mild to severe.

For example, this is how an author responded to a two-star review- “As far as there not being much in the way of background story, my editors and I of course discussed this. Stephanie Meyer, despite her huge success, gets dogged quite regularly for putting too much background story. So it seems you can’t please everyone. Thankfully the majority find Forever Richard quite exciting and readable and for this I thank my editors.”

Or, “I’ve stuck with it though due to receiving wonderful validation such as being on the 2007 Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a First Novel and the 2009 BFS long list.” These sound like dubious acknowledgements, but she brings them up frequently.

Believe me, there’s more. But the best one is “Oh how I’d love to respond to the last comment you made and all its wonderful mute points but I’ve been told by others in the BFS to tell you to f**k off! And so I shall. “F*ck off!”” I’ll bet you thought book reviews were boring, didn’t you?

Authors like this are why there is a list of books under the title “Badly Behaving Authors.” Anyone who has had a bad experience with an author can add that author’s books to the list.

What is amusing is that I have read posts by authors saying they should have the capability of deleting any review of their own books. These authors claim they would only remove reviews by people who did not read or finish the book, that are based on the author personally rather than the book or that are vulgar and insulting rather than a critique. How dumb do you think we are? Of course they would remove any bad review and find justification afterwards.

Honestly, what is accomplished by this bad behavior? It only hurts the author. Now this author has been branded. There are people out there who will not even attempt to read this author’s books because they have no intention of wasting any time on someone who behaves so badly. This doesn’t hurt the reviewer; it hurts the author.

Today, anyone can self-publish, even on Amazon. These authors are not likely to see huge sales and they will not have thousands of reviews like Stephen King or Philippa Gregory. So each negative review has a larger impact, which could potentially negatively affect sales. Independent authors also depend heavily on word of mouth. So when that word of mouth is not great, that also can negatively affect sales.

For those authors who do not write to make money, I totally understand that after putting so much time and effort into something, it is hard to hear a negative response. But even Harry Potter books have some really bad reviews. And if you are writing because you love to write, what difference does it make if someone doesn’t like your book?

I’d like to give some advice to these badly behaving authors. If you can’t handle negative reactions, maybe you shouldn’t publish. And you definitely should not be asking for reviews. If you are going to bash or even make someone feel uncomfortable for not liking your book, or even portions of your books, word will get around and then no one will review or even read your book. Is that what you want?

The whole system of independent authors offering a free eBook for an honest review can be intimidating. When you review Stephen King, you are not likely to get a personal response from him and you probably haven’t received a free book from him either. So you don’t feel bad for giving a negative review. However, with independent authors, there is more direct communication and you probably did receive a free copy. As a result, you may feel bad that you did not like a book you received for free. It’s not exactly a piece of cake on our end either.

I have been lucky. I received seven books directly from authors who requested reviews. I think in all of them, there was at least one critique, even in the one five out of five stars review. This covers 5 authors. I received responses from 4 of those authors and none of them responded inappropriately. We’ll see if that continues if the time ever comes that I give a one or two star review. Yikes.

Written by Christina

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Update 5/18/2013

Not to intimidate anyone, but regarding my comment that Stephen King would not likely respond to my review… Jonathan Maberry did respond to my review on Amazon. Fortunately, it was a good review. I may have hid under a table for a few hours if it hadn’t been a good review!

Also, I beta read a book for an independent author a while ago. I had a lot to say and if I had been reviewing the book, it would have received a negative review. I absolutely panicked. I was so anxious and worried about it. Part of the reason I was so upset was because I could just imagine him yelling and screaming at me, but for the most part, I really did not want to hurt his feelings.

Not only did he not yell and scream at me, but he asked for clarification on one point. I offered him detailed notes, which he accepted, and he postponed the release of the book a bit. Now there were other beta readers and I won’t flatter myself by assuming it was all because of me. My point is that he was a real class act.

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