On Negative Reviews, Personal Boundaries, and Authors

I’ve been pretty much cosy in my own niche when it comes to Goodreads. Safe with less than a hundred friends, a shining record of zero trolls, no arguments or drama whatsoever. It’s a nice place to be. That doesn’t mean I haven’t heard my share of horror stories, or participated in discussions on said horror stories. If my niche was a small, backward hometown, the stories would imply that the rest of GR is the big bad world. Ugly, and nasty, and any other negative adjective you feel like giving it – infested with trolls and bullies. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Authors and their involvement on reviews. By all means, be active on GR, who am I to stop you? But the truth is, every reviewer has a personal boundary, and overstepping that (whether you’re a fellow reader or an author) is never a good idea. It brings down the rain of hellish drama that’s best avoided for all involved parties.
For me, personally, that boundary is pretty well-defined. When an author likes my positive review, I’m beaming with pride. It’s the typical fangirl response – ohmygod thanks for noticing that I LOVE YOU AND YOUR WORKS!! Negative reviews? Ehh. Even current reads.
I sound pretty vague. Let me clarify with an example (okay, the one and only time this has happened), when John Dixon (who was extremely nice and polite. A+ to you) and I had a wee discussion on his book, Phoenix Island, while I was reading it. I loved Phoenix Island and was well on my way to loving it far before John Dixon commented on my status and said he looked forward to my review. Which is all well and good. But that led me to wonder what might’ve happened if it had been a different book and a different author.
What if I’m on my way to disliking your book and you say you look forward to my review? Even if you’re the picture of politeness, I will (and I think most readers would) be uneasy. Any author could find my cringe-filled negative reviews of their book, but when I know you’re keeping an eye out for my review? I’d be pretty darn scared. Especially with the way the word ‘bully’ is thrown around. So here’s what I’ve been getting at, authors – just avoid publicly acknowledging any review that’s less than positive or is so far unwritten. It’d feel like you’re looking over my shoulder as I write. Not cool for me, and if you were to respond to my negative review in any way that’s less than polite, not cool for you either.
If I see one of my GR friends receiving rude, uncalled-for behaviour at the hands of an author, I am more than likely to shelve the book in question on my will never read shelf. And what authors need to understand is that this is not out of any spite or malicious intent. It’s because I am scared of reading your book. I am scared that I will dislike it and be slandered and accused of bullying the way my friends have been. I would rather avoid reading it altogether. This is the purpose of most people’s do not read shelves.
I guess it’s easy to take an entirely impersonal negative review as a personal attack. Your book is your darling, your baby, something you can truly call your own. As an aspiring author, I don’t deny that at all. But here are the facts, guys – you’re professionals! Every professional receives criticism. If it’s not personally abusive, or a troll, then it’s a review just as valid as one a popular critic might write. It’s one opinion in the midst of glowing four stars and five stars. There are two ways to deal with it. Number one, ignore. So one, or two, or three people don’t like your book. Respect their opinion and move along. Number two, learn. Constructive criticism. Finding out what the readership thinks is wrong in your book could improve their opinion of your next books. And doesn’t that work out so much better than an ugly Internet scandal? We’re all adults here. Let’s act like it.


4 thoughts on “On Negative Reviews, Personal Boundaries, and Authors

  1. The truth is, reading is truly subjective. For every book that five people will rave about another five people will dislike it. Authors need to accept and understand that a few bad reviews is not necessarily a criticism of them personally – it’s also down to personal preference. You need a tough skin in this industry! Freda x

    1. I absolutely agree! The good reviews are for your ego, the bad ones are for your improvement – a lot of writers don’t seem to keep that in mind when they come across critical reviews.

      1. There we go. This is why I think that writing fanfic before you start seriously writing original stuff is a good idea – because this way you get a taste of how people react to your writing, and how you should react to their reactions. I would certainly rather have my faults called out than just warble on making the same mistakes.

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