Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guest Post: Reviewer Behavior

Last month, I asked my guest posters to put their two cents in about author behavior. Given some recent author conduct, I thought it a worthwhile topic to discuss. This month, though, we're looking at the other end of the spectrum: blogger/reviewer behavior. Once again, Hazel, Katherine, and Cayla has joined The Reading Hedgehog is weighing in on proper and improper fan/blogger/reviewer behavior.

Cayla's Thoughts

I don't personally have a book review blog (although I've considered it quite a few times), but I follow many. I love the idea of book blogs. Not only do I like hearing other readers' opinions on books, but it's a great way to hear about books that I might not have otherwise read, and honestly talking about the books I read is a huge part of the fun. Along with this, I'll admit that I have been guilty of ranting about a book a time or two, and I can really enjoy a fellow reader letting out his/her frustrations with a good rant as well. However, there is a line that you can cross. The more I started thinking about this topic, the trickier it became to distinguish between what you should and shouldn't say in a review. I'm a big believer in free speech, don't get me wrong, but not abusing that right.

Before I get into these, I'll just give a nice general blanket statement: at the end of the day, do NOT post something on the Internet while you're angry, or something that you wouldn't be willing to take ownership and responsibility for later. If more people kept those things in mind, the Internet would probably be a much kinder place. But anyway, onwards:

1) Insulting the author is definitely something you want to avoid. Honestly, NEVER bring the author into it. I read/review the book for the book's own sake. Unless the author has done something really despicable (such as abuse his/her readers like discussed last month), that readers should actually know about, there's no reason to mention them at all. The fact that you didn't like the book doesn't automatically make the author an idiot. Let's be honest, there are some people who just can't write, but there's no reason to attack the person behind the book - especially if it's fiction.

2) Too far is too far. I like snarky, witty reviews, with all the examples and quotations, but there comes a time when you need to control how much you're ranting. Some people are more long-winded than others, but we all need to remember that it's just a book. This is a hard one to really pin down, but I guess what I'm saying is try to keep your review professional, rather than going on for pages about how much you hated a character.

3) Try to be considerate. This doesn't mean you have to pretend to like the book. This doesn't mean you can't say you really disliked it, but just try and remember that as terrible as that book was, someone wrote it, and that someone could be reading your review of it. Now, to contradict myself, I'm totally fine pulling the author on the carpet when they are clearly pushing a wrong agenda (in general, fiction is not the place for pushing agendas, I've noticed), but if it's just a personal quibble, try to restrain yourself.

Those are some far from incomplete and not very concisely stated rules of thumb for reviewing. This was a topic that made me scratch my head a little, since it's kind of an interesting balancing act. But I guess at the end of the day, reviewers should take a step back and just remember some common decency.

Katherine's Thoughts

Since I'm not a blogger myself, I've never had to deal with author/reader interactions too much. The few interactions I've had with authors about their books has been nothing but positive (it doesn't help that I gave positive reviews to all of their books, LOL!!)

I honestly think that, just as authors should respect the rights and privacy of their readers, we too should respect theirs. In other words, observe the Golden Rule. Even if we don't agree with what the author is trying to convey. Even if we think their opinions are stupid. If the author writers in such a way we're questioning their sanity and mental health. As human beings, we should respect other's boundaries.

I have no problem doling out a bad review if I think an author's work is bad. I don't have a problem saying the characters were annoying, the writing was choppy, I didn't care about anyone, etc. What I DO NOT do is insult the author personally or directly attack the author. To me, when a reviewer does this, it crosses the line. It's not only unprofessional, but unacceptable.

I also think that, even if we love and admire an author to the point of hero worship, we shouldn't seek them out unsolicited for their attention. In other words, just as authors shouldn't stalk their reviewers, we should not stalk the author.

For example, as much as I am a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, I would never stalk him or invade his personal life. Most of his fangirls are CRAZY, and not in a good way at all. So much so that when he announced his engagement, I was more worried about what those crazy people would do to his new fiancee than be happy for him about the news. No wonder they're hardly ever seen together. I certainly wouldn't want to have to face them every day. I mean, they CAMP OUTSIDE the hotels where he's staying to make press appearances and what not.

All in all, I would just say to treat authors with the same respect and dignity they deserve, and they should do the same!!

Hazel's Thoughts

There's been a lot of stories lately about authors going mental over bad reviews, and while that kind of attitude should never be excused, maybe we should also consider the fact that some reviewers really aren't doing their job professionally either.

