Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When friends get negative...

Following Kristi (The Story Siren)'s discussion yesterday about whether bloggers and authors could/should be friends, I have a followup question:

Have you ever written a negative review for an author friend?

Have you ever received a negative review from a blogger friend?

(That's two questions? Oh whatever, they're one for each demographics. So!)

I ask because: I have a number of authors I talk to frequently. Those may not all represent deep deep friendships, but they are still, nevertheless, friends, and in my opinion, when you get to that territory, you have to proceed with caution. I am wickedly hard on books and nitpick things some of my (non-author) friends find insane. But so it goes.

Anyway, up until a while ago I had had the luck of genuinely enjoying books by those authors I had regular contact with. And then...I found one I wasn't so crazy about. And I posted a review and I felt sick to my stomach and I didn't know what to do. It irreparably damaged the relationship I had with that author--and I think a negative review always does, to some extent--which sucks because the person in question is someone I really and truly respect.

I guess what I'm asking is, is it possible to be friends with someone who reviews your book negatively?

Before I hand it to you guys: I am well aware that my real duty is with my readership and reporting back to them as honestly as I can. I do that--I hope I've earned your trust after all this time. ;) But friendships within the community--as relatively small as this one is--do happen, and this is a very sticky situation. As much as I believe a book is separate from its creator, there is also the fact I am very publicly citing every little wrong thing about the manifestation of a friend's years of work.

61 comments:

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Once you become friendly with authors, it does become hard to review their books and remain unbiased. My friend published her first book a few months ago and I was wary in reading and reviewing it. Overall it was a good read but I had an issue with one of her characters, which I stated in my review. But she was so happy that I took the time to read and review her book.

But then on the other end, I was very friendly with an author and loved her books. Her last book was such a disappointing read for me and I gave her a less than positive review. She doesn't really talk to me anymore. I guess she wasn't happy with my opinions.

Sorry, I don't care if I am friends or the author is a stranger, I will post an unbiased review if I can and try to remain professional.

shelburns said...

I commented on Kristi's post, and I'll probably say some of the same things here. I think this is a topic that has been on alot of minds lately and it's a very important one.
Everyone is different, with their own opinions, and that's why I love book blogs, because you can see a book from so many different viewpoints. It allows readers to make very educated decisions about the books they choose to purchase and read. That being said, I believe in honesty when I review. I don't sugarcoat things because of whose book I'm reviewing. I do have some author friends and I have enjoyed everything they've written, but if I hadn't, I would say so. Now, would I be cruel or harsh? No, I wouldn't do that to any author, friend or not. That's just not right; no one deserves that. I would just be honest about what I did or did not like.
When you are friends with someone, there is some degree of trust there. You should be able to tell them something, that might not be what they want to hear, and still be able to keep them as a friend. I mean, if you and your friend went clothes shopping and he/she tried something on that really wasn't flattering, would you tell them? If you were the one trying it on, would you want to know? Authors are just people like us; I can't say that enough. I am a teacher, they write books. It's a job! Everyone needs constructive criticism, that's how we get better at our jobs. If the author you gave a negative review to stops talking to you, then just like with your other friends, they probably weren't your friend in the first place.
Sorry to be so long winded, but this topic gets me going!

zac said...

Well, you are a blogger. You blog. You can't sugarcoat what you feel about what you've read.

Jokes aside, it is not much different than telling a friend that THAT shirt makes them look fat. You don't phrase it that way. You aren't mean about it.

Constructive criticism always helps a writer grow. Or, it should.

Anonymous said...

Shelburns's Quote: "...I mean, if you and your friend went clothes shopping and he/she tried something on that really wasn't flattering, would you tell them?..."

This isn't a great example -- sure as a friend you'd tell a friend that in PRIVATE, but you wouldn't say it outloud to the universe on a blog for everyone to read, thereby making your friend even more embarrassed.

And let's face it -- how many authors freely offer critiques of Bloggers on their sites? None. Can you imagine? These posts are not up to par. I liked the bloggers last post better. Isn't this blogger redundant? This blogger is not original, I've seen this all before...

That's why, imo, bloggers and authors can never really be friends, though they can admire each other's work. Because friendship implies equality and there is no equality in an Author/Blogger relationship.

A blogger gets to tell the world what they think of a book, good or bad. But if the author that recieved a bad review (even if it was honest) went online to disagree with the blogger they look petty and desperate. It's a no-win situation for the author, really. They get to suffer in silence or look like a bitch.

I read some of the link from Story Siren and I also have to disagree with bloggers who think they CAN be completely honest and objective about a book from a friend author. As an aspiring YA author I'm way, way more generous when I read books by the few writers I know than I would be if I didn't know them. Because writing is really hard and it is so hard to get published you program yourself to love their book before you even open it.

Anonymous said...

This was also Shelburn's quote ... "I'm a teacher, they write books. It's a job! Everyone needs constructive criticism, that's how we get better...."

Sure people need "constructive criticism" to get better. But from WHO? As a teacher, do you have people in cyberspace observing your classroom and offering critiques based on the fact that they once went to school too? Or do you have administrators within the school handling your progress?

Apples and oranges.

And that's the problem.

