Tuesdays with Ana: Reviews, unfair reviews, and bad decisions–the case of Mirai Nagasu

When somebody freaks out publicly over one bad review, it just tells me that they have absolutely no confidence in the quality of their own work. Or, they’re an egomaniac who believes they can do no wrong.

-Peter Meyers

(Today marks part two of our discussion on reading and reviewing books. If you haven’t already, you may want to read last week’s discussion here.)

Since childhood, I’ve enjoyed watching Olympic figure skating. Okay, I’ve enjoyed watching women’s Olympic figure skating. 🙂 I took a lesson or two and learned that some enthusiasms are better for spectating than participating. The skaters on television could do intricate jumps while I struggled to steer while skating backward.

What that experience taught me, however, is that skating is a difficult sport requiring much skill, talent, and hard work. I loved Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas, Midori Ito, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, Ekaterina Gordeeva… Tara Lipinski’s jumps were amazing, but I liked the flowing elegance of Michelle Kwan.

Oh, and Nancy Kerrigan. Who could forget Nancy Kerrigan and the saga of the attack coordinated by Tonya Harding’s husband? Even if Nancy insulted a certain beloved mouse, I was captivated by her story just like so many others.

A few years ago, I was surprised by Yuna Kim when she broke scoring records. But, honestly, I haven’t thought much about figure skating since the last Olympics. Until my newsfeed began buzzing with the 20-year anniversary of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding (can it have been that long? Wow!) and the rejection of Mirai Nagasu for this year’s US Olympic team.

Disclaimer: I’d never heard of her before reading the news. However, the similarity of her name to my Mira made me take notice.

Mirai’s story in a nutshell: She won bronze in the US National Championships, but the US Olympic team-picking officials chose fourth-placing Ashley Wagner for the team instead. Read an excellent commentary here.

“It’s worth underscoring how significant this snub was: USFS has never in history ignored the results of the Nationals in picking its Olympic athletes when injury was not a factor.”

Even the most skeptical watcher of Mirai’s performance has to admit it’s a raw deal when you earn a spot, only for it to be taken away.

Through it all, although Mirai’s fans have become enraged, Mirai herself has let no word of bitterness or spite into the public sphere. (Are you paying attention, Richard Sherman?) Her public statement:

“I’m disappointed in the decision,” Nagasu said in a statement through U.S. Figure Skating. “Though I may not agree with it, I have to respect the decision the federation made.”

And she opted to skate, teary-eyed, in the closing gala of the championships even after receiving one of the most powerful snubs a skater can receive. Watch this performance. The cheers of the crowd’s standing ovation–before Mirai began to skate–brought tears to my eyes. In the face of a devastating, career-ending (at least the career she had prepared for), unfair decision, Mirai chose to show the world grace, class, and respect.

Wow.

Do you want to be more like Mirai? I sure do. We’ve all experienced unfairness in some way, and as authors it can be especially difficult to read unfair, mean-spirited, disrespectful, and even deliberately hurtful reviews. One reviewer said she’d like to bash my protagonist’s head in. Yep. Say you hate the book, but there’s no reason to get nasty. Say you thought the book was boring, too explicit, too fast-paced, or whatever you want–but say it with professionalism.

However, as Peter Meyers said in the quote at the beginning of this article, public meltdowns over a review–even if it is negative, unfair, or downright nasty–never accomplishes anything. Sometimes reviews are negative. Sometimes we wish reviewers could understand our work better.

Guess what? Not many reviewers care. Their job is to write an honest review to help other readers determine whether they want to read the book. Their job is not to act as a salesperson for our books.

For reviewers, and for readers who are considering writing a book review, consider this: you have a responsibility to be honest, yet respectful. If you don’t like a book (remember Jade’s review last week?), you have the right to write an honest review without receiving negative responses from the author.

However, on both sides of the equation, once a review is posted–let it be. Good or bad, a review is one opinion.

Tune in next time for more on reviewing on Tuesdays with Ana. 🙂

(P.S. Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, tweeted, shared, and posted about Mira’s Miracle! It’s made three Amazon Top 100 lists and is doing well. Thank you!)

——

And now, a word from our featured reviewer, Vanessa Clark from VC Erotica:

Hello and thank you for answering questions about reviewing F/F fiction! Please introduce yourself, the site you review for, and the types of books you usually review.

