I hesitated to write this post, because I’m sure it won’t be read by the people who need to hear it, but then I decided it was important.
I’m a review junkie. All you YA book bloggers may not know it, but I stalk your blogs and Goodreads reviews. I love that most of you put together well crafted and thought out book reviews and I look to you for what to read next.
But I recently read a review that broke my heart. It was for a book that I loved by an author who, in addition to being insanely talented, is also a really nice person. What upset me as I read the review wasn’t that the reviewer quite obviously didn’t like the book. Tastes are different, and no one book is going to appeal to everyone. I have no problem with a well thought out negative review. What upset me was that the attack was personal. And, make no mistake, it was an attack. Reviewers: Please know the fact that you're at your computer, possibly thousands of miles away, doesn't make your words any less sharp or cutting. They hurt just as much as if you'd said them to our face. More so in some ways, because you've broadcast them to the world.
This reviewer thought it was somehow funny to ridicule the author. If you don’t like the book, fine, but it’s not necessary to poke fun at it or the author. There are a few reviewers who, I’m convinced, take joy in ripping authors to shreds.
So, I read this cutting review and then, because I was curious if this was a pattern for this reviewer, went to her Goodreads profile and found out two things. One: unfortunately, it is a pattern, and two: she is an aspiring writer.
Now that I’m being asked for blurbs, I find myself on the other side of the page. Where I was once an “aspiring writer” now I’m a published author, and some people seem to think that means I know what I’m doing.
The writing community, especially in YA is ultra-supportive, and I’ve made some great friends along the way. I’m super happy to help out authors who are where I was not that long ago. But, the thing about that is, if it’s someone I don’t know, I’m going to check them out before I agree to read their work. I google them. I check Goodreads, Amazon and B&N for reviews they’ve posted.
It’s a pretty significant time commitment for someone like me, who still works the day job, to agree to read a novel and decide whether to blurb it. I can tell you without hesitation that, if I see a review that crosses the line into a personal attack, I won’t be helping that writer out, and I’ll very likely forward that information along to the multitudes of other authors that I’m now fortunate enough to call my friends. It’s not that I, or any of my writer friends are vindictive. It’s really just the opposite. We support each other and we’re friends. I want to know that the person asking that I support them has been supportive of other writers in return (kind of the pay it forward mentality).
So, if you write book reviews, excellent. If you’re planning on trying to get your own work published, however, be conscious of the fact that, at least in the YA community, many of us are friends. A nasty review of any book or author is a reflection on you more than the book, and we’ll take that into account when we decide how much we’ll be supporting your writing career.