Writing is subjective. As a writer you look to sales, your editor, and large reviewers (VOYA, Kikus, Booklist, School Library Journal) to give you an indication of if a book has hit the mark or not. You don't neccessarily go to a blogger, who uses an anonymous handle. (It doesn't mean you can't follow and adore certain bloggers and also agree with their assesment of books, it means there is no real friendship when someone gets to pick out your flaws and announce them in public.)

Saundra Mitchell said...

This is why I'm work-friendly with reviewers, but in general, not friends. By their nature, reviewers are going to have to say *something* about your book.

Even good reviews can be problematic, depending on how the information is presented. Inaccurate information (She didn't go to the city to get a wig, she went to find her brother!), Weird Interpretation (So every time she picked up the Beating Stick, it symbolizes a shaft of wheat, or bread, which is the cradle of civilization!) or my favorite, Author Psychology (X *obviously* has experience with Y because of how well they wrote W!)

There are all flavor of writers, with all varying thicknesses of skin. And we all have varying levels of tolerance. Like, I'm fine if you pick on the craft of my novel. On the other hand, I get wildly bent out of shape when I read reviews that are about the book the reviewer wanted, not the book they got.

Other people are fine with the "well, this isn't what I wanted, so it sucked" reviews, but lose their minds over any failed craft that gets mentioned.


I don't- and I don't think most writers- take negative reviews into account as constructive crit, no matter how good the crit may be. We'd drive ourselves insane trying to answer and "improve" every single thing different reviewers disliked.

That's why we rely on crit partners and editors to steer us in the right direction. We can't possibly answer ALL the critics, and it would be stupid to try.

But this is not actually the question. The question is, can you be friends with somebody who reviews your book negatively? And I guess that all depends on your definition of friends.

I can be the same business-friendly and work-cordial with somebody who didn't like my book as I am with somebody who did like it. But I don't think I could be *friends*, as in, I share my personal travails and the intimacy of my life, with a reviewer- and I don't care if they review me like I'm the second coming of Moses. Reviewers already have enough of my vulnerability on the page; I'm not about to bare the rest of my vulnerability to you outside the cover.

trish said...

I agree with anonymous that the blogger/reviewer friendship isn't equal, and so a true friendship can't exist. With that said, here's what I wrote a couple months ago about this very subject:

Very savvy authors have figured out that if they stay in contact with the blogger (or newspaper reviewer, I would assume) and be personable, well, it’s hard to then go ahead and say negative things about that book. For example, have you ever said something about a situation, but then when you find out someone you know is in that situation, it’s harder to be so judgmental? If called on the carpet for your opinion, do you back pedal, saying you don’t know that person’s situation, so you really can’t hold them to the same standards that you just uttered? It’s easy to bash on someone we don’t know or someone we’re only acquaintances with, but a friend? SO HARD.

How much more do we like a mediocre book just because we like that author in general?

Steph, you're one of the few who I think can be friendly with an author and still be objective about their book. Obviously that will mean ruined friendships when you *don't* like the book, but that's the nature of the beast. No?

Anonymous said...

(I'm the first and second Anon -- sorry, I don't have a blogger account)

Trish brings up a good point about not holding someone you know to the same standards.

This is why I've come to really distrust a lot of GoodReads reviews. When all the 2009 Debs post five star ratings for each other's books, you simply know it can't be true.

Not that they are trying to purposely deceive the public, but come on, those are your friends and it sort of ends up being a I'll scratch your back with a five-star-review if you scratch mine sort of thing.

Lenore said...

I wouldn't say I am friends with any authors though of course I'm friendly with those that I've been in contact with, and I have contact with some more than others.

I did have a case where an author sent me a book for review and then wrote me tons of e-mails discussing a variety of topics including, eventually, her book. When I mentioned a few things I didn't like, she wrote long e-mails explaining why those things were the way they were. I could definitely see her points, so when it came time to write the review, I made sure to phrase it very delicately. I couldn't rave about it, but I was more gentle with my criticism than I might have been otherwise. The effect was that I felt guilty for not being completely honest, and the author was ticked off about what I said anyway and stopped writing.

Not that I don't think authors and bloggers can't be friends...

Oh! And I'd actually love it if authors wrote me and critiqued my blog. I know this is probably never going to happen, but I'd enjoy the feedback.

andrea jean said...

I really think that once you're friendly with someone you should avoid reviewing their books. Mentioning it on the blog is okay -- but a positive review will be seen by some people as a conflict of interest, and a negative review will probably hurt the friendship.

Leigh said...

I agree with Anonymous and Saundra: it's nearly impossible for an author to be true friends with a blogger. As Saundra said (at Kristi's blog), she is an adult and bloggers are (primarily) teens. And yes, there is an underlying expectation that a "friend" will give you a good review so the "friendship" is not balanced at all.

I do follow a number of teen book review blogs so I can see what's coming up, what people are excited about, and so on. On the rare occasion I comment on a posted review (which I am loathe to do as I wouldn't want to read other authors' comments on my reviews!) it is to offer a kudos to the writer herself or to the blogger on the *quality* of the review. Like Saundra, I am an adult and the "omfg! i lurv that!" is inappropriate - in most instances! :)

Chelsie said...