My name is Vanessa Clark but I go under my pen name, my initials, V.C. I review LGBT Erotica/Romance fiction on my blog http://vcerotica.blogspot.com/. I’m pretty open to reviewing all sorts of genres and pairings (M/M, F/F, MMF, FFM, trans*, intersex, etc. and contemporary, historical, science fiction, etc.) as long as it fits along the LGBT genre or spectrum.  The only types of books that I know for sure that I’m not a fan of are shifter stories and westerns. I tried, but after trying a few times, I’ve decided that I’d rather not read/review them. They’re just not my cup of tea. Paranormal is okay but I’ve yet to read a book from that genre that has blown me away, but I’m still open-minded to it.

Why do you review F/F fiction? What appeals to you about this particular pairing?

 

My first love was F/F fiction and the very first erotic short stories I ever written and had published were F/F.  I’ve always loved this pairing because I personally find it more exciting, adventurous, and open to more erotic and romantic possibilities that strays away from the predictability of other pairings. Not to mention, F/F intimacy is such a turn-on for me, not just literary-wise, but in real life too.

What do you find most challenging about writing a review?

 

Well, the purpose of a review is, in a way, like pitching a product, except that it is more based on an honest opinion rather than telling people what they want to hear. The most challenging thing sometimes is getting across to the readers as to why you think this book is great or this book is so-so.  That is why I often use examples so it’s made more clearly why I gave a book a certain rating. I’m not a fan of reading reviews that are too general and don’t give me the why to the opinion.  The more specific it is, the more helpful it will be for the reader to make the choice as to whether or not they should buy the book or not. It’s also about finding that balance of naming the positives of the book as well as the negative. Even a 4-5-star review should show some flaws of the book just the same as how a 1-3 star review should show some of the positives of the book too. That balance can sometimes be challenging, but I think it makes for a more well-rounded review, which makes that challenge so worth it.

What kind of interaction do you wish from authors? Are you open to discussion with an author about your reviews, or do you prefer your review to stand on its own?

 

Honestly, I prefer my reviews to stand on its own. What I say in my review is my honest opinion; what is there is all that I have to say about the book. Discussing the review, for me, would be somewhat redundant to me since I already said all that I needed to say. Authors, of course, can speak to me about what they thought of that review if they feel it necessary, but it won’t change my opinion on their book or have me take back what was written/posted. If the author chooses to have a discussion about it, I have nothing against that, but I’d rather let my review speak for me.

What do you wish authors knew about reviews and reviewers? Specifically, what should authors avoid doing or be sure to do when interacting with reviewers?

 

Frankly, I think authors forget that reviews aren’t about them or for them. Reviews are really meant to be for the reader, not for the author. It’s the readers who will read those reviews and it is them who will decide whether or not they want to buy the book based on the review(s). That or they write/read reviews to glow about the book or vent about it. Either way, reviews are for readers written by readers.

Authors should avoid taking reviews so personally and seriously, for their sanity. Read them if you must, but there’s no need to let it affect your entire ego and self-esteem. Readers have the right to voice their opinion on your book that they purchased. Not everyone is going to love your book. Not every rating is going to be a glowing 5-star one. Some people will adore your book, some will absolutely hate it. Get over it. And move on. Reviews are just opinions, not facts. If a review is a 1-star one or where the reader’s opinion is voiced very harshly, I think authors should avoid responding back to those negative reviews with even more negativity. I know 1-star reviews suck, but there’s no need to react to them as if it’s a personal attack on you. Lashing out with negativity or basically arguing with the reviewer is counterproductive. How is that helpful to you or for the reader/reviewer? It creates an unnecessary rift between you and the reader. This essentially makes the author look bad more than anything, really, and this can leave a sour taste in people’s mouths when they see it. For any reader to take the time to read/review your book, that should be respected even if their rating is not so glowing. I know some reviewers can be harsh, mean, or trollish, but again, don’t take it personally, and just move on. Respect on both sides is the key.  The best bet is to always respond back to any review/reviewer with kindness. It looks—and feels—better for everyone in the long run.

What is the worst example of author behavior you’ve seen in regards to a review? Feel free to change identifying details to protect the guilty!

