Why Authors Shouldn’t Read Reviews & Passive-Aggressively Tweet About Them and Reviewers

EDITED, 9:17PM: Well, lookie here. I didn’t send my post to her, yet she found it and felt the need to respond anyway. Who knew she cared about my opinion enough to actually read it? Also:
-We KNOW you’re not Anne Rice; you’re just making the same mistakes she did.
-And I am NOT a “would-be author”. I gave up fiction writing in my teens. I am older and wiser now.

NOTE: The Twitter links may come up with error messages if the Tweeter has deleted those posts. I have copied-and-pasted the relevant text.

Why does this keep occuring? We still highlight whenever it happens in the hope that people will actually comprehend. Maybe they never will. NOTE TO AUTHORS: Other writers make these mistakes so you don’t have to. Read and learn.

It began with this review of Joanne Harris’ Runemarks. 3 stars, so the blogger (Lyn of Great Imaginations) thought it was okay. She questioned whether the narrative style worked for the story being told, which is a valid criticism in reviews. Lyn and Kara are well-behaved bloggers who DON’T send their review links to authors, so if an author happens across the reviews it’s because of their own ego-surfing.

Then came this Tweet from Joanne Harris: “Terrific example of the “if I’d written this book I would have done it differently” review. Thanks.” The complete Tweet @’d Kara’s account (even though Lyn reviewed it) and linked to the review.

I’ve been following book folks on the Internet for a long time. When authors link to reviews, they’re generally to ones from the big trade publications (Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Romantic Times, or newspapers). Or to the four- or five-star reviews from bloggers. Generally, these authors don’t include their own passive-aggressive comments. So when an author links to a less-than-absolutely-positive review, AND includes reviewers’ Twitter handle…well, one can only figure that’s because the author wants sycophants to read the review and share their thoughts with the reviewer.

Just because Anne Rice does it, that doesn’t mean you should. And just because Joanne Harris now does it, that doesn’t mean you should. How many people have to do this until everyone finally gets the picture that this is NOT okay behaviour? “OMG, you guys, someone is WRONG on the Internet, defend my honour!” Of course, the authors tend to know better than to use blatantly honest terms like this, but the general meaning is the same.

Ms Harris and her sycophants elaborated in further Tweets:

Joanne Harris: “The sandbox belongs to all of us…” And reTweeted someone’s fair comment about author intrusion into reader space.

Joanne Harris: “Once more, an online reviewer proves that if you can’t respond in a grown-up way to criticism, then you shouldn’t be dishing it out…” Actually, Kara never resorted to passive-aggressive Tweets.

Oh, and check out this corker from 28th June 2012 – yes, she was reading reviews and getting narky about them even a year ago: Joanne Harris: “#CrapReviews “Her writing is evocative but the strength of this novel was lost in that Harris never lived in the Middle Ages.” HOLY FOOLS.”

But back to now: Joanne Harris: “I didn’t reply because I’ve been offline for an hour. The conversation seems to have been doing fine without me…” A certain someone was taking her place.

Joanne Harris: “I didn’t attack the reviewer. I commented on the review. It’s the difference between attacking my book & attacking *me*.” So why did you link to Kara in the first place? You could’ve just posted the review link, and WITHOUT a comment, and left it at that.

Joanne Harris: “Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. But to claim that Twitter is “reader space” & authors shouldn’t answer back is unfair.” No, REVIEWS are reader space. This is why we strongly advise authors NOT to read reviews, because past behaviour has proved that SOME can’t handle it responsibly and maturely.

Joanne Harris: “It seems to me an uneccessarily antagonistic setup. We are all readers and writers. We are all entitled to comment.” But you can’t be both at the same time. At any time stage you are EITHER in reader mode OR author mode. NOT BOTH. And if you think it’s okay to be both at the same time, that in itself is the problem.

Joanne Harris: “Readers vs. Authors is the new Plants vs. Zombies. Sell that idea to Apple and make us all a fortune. :-)” Your writing would earn you more money if you understood author-reviewer etiquette.

And if you don’t understand why Ms Harris’ comments are inappropriate, then I don’t know if I see the point anymore of explaining things to people who can’t or won’t comprehend. I really don’t know how to make it any clearer. I’m sorry. I tried.