This discussion is really thought-provoking, and I commented on SS's post, but I'm going to say something different here, more based on what was said in the comments.

It bothers me when it's said that the relationship can't exist because it's not equal. I feel that a friendship between bloggers and authors doesn't have to be based entirely on the blogging and writing part of their lives. I don't believe that all blogger/author relationships are entirely based on the author's book, and the blogger's blog/reviews. Perhaps the relationship started that way, with an author requesting a review, or just dropping by a blog, but just because that's how a friendship starts doesn't mean that same friendship is confined to the one aspect of their lives. Is it so impossible that two people can bond over other things, besides what people know them for?

Amee said...

Anon-

I disagree with your assessment of the teacher evaluation comparison. It is not apples and oranges. It is very similar. Students (at least in the college setting) evaluate their professors. They have paid for the course and are the ones directly benefiting from the professor's efforts. Reviewers/readers purchase a book and then they evaluate the book because they are the ones directly benefiting from the author's efforts.

Obviously reviewers get a lot of books from publishers or authors themselves, but that doesn't suddenly make their opinion worthless because they didn't pay for it, right?

Like I said yesterday on Kristi's discussion, I have never been close friends with an author. I have chatted with a few, but I've never gotten close to one (and find it mysterious how some reviewers have...how does that come about?). Anyway, in spite of not being close to any authors, I still dislike negative reviews. I've written them, I hated them. I think when it's on a site like Goodreads or Amazon it's easier though. It's not so public then. You're just one opinion among the masses. On a separate blog, it's yours alone on display. That said, even on Goodreads and Amazon, I try to be nice if I say somthing negative, or I give a reason why I rated it low or found it unpleasing just in case someone else may not.

Anonymous said...

Just because you know what you didn't like doesn't mean you know how to fix it, Amee. It's the difference between asking a guest at your restaurant what's wrong with a dish and asking another chef.

The guest can say "Don't put in so much salt," and the cook prepares the dish again exactly the same way without salt, and it will still taste too salty. Whereas another chef can say, "Don't reduce the broth so much, it's too concentrated and it makes it taste salty."

You can report results. You can't necessarily diagnose the error.

Lenore said...

Isn't the point of a review to let the potential audience know what they can expect from a book and not to tell the author how they could do better?

You can say to potential diners that a certain restaurant has salty food. I love salty food, so I'd probably find that a great place to eat. Others maybe not.

Amee said...

A teacher evaluation only says what the student liked or disliked, what worked and didn't for them. The professors are then able to take those evaluations and the information on them and make changes and improvements in their next course. So an author can only take the information in the review on their first book and use it to help them determine any changes they might want to make in their next novel.

Anonymous said...

Point being, reviews are not constructive criticism, which is what started this whole line of conversation. They are reviews. For readers. Not critique for writers.

Steph said...

I'd just like to say in here that this discussion is not about the appropriateness of author-reviewer friendships (as that is what Kristi did, and I'm not looking to reenact it here), but rather if you can negatively review an author friend's book or if that puts a certain strain on the friendship in question.

Other than that--good discussion!

Anonymous said...

"Those may not all represent deep deep friendships, but they are still, nevertheless, friends, and in my opinion, when you get to that territory, you have to proceed with caution."

Umm . . . Do you REALLY think that your reviews proceed with caution? I've seen very, very few that could at all be characterized in this manner, If you are friends with an author, and then you post one of your trademark snarky reviews, well, no wonder!

Steph said...

Here I thought I was only getting tamer. ;)

another Anon said...

QUESTION: "Can Blog reviwers negatively review an author's book and remain friends with the author?"

ANSWER: "NO, because weren't really friends with the author to begin with."

The word "friends" implies support and empathy and encouragement. It does not imply nitpicking faults and broadcasting them to the world in a blog. If your best-friend went online and listed your faults for the world to see I'm guessing that person would no longer be considered your friend. Why should an author feel any less vulnerable?

A blogger can, in one post, dismiss a book that took the author a year to write and 18-24 months of editing, copyediting, and revising for their editor. A few well-phrased "bad" reviews can damage an author's career. The same "bad" reviews can MAKE the blogger's. That is not a friendship.

sarahcross said...

I think that if I were friends with a reviewer, and they gave my book a lukewarm review (this is what I liked, this is what I didn't), our friendship would survive. But if it was a horrible review, I wouldn't know how to talk to them after that.

For ex., I don't expect all my friends (or family members) to like my book. It may not be their style, that is totally fine; BUT I also don't want to hear from that friend how much they disliked it, and I definitely don't expect them to share their disappointment (and/or raging fury, whatever ;)) with the entire internet. Friends just don't do that.

Which is why it's a tricky situation. And that brings us back to Kristi's question.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a huge disconnect when bloggers think their reviews should be used as "constructive criticism" by authors. You don't understand publishing if that's what you think.

Authors aren't paid by bloggers or reviewers, they only get a book published if an editor wants to buy it, and likewise, they are beholden to the EDITOR, not a random blog reviewer, to shape the manuscript in the way an editor wants.

Since writing is very subjective, an editor may think the pace of a book is too fast, while a reviewer may think it's painfully slow. Guess who the author is going to listen to EVERY single time. Yes, the editor.

