Monday, January 11, 2016

When An Author Doesn't Like Your Review . . .

I know that I have only been blogging for a little over a year, but this was a new one. I recently gave a one star review to an ARC I received from NetGalley. The day after I posted this review on Goodreads and Amazon, the author emailed me. I will try to paraphrase the email, but essentially she asked if she had offended me in some way, she called my review hurtful and she said that since I was a writer, she was sure that I understood how painful those reviews could be. She also stated that maybe I didn't realize there was an actual person who wrote the book and would be hurt by my comments. The kicker was when she offered to give me a refund (she didn't realize I had gotten a free ARC) if I took my review down.

I had to take three days to calm down before I could think of an intelligent and calm response. My immediate response was frustration and anger. Yeah, I have a temper. Sue me.
It didn't help that when I told my husband, his response was "Did you say anything bad?"

I kind of forgave him this question, but it did make me second guess myself. I mean, how do I answer that? It was a freaking one star review. so it's not like I was all puppies and rainbows and unicorns. But I reread my review several times and I know it did not cross any lines.

Would the words hurt if it were my book? Of course. Nobody likes to hear that someone thought their book was boring.
But here is the bottom line: I stand by my reviews. All of them, good or bad. I feel like I am fair in my reviews. I don't insult the author personally, nor do I ever insult the readers who may love it (and there were a few good reviews). And yes, I am well aware that there is a real live person behind the books that I review. I started my first novel in November for NaNoWriMo and I get it: writing is HARD. It is exhausting. After that experience, I want to bow down and worship every author who gets it right and makes it look so easy.
And that experience also made me feel very badly for the authors who don't make the mark for me. But that doesn't mean that I will refrain from posting any negative reviews. I don't relish the thought of posting negative reviews. but I wouldn't be much of a reviewer if I just told you guys about the good stuff.

This was a new author and her first book and it looks like I was her first negative review. I felt really bad about that, but what kind of reviewer would I be if I edited my reviews or if I never published the negative ones. Readers deserve to know what I truly think about a book. They can make their decisions from there. Maybe they will share my opinion and maybe they won't.
After some encouraging words and advice from Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight (THANK YOU!!), I took a few breaths and tried to think about what my response should be. Looking at it from her perspective, I completely understand why she was hurt. But she still should not have contacted me. I eventually sent her a very respectful email in which I apologized that the review hurt my feelings but that I stood by my reviews and would not be taking my review down. I also (again, respectfully) told her that her contacting me was inappropriate.

The saddest thing about this experience is that this author has most likely lost a reader. I don't normally write an author off after one bad book. I am usually willing to give them another chance. But will I read something that this author wrote again after her response to my negative review? Not likely.  I haven't heard from the author since my email and that's great. Hopefully, she has moved on. But the people pleasing part of me is sad that I hurt her feelings. But I think I handled it the right way.

Has this happened to anyone else before? What would you have said to this author? Have you ever regretted a negative review?


48 comments :

  1. Good on you. This hasn't exactly happened to me but sometimes with ARCs or less popular books I know the author is more likely to see my review and it does sometimes become hard to write what you really thought of the book because you don't want to offend the author. But I do think it's important to say what you felt in the nicest way possible.

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    1. Thanks so much ozbooksnail. Yeah, I agree that the ARCs are even harder. And when I posted this one, I noticed that it was the first negative review. I felt so bad for that, but what could I do?

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  2. How sad. Giving the author the benefit of the doubt, it's probably all new to her and maybe she actually learned from this experience! I've never regretted a negative review, but then again, like you, I make sure to focus on what I didn't like about the book. I do have to say that I see a lot of reviews on Goodreads that would be really upsetting if I were the author. It seems like there are people who try so hard to be clever or amusing that the reviews end up being over the top with nastiness.

    It sounds like you handled the situation really well. My hardest experience was when someone I knew asked me to review her book and I didn't like it! I wrote a review and tried to focus on the positive, but it was really difficult, and I think she realized all the things I wasn't saying!

    Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies

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    1. Thanks Lisa! You are very right about her being new. That is 100% the reason why I didn't respond right away . . . that, and the fact that I really wanted to be as respectful and understanding as possible and I couldn't do that if I were mad. I am hoping that she learned from it. If it were my book, I am sure that any negative review would hurt my feelings, regardless of how they put it. I did call her book boring and I completely understand why that would hurt her feelings. But at the same time, I know that I wasn't intentionally mean in my review. I try to be fair in all of my reviews, positive and negative. And I try my best to say something good in every review, but that's really hard to do with a one star review. And I would hate it if someone I knew asked me to review their book. That is my fear whenever I finally finish my own book. I would love to get input from people I know, but I would hate to put them in a position where they felt they had to lie to me or sugarcoat it. But I would also hate for them to think I was a horrible writer. Catch 22, right? :) Thanks so much for your input.

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  3. First off, a book REVIEWER is exactly what it says-you review books. And I am a firm believer in standing by what you write as well. Obviously the author is new to the reviewing world but that doesn't give her the right to bother the reviewer. It can be a very hard thing to write a bad review,( I have done two-so far and hopefully there won't be any more for a long time)not something this author thought about.I understand that it isn't easy to write a book, it is also not always easy to write a negative post!!I believe you shouldn't feel bad for doing what you are supposed to be doing and I also wouldn't read this author again either. I support you.

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH Joann!! I really appreciate your support. I hate negative reviews. I mean, first of all, I hate that I read a book I didn't like. But also, I know that the author may read my review and it may hurt his or her feelings. But at the same time, it comes with the job. She is a writer, so she has to deal with people hating her book. Look at the bestsellers. Even those have their share of critics. You just can't escape it. I am glad that you agree with me that she was out of line.

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  4. What an uncomfortable situation! You write thorough reviews with thoughtful grading, I don't know why the author has hurt feelings.

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    1. Kwizgiver, yeah I guess this author was just extra sensitive. Or maybe it's just that she is new.

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  5. That is nuts!! Thank god I haven't had that happen before. Sounds like you handled it the best way possible though. And of course you should stand by your reviews. They are your opinions. Hope you don't have to deal with anything like that again!

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    1. Thanks Grace! I hope not too! Hopefully. this is just a one time thing.

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  6. I've had this happen to me but the author didn't email me about it. Instead, she talked about it on her own site's forum filled with her friends and family and "fans" too, I guess. I had to find it out when I checked on her site to see if she has more work I can check out. Guess not.

    You handled it nicely. I do get where the author is coming from but then again, you put your work out there, get ready to hear what people think about it.

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    1. Cate, ouch that somehow makes it even worse, I think. I mean, the fact that she brought it to the public's attention. The reason I am not putting the author's name out there is because I don't want to cause any other potential readers to have bad feelings about her. I guess that author lost you as a reader just like mine, huh?

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  7. Yuck, that's an unpleasant situation :( I think you've done everything correctly here. Even if the author's feelings were hurt, there's no reason she should have contacted you. If you're choosing to publish work, you're opening up that work to criticism. An author can't expect everyone to love all aspects of their work, always.

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    1. Thanks so much Reno! I really appreciate that. You are so right. I mean, look at the bestsellers. Twilight and Hunger Games are two bestselling YA series that come to my mind. Even those books have their critics. It happens and if you are going to be a writer, it is just something you have to learn to deal with.

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  8. That is really terrible and a very frustrating situation for you! I think you handled it really well and I'm glad you stand by your review! I luckily haven't had to deal with authors behaving badly but it's very off-putting and makes me not want to read the author.

    Great discussion!
    Here's my musing today (:

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    1. Thanks so much Cyn! Yeah, this one book would probably not have been enough to stop me from reading more of her work. But this email definitely did.

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  9. I'm sorry that this happened to you :( I always feel a bit bad about my negative reviews, but like you, I always try to note what I didn't like and why, and point out the positives that I can. We're not insulting the author, we're just saying we didn't like what they wrote - and that's okay. How boring would it be if we all liked the same things?!