As a reviewer, it is first and foremost your job to give your honest opinion of the book, no matter whether you just picked it up from the library or the author asked you to review it personally. You should always give your opinion alone, whether it's good or bad. We can't like every book, and authors should understand that. You may be forced to give a book one star, sometimes it's regretful, and sometimes, let's be honest, it's deserving. It's my personal opinion that writing engaging reviews is a good thing. Add a little humor, there's nothing wrong with that, but on the flip side, just flaming/trashing a book really shouldn't be acceptable. You should state your reasons for not liking the book in an adult fashion, even if you can't help but add a little sarcastic humor into it. I'm personally not a huge fan of people who write reviews with tons of profanity in them; I feel it's a bit unprofessional, and usually they just use it to try and get their opinion across instead of using reasons why they didn't like the book. i.e. the characters were undeveloped, the plot doesn't make sense, etc.

People read reviews to get a god idea of whether a book is for them. That's why contrasting reviews is a good thing. I read both 5-star and 1-star reviews when I'm deciding whether to try a book. Someone's problems with the book might not bother me, but at least I still know, because the person who didn't like it said why. However, can anyone really decide whether they want to read a book or not when all they get is bashing and profanity? I don't really think that helps. So in the long run, I think reviewers should try harder to write reviews that, even if they are negative, do not simply bash a book and author for no reason, and at the same time, authors need to get a grip and either not read reviews at all, or read them like an adult.

The Reading Hedgehog's Thoughts

This is a harder topic than I thought it would be. Can I just bow out, since I'm not technically a guest poster? ;-) Just kidding. My thoughts on blogger/reviewer behavior is probably as divided as can be. We bloggers/reviewers aren't paid to review books; we do it because we love talking about books and weighing on what we thought of it. And when we're stuck with a bad book, sometimes writing a review is the only way to feel like we didn't waste our precious time. I don't pretend to be speaking for all of the bloggers out there, but I can't be alone in this feeling. If I read a book, I will review it, because if I don't - what was the point of finishing it?! What kind of blog would I be if I only reviewed good books?

Bloggers/reviewers have every right to voice their dislike for a book, especially on their blogs - a place that they run and manage and designed. And the more honest a review, the better. Because while we're not being paid, we do have followers - readers - who want to know our true opinion. Some of them even make their decision on whether or not to read a book based on what we say. So I think it's very important to be honest at all times. (At the same time, there are readers/followers who will read the book regardless of what we say. Or maybe they'll read it because what we didn't like about it, they do like in books, so that gets them to read it!)

However, I do also think that there's a way to write negative reviews without crossing into the rude domain. Before I continue, I'm not saying reviewers who do cross into this area should be censored. Again, it's their opinion and their blog/profile (whathaveyou), and I don't think it's ever right to tell people what they can't say. Okay, now going on with my original thought: it is my personal opinion that yes, a review can be rude, and yes, there is a way to be honest without being rude. I don't like reviews that employ strong profanity to convey their dislike for a book. I generally won't read reviews written by bloggers who do this, no matter how much I agree with them, because I just don't like how they do it. Contrary to popular belief, there are more eloquent, blunt ways of saying, "I thought this was horrible" without throwing in every four-letter word you know.

I also find personal attacks against the author to be a bit tasteless. You're critiquing the book; not the author. And ever since I found out how much sway an editor can have on a book, I always find myself wondering, "Is it the author's fault, or the editor's?" And never let it be said that I lay blame where it doesn't belong (I try not to, at least). I also find reviews that don't explain why they didn't like something to be extremely irritating. I know, sometimes as a reader you can't always explain why a certain element bothered you - I've run into that as well. But you guys know what I mean: reviewers who never explain the why.

Being a reviewer/blogger isn't easy. No matter what we say, there will always be someone who is upset by it. And I am certainly not saying that blogger opinions need to be censored - far from it! Bloggers, it is your space, and it is your time that you are spending reading these books. Say what you want how you want! But guest posts are all about expressing our own opinions on various topics, too, right? Reviewers who resort to profanity, personal attacks, and don't explain why they didn't like something don't do themselves - or fellow reviewers - any favors. But you know what - no one has to listen to me. That's just my opinion. :-)


  1. I think this was one of those super hard topics because, as you're writing a response, you're thinking back over every post and review you've ever done and trying to make sure you're not guilty of any of the offenses you cite. That's a lot of hard thinking.

    But it looks like you guys had some generally sound advice. Golden rule it, be honest and stay on topic. Good stuff. :)

    1. Yeah, I found myself reliving some of my reviews when writing this post. I guess the bottom line is you'll tick someone off no matter what you say, and everyone is free to say what they want how they want. But for me, I like to make sure that I'm actually not guilty of being outright rude.


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