It's beyond pompus to think that blog reviewers are doing an author a favor by pointing out their personal nitpicks as "constructive criticism." Should you review books if you want? Sure. Should you expect authors to give your reviews serious consideration? Unless, you work for Kirkus, Booklist, or Publisher's Weekly, probably not.

Saundra Mitchell said...

Oooh yeah, what Sarah Cross said. (And that is a woman I give my nascent books to, to find out where and how they are broken so I might fix them! Even if I failed hardcore, I still trust her not to go OMFG this is the WORST book EVER what were you THINKING you CRACKBABY!?!?!?!?!?)

Alexa Young said...

I think this is a great discussion and I actually think yes, you can still post a negative review and not have a hugely adverse impact on the relationship that's been established. I mean, IT IS POSSIBLE.

But here's my feeling: You need to keep the lines of communication open. If you've been really friendly with an author and you tell them you're going to review their book and you're going to be honest in your review, and the author accepts this and is mature about it, then that's a good start. To make things even BETTER, I think it's important to keep the dialogue with the author open during that time. For instance:

BLOGGER: I received your book...I'm going to review it on X date...I actually didn't like it and am going to be honest in my review...I hope this doesn't affect the relationship we've established.

Obviously you're not REQUIRED to do this, but it's the courteous thing to do and if you genuinely care about the relationship you'll try to preserve it by treating the author like the friend you believe him/her to be.

If you decide to give the book a negative review and don't communicate anything to your friend/ author prior to doing so...well, I think some feelings are going to be hurt. Especially if the author just happens upon the review without being alerted to it or hears about it from someone else.

Communicating is often what's required to keep relationships on track and prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings. You can't have an ongoing communication with someone and then shut down and not expect them to wonder what happened (or force them to read between the lines when they see a review).

FWIW!

beth said...

It IS a touchy issue--and not a pleasant one to think about. Last year, I reviewed a book by an author who I really consider a friend, and I know I glossed over that review more than I would have if I didn't know the person. And, honestly, since I'm trying to get published, I don't post very negative reviews on my blog at all (I don't want an agent who likes or even reps that book to find out I didn't like it).

My method is to give reasons for why I didn't like the book: i.e. I felt that the middle lacked tension or that a character's motivations weren't clear. If I can cage the criticism with an explanation (a VALID explanation), then I feel better about it.

And because I've been doing this, I hope that later in life, when I am published, if I see a similar review, I won't feel bad.

I hope.

In the end, I guess it's just a sucky situation.

Alexa Young said...

Incidentally, I had a friend/fellow author (friend first...fellow author later) give me 3 stars on GoodReads. I happened upon the review accidentally. There was no *actual* review, just the three stars (and I didn't realize three stars meant "I liked it." Huh). Anyway, I emailed her...then I got really upset...then she got upset with me getting upset. We really went at it (via email)! But we kept discussing it and finally I woke up, grew up and let it go (which, duh, it shouldn't have upset me in the first place. She liked my book). And yes, the friendship is fine. Communication, honesty, copping to one's stupidity (in my case, anyway!) and forgiveness all go a long way in these instances. At least, in my world.

Alexa Young said...

And finally, to anonymous re this: "...if the author that recieved a bad review (even if it was honest) went online to disagree with the blogger they look petty and desperate. It's a no-win situation for the author, really. They get to suffer in silence or look like a bitch."

Yup. That's me and my fellow creative types right here: www.theworstreviewever.blogspot.com Make of it what you will. :)

Kimberly Derting said...

I think the difference between what Sarah is talking about (and which I totally agree with) is that we, as authors, go into these friendships knowing full well that you are book reviewers. Therefore, to expect you *not* to review our books honestly would be deceitful. It would be like making friends with you just to secure good reviews.

Honestly, do I want the favorable reviews? Yes, of course I do. But do I expect it just because of a friendship forged in the author-blogger forums? Of course not, how could I? And to ask any reviewer, even a friend, to do so would be a violation of that friendship.

I think others have said it before, and probably more eloquently, that as long as the review is not done in poor taste or with malice, it has to be taken for what it is, an honest opinion. Everyone's going to have one. I can't say it wouldn't hurt my feelings to get a particularly negative review, especially from someone that I'm fond of, but hopefully I have the good sense to make that distinction, and to remember that, if it wasn't easy for me, it probably wasn't easy for my friend either.

Anony said...

Here's a question I keep wondering about this whole thing... how many of these "book blogger/author friendships" started before the author sold the book? How many of them started around the time the author started to think "gee, I'm going to start having/needing reviews soon and so maybe I'll become friends with some book bloggers"? How many friendships have continued -- at the same level and pace -- after the blogger has reviewed the book?

Am I the only cynical and suspicious person? It always seems that these friendships start right when the author needs/wants the reviewers to like them and by extension their book. As has been demonstrated, it often works too; plenty of reviewers have admitted that knowing the author has impacted the way they review the book.

Alexa Young said...