    We'd make terrible reviewers if we weren't honest, some authors seem to take offence to that. And in my experience, negative reviews can be good things, because people also pick up books based on them as well as positive reviews.

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    1. Thanks so much for your support, Wattle! Negative reviews definitely have their place. It's not that I like doing them (mainly because I hate when I don't like a book), but what can I do? There have been times where I actually read a book even though there are negative reviews. I may decide that the issues that reader had weren't ones that I would have a problem with.

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  10. Like you said no author wants to hear that someone didn't like their book but if he/she can't deal with that reality then they really need to rethink being an author.

    JK Rowling, Stephen King, and every other successful author has gotten negative reviews. Hell, Harry Potter are among the most successful books in history and there are still countless people who didn't like it.

    I think you handled the situation great.

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    1. Thanks so much Bunnita! And you are so right. I have written a negative review before where it seems like me and only four other people (out of hundreds) had any issues with it. It happens. And really, if you can't deal with it, then maybe writing is not the best job for her.

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  11. Huh. I don't get it... a book is a product, and not every product is right for every person. I know that writing is an art and so it's quite easy for a writer to feel like they've put a bit of their very soul in their book, but in the end an author has to realize that a book is not actually an extension of their self. It's got to be difficult to be a thin-skinned author, but pressuring a book reviewer into "taking back" an honest (and not personally motivated/phrased) review is a bit much.

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    1. Thank you so much for your support! I was so taken aback by her request. And to offer me a refund if I take it down? That just makes it even worse, I think. It's basically a bribe so that she only gets positive reviews.

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  12. Ok, I apologize in advance for the extremely long comment lol.

    This is perfectly times because just today I was about to start a new book, so I went to the author's Twitter, and the first thing I saw was her essentially calling one of her readers dumb for giving her her first one star rating. Immediately all the feel-goodness I had about her book kinda disappeared.

    I feel like, what is going on with authors lately? You must know, when you publish a book, that it IS going to get some low ratings. Instead of complaining about them, authors could be learning from them. At the very least, having a few low rating makes all the ratings seem more believable, and sometimes what one person hates, another loves. Plus, responding to negative reviews serves no point other than to make the author look bad.

    I do think some people seem to forget there's a person on the other side, but there are also plenty of negative reviews that are fair and respectful, and it sounds like your review was a fair one. You handled the situation perfectly.

    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

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    1. Thank you so much Kristen! I really appreciate that. It really sucks that this issue has cost her a reader. A new author who gets a low rating for a debut book wouldn't necessarily get written off by me. But this email certainly did that. It left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. I can understand why you would have been turned off by that author on Twitter.

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  13. Glad I could be of assistance :D The thing for me is that I KNOW you and I know your reviews, and they are NEVER mean spirited. Negative and mean are not the same thing, and I don't think this author realized that. Or cared. Or maybe she read reviews while drinking too much wine, because that's the only explanation for such nonsense ;)

    Now, on the opposite end, I saw a review where the guy flat out badmouthed the author- a debut also- and said NOTHING about the book. Just that she, as an author, was bad. Well then. I may or may not say something to him, because he is an ass. THOSE are the kind of reviews that are not okay.

    Negative reviews are a thing. As a writer, it would suck. I get it. Like you said, I gained SO much insight during NaNo. But I am respectful, I never bring the author's character into reviews, I never, ever tag anyone on social media if it is under 4 stars. But do I write negative reviews? YEP. Because who would even care what I had to say if everything WAS rainbows and unicorns? I wouldn't follow that kind of blogger.

    You handled this VERY well, and with a lot of class. In a way, it's good that you are the first person she did this too, because it could have gotten SO ugly for her had it been a less kind person.

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    1. Thank you so much Shannon! I really do appreciate the support and the advice. Yeah, that reviewer who 100% badmouthed the author . . . that is crazy and I can understand why an author would take that one personally. The fact that I keep the author out of my reviews doesn't mean I don't realize there is a person behind the book. I mean, they just can't take it personally. Every single book gets its share of negative reviews, no matter how popular. And if I were to edit my reviews or only post the good ones, what kind of reviewer would I be? I really hope she does not do this again. You are right that other bloggers may have handled this a bit differently.

