(I don't care if you write romances or chicklit: proudly proclaim your pink pride with something other than the font, okay? Do you really want to cause
And then I read the reviewer's post that the author claimed didn't "quantify" why she'd called the plot predictable and the characters one-dimensional as well as all the following comments, including the ones by Anonymous, who seemed so emotionally invested in the book and in putting its detractors in their place that any reasonable person would bet a dollar to a doughnut that Anony had to be the author. By the time I clicked back to the author's blog, looking for additional comments there, she'd deleted them all.
Which of course was her perogative.
And I figured I'd wasted enough time on this particular brouhaha.
But I woke up this morning thinking once again about this:
Oftentimes, the people who set up these kinds of blogs have never written a thing in their lives, except maybe a grocery list. Most are avid readers who think they are qualified to review someone else's work. So it's very sad when they go about damaging the image of upcoming small press and indie authors with the rubbish they write.
Please bear in mind that writers work very hard at their craft and the last thing they need is a smartass who makes subjective comments because they don't know how to do anything else.
(Do you see what I mean about the pink font?)
I blog because I'm an avid reader, not because I've published poetry, fiction, journalism. Frankly, I think being an avid reader pretty much takes care of all the qualifications necessary for having a book blog, where basically we all share our thoughts and opinions on what we've read. There are bloggers who gush or snark or journal their way through a book instead of writing the traditional review and they seem to do very well for themselves. There are others who aspire to the Platonic Ideal of reviewing by carefully following the dictates set forth periodically by spokesmembers of the book industry. They market and brand and promote and network and they do very well for themselves, too. There's no right way or wrong way to write about books on a book blog; different approaches will lead to different audiences, that's all.
I don't know this for a fact, but I would assume it's the bloggers who don't have a writing background of some sort that are the most amenable to accepting an ARC from a self-publishing author. I know, I know, more writers are going that route and it doesn't carry the stigma that it used to, but still, it's a two-fold risk: the writing may be wretched, and even if it's okay and you provide a qualified review, the author may not have learned how to handle anything less than whole-hearted adoration with the necessary grace. Rowena reviewed The Other Boyfriend unfavorably three months ago and Sylvia Massara still hasn't gotten over it!
Massara is right on one account: there are best-selling authors who receive bad reviews. She glissandos over the fact that many of these bad reviews come from professional reviewers, though, not just the ones with the grocery list-backgrounds that she disdains, because she's clearly trying to make herself feel better. (There's no accounting for taste, people; that's why some crap books sell.) She also glides right over the fact that as a self-publishing author she's not likely to receive any attention from the professionals.
Sylvia Massara has gotten lots of attention from everyone else this week. This morning I decided not to be one of the bloggers swearing I'd never read any of her books because she'd made such an ass of herself--not that I blame anyone who's put her on their do-not-read lists. I decided to cut her a bit of slack; to separate the writer from the work; to be objective about it all. You know, the way Sylvia Massara wants us to be.
I downloaded the free sample of The Other Boyfriend onto the Kindle.
And I immediately felt as if I were once again in writing workshop, critiquing an early draft to a story. A draft where a person exclaims a full sentence in disbelief while simultaneously taking a deep drag from her cigarette [a group discussion would ensue over whether that's even possible and if it is, should it be left in if it drags a portion of the readers from the story]; where a character who's just requested that her best friend find a boyfriend for a third woman will assume that the subsequent "excited cry" of "Mike" refers to an unexpected mention of a karaoke microphone instead of an eligible male [question: is this supposed to be funny or a hint that the main character's kind of stupid?]. A draft wherein you will find sentences such as this: "It was at times like this that I wished I was a smoker like Monica so I could throw an ashtray at his head, in the hope that it would unscramble his brain and spur him into action so he could free himself of the ball and chain." Said ball and chain is also referred to as the "Singapore Hag," which undoubtedly would lead into a discussion of whether the writer wants her readers to dislike her main character for engaging in such name-calling, and if so, what could she do to make her more interesting, via the writing itself or the character's personality, so that the readers will want to stick with the story. Or, if she's supposed to be a character the reader likes and relates to, a suggestion to take that bit out.
In a writing workshop I'd be okay with reading a manucript of this calibre. I'd be interested to see the next draft, to see what improvements had been made. I'd be happy to be one of the first readers who questions everything in its construction so that once the story's ultimately finished and published no one would ever mentally question or reword how it is told. But I have no interest in reading a published novel of this same quality, even less in blogging about it in a way that puts the author's precious feelings above anything else I might have to say about it.
Book reviews are for readers, not authors. Whining about the ones that don't offer the writer "constructive criticism" when such criticism should have taken place before publication is simply ridiculous.
The only constructive criticism left to offer a writer after the book is published is this: Don't insult your readers. Don't dismiss their opinions as rubbish. Don't accuse them of malice because they didn't like your book.
Negative reviews can often lead other readers to pick up your book, readers who may like it--but not if you've managed to alienate them all through your unprofessional behavior.