Anony: Well, most of these relationships are forged around the time a book comes out. There's not much reason to start communicating, on either side, before that. But it's not like authors are getting an indescribably sweet deal. To be brutally honest, I don't think these blogs make much of an impact on author exposure or sales. And let's not forget that the bloggers get what they want: Free books. And on both sides, a nice communication is often forged between people who like the same things: Books.

Of course I doubt you're the only cynical or suspicious person out there. And in some cases your point may be very valid.

BookChic said...

Wow, this got a lot more comments than when I last looked at it just two hours ago. So while I have read the newest comments, this is what I attempted to post two hours ago. For some reason, the computer I was using at work was being wierd and wouldn't let me post my comment. Anyway, here it is:

I agree with Chelsie. Having read what andrea jean said just a couple comments above, if I went with that advice, I might as well just stop blogging completely. I am friendly with any author that comes my way, whether it's them emailing me or vice versa. If I shouldn't review their book because I'm friendly with them, where would my site be? There would be so few reviews. I consider myself as a friend to several authors, some of whom have made comments here and on Kristi's blog regarding this issue. We talk about other things besides their book and writing; we share details of our lives (not everything obviously but a little bit), ask each other questions, etc. It's a way of getting to know them; I love getting to know people in the book business, whether it's authors, reviewers, or even publicists. It's just how I am. Being a book reviewer gives me a reason to do it, though that level of communication is just a bonus and not why I started reviewing.

While I do think it can be hard to be objective with an author you chat with and are very friendly with, it shouldn't mean that you should stop being friendly because it may affect your review. Because on the other hand, it may not affect your review. I think it's different for every person.

I'm easily pleased with books and have found very few that I didn't like or couldn't finish. It's been that way since way before I started blogging. I began reading YA sometime around 2001 (starting with either Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot or Sandry's Book by Tamora Pierce) and began branching out to other authors in 2004 when I joined Meg Cabot's book club. In the time between that join date and June 2007 (when I started my review site), I read a ton of books and loved them all without having met or known anything about the author. I'm still the same way- my reviews are all honest, no matter how fanboy-ish they may be. Believe me, I know that the vast majority of my reviews are all glowing and people may think that I'm sucking up to the author or publisher, but I'm really not. It's how I'm programmed; I'm just content with how a book goes and am just in awe after finishing it. I'm actually also the same way with music and movies- I enjoy most everything I listen to or watch. I'm just easily pleased, that's all.

To answer Steph's question, I think there can still be a friendship depending on how bad the review was. If it's extremely harsh and just ripping the book to shreds and generally being mean for no reason, then any friendship the review and author had is gonna end. If it's a constructive review in which yes, the reviewer didn't like the book but is stating their opinion in an eloquent manner with legitimate reasons to their dislike of the book, then it's up to the author. They can decide if they want to continue the friendship or not. If they're fine with hearing the bad along with the good, then the friendship that was there before the review should be fine. If they're not, then it's their choice to back out.

For me, authors are separate from their books. Just because I don't like one (or more) of their books doesn't mean I don't like them as a person. Or vice versa (though this has yet to happen). We're human beings; we're not going to like every single thing about each other. Why should the friendship between authors and bloggers be different than any other friendship in the world? I think the main thing to have is respect and support for each other. Bloggers should respect that the author put a lot of work and effort into writing the book, and authors should respect the blogger's opinion. And besides, sometimes a bad review can make someone else want to read that book. I know that's happened to me before when a review of Beautiful Americans mentioned that the book had a lot of "inappropriate content" and they found it offensive and unnecessary. Seeing that review made me want the book even more cuz I do love me some inappropriate content! I'm not even sure if that anecdote really proved anything, but hey, maybe it did.

Anony 4:46- Some of these friendships do tend to peter out once the review is done, but a lot of times, at least for me, I still keep in touch with the author every so often. I mean, we don't talk every single day or anything, but we have continued to chat even after I'm done reviewing their book. In fact, with Amanda Ashby, I was chatting with her for a long time before I even reviewed anything of hers (which happened just the other month and we started chatting in late 2007) and we still chat. I always try and keep the lines of communication open by either emailing them or commenting on their blogs or replying to emails they send me, no matter what.

Also, like Lenore, I think it'd be cool to have my blog critiqued by authors. :) I love hearing feedback and I always get so little.

And I love reading these discussions- it's so fun to see what everyone thinks! :)

Whew, that was a long comment... took me so long to write. I am done, lol.

Steph said...

To add on to what Alexa said, there's also another side to this: Who's to say a blogger won't friend an author when they're looking for free books?

I'd just like to throw in here that my best author friend and I began emailing when my blog was a couple of weeks old (therefore, page views? Forget about it!), her book was over a year away from publication, and nothing I did could actually help her really soon (they weren't even at the ARC stage yet) or at all (did I mention I had no page views?).

So yeah--it does happen to have lasting friendships. Not all, but some once in a while!

Anonymous said...

" It irreparably damaged the relationship I had with that author--and I think a negative review always does, to some extent--which sucks because the person in question is someone I really and truly respect."

Steph, if you really respected the author in question, you should've done the courteous thing and at least had the guts to tell them via email before the review came out, that you were planning to give the book a horrible review. Isn't that HOW you treat someone as a friend, to paraphrase Alexa? How much could you REALLY have respected them if you tore their work apart and trashed it without any kind of explanation? I mean, if you were FRIENDS? Is that friendly behavior? No, it is not.

