What Stace had to say on Monday, January 9th, 2012
Something in the water?

Oh, man. I hardly know where to start.

I’ve been thinking about this post for about a week now, and still don’t know what exactly I’m going to say. I’m just trying to make sense of some things, basically. So forgive me if this is a tad rambly.

The thing is, I’ve been involved in the online writing/reading community since 2005 now. And in that time things have gotten–in my view, at least–more and more antagonistic and upsetting. I wonder why. This post–this series of posts planned for this week–is my attempt to figure it out, I guess. To express my thoughts and see what yours are, and perhaps to offer a potential solution. And in order to do that I’m going to be very honest, and perhaps harsh in some places, but I’m trying to express my full thought process here. So we’ll see how it goes.

In the past nine days or so the internet–at least the writer/reader part of it–seems to have gone kablooey. Specifically, the writer part of it, in that we’ve had a rash of writers deciding it’s their place to tell readers A) How to review books; B) What is and is not okay to say or think; C) Why their opinion is totally wrong; and D) whatever other ridiculous shit they come up with.

I’m aware of five separate incidents, the latest being a self-published author who, in response to a reasoned but negative review, took it upon himself to leave 40 comments–yes, forty–on the blog quoting the fawning letters he’d received about the book from family and friends. And then many more comments insisting that what he did was totally professional and reasonable and why is the reviewer in question so full of hate, yo? And that’s nothing compared to the others, the writers ranting on their blogs and leaving nasty or argumentative comments on Goodreads and blah blah blah.

Guys…cut it out. Just, seriously, cut it out.

Readers have the right to say whatever the fuck they want about a book. Period. They have that right. If they hate the book because the MC says the word “delicious” and the reader believes it’s the Devil’s word and only evil people use it, they can shout from the rooftops “This book is shit and don’t read it” if they want. If they want to write a review entirely about how much they hate the cover, they can if they want. If they want to make their review all about how their dog Foot Foot especially loved to pee on that particular book, they can.


Because, and I’ve said this before, reviews are for readers. Because they purchased the book (or it was sent to them specifically hoping they would express an opinion) and so can say whatever they want about it. If you buy a shirt that falls apart in the wash, do you keep your mouth shut about it because you don’t want to hurt the manufacturer’s feelings?

Authors, reviews are not for you. They are not for you. Authors, reviews are not for you.

This is why I get so annoyed when I see authors banging on about “constructive” reviews. Constructive how? What are you going to do, ask your publisher to pull the book so you can go back and rewrite it to suit Doris in New York who thought the MC was an idiot? Or because Amy in California didn’t understand the solution to the mystery? (Note: I pulled those names out of my ass; they do not refer to or allude to any actual readers or reviews.) Really? A review is one person’s opinion. One person. One. What exactly do you hope to learn from that one opinion that will make such a huge difference? What do you think you’ll learn from any review, except what that particular person thinks about the book? Reviews are not critiques and they are not written for you, and reviews are completely subjective.

And dude, if you think it’s possible to write a book everyone will love, I question your understanding of human nature and thus your ability to write a decent character. I have to be honest, when I see a writer talking about “constructive” reviews I generally assume that writer is a beginner and either hasn’t been published for long or has been published with micropresses.

That’s the same way I feel about authors who attempt to game Amazon reviews. Well, no, actually it isn’t. I think authors who read their reviews looking for writing tips are amateurish. I think writers who attempt to game Amazon reviews, by begging family and/or friends to leave them (positive; they claim they want honest reviews but they’re asking family and friends so really, what they want and expect are positive reviews; one of the recent very minor not-really-public kerfuffles I’m aware of was over this very situation) or by asking family/friends to place “Most/Least Helpful” votes in an attempt to move the positive reviews up–which, BTW, is in fact trying to dick around with the system no matter what some people might think…those writers?

Those writers are cheats, plain and simple. They’re sleazeballs. They’re liars. They’re attempting to deceive readers, to trick them into thinking their book has an enthusiastic audience it has not actually earned and a proven level of quality it may not actually have. They’re attempting to trick readers into buying the book based on falsehoods; this is perhaps not quite the same as the PA author who stuck the Grand Central logo onto her book in an attempt to make people think she was legitimately published, but it’s in the same ballpark. I’m sorry, but lying to readers and trying to trick them into buying your book is wrong. It’s sleazy and it’s wrong, and you are unethical and unprofessional for doing it, and you make me angry.

Why do you make me angry? Because when you lie and cheat and deceive, you cast doubt on all of us who do not lie, cheat, and deceive. I’ve heard more than one reader now claim that if a book’s reviews are too positive overall–too high a proportion of 5-star reviews–that reader automatically assumes the reviews are false. In other words, your deception and dishonesty casts me in that same light and makes me look like a big faker. Yes, it’s upsetting that it may cost me book sales, but what’s more upsetting is that I’m guilty by association; I’m an author, so I must be cheating scum who thinks readers are pawns in my Success Game too. I don’t appreciate being guilty by association and I don’t appreciate being penalized because you think lying to people is a great way to promote yourself.