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  14. Agh this is awful. D: I haven't had this happen before with an author, just had very loyal fans absolutely run me to the ground for disliking a book and giving it 1-star. And omg, I've seen your lower-starred reviews and you always seem logical and calm and nice still in them to me!! But YES. Authors can't do this. once your art is in the world, you don't have control anymore and you can't ask people to have a certain opinion. Sometimes I worry about authors...like are they really ready to publish if they can't take the idea that people won't like their book?

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    1. Thanks so much Cait! I worry about authors too, especially this one. If you can't take criticism of your work, then maybe writing isn't the profession for you. I have had people on Amazon respond to one of my negative reviews suggesting that I am dumb because I hated a book they loved. Umm, okay. I just can't even engage those. But I expect more from an author.

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  15. Dang Cynthia, I'm so sorry you had to go through this kind of situation!

    But the way you handled it was on-point. (If only all bloggers and authors had the maturity you had when replying to the author.)

    I just think that when you let your book out to the world, THERE'S GONNA BE HATERS. No matter what you write. There IS no perfect book, and if one review makes you that emotional, I'm scared to think of what will happen when the reviews start coming up once it's published.

    *whispers into the abyss* there willll be haterrsss...

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    1. Thanks so much Aila! I really appreciate your support. It means so much. And you are right about haters being out there. No matter how popular a book is or how famous an author, there will always be negative reviews. It happens.

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  16. I'm sorry you had to go through that, but I think you handled it very well! I haven't experienced this yet, but I did have an author who was communicating with me on a regular basis, and she was giving me a couple of her books. I liked the first ones she gave me, so she continued to offer more. Then, I got to one that I just thought was okay. I gave it 3 stars and never heard from her again. 3 stars! I included what I didn't like about the book, and I guess she didn't approve. Imagine if I gave it 1 or 2 stars! I'm going to be honest in my reviews. Authors shouldn't expect anything less.

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    1. Thanks so much Cheryl! I really appreciate your support. That kind of sucks about that author. And 3 stars isn't even a bad review. Personally, 3 stars means that I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. That's kind of weird that she let one average review stop her from asking you for reviews. If I were to lie in my reviews or edit them in any way, what kind of reviewer would I be? Craziness.

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  17. Negative reviews are SO hard because you hate to crush the hopes and dreams of an author, but at the same time you have to be honest. And, the problem is, when we don't like something it's hard not to be at least a little bit ranty. I went over to Goodreads and read your review (out of curiosity) and I can see why an author would feel sad about it, but you were just being honest about how you felt. There were lots of things you didn't like about it, and you told us so. It's a shame, but it would really bug me if only people who loved a book reviewed it and then I read it thinking it was going to be great and then found out it really wasn't. As reviewers I feel like we need to point out the good AND the bad!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Thanks so much Nicole! I swear, I reread my review so many times. And if that were my book, of course I would hate for someone to think those things about it. But would I contact them? NO! I would just have to take it as constructive criticism and move on. I didn't think I was unnecessarily mean or anything. Thanks for your support. I really appreciate it.

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  18. Wow! I can't believe that you had that experience and I'm sorry you did. That hasn't happened to me.

    I agree that it is hard to write a negative review but the most important thing is an honest review. If you are going to be recommending a book to someone and recommending that they spend their hard earned money on it, shouldn't you stand by that recommendation?

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    1. Exactly Eva! I can't, in good conscience, recommend a book that I did not like. And if I ONLY posted positive reviews, I feel like that would be lying as well. I just can't do it.

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  19. This actually happened to me a couple of years ago and I have not read a book written by her. I was part of a blog tour for her book and when I told the tour organizer that I didn't like the book at all and will not be reviewing it, the author contacted me. I actually did not respond to her.

    I applaud your reaction to this.

    I know that reading a negative review is hard, but I hope authors learn from the reviews. Of course, we can't please everybody. As long as the review is only about the book and not directed to the author or the fans, I am good with that.