 

The worst example I’ve seen was when the author (who shall not be named, not even with a fake name) responded back to my 3.5 star rating by lecturing to me about why they think their book is awesome and edgy and making assumptions about me that are far from true. Behavior like that makes the author look bad; it does absolutely nothing for me, and only has me not want to read any more works from them. That’s why respecting readers is a must. Just because that reader gave a 3.5 star rating or an even lower rating to your book doesn’t mean that they won’t be reading more works from you. Let them speak their mind and `move on. It’s not worth responding so negatively to a reader’s review if it means that you’ll be losing one reader, and possibly even more if it’s made public and others are reading it. To all authors (me included): be classy, stay cool, and keep writing.

How can authors best show appreciation for reviewers and encourage you to continue giving your services?

 

By simply liking my author page (https://www.facebook.com/vcerotica). It would even be more awesome if they followed my blog as well by clicking the “Join This Site” button. It’s always nice when an author shows support to a reviewer/blogger/author. The more supportive they are of my work, the more than likely that I’ll read/review more books from that particular author if they’d like me to read/review more works from them. I’m especially very open to doing that if I really enjoyed what I read/reviewed from them. It’s not that common, but it has happened.  Authors supporting authors and authors supporting reviewers, and vice versa, always amounts to more awesomeness for everyone; it’s an instant win-win.

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23 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: Reviews, unfair reviews, and bad decisions–the case of Mirai Nagasu

  1. Joelle Casteel says:

    What a thoughtful post, Ana, and thanks for sharing V.C.’s answers as a reviewer. It can be so hard not to take a bad review personally, but it’s good to get a reminder that it’s not actually a review of us as people

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      VC’s interview was a great way to begin this series of interviews because she spoke with such honesty. It’s hard to be honest when trying to maintain good relations with other authors, but dignity and respect go a long way. 🙂

      Like

  2. Irishey says:

    Ana, I enjoyed this post and your thoughts about moving past unfairness and ugly remarks, responding with kindness and class.

    I had to laugh about someone wanting to bash in the head of your protagonist! That tells me you did a great job of getting that reader very emotionally invested in what you wrote. I am sure you, as an author, want to draw people in so much they have strong reactions, but perhaps prefer they don’t share the full extent of their violent tendencies toward your characters? 😉

    VC, thanks for sharing your experiences and opinions about reviewing books and author input to the reviews. I like how you stand your ground. It’s tough to offer an honest opinion about what you don’t like about a book, especially when you know authors are very invested in their creations. I think most of us do not want to hurt someone’s feelings by saying we don’t like what they dished up for us, yet we also want to let our friends know what we thought and that there are things they may not like either. I applaud you for being able to do this in an objective and professional manner.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      We all experience unfair decisions, and responding well is a difficult choice.

      LOL…thank you for your positive spin! I will remember that. And yes, I’d prefer if readers didn’t want to bash my characters. Spank, maybe, but not bash. 🙂

      Friends should be kind to their author friends, but reviewers should have a professional standard. Kind as well, but respectful rather than trying not to hurt feelings. Jade’s review last week was tough, but she backed up every point she made.

      Like

  3. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    Excuse the length of my response, but I tried to check out the article on Mirai Nagasu, however, the WSJ removed it along with another article they had on race not factoring into the USFS’s decision. The USFS did say that they chose to examine Wagner’s “career” on the whole rather than focus on her poor showing at the Nationals in Boston. I have no opinion either way on their decision, but I can’t imagine it had anything to do with prejudice. Though perhaps that is naivete on my part. I agree that Mirai showed amazing poise and grace by skating in the closing gala of the championships despite not making the Olympic team; however, I don’t agree this was a career-ending decision for her. She is only 20 years old. Even if she chooses not to try again for the Olympics in four years, she has enough talent and style to skate professionally, if she so chooses. That said, I had heard nothing about this until I read your article. Though the USFS is comprised of fallible humans, I can’t imagine they allowed race or personality to factor in their assessment, while a book review is based solely on one person’s opinion, good or bad.

