Authors vs. Reviewers – An Ongoing War? #HaleNo

Joanne Harris bloggers vs authors

Notice the question mark at the end of the post title. It’s there because this is a widespread misconception that’s hurting reviewers. Authors such as Joanne Harris spouting “not all authors” while calling reviewers, like Blythe, trolls is infuriating. This ignorance of how the reading community works is astonishing. If authors are to pass judgement on something that affects their readers, they should educate themselves before commenting in a public sphere.

We know not all authors are badly behaved, that they’re the minority. However, that minority is growing both in numbers and in the danger they pose to reviewers. Reviewing has become an extreme sport, a blood sport, in fact. Blood has been spilled because of a 1-star review.

Bloggers are deleting their blogs, reviewers deleting their Goodreads accounts. Prolific readers, and therefore prolific book buyers, are leaving the reading community. Once passionate page-turners aren’t so passionate about their hobby anymore. Having to weigh reviewing against personal safety really takes the spark out of it.

If there really is an authors vs. reviewers war, then authors are winning purely on the basis of the imbalance of power. A bestselling author like Anne Rice, a notorious badly behaving author, has thousands of fans. Should she tweet about a particularly “mean” 1-star review her fans will hound that reviewer, intimidating them into deleting that review, giving that reviewer a reason to stop reviewing altogether – silencing them, if you will. This particular scenario is no longer rare.

People like Anne Rice belittle the reviewing community by denouncing bloggers for spreading “gossip” about badly behaving authors (in this case, Kathleen Hale), telling fans to ignore us and believe every word Hale said in the Guardian.

Why are bloggers and reviewers so angry? This is why.

“It’s only a book,” people say. Yes, we know, yet we’re abused for critiquing them. No wonder reviewers and bloggers rally and support one another when one of us is targeted. Because only we understand. Who else is going to come to our defence?

Reviewers are victimized and victim blamed by authors time after time. There’s only so much the community can take before it fights back and takes a stand. That’s what passionate people do. #BloggerBlackout and #BloggerYes are ways to show the publishing industry we have banded together to present a united front. That we’re angry, that we won’t be fobbed off with weak statements by publishers of badly behaving authors claiming not to be involved. They’re involved by association, by the contract that binds them.

With self-publishing in e-form anyone can be an author. Social media has made authors more accessible to readers and vice versa. This increase in communication has resulted in an increase in negative experiences.

Some authors would prefer only “professional” reviewers read their books. Well, we can turn around and state that only “professional” authors should publish a book. Unfortunately the latter isn’t possible to enforce.

A select number of supportive authors have been exceptionally vocal in their defence of reviewers in the past four years. (Four years, has it been that long?) If it wasn’t for them, the majority of us may have stopped reviewing. That’s not an exaggeration. Why continue when no author condemns the abuse their readers are receiving from other authors?

Badly behaving authors’ loss has been supportive authors’ gain. In reputation, in book sales, and in reciprocal support when they themselves are victimized by their publishers (e.g. Ellora’s Cave and #NotChilled) and other authors. It pays to support, and not bite, the hand that feeds you.

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10 thoughts on “Authors vs. Reviewers – An Ongoing War? #HaleNo

  1. As an author (and as a HUMAN), I don’t get the kind of narcissism that drives this bad-author crap.

    Someone doesn’t like your book; so? Nobody is going to like everything. Some people WON’T enjoy a given book (for instance, my writing style tends to be a bit sparse; if you’re looking for lyrical descriptions of everything, you’d be happier reading someone else’s work) – and?

    I think it’s reasonable to ask a reviewer not to include spoilers. I also consider it reasonable for them to include more than just a summary that could just as easily be gained from reading the blurb (I’m looking at you, Ms. Klausner) – that’s useless information, and I don’t find those reviews at all helpful as a reader.

    But the sheer entitlement that causes people to think that nobody should ever dislike their work, that criticism of any kind equates to personal sabotage… and that it’s right and proper to stalk people over this, or TRAVEL HUNDREDS OF MILES TO WHACK SOMEONE OVER THE HEAD WITH A WINE BOTTLE?

    I think I can fairly speak on behalf of sane authors in general that reviews are appreciated – including negative ones, which warn people away from my books when they’d otherwise waste their money buying it and be unhappy. And these narcissistic, self-centered lunatics need treatment – or possibly (definitely, in the case of violent ones like Mr. Brittain) time behind bars.

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    1. Thank you for your support and understanding. It’s been incredibly disheartening to see so many authors not getting it or even supporting Hale’s reasoning, if not her actions.

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    2. Absolutely, this.

      There’s nothing wrong with a negative review. All books have them. And as Leo says, negative reviews help the audience self-curate, picking books they really will love. There are so many things to be read in the world, so balanced reviews are what it’s all about.

      As an author, I felt relieved when I got my first one-star review (well, that’s as low as it goes! And now it’s over.) It’s not a personal affront. By their very nature, reviews are subjective (even the literary ones)…. it’s only natural (and hoped for) that your work can hit every note of the emotional spectrum.

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  2. There are a lot of minors in the reviewing space. Just imagine if Blythe had been underage. Would Harper address it then? Would that make staunch supporters of Hale rethink their support?

    I’m disappointed in so many authors and Harper this week.

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    1. I’m quite certain more people would be against Hale had Blythe been a teenager. Stalking a child isn’t good press. I doubt The Guardian would’ve published Hale’s article in that case.

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    2. And yet, you see authors/publishers like Deborah Smith go to the blog of a 15 year old reviewer to lecture her on this issue (via Sunita at Vacuous Minx, go here

      I think there’s a predisposition in some people–who happen to be authors–who blame anyone who has the gall (sarcasm here) to express unfavorable opinions of whatever they themselves like, let alone what they create.

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