SFP's Pages Turned lit blog turned me on (way late, it seems) to the latest flaming backlash from an author who does not appreciate her book being less-than-positively reviewed by an unprofessional critic, otherwise known as anyone coming from the despicable book blogging community. I suspect that many of you have experienced the same; it's happened to me several times and it is the main reason I've cut back so far on the number of review copies I nowadays accept from publishers or authors.
I will say, too, before going any further, that I have sometimes been overwhelmed by the graciousness of several authors who have stopped by to thank me for reviewing their books even though my reviews were far from being raves. I am pleased to report that the "gracious group," in my experience, has outnumbered the "unprofessional group" by at least 5 to 1.
This is some of what Sylvia Massara had to say about book bloggers (only the ones who do not rave about her work, of course):
This is why I am warning authors to beware of this kind of reviewer. When you offer your book to be reviewed, first take the time to check out the reviewer. Have a read of some of the reviews they wrote in the past. See if they trashed someone else. Make sure they back up their reviews with facts and objective criticism. I learned my lesson the hard way and didn't do my research first, as I should have done.This is tame stuff compared to the anonymous comments she left on at least two of the blogs that published unfavorable reviews of her latest romance novel.
Oftentimes, the people who set up these kinds of blogs have never written a thing in their lives, except maybe a grocery list. Most are avid readers who think they are qualified to review someone else's work. So it's very sad when they go about damaging the image of upcoming small press and indie authors with the rubbish they write.
My message to them is this: if you cannot write an objective review and back up what you say, then don't write anything at all. And next time you use the words "predictable" or "one dimensional" try to quantify what you mean--that is, if you are able to write about it. Please bear in mind that writers work very hard at their craft and the last thing they need is a smartass who makes subjective comments because they don't know how to do anything else.
Sylvia seems to be advising her pals to send their work out to only those "unprofessionals" that are willing to write a canned, positive review in exchange for the privilege of having received a "free" book. Anyone daring to challenge Sylvia's skills is written off as just another "avid reader that has never written anything other than a grocery list." Otherwise why would they fail to be dazzled by Sylvia's brilliance?
I cannot speak for others in the lit blog community, and I don't pretend to do so. But, as for me, I started Book Chase a little over four years ago as a personal book journal. I began with the intention of linking to what was already a thriving community of likeminded people, book lovers, writers, and heavy duty readers. My "reviews" were as much notes to myself, as they were anything else. I welcomed the opportunity to spread the word about "little books" that impressed me, the kind of book that seldom makes those trashy bestseller lists at the NY Times and USA Today. I loved hearing from self-published writers, small presses, and university presses.
I pride myself on giving an honest opinion about what I read, and I think that my reviews have gotten better over the years. But honesty is still the key ingredient, as far as I'm concerned. I will admit to letting a few books drop into the Book Chase Black Hole, even though I could neither force myself to finish them nor find anything positive to say about them if I did manage to make it through to the end, precisely because I respected the authors for working so hard to get out the word about their books. Some would say that is akin to pulling punches, but I have a soft spot in my heart for indie authors and small presses, and if I erred, it was on the side of "doing no harm."
I have only this to say directly to Ms. Massara: Book bloggers do not owe you a thing in return for a review copy other than their consideration of the book for an onsite review. They certainly do not owe you a positive review. There are a few "unprofessional" bloggers out there that will gladly do the dirty deed for/with you - and you can find them if you look around for a day or two. Sadly, that group of bloggers is every bit as unprofessional as the "professionals" who do the same for their own friends and colleagues. Perhaps, you should consider your own professionalism before leaving snarky anonymous comments around the web regarding what you consider poor reviews of your work. Is being a "sock puppet" part of the professional image writers shoot for these days? I doubt it.
(Follow the link in the first paragraph if you want to read Massara's original post (although she has self-servingly deleted about 180 comments she received) and two of the reviews of her work that got the lady in such a snit.)