Let me be clear: If you do NOT have ANY kind of personal relationship with an author, then trash away. BUT, if you engage an authors friendship, and THEN trash a book with no explanation, you are going to hurt someone's feelings--and they are probably not going to want to talk to you again--much less send you a book.

And their publicist will most likely feel much the same way--I know mine does . . . Your site has been blacklisted from her "free books" list simply because of the tone of your reviews--which is often hurtful and offensive.

Amee said...

I know authors posing as anonymous are so they can protect their reputations, but seriously, it's disgusting, especially when they're doing exactly what they dislike the reviewers doing (i.e. posting negative and hurtful things). I understand their reasons, but if you have to comment as anonymous then maybe you shouldn't comment at all. Something to think about.

Steph said...

I personally see the reason authors post as anonymous sometimes - some don't want their name associated with controversial opinions. But I must side with Amee where comments like the one above hers are concerned -- if I have a problem with a book, I sign my name by it, so if you have a problem with my reviews, I don't get why you wouldn't do the same.

(Re-posted because the first one posted as Anonymous for some reason)

Taren said...

Anonymous from 6:15:

Steph hasn't specified which book she posted a review of that damaged her friendship with an author/friend. Ergo, how do you know this review was a "trashing" of the book and not an "I wanted to like the book, but didn't, now here's why"? A negative review does not automatically equate a horrible one. I've been reading Steph's blog for a long time now and I have yet to see her "trash" a book with "no explanation". She always gives reasons for the things she doesn't like. If you don't like those reasons, fine, but you can't just say that she doesn't give any.

As for her lack of communication with these authors re: their "horrible" reviews, I recall one situation (different than the one she describes in this entry) that really upset her. Steph had become friendly with an author, liked her first book, the author sent her the second, but unfortunately she didn't like it. She agonized over the review, knowing it would upset the author, so she worded everything as nicely as possible and posted the review, which contained reasons for what she liked and disliked. It wasn't even an F or D review either! Before she could email the author about said review, that author emailed her, accusing her of trying to hide it, telling her that since she (the author) sent Steph the book herself, that Steph OWED her a positive review. This author chewed her out and then tried to badmouth her to other bloggers and authors (who were kind enough to let Steph know this was going on).

Steph had freaking agonized over this review, wanting to be honest, yet still not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. I know how she agonized over it because she talked to me about it and she was genuinely upset. No matter what she does, just because Reviewer X isn't all sunshine and flowers and unicorn shit, she gets spit on. Some bloggers have standards and don't just like everything that gets put in front of them. If a blogger wants to like everything, that's GREAT. She just happens to have likes and dislikes and unless she starts posting reviews (positive or negative) with no reasoning whatsoever to back her up, I'm going to be on her side.

sweetmelissa818 said...

That's what you're supposed to do! An honest opinion is nothing but an opinion and the author should understand that not every person who reads one of their books is going to love it. Different people like different things and it's not uncommon to read all of an authors' books and get to one that you just hate! This should be understood and a negative review of such a book should not cause irreparable damage, it should be appreciated for its honesty despite the relationship.

But maybe that's just me!

BookChic said...

Wow Anon 6:15- I find it very petty that a publicist has blacklisted Steph for basically being a book blogger. As bloggers, we're supposed to give our honest opinion of the books we recieve, whether it's positive or negative. Yes, Steph can be snarky in her reviews, but she also thoroughly explains the problems she has with the novel as well as her snarkiness. Her blog has some of the most well thought out reviews I have EVER seen in the YA blogosphere. Very few compare to what she does. I fail to see how that is a problem.

Not everyone is going to like the same book. Some people will dislike a book they recieve and review and others will like that same book. That's how tastes work. Does the publicist not want any bad reviews for any of her books? Yeah, they suck but they're a necessity. And besides, just because a reviewer doesn't like one book that a publicist represents doesn't mean that he or she will dislike the other books that the publicist represents. That's no reason to blacklist someone because of a few bad reviews.


And I also must say that whoever that author was who yelled at Steph via email is just horrible. I was baffled and stupefied to read that a YA author would do that to a blogger just because of one barely negative review. And also when she loved the first novel. There are always going to be times when a reader will love an author but find at least one book of theirs that they don't like. Authors have to accept that and not get angry when it happens. Or at least if you get angry, write about it somewhere else or talk it over with a friend but don't yell at the reader in question.

Melissa Walker said...

Really interesting discussion again! Here's my take: I like hearing what people liked and disliked about my books. Either way, I feel like the title and cover get some exposure. I certainly want reviewers to be honest. And, though I work hard on them, the books are not ME. So it's okay if sometimes someone doesn't like one. I do get annoyed sometimes if the review is just like, "Eh, didn't like it..." without any explanation, but then I get to write the blogger off as not that great of a reviewer, so it's all good in the end.

Melissa Walker said...

PS-While I'm friendly with lots of bloggers, whom I find fun and interesting, they're not my BFFs, and we kind of have a "professional" relationship, so I definitely value honesty from them. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I felt really close to someone, though. Then I might rather they not review me than put out a negative review.

