Tit For Tat Behaviors: Are You Guilty, Author?

 

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As a follow up to last week’s post on targeting book reviewers, a fellow reviewer friend of mine sent me a link to an argument that she had been following in which an author viciously attacked another well-known and well respected book reviewer/author, who had given this person’s book a one-star rating. While she was professional in her book review, the reviewer did point out several negative aspects of the book, including the ever-present lack of editing. The “reviewee” went on the attack in a retaliatory post and on social media, including the well-known threatening of legal action if the review was not removed from all sites.

The reviewer reminded me that it is exactly this kind of behavior as to why she never accepts indie books for review. She stated, correctly may I add, that you never know what kind of author you will be working with. She compared it to the surprise bags that we used to get as kids: the brown paper bags that you paid one dollar for and they would either be great candy and toys, or stuff that made you wonder why you spent that dollar. To her, it wasn’t worth the risk of the possibility of being attacked for her opinion of the quality of a book, especially when she had been sought out for it.

As I have continued to monitor this for Author CEO purposes (because, let’s face it, this incident has been a treasure trove of ideas for future ACEO blog posts), I noticed something yesterday that truly disturbed me. On Goodreads, this disgruntled, reviewed author gave one-star ratings with no follow-up review to those whom she somehow identified in her own blog post (complaining about the review) in which she attacks three authors as minions of the reviewer. These Goodreads ratings correlated with the date of the disgruntled author’s blog post. I had heard of this being done before, but have never witnessed it directly as I did in this instance. It was so blatant and incredibly disturbing to me, it took this incident to a whole new level.

Let’s look at why:

1)      When one gets into a tiff with reviewers, it looks unprofessional. Gotta say that it looks Three Stooges unprofessional. I often find myself giggling at some of the actions of unhappy authors and again ask, ‘why would you question why I won’t review your book,’ but also why I would? When the author takes it to the next level of impacting another author’s ratings, and therefore, income or appeal of a book, as a “tit for tat” vindictive behavior, it has moved onto a new level of ugliness. This is the same type of author who would cry foul if this ever happened to them, yet has neither the qualms nor impulse control to resolve issues in a professional manner. This is a direct PUBLIC action to affect authors in a passive-aggressive manner. Simply giving it a one- star rating on Goodreads doesn’t allow for comments, so what ends up happening is that the rating deflates the overall rating of the book without allowing on others to ask about the rating. Not very honest, is it? I listen to authors gripe on a daily basis about how someone has rated a book that they have not read, yet here was an author who did it in the blink of an eye. Could it be hypocrisy?

 

2)      Goodreads Terms of Service specifically states that one should not review a book to intentionally inflate or deflate its ratings. It states: “We will not tolerate abuse of our ratings system, such as rating the same work more than once for the purpose of inflating or deflating the book’s average rating. Multiple ratings we determine to be abusive will be removed.”

While those who come onto Goodreads have a great inkling when reviews are given to inflate an author’s ratings, the deflating of the ratings can be trickier to detect. On that account, not only are the targeted authors being affected in a false rating, so are the readers. Participation in this type of behavior is no different than giving readers the middle finger and feeling that they are simply a pawn in your playground.

3)      Every day, I hear authors complain that they cannot get their books into indie bookstores and/or libraries. Unfortunately for these sources, they are subject to only have Goodreads and Amazon to count on for reviews of indie books, as some of the larger trade magazines, such as Library Journal, BookPage, etc., do not accept, or sparingly select, indies for review. With this type of behavior rampant on these sites, can one blame these outlets for being leery of reviews found on these sites? So, in reality, not only are authors who participate in this type of behavior shooting the targeted author in the foot, they are shooting every indie author, including themselves, who has published a book and has no industry identified credible review outlet to lean back on.

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I reiterate, and will do so until I am blue in the face, or at least the fingers, until indie authors take a stand against this type of behavior, and hold offenders accountable, biased readers and reviewers will continue to point fingers and hold these behaviors as trump cards against you. One cannot stand by idly from the sidelines while witnessing these behaviors and think it doesn’t affect you, as an author.