And to think Joanne Harris recently received an MBE for honours for services to literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. I can’t even…

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12 responses to “Why Authors Shouldn’t Read Reviews & Passive-Aggressively Tweet About Them and Reviewers

  1. As along as reviewers don’t get personal (as I had happen to me) they are free to have any opinion they like and write it wherever they like. I would just say that there are instances where a reviewer is part of a campaign to smear an author for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the author’s actual creative output. Thank you for pointing out this questionable behavior however, so that people can learn from others’ mistakes.

    It happens in my other business too. If authors think book reviewers are tough they ought to get a load of craft beer reviews sometime!

    Ignoring them is best. Promote them if you must, but don’t ever respond unless it’s a family member.

    I speak from experience, having responded to the personal attacks which lead to being accused of “bullying innocent reviewers.” Crazy and uncivilized but….there it is (or was).

  2. All I know is this author reads reviews and if she has an issue with them, she will tell all her 12k twitter followers who may come over to my review and tell me I’m doing it wrong, or tweet @ me with the same. And she sees nothing wrong with that – apparently reading a book and writing a review with your opinion is the same as reading a review and writing your opinion. But it’s not really. Your the author and obviously you have a personal interest in having your book succeed. There is a bias there, and the bias would be to respond more personally toward a review that was not glowing. Anyway, as a reviewer who sees this happen a LOT, all I do now is quietly add them to a list of authors I don’t want to read because if I write about them and have some criticism, I might get targeted. Maybe that’s unfair, or maybe I’m losing out on books I might love, but why take a chance?

    • So true. I can like an author as a person, but not like their books. But I can’t like the books, and NOT like the author. So if I don’t like the author, I won’t bother with their books.

  3. *You’re the author I meant. *headdesk*.

  4. There are some days when I regret becoming part of the larger ‘book community’ and began following authors–many established for a long time–through social media (Blog, twitter, facebook). I think back to 10yrs ago, when I read because I wanted to and hardly ever read anything negative about authors (unless it made national news) and I miss that innocence.

    This is why.

    I don’t need to know that authors, folk who should know better, are taking personal exception to stuff. Intellectually I know they’re people, but when I’m reading their books I don’t WANT to know they’re people because it has the chance of ruining things for my reading pleasure (looking at you Orson Scott Card). We all make offhand comments on twitter or facebook about stuff that vexes us, but its rude to basically call them out for it. (which I see the irony of saying this as I’m commenting on a post about a discussion about a person doing this, but this is a relaying the facts posts vs. commenting that someone’s opinion is wrong or part of jealousy).

  5. I don’t know why the author complained. Three stars is a great rating for a book. I always take a moment to thank bloggers and reviewers for taking the time to read and review my book…even if I didn’t get a good review. It takes a lot of time and effort to do what they do. That author was just being rude and childish. That was completely uncalled for.

  6. Apparently another author who thinks reviews are for them. That reviews are “feedback” of their work, from readers to them so they can “improve”. Just… no.

    I think it’s pretty classless to expect a certain “format” of review from people who actually spend money on the products they review. If every author out there is expecting “unbiased” reviews from me, they’ll be very disappointed. Of course I’ll have expectations! Of course I’ll want character A to end up with character B (no, this does not mean you can be impolite to the author). This will affect my enjoyment of the book (obviously)!!! How difficult is this to understand, really?
    If this reviewer didn’t like the portrayal of Freyja, even if it was because, subjectively, she was expecting something else, then of course she should mention it! Reader reviews are SUBJECTIVE people (authors) and completely specific to the person who wrote them. THAT is why they can’t be used as “unbiased feedback” for authors. Authors could never hope to adapt their work to so many differing opinions, expectations and feelings. That is why they are called “opinions”.

    Sorry for the rant (and the caps). I just don’t get why authors don’t get this. It’s like we, readers, owe them something (if it’s not 5 stars, then it’s the type of review they want, and so on…). 😛

  7. Sigh. Authors make a living manipulating the written word. You would think that they would be completely aware of what they are saying and how others might take it. Too bad some few of then don’t seem to edit their social media interactions the wy they edit their novels.

    (Then again, some authors have editing trouble, too. I haven’t read this particular author, so I can’t say whether this is a problem in this specific case.)

  8. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves #48 | Great Imaginations

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