Anonymous said...

I'm friends with reviewers who've not liked every one of my books. This is BUSINESS. It's a JOB. I don't pay much attention to reviews, and I find my job a lot easier that way. I think, and I'm sure I'm not alone, that any author who thinks a bad review from a "friendly" blogger (and I have not found an unfriendly one yet) is equal to a "friend breakup" and feels so wronged that they strike out against a reviewer is showing their less-than-professional side.
I'm all for friendship between reviewers and authors, but it needs to be a mature friendship, where each understands the other's job.

As for writing to the reviewer, meanly "breaking up" with them, bullying them, calling them names, or trying to hurt their good name among other authors and publicists? To me, this sort of reaction does not reflect at all on a reviewer. It reflects on the author's inability to handle part of their job description. Sure, if this were high school, we could all be pals, and start rumors about the "bad" reviewers, and we could gossip and point fingers and make them feel awful for doing their job. But it's not high school. It's a job. Bad reviews, even from people who you thought might like the book, are part of the job. Grow up and get on with it.

Anonymous said...

Book bloggers reading this: How many of you agree that the reason you're running a book blog is to get free books?

Do any of you find that idea insulting?

Why do you think it was said?

Wendy said...

Yeah, anonymous 9:57, I was surprised to see that too. I'm definitely NOT in this for free books; the only reason I like to get ARCs is so I can have a review ready when the book is new (not that I've done many brand-new books as of yet). And if I pass an ARC along, it's not because I'm conspiring against author/publisher to keep them from making money off a book purchase, but because I can't keep everything and I don't want to just... recycle the ARC, which seems rude. (If any author thinks that's what I ought to do, please do let us know.)

I don't have a lot of money or a huge amount of space, so I get most books from the library. I don't buy many books, and almost never (really almost never) buy a book if I haven't already read it. I feel badly about that sometimes, because I want to support these authors who give me so much entertainment, but I just can't buy every book I like.

I started a book blog because I like to have conversations about books I've read. That's it.

As for whether I like authors commenting on my reviews (whether on my blog or their own)... I have mixed feelings. If the author doesn't comment, I always wonder whether s/he did come across the review or not and what her/his secret thoughts were. But if s/he does comment, it can sort of color the review. When I see that an author has commented on a review on someone else's blog, it sometimes makes me wonder if the blogger knew the author would read it and whether that influenced the review or not.

Even before I started blogging, I would often email an author with some thoughts or questions about his/her book, and all such emails have been answered very pleasantly, even if I had an issue with something in the book. I tend to think this is related to the public/private issue brought up above, and that it's best to let an author you have any kind of relationship know before you post something negative. I'd think it would feel less like a public slam then.

But hardly ever do I read a book that I love wholly and completely. It annoys me to think that some authors might take the slightest criticism way too personally. As I said, I'm here to talk about books, not simply praise them.

Lenore said...

I'm not running a book blog for the free books. I can afford to buy books and I do, so if free books were the only benefit, it wouldn't be enough for me to invest the gazillions of hours I spend on my blog. The benefits for me really are the bookish conversations, the interaction with authors and the community. Of course, I can't deny that I like getting being able to get books before they are published, but it's not about them being free. And hey, I do think we bloggers deserve some perks for working for free.

BookChic said...

Anon 9:57- I did not start a book blog for that reason and it appalls me that some bloggers have (though fortunately, none that I know personally have done that). I started mine mainly because I enjoyed coming up with questions for interviews and thinking about a book and reviewing that book. I love reading and that's the main reason I started my book blog. I didn't even know I could receive free books when I started my blog. I'm nobody special.

I think the reason it's brought up is because there are bloggers out there just looking for free books. As the YA blogosphere continues to grow and more people know about the behind-the-scenes aspect of it, I think we'll get more of these greedy bloggers starting a book blog solely for the free books. I think that's probably the main issue of it all. When I started out two years ago, there weren't all that many book blogs. But now there are tons.

The only time I'm insulted is when someone suggests that all book bloggers are just there for free books, which is not true. There are quite a few bad apples, but we're not all like that. So it hurts to see a generalization like that be made.

Saundra Mitchell said...

No legitimate blog reviewer needs to worry about being seen as a book grubber. If someone sends a request for a review copy, we go to the blog and look at it!

If there's nothing but I GOT BOOKS and no reviews, then the request gets bounced. It's pretty easy to tell who's in this for nothing but the free books, for realio.

(Chic, chillax. You have a link to the blog with the reviews. We know who you are. *grin*)

BookChic said...

Saundra- LOL I know. And you're right, it is extremely easy to tell the difference between someone doing it for the love of reading and someone who's just being greedy.

Although I keep hearing about someone else doing IMM vlogs but not posting reviews, yet they continue to get free books. Where's the person who's supposed to be checking out this blog before sending out review copies? I also kinda want to know who it is, lol. I'm always so nosy and curious about the unknown (like the authors posting anonymously- who are you?).

Amee said...

I've never started a book blog for free books. I buy enough books on my own that I have no need for review copies. I have a TBR pile of 200 books and not one is from an author/publicist. I have started and maintained blogs to discuss books and be part of the community that enjoys talking about books.