Unfortunately, by some, all indie authors are the same. Even for me who loves indie books and authors, I feel as though I must tiptoe through a mine field when accepting new clients, either for review or Author CEO purposes.

 

Comment here!

Comments

  1. I agree with everything you have to say about professionalism, As an author I rarely respond to reviews although a couple times I have–mostly to very positive ones, to thank them. However recently I had to post a comment on Amazon because a reviewer gave a couple of my single volume Marienstadt books a 1-star review because she said she felt “swindled” because they were nothing but repeats of the stories in the Omnibus edition. I just suggested she return them and explained what an omnibus edition is. Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

    • OMG, hilarious! Except I know that you aren’t one of these authors. This is an author that shows vindictiveness to other authors.

      In the incident described above, I am sure that you handled it better than I would have. I would have done a #heresyoursign!

  2. Thanks for running this article, Naomi. As someone who has stayed as far out of this situation as possible, yet somehow became identified as a minion (which tickled my 8yo son to no end given the movies), I appreciate your take on the whole thing.

    As an author and avid reader myself, I feel that a reader/reviewer has every right to hate my work. As authors, we put our work out there and if people love it, great! If they hate it, that’s their right, too. We as authors need to be able to learn from it and move on and keep writing.

    I learn from every book and am the first to say that my third book is better than my first. I hope my tenth will be better than my fifth. It’s a process. The fact that someone took the time to read my book at all is still a wonder to me! I’m thankful, even if they hate it.

    This back and forth, vindictive game-playing is too high school for me. As I tell any author (including the one involved), I’m focused on my clients, writing, and advocacy — helping other childhood sexual abuse survivors. Writing good books, living a good life, raising good kids, helping authors learn from my own mistakes.

  3. I normally don’t review books at all. And I won’t review a book unless I can give it four or five stars. I’m finding many authors/readers are the same. They just don’t want to be targeted for backlash. In my own opinion, it’s not my god-given duty to warn others about a book. It’s just not. Also, if an author has no reviews, and the first one is negative, that book is shot dead in the water, which is sad, given that other readers may actually like the book. I just want to sell books. For some reason, I’m not as hung up on the reviews as other authors seem to be. But many are concerned because number of reviews corresponds with your book being included in visibility lists on Amazon, and many sites won’t let you submit your book unless you have an average 4-5 star rating. Throwing up my hands on this one! I just keep plugging along, creating the best work I can.

    • I hear a number of reviewers doing that, but don’t you think that is unfair to the readers of your reviews? Readers have just as much of a right to hear if a book is horrible, has flaws and/or is worth the money to spend on it. If we don’t give critical views, not only are we failing our readers, but the author as well, who is too thin skinned and/or unprofessional to identify that there might be ways to improve their writing process. That is why I have become very selective of who I review. If there is a hint that I could be a target of something like my last post or this post, they are not selected for review.

  4. “Unfortunately, by some, all indie authors are the same.”

    I so appreciate your take on this! It took me awhile to discover why many reviewers are wary of indie authors, but after reading some of the horror stories, I can’t say I blame them!

    Frankly, I’m just grateful that a reviewer took the time to read me – me! Out of all the thousands and millions of possibilities – they picked me. That’s so cool and I’m grateful no matter the outcome of a review.

    I think it’s important for all authors – indie or traditionally published – to remember that not everyone is going to love your work. All we can do is strive to grow and become better. Also, we should appreciate all feedback, good or bad, as it helps us accomplish greater things.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if the only way to make authors actually listen to this advice is to create a Buzzfeed-esque quiz. Which is what I was hoping this blog post would be, given the perfect title. ARE YOU GUILTY? TAKE THIS 10-QUESTION QUIZ TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH!

