Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Reviews and "Haters"

I read this post from author Jennifer Rush this morning and felt compelled to respond. So much so that I'm rewarding myself for finishing my first 500 words this morning by writing this blog post. Yes, I'm rewarding myself for writing with more writing. This may well be pathological.

Anyway, Rush discusses the four types of "haters" who write negative book reviews (and accompanies her post with some very funny illustrations). I've got to say that this does not fit my experience of the book reviewing community. Reviewers--even those who didn't care for my books--have been almost universally friendly, generous, and gracious. They're anything but haters. Book reviewers do what they do for love of the literature. Most of them get paid exactly nothing. Reviewers don't owe authors anything; we owe them a huge thank you for promoting our books--whether they reviewed those books positively or negatively.

I'll be honest: As a reader, I don't trust reviewers who don't write negative reviews. If you won't tell me when you dislike something, how can I judge if your taste fits mine? And I'm far more likely to buy a book based on a negative review than a positive one. If the stuff a reviewer disliked sounds cool to me, I'm firing up Indiebound to order. Criticizing something in public is risky, and so I tend to assume, rightly or wrongly, that a critical reviewer is being honest. (This is one of the many reasons that I'm a terrible book reviewer. I've been steadily deleting almost all the negative book reviews and ratings from my Goodreads account. I'm not willing to take the risks associated with being honest about my reaction to others' work in public.)

And here's another one of the facts Rush neglects in her piece. The "haters" are helping her. Negative reviews sell books. For a complete discussion of the research backing that statement, read my blog post Why Bad Reviews Rock.

Let me be clear, there are real haters out there. There are reviewers who choose to comment on the author's weight instead of her work. Or her clothing. Or who write personally threatening things. I have author friends who've been victims of this kind of "review". And I used female pronouns for a reason; women seem far more likely to face this kind of internet hatred than men. I recognize that I've been fortunate not to have to face this sort of "review," and I have one message for anyone writing them: Seek psychiatric help.

But to the rest of the book reviewers out there, the 99.9% who do a real service to the world of literature, and even to those of you who disliked ASHFALL or ASHEN WINTER: Thank you!