    I appreciate V.C.’s candor in her responses to your questions. As she said, sometimes authors forget that reviews aren’t posted to sell their book (though most authors hope they will). They are posted so the reviewer can share a personal opinion with other readers. Some are intended to be scathing put downs, and chances are we’ve all read at least one of those, while others strive to give a balanced account of what they enjoyed and didn’t like about the book, which, when it comes down to it, is the most authors can expect from a review. What is interesting, however, is that we tend to give much more credence and power to the negative reviews we receive than the positive ones. Now, why is that, I wonder. (Though this comment is not intended as a review of the above post, it is definitely a personal opinion, so it may be ignored and filed away as utter nonsense, if desired.)

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      In all honesty, I’m not qualified to speak too much about the details of the controversy. What’s more important is that, despite whatever extenuating circumstances and so on, the decision was both unprecedented and hard to understand. Whether race was a factor in the decision is unimportant. Though I wish I’d screen-capped the article if it has been taken down. What’s more important, and what I was trying to get at here, is that yes, as an Olympian it is pretty much a career-ending decision. Some 24-year-olds are able to skate at the Olympics, but it’s not generally the peak of an Olympic figure skater’s career.

      But again, rather than getting into the nitty-gritty of the decision, from Mirai Nagasu’s point of view, it was a devastating and unfair decision. Does every person in the world agree that it was unfair? Nope. Just like every person in the world does not agree that a negative review of a book is unfair. However, my focus was on Mirai’s decision to rise above the unfairness and set an example of grace and class. That, I hope, is what we can take home today.

      That’s a great point about negative reviews being given more credence. That’s true for me as an author and as a reader. If I read negative reviews of a book, it affects me more than a positive one. I think it’s because we tend to trust the negative as not influenced by friendship with the author, etc. There are always fan-club reviews (“I loved this book!”) that don’t give many details. I always read negative reviews of a book I’m considering buying, and sometimes those negative reviews help me decide to buy the book.

      Now I’ll have to find WSJ’s link and see what happened. 🙂

      Like

  4. robskatie says:

    This was an interesting and informative article Ana! 🙂 I just read three books from the land and loved them all- one of which was your newest, Mira’s Miracle!!! Wonderful! Loved it!! :).

    I have plans to put up a post about them all, with their links, and your post got me thinking more about the whole process- though I only have good things to say about all. :). I’m not sure that I could be a professional reviewer- I just enjoy. Thanks for giving us stuff to think about! Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

    Like

  5. terpsichore says:

    Thank-you Ana, for an interesting continuing post about reviews and a great interview. Mirai Nagasu certainly handled everything with grace. Best wishes and hugs

    Like

  6. Leigh Smith says:

    Great post. It is so much nicer to “kill them with kindness” than to bring yourself down to their level. It shows great character. A good reviewer reviews the work and doesn’t make it personal, and the crux of it is everyone has a different opinion. I’ve read great reviews and hated the book, play, movie, etc. but loved some that had awful reviews.

    Like

  7. Roz says:

    Hi Ana, thank you for this and your previous post. Very thoughtful, insightful and informative. I have certainly learnt from these post. I love your thoughts on responding to unfair or ugly reviews/comments.

    Thanks also to you and V.C for sharing the interview. i enjoyed reading her answers … some more wonderful advice 🙂

    Hugs,
    Roz

    Like

  8. octoberwoman says:

    I know I’m a day late (as usual!), but nice interview V.C. I’m gonna check out your blog when I leave here.

    When I read reviews somewhere like Amazon, I tend to go straight to the 1 and 2 star reviews first. But on places like Amazon, a lot of times those reviews really don’t say anything to support giving the book only 1 or 2 stars, so it’s hard to take them seriously. But on blogs and such, I’ve read some negative reviews that actually peaked my interest and made we want to read the book myself.

    And I have commented in my own reviews once or twice about wanting to smack or slap a character when I thought they were being or acting incredibly stupid or something. But sometimes I want to do that even when I like the book, so I do think in that case it’s because I’m emotionally invested. I mean, I love my daughters more than anything in the world, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes want to yell at them or smack them! (Disclaimer: I do sometimes yell at but I NEVER smack my children.)

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I agree. A good critical review (intelligent and well-written) is a service to the author, really. As long as the author has taken the time to understand and respect the work (rather than criticizing trivial or irrelevant details), the review is a service to the author.

      lol…I think all parents want to smack their children at some point, and probably all children want to smack their parents! We want to do many things we wouldn’t actually do. 🙂

      Like

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