    • ROFL,Laura. I was hoping that authors would have enough insight to identify that they participate in vindictive behaviors. So, are you saying a post the lists the traits of vindictive behaviors? I could do a post on that. Generally, I try to stay positive, but I can go dark too!

  6. I stopped reviewing for precisely this reason. I’d have given the last 2 books I agreed to review, had I actually posted reviews, a 2-star and 1-star review, respectively. One was just so poorly edited that, despite a decent story, I could only justify a 2 stars. The other was simply awful from start to finish.

    That left me with this dilemma: Do I actually post the review? In the 2-star case, I did, but was careful to include the positive points, even suggesting that an edited revision could easily make it a 4-star book. In the case of the 1-star piece of garbage, I didn’t bother. Why? Because I feared reprisals. Just that simple.

    In this new wild wild wild wild west that is self-publishing, too many non-professionals are trolling the landscape. I think we can be honest about that.

  7. Yes, I know. It’s a dilemma, for precisely the reasons I talked about in this related post:
    http://evolvedpub.com/general-business/the-pursuit-of-quality-and-the-value-of-book-reviews/

  8. As an author who occasionally reviews books, I have no problem reviewing an indie author’s novel. However, I have a policy that states that I will not post a review lower than a 3 star. If I were a “professional” book reviewer then my policy would be different, but anything lower than a 3 star, I contact the author (or the source I received the book from) and tell them that I will not post a review and give a reason or reasons. This gives me some protection from harassment, but I really wish authors learned how to take a seat and not take things so freaking personal.

    Indies who can’t take a negative review sound like people who have never heard of the horror stories from those who tried the traditional publishing route. In order to successfully query, meaning continue taking no’s until they get a yes or decide to self-publish, authors have to develop a thick skin. Too many people want a gold star for last place work.

  9. —“Too many people want a gold star for last place work.”—

    This isn’t just a new industry phenomenon; it’s a broad cultural one. What did we expect when we decided to give trophies to everyone just for participating? The roosters are coming home to roost.

  10. As a new, yet-to-be-published author, I feel like I’ve unwittingly been dropped in a hornet’s nest o’ drama concerning reviews.

    I haven’t reviewed books in the past because they’ve been traditionally published and traditionally reviewed, and I felt there was no point. But now that I’ve begun reading self-publised authors I feel that my input could be useful.

    The thing that I love so much about e-books is the sample – if it’s a poorly-edited horror show that I wouldn’t buy, then that pretty much solves that. No review for them. Other than that, if the book sets out to do what it proposed, it’s going to be a 3-4 star review depending on how well the author tells the story. (I’m not ruling out 5 stars, but in my head it’s a tall order.) So far this works for me, and time will tell if it’s an effective strategy going forward.

    “If we don’t give critical views, not only are we failing our readers, but the author as well, who is too thin skinned and/or unprofessional to identify that there might be ways to improve their writing process.”

    In my experience more people are adept at pointing out things they don’t like than actually giving the kind of criticism that will make me a better writer. Not finding the former helpful doesn’t make me thin-skinned. I have a handful of people who can critically review my work and give *helpful* feedback – they have made me a better writer. Everyone else is an unproven, unknown, possibly hostile entity.

    • Susan, I have a Naomi-ism that I always say…”If there is zero to learn from a review then laugh it off! An author getting a one star review is like the sun rising in the morning.” I will never forget one of my favorite indie authors, Kathleen Valentine, getting a one star review with the reviewer stating there was too much sex in the book. There wasn’t. I was going to go in and respond to the reviewer and state that it didn’t. Her response to me was not to do it. That review would help her sell books. It is the nature of the beast. Readers can determine what constitutes a good/bad review and I have had readers tell me my bad review is what made them want to read the book. Drive by reviewers are often “eye-rolled” at due to the ridiculousness of their reviews.

  11. Naomi, this couldn’t have been an easy post to write (and thank you for writing it). Art is interpretive and, as artists, we must remember that every reviewer is entitled to an opinion. I’ve heard of flame throwing on Goodreads (and other sites) and consider myself lucky to have never witnessed such unprofessionalism firsthand. I’m saddened that you have.