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    1. Thanks so much Zeee! Wow, I can't believe that the author contacted you just because you turned down a blog tour request. But we can't really recommend books we hate, can we?

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  20. I've never really once regretted a negative review. Mostly I try to keep myself objective or professional when I do write them because I don't want to sound like I'm just bad mouthing the author. Most of the time the book just wasn't for me.

    I can see where the author is coming from but, personally, I would've asked what I could maybe improve on my writing rather than asking you to take it down. Not everybody is going to like your book and if the reason they didn't like it is something fixable like plot predictability or the pacing, then it's fine to reach out to the reviewer, but if it's not fixable like your style or the story, then it's just not the reviewer's cup of tea. That's fine.

    I have seen reviewers that post negative reviews and it's not really constructive or anything it's just negative and hurtful. That can warrant a really negative response from the writer, but if it's well worded and not hurtful, then I don't see the problem.

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    1. Exactly Alexa! I hate reviews that are nothing but author bad mouthing or a one line statement "this book sucks." I could kind of understand an author reaching out in those cases. And I know that negative reviews are never easy to read, but I can't exactly lie about my feelings. It is what it is.

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  21. I know harsh some people can be but if you respectively wrote why you didn't like the book, I don't see anything wrong with that. There are different reasons why people don't like a book such as love triangles, insta-love, m/m, etc., but there are also people that love those types of books. As a reader, I need to know if and why you didn't like a book.

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    1. Thanks so much Ashley! And you have a point. There have been instances where I buy a book despite someone's negative review. That reader may have hated something that I have no problem with. But I can't ONLY post positive reviews. Readers deserve to know when I didn't like a book and why.

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  22. Fortunately, this hasn't happened to me, but I hope I'd handle it the way you did. It sounds as though you were very professional and I agree that as long as your review doesn't insult the author or people who liked her book, you're doing the right thing for your readers by sharing a negative review. Great post!

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    1. Thanks so much for your support DoingDewey! I really appreciate it. :)

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  23. I think she put you in a difficult position, and I think you handled it very well. I would have been angry too :/ I've never been a reviewer in that situation before, but I have felt like that author. I was writing on Figment, and someone left a long critical review on one of my stories. It was my first negative feedback ever and it HURT. She didn't say anything mean about me personally or about my work. She was just honest. And honesty sometimes hurts. I've grown a much thicker skin now (in fact I crave criticism. It makes my work stronger when I know how to fix things), but I'll always remember that. The author who contacted you handled her bad feedback horribly, but I understand how she felt. Maybe you were the one to teach her a lesson, and she'll gain a thicker skin and strive to write better stories in the future :) She'll grow as an author because of this. So yeah, I think you handled the whole thing very well ^_^ WONDERFUL post!

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  24. I think this is actually becoming more common, Cynthia, and that is really not good. I really get how hard it is to write a book, and then let it out into the world for other people to read. What authors need to understand is that we all bring some of our own experiences and expectations into our reading, and that is part of our enjoyment (or not) of a book.
    Also, I am really a firm believer in reviews being for other readers, not as a report-card for the author. When I write a review, I do so with other readers in mind, so I will state the positive and negative things about it, leaving the author out of the equation.
    I'm sorry you had to go through this, but I think you handled it with class!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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  25. Honestly, I feel bad when writing a bad review, but if that is my honest opinion, I will write it.
    Only recently I gave 2 stars rating to a book that's been written by my favorite author, and although I felt quite bad writing it, I still wrote it because my GR friends like to know what I think about books I read, and I will always be honest.
    I only have one, I can't say bad experience, but questionable, I wrote a two-star rating review for a book published by a certain publisher, it got pretty much ''likes'' and you can see it whenever you go to book's GR page. After that review, publisher never approved me for another book they published.
    It can be just a coincidence though...

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    1. Irena, you are so right. I need to be honest, both for my Goodreads followers and my blog readers. I really hate when I have to write a negative review. But I feel like as long as I don't badmouth the author personally or cross any lines, then the author should try not to take it personally. Thanks so much for your support.

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