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.
(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.
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.