  12. Hi Naomi,
    I think that there is a difference between book reviewers and what many book bloggers (like me) do. I no longer ‘review’ a book, but I share my thoughts about a book that I like. I don’t feel comfortable creating a critical review – maybe I’m too easy to please in some respects. I do, however, enjoy sharing my thoughts about books that I liked. That being said, I rarely finish a book that I don’t like, so maybe that’s why I don’t review…..

    • You are like me with some authors, Barb. I have authors that I will no longer review, but have switched to manuscript evaluations with them. When I do critical reviews, it is for the purpose of the reader, not the author. If the authors can pull stuff from it…bonus for them.

  13. I hear what you’re saying, Naomi. It takes all kinds to get a good feel for what you as a reader may be getting into. But as for me, like I said before, I don’t review books that much at all. I believe in letting readers take that chance. They can return a book they don’t like (or have read and still liked) because Amazon and other sites let them. If I really felt compelled to say something to the author, I’d just email them. However, like we all agree, like it or not, reviews are really for readers, not authors. I do like reviews for non-fiction because the reviews will let me know what I can get or not get from the book, and negative reviews can actually encourage me to buy because the information is what I may be looking for! Quite different from novels!

  14. I was just reading some of the comments and I think the idea of only posting positive reviews is interesting. Personally I post 3 star or above reviews, not because I fear an author’s reaction but because of the time involved in reading and writing the review. Books that I find I’d rate 1 or 2 stars are books I generally do not finish reading (unless it is assigned for class) and with all my other responsibilities I find it isn’t worth spending the time finishing a book I do not like and writing the review.

    I think for my readers this works because I show them books I love or books I thought were good quality. Does that sound fair?

  15. Naomi, kudos to you for bringing this issue onto a very public platform. Writers, like all artists, create from a burning desire. We hope our words will reach others and touch them in the way they are intended. As in all areas of the arts, we please some and not others. Reviews should be honest and well-written and, in those cases, there is always something to be learned … from 5-star to 1. Let’s continue the conversation and hope that the people who run Goodreads take note. You are such a strong, honest voice there for readers, reviewers, and authors and deserve to be heard.

  16. I’ve noticed how thin-skinned indie authors are. If they can’t take the crit from fellow indie authors, what will they do if they spend $500 to Kirkus and get the same review? That’s an immediate career shut-down.

  17. There are many thin-skinned authors, not just the Indie ones. I’ve seen traditionally pubbed authors get riled up too. And you have to remember, not all reviews are going to be from fellow indie authors. On the book sites, you have all kinds of people leaving reviews–including those who haven’t even read the book. As an Indie Author (and I’m proud of that fact), I have learned a lot from really good critiques or suggestions. I have a beta reader who almost won’t work with anyone else because they get so defensive when she makes suggestions. If it’s something I agree with, I stick that piece of info away for safe-keeping. If not, I nod politely and move on.

    • Oh I absolutely agree with you on that Scarlet. I have trad. pubbed authors get riled up on my reviews. I have given equal 5 star and 1 star reviews to both sides of the publishing industry.

      You bring up an excellent point that it is critical that if one chooses to go the indie route that they thicken up their skin for numerous reasons. No book and no author is perfect. I have worked with an author who is dynamic. I have still had critical feedback on her works. My editor and I have a running joke about sliding scale up for my pieces. It isn’t that I am a horrible writer, but I am no where near perfect and I am definitely not an editor! Working with credible manuscript evaluators, beta readers and editors will only improve one’s writing. Like life, writing is an ongoing learning experience. It is sad that some authors can’t or don’t want to see that.

  18. I couldn’t agree with you more on this post, as an author and a reviewer. Lack of professional behavior from indie authors tears down the whole group. It’s very frustrating to see it happening so often lately.

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