Recently I argued that the best way to deal with a cranky author coming after you for writing a less-than-glowing review about their work was to delete the review but say why you had done so. My argument was that obscurity is the worst thing that can happen to an author. No reviews = no attention = no sales = no career. Bye, bye author.
Kat Kennedy (and others) responded in the comments (and on Twitter) to say that while she could understand responding that way she personally would not do it for three reasons: 1) She was proud of her reviews. 2) Some authors badgered reviewers into taking down their negative reviews. Why should they be given what they want? 3) Readers deserve to see the full range of reviews.
Today I woke up to the latest online storm around an author and their fans going after negative reviews which culminated in the reviewer receiving threatening calls. It is so petty and so stupid I just can’t even . . . Aaargh!
What is wrong with people that they can’t take in a simple very obvious fact: we all have different opinions.
Didn’t I just write about this the other day?1 You can’t control what people think of you or your books. I guess I should have also said, and if you try you’ll look really, really, really bad. You’ll look like you’re abusing your powerful position as a bestselling, popular author. You’ll make people not want to buy your books far more than any one-star review ever could have.
I have a theory that there’s been a lot more of this kind of bullying from authors lately because there are far more authors who publish themselves without first going through the process of submitting to agents and editors and experiencing rejection. Authors whose work has not been workshopped or critiqued or, in some case, even edited, before publication.2 They’ve only been read by people they aren’t related to or are friends with. Then they start being reviewed by strangers. Thus their first experience of criticism happens in public. Ouch. Sometimes there are unfortunate consequences.
My theory may well be true for a handful of those at the extreme end of self-publishing but it does not explain the established, published-by-big-houses, several-books-into-their-career, New-York-Times-bestselling authors who also freak out about negative reviews in public.
How on earth can they think a one-star review on Amazon or Goodreads is going to have the slightest effect on their career? What exactly are they afraid of from less-than-stellar reviews? The more widely read your books are the bigger amount of bad reviews you’re going to get. Simply because more people are reading you. Bestsellers are pretty much always the most hated. How many haters of Da Vinci Code, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey are there? Surely they’re in their gazillions. As are the lovers of those books. It goes with the territory.
It’s the sheer quantity of reviews and responses and other indications of your being read that fuels further sales because they mean your book is being talked about. Lots of reviews means word of mouth is happening. Whether they’re negative or positive is neither here nor there.
Look, I get that there’s a lot of pressure on those bestsellers for their next book to outsell the last. For them to always be a bestseller. I know it’s stressful.3 But seriously? Siccing your fans on an Amazon reviewer? Why?
So, yes, I’ve changed my mind. Too many of these cranky authors want negative reviews to not exist. Don’t give them what they want. Don’t let them bully you into taking down your reviews. Be strong. And make sure as many people as possible know that you’re being bullied. Authors have to stop doing this.
I think the other strategy is only effective for books that are already obscure. In the real world my plan of them having no reviews at all and disappearing into obscurity is not really going to happen.
You should do what works best for you. Being in the centre of an online shit storm is horrible. I’ve been there. For most of us life is too short.
The fact that any amount of energy is being spent on this is so ridiculous. The fact that readers are nervous about sharing their honest opinions about books is also ridiculous.
You publish books, you get bad reviews. If you don’t want bad reviews don’t write books.