If you’re involved in the YA book community and haven’t noticed any of the recent dustups over reviews, well, you’re probably lucky. So let me fill you in a bit.
Since January 1, there have been 8 separate incidents in 2 weeks between (mainly new) young adult authors and book bloggers who post reviews on Goodreads.
Timeline of the meltdowns:
Update 1-17-12: It seems the drama continues with a rebuttal from YA author Maggie Stiefvater in her post The Only Thing I Am Going to Say About Bloggers in 2012. So we had 8 fiascos before. Add in another one and that makes . . . that makes . . . maybe I should ask Count Von Count for help.
You can see more about each hullabaloo in these 3 roundup posts & articles:
The First Five Days on Goodreads: CuddleBuggery comments on 1) Tempest tempest; 2) Carrier crisis; and 3) Not so Beautiful Disaster part I.
Wank Fest Continues: A later post by CuddleBuggery details 3) Not so Beautiful Disaster part II; 4) Don’t Stop sniping Now and 5) the satirical #occupygoodreads debacle.
YA novel readers clash with publishing establishment: The Guardian discusses 1) Tempest tempest; 6) The Selection invection; and 7) Things are getting Blood(y) Red Road.
I find it frustrating because I have a foot in both worlds and know great people on either side of the argument. But it seems that each group is so entrenched in their views and aided by their supporters that no dialogue is happening. They might as well be shouting into thin air.
I don’t know if I can do anything, but when the traditional media picks this up, it’s time to stop the foolishness. A few are ruining the reputation of the many. YA authors already deal with enough stigma writing for teens. If the Young Adult movie is any indication, the general public think we’re all immature adults who live in our teenage glory days and don’t want to grow up. All that the recent drama is doing is proving that point. We might write for teens, but that doesn’t mean we get to act like them.
So this is what I propose: Instead of shouting to see who can be loudest at declaring their view, we need to have an honest, open, and respectful discussion. It can take place here, on Twitter via hashtag (perhaps #goodreadswar), or in another forum. The key, however, is listening. There is no way this issue will be resolved if everyone talks but no one hears.
These are the major issues as I understand them from all the comments and tweets I’ve read over the past few weeks:
- Bloggers shouldn’t be snarky as they tear apart my book, which I put so much of my life and soul into creating.
- Bloggers shouldn’t attack me or any other author personally in their reviews.
- Rude comments to reviews are just as bad—and often worse—than the reviews themselves.
- Bloggers shouldn’t gang up on an author and all read her book so they can tear it apart en masse.
- Authors shouldn’t be commenting on my reviews. It makes me uncomfortable, like they’re breathing over my neck as I read their book.
- Authors shouldn’t sic their friends on my reviews to defend their or their book’s honor.
- Authors, editors, and agents have the power of publishing behind them, which makes any interference unbalanced and intimidating.
- Publishing professionals shouldn’t intimidate bloggers who want to be writers by implying that posting bad reviews means bloggers have ruined their chance of ever having a writing career.
- Authors shouldn’t blog, tweet, or email nasty things about reviewers. We always hear about it, and it’s really hurtful.
- Authors shouldn’t even read reviews of their books on Goodreads if they can’t control their tongues in public. If they get upset, complain to a friend in person, but don’t take it out on us.
- If a book is crap, we’ll say it. The author shouldn’t take offense; instead, they should listen to the criticisms to help improve their next book.
- Authors need to grow thicker skin. They put their book out into the public and should expect criticism.
Looking at these issues, how can each side’s concerns be addressed so that we can all have a good working relationship going forward? What other concerns do you have that weren’t listed here? What are you willing to do to make the blogging/reviewing process beneficial for everyone?
As I’ve said before, Goodreads is not the enemy. Neither is the author. We are all working toward the same goal: sharing good books with others. So let’s stop the bickering and figure this out. Now.
A few misconceptions I want to address before we move on to the discussion:
- Authors are public figures, which in communications law means that criticisms of them and their work is allowed pretty much without penalty. Proving libel or slander is incredibly difficult for a public figure. edit: This basically means that authors have to accept they will be criticized and there’s pretty much nothing they can do about it.
- Yes, authors should be tough and not respond to criticism, but the cruelty shown in some reviews is unnecessary. Respect and courtesy are important for all sides of this debate. edit: I didn’t express my sentiments clearly here, as some have pointed out in the comments. I just meant that it would be wonderful if everyone involved would be civil to each other.
- If a book is (in the reviewer’s opinion) terrible and he couldn’t get past 150 pages before giving up, it does not invalidate his opinion or review if he details the major flaws that caused him to stop reading.
- Similarly, if a reviewer hates a book but continues to read the entire thing, it does not mean that her review is solely meant to trash the book for no good reason. Sometimes she’s hoping for a great second half, and other times she wants to read the whole thing to better form her opinion.
- Neither of these are good reasons to discount a reader’s opinion or review.
- Reviewers generally aren’t out to hate authors. They want to find great reads, and are frustrated when book doesn’t live up to their hopes or expectations. How some express that disappointment is through snark, but rarely have I seen a review that trashed on the author as a person.