Your book is your baby, your pride and joy. You’ve spent countless hours writing, re-writing, editing, and proofreading and then editing and proofreading again which sometimes results in your reading your work two or three times through. It’s no easy feat and can sometimes take a year (or two or three or more) just to publish one book and that’s with the many self-publishing options we have today.
Then, someone comes along and knocks the wind out of your sails by posting a negative review. No fair, right? Well, it depends. More on that in a few.
I am going to keep this post (kind of) short and sweet and to the point (similar to how I like to write- if you don’t know, I don’t like to spend too much time on a lot of unnecessary detail- I like to let the reader use their own imagination, which surprise! is how I like to read). Also, I hope that I don't come across as whining, raving or anything like that, because I am not trying to be. I have a habit of just getting to the point and coming out and saying what I think. I am just stating what I have seen out there and my opinions.
Anyway…as authors we all know how we should behave, but do all of us follow that unwritten code of ethics? If you have scrolled through various forums on Amazon over the past few months (I like to read them to keep up on what people are talking about, reading, etc., but I do NOT participate), no doubt you will have noticed postings about authors who have exhibited bad behavior. That unfortunately makes all of us look bad.
Here are the top bad behaviors by authors that I have seen on the forums:
1. Posting negative reviews on other author’s works without having read the book. Not good. From what I have read, these authors view the authors whose work they have posted negative reviews on as competition. The best way to deal with competition is to try to stand out, or even pair up with them, not undermine them. You won’t get far by doing that, and it always comes back on you!!
That is why you will NOT see ANY negative book reviews by me. First of all, as an author, I just don’t think it would look good. In fact, it would probably look like I was trying to do the above; undermine my competition. Secondly, I can usually find something about a book that I like, and I read almost all genres. If there is a book that I just don’t like (haven’t come across one lately, but I have in the past- I will tell you that I am not a fan at all of a lot of the “classics”) I just won’t write a review on it. Also, if there is a problem or question that I have with the book that can’t or shouldn’t be addressed publicly by constructive criticism (misspellings, grammar, etc.), I contact the author directly just to make them aware of what I found and that they might want to take another look at their book.
2. Contacting readers who have left you a negative review and responding in a nasty manner or asking them or the website to remove their review. Really? That’s just bad practice. Negative reviews will come with the territory. Everyone has differing opinions on what makes a great book, so a bonafide negative review should be the reader’s personal opinion. You can’t or shouldn’t tell someone else what it is that they should like. Now, if the review wasn’t a bonafide review but you aren’t able to prove it, then you still shouldn’t say anything. Learn from it, move on and concentrate on your writing. It doesn’t fare well for your reputation by acting in that manner; in fact, you could probably kiss your writing career good-bye before it even got off the ground.
I had an instance where I left a negative (one of two in my whole life) review of a product (that is what I will leave a bad review on- a product). The customer service was excellent, but the product was lacking in quality. I had paid a lot of money for this and it only lasted me about six months. I was very objective in my review, I just stated the facts of what happened to me but that the customer service and warranty was excellent. Needless to say, it was either the website or the distributor who didn’t like what I had to say about the product and my review was removed! I wasn’t asked, either.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Amazon will sometimes remove positive reviews from your book on their own initiative. I have not been able to figure this one out. I don’t know if the readers closed their accounts or what happened, but I did happen to notice good reviews that got deleted. I think they should have stayed. If this has ever happened to you, you can always add them (or a synopsis if you can’t remember the whole thing) in your editorial reviews section. For us authors, every good review counts! Now I have heard that Amazon polices bogus good reviews. I wonder why they don’t do that to the bad ones?
3. Paying for bogus reviews/forcing people to give you a review. This is not all bad. Kirkus is a review service. Even though you pay for the review, they are supposed to be objective in their analysis. I would not really get one for myself, but I can understand an author wanting some kind of review if no one has left one. What I don’t understand is how authors get tons of reviews (and likes) on their books. I know I have had hundreds of people so far read mine, but only a few have left feedback. Now, if you are paying people for 5 star reviews or forcing people to leave a review in exchange for your book, that is bad behavior. I have given my book away plenty of times to family and friends, and you know what? Not one of them has given me a review! I tell everyone it is nice if they want to review it, and be honest- it will not hurt my feelings- (because there are times when even I have thought what I wrote sucked!) but not necessary.
The above are the bad behaviors by authors that have stood out. Now, for the readers…
What brought this to the forefront (besides the Amazon posts) is that recently I was contacted by a company who I had bought something from. They asked me to leave a direct review on their product (I had already sent them good seller feedback) as they had discovered that a rival company was having people go in and trash their product on their website!! I promptly went out on the web and left my (5-star) review. I can’t say this enough. If you don’t treat people how you would like to be treated, regardless if it’s over the web or not, it will come back to you!!
These are the top bad behaviors I’ve noticed by readers:
1. Trashing a book you haven’t even read. Bad, bad, bad. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one. Please don’t do that. Never leave a review based only on a sample chapter, or even worse, the cover and synopsis! Give the author a fair shake by reading the book. If you don’t want to, then don’t leave a review. Period.
2. Looking for books that only have 5-star reviews and then promptly writing a negative one. C’mon now, really? I think this one disturbed me the worst. I saw where this was commented on in a forum, so I did not make this one up. An author said that they were actually contacted by a reader who does this on a routine basis. I wish I could talk to this reader to see what their rationale is. Do they know the authors personally and have a grudge against them? Even so, a review is not the place to handle it. How would they like it if someone went to their boss and trashed them with no rhyme or reason? Because that is what this is equivalent to. Again, it will come back!! You are potentially destroying someone’s livelihood! Even if these readers felt the authors bought their reviews, it is not for them to be the “police”. You don’t know that for sure. Maybe everyone really liked the book! Another author stated you can pretty much tell what negative reviews are bogus by looking at what that reviewer has read. If a reader has read only horror and then has one negative review for a romance novel, then you can pretty much figure that one out.
3. Leaving a negative review based on grammar, misspellings, etc. I consider this bad behavior. First of all, I will say that I am definitely not the grammar police. If I have a concern about what I consider bad grammar or form, I will contact that author directly and give them a heads up that they may want to re-review their book. I also do not like to use a lot of big words or flowery prose. That is just not me. I write how I talk, and that is not always the best. Anyway, I can’t tell you how many reviews I have seen that have been based on spelling and grammar, and how many reviews have had the same comments in them about spelling errors, etc. It kind of makes me think that they may be written by the same group of people, but I can’t say for sure. It also makes me think that those readers are not paying attention to the content of the book, just counting the number of “errors”. For those, I wish they would write a book so we could review it. Oh, and FYI- please make sure you don't have any spelling errors in your review if you are pinging an author for theirs. It doesn't make your review look very credible!
This concludes my summary of bad behavior by authors and readers. You may have seen some, none or all of these. In any case, this should help you be aware of what is going on. I’d be glad to hear about your experiences and thoughts!
Next post- in time for Easter- “I AM With You Always”