It is insulting to me to see things about "good" bloggers, bloggers only out for ARCs, blogger competitiveness, etc. It makes it hard for me to care and keep up with a blog. I have already made many friends from having my book blog(s) to discuss books with, so seeing so much dissonance in the blogosphere right now makes me wonder why I keep coming back.

A.S. King said...

Wow. I am coming to this late due to the migraine from hell, but I've learned a lot.

Wendy: I follow quite a few book bloggers' blogs, more as a reader/book lover than an author. But I never realized that commenting can be seen as a bad thing. Thanks for the insight!

Anonymous said...

I think we all know who anon 6:15 PM is right guys?

Steph is cool. I did read some reviews that were a little too much but the one in question to Anon 6:15 WAS HER BEST review by far because it was through and thought out and Steph was just simply stating what she like or disliked unlike what she did with some of the other books she reviewed which i felt were kinds looking for attention.

plus you should be glad she didn't compare it to any other book like say something like this book is like gossip girls or kinda reminded me of NEw Moon (like in the DLS review).

but i hope that Steph continue to write awesome reviews like the one i'm referring to and i see no reason why the author would be a bitch. maybe u should take pointers from the review. GOD!

Anonymous said...

This is why authors are getting mad at the new blgogers.

http://www.chicklita.blogspot.com/

Just check out her posts, especially the ones where she mentions that she emailed a ton of authors for free books, yet she only has a few readers.

Reader Rabbit said...

Wow, I hate how so many people think bloggers are only in it for free books. Honestly, with the time I've spent on the blog, I could have made enough money to buy every single book I've gotten for free and more.

I usually buy books I like and once I like an author, I buy their future books and the books that have already been published, by them.

The best part about my blog are all the new books I've discovered, the book discussions I've gotten into and meeting all these awesome reviewers AND authors.

But yeah, lately so many bloggers have sprung up out of nowhere and they all want free books. It's sad.

Taren said...

Anonymous 3:55:

Surely as the arbiter of all knowledge related to this blog, you'll let the rest of the class in on the secret of the identity of Anonymous 6:15.

For fuck's sake, this is a PUBLIC blog, the same sort of blog that many people commenting on this post have. To accuse Steph, this one blogger, of looking for attention just for doing the very things that all bloggers do, is ludicrous. If none of us wanted attention of any kind, we wouldn't be blogging at all. Or our blogs would be private. Or we'd go the cowardly route and post anonymously.

Alexa Young said...

Oy. I can't be sure ('cause I'm not the brightest person...just the most neurotic), but it sort of seems like I'm getting flak for my little quip about free books. I in no way meant to imply that ALL book reviewers/bloggers are in it for the free books (or even most of them).

Of course, I will openly admit I worked in the music biz and gladly accepted free CDs and concert tickets and loved every minute of that. It was a perk. It was awesome! And honestly? If someone starts a book blog to get free books and it works for them...yay. I don't really have a problem with that.

My point was that the reviewer/author connection tends to be the oh-so-cliched "mutually beneficial relationship" (most of the time, anyway)--and I simply meant free books were a nice perk, just like getting a review on a blog is nice for an author.

And btw, Steph was the one who said "There's also another side to this: Who's to say a blogger won't friend an author when they're looking for free books?" I don't think that's what most reviewers do and that was not what I meant when I said bloggers get free books.

Whew. I'm off to take a blog-comment-induced valium. Anyone want to join me?

BookChic said...

Taren- I think they just meant that it's probably the author who felt slighted by Steph with the review of their second book which ended the friendship between them. Not sure if they knew who specifically it was.

Amee said...

Actually, they did imply they knew because they referenced that particular review as one of Steph's best.

I agree with Taren. I don't think Steph is doing anything out of the norm of blogging. I think most book bloggers start out doing it for themselves but eventually end up writing more for their readers than themselves. It's still for the blogger and their opinions, but they also write with the audience in mind when they didn't initially have that in mind when first starting with zero views. So it's not necessarily looking for attention but rather giving readers what they want and respond to.

Beth Kephart said...

It is, in the end, all in the way the news is delivered. As an author, I don't peg my friendships around whether or not the people I know like, or even read, my books. I'm not ever going to be mad at someone for a negative review. I'll only get defensive if I feel I've been attacked. Not liking something isn't lose to being attacked for it.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Based on your post, I did a post:

http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/2009/05/can-author-and-reviewer-be-friends.html

I gave you linkage :D

Bookworm said...

Anon @ 5:06,
How out of line. I know the owner of Chicklita, and she's just trying to get her name out there in the blogging world by contacting authors and publishers. I think that's perfectly OK. And, seriously, before you bash another NEW blogger, why don't you try blogging? That's just rude to say something mean about someone who works really hard and then be too cowardly to show who you really are.

BookChic said...

Bookworm- I agree. I didn't see any problem with that blogger's site, or even more than one post about emailing authors. She has several reviews up and that's a good start. It's better to have reviews up and be new and asking authors for books than to have no reviews and yet still asking authors for books.

Plus, she only just started. Of course she doesn't have many followers. She's new; you don't get 50+ followers overnight.

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