Full disclosure: Yes, not long after I gave BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET a new cover for Kindle, I mentioned here on the blog that if anyone who’d read the series or the book wanted to leave a review, positive, negative, or neutral, I’d be grateful. To me that’s a different thing, and here’s why: A) You guys are my readers. And as much as I feel very friendly and warm toward you and would love to help you out in some way if I can, you’re not really my personal friends, at least the majority of you aren’t, and you’re not my family. You have no personal stake in my happiness nor, I’d imagine, do you have any special desire to, and you certainly have zero obligation to. We have a sort of business-esque relationship. I know many of you care about me–I’m still overwhelmed by all the emails etc. I got after Stephen informed you all that I was in the hospital–and I care about you all as well, but it’s not like we know the details of each others’ lives or talk on the phone or whatever else. B) Because we’re not generally personal friends, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know your names or the names on your Amazon accounts; I have no way of checking to see if you personally reviewed me, so I don’t think the pressure is there. In addition, there’s C) which is that even those of you who comment regularly, so I know your names, are only a small percentage of the number of people who actually visit this blog on a daily basis. Less than 10% (ETA: actually, that was a misstatement: it’s less than 1% on average). So how in the world would I follow up with any of you, even if I were the sort of person to do so? Not to mention D) I said specifically it didn’t matter if the review was positive or not and I meant it. And E), which is that I didn’t offer any sort of prizes or incentives or anything else in an attempt to bribe anyone into leaving reviews.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with asking even given all of that, and I’m still not. But I’d been given so many positive comments from you all, and from people who don’t read regularly, that I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just mention it. And given that the book only has a dozen reviews at this point, I don’t think many if any of you felt pressured to leave a review. That’s wonderful, because I absolutely didn’t want to make you feel that way. I’m genuinely pleased that you didn’t feel pressured; I would have felt awful if you had.

The reason why I would have felt awful is because, again, you have no obligation to me at all. None. Zero. Zip. NO reader has ANY obligation to an author, whether it be to leave a review or to write a “constructive” one. I put out a product. You are consumers of that product. Since when does that mean you have to kiss my ass? Hey, I like Pop-Tarts and eat them a few times a year; since when does that mean I’m obligated to support Kellogg’s in any way except legally purchasing the Pop-Tarts before I eat them? I wasn’t aware that purchasing and consuming a product meant I was under some sort of fucking thrall in which I’m only allowed to either praise the Pop-Tart (which to be honest isn’t hard, especially the S’mores flavor) or, if I am going to criticize a flavor, offer a specific and detailed analysis as to why, phrased in as inoffensive and gentle a manner as possible so as not to upset the gentle people at Kellogg’s.

And you know what? If I hated Pop-Tarts and decided to go online and tell everyone how they smell like vomit and make me feel sick, that’s fine. Because I’m not under any obligation at all to like Pop-Tarts, or to keep silent about my dislike. Because I bought the product (and I don’t mean to imply here that only those who purchase an item can express an opinion about them, it’s just the easiest and shortest phrase; I could be just as negative about Pop-Tarts had I been given one to try at a friend’s house, although I do admit that I get a tad irked when I see people writing negative reviews for books they stole, but whatever; that’s just my personal feeling and not me claiming people who steal books aren’t allowed to leave reviews) I have completed the business transaction, and I am entitled to whatever reaction I choose.

I wonder often how many of the authors who whine about negative reviews and/or yammer on about how reviews should be “constructive” never have a bad word to say about, frex, a movie they watched and disliked? Do they make sure their review is “constructive” so the director and stars can learn something from it–do they actually assume the director and stars are reading their review? When they’re given bad food in a restaurant, are they careful to offer three positive comments for every negative one they make? (“The presentation is lovely and it smells wonderful, but I’m afraid the chicken is raw. Perhaps the chef could leave it on the grill for another five minutes in future. The sauce is great, though, and I’m sure it won’t give me salmonella even though it was in contact with the raw meat. Thanks for giving me the chance to try it!”) You know? If they believe readers are somehow obligated to remember the author’s feelings when leaving a review, how much do they do that when they consume products or entertainment they do not enjoy?

And don’t even get me started on the idea that readers should somehow be frightened or intimidated because authors are reading their reviews. Or actually, do, because I’ll move into that with the next post, because this one is getting a bit long.

But we’re not done with this topic. We’re not done talking about reviews, or expressing opinions, or the writer/reader relationship, or whatever else falls under those umbrellas.

68 comments to “Something in the water?”

  1. Shiloh Walker
    · January 9th, 2012 at 7:18 am · Link

    Oh. Don’t get me started….oh, wait, I already said my piece. FLUFFY PINK UNICORNS DIE WHEN YOU LEAVE NEGATIVE REVIEWS. That’s it. Period. O.o

    The people doing this need to put on their big girl panties and just stop it. And hey, big girl panties are fun. And sexy, too.

    • Yodamom
      · January 9th, 2012 at 4:18 pm · Link

      😯 Not the pink unicorns, I love those ! I agree totally. I have noticed (on Amazon) that most, especially self published books, have 5 star reviews for the first few posts. I usually assume they are the author’s or their friends doings when the rest of the reviews go so badly.
      Wait, I really enjoy the immature kitty fights that go on, that’s entertainment.

      • Shiloh Walker
        · January 9th, 2012 at 5:28 pm · Link

        I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I have no control over it. Unicorns just die with negative reviews. And librarians, according to some, hates it. :roll:

        Sorry…the world’s gone nuts. It’s a pity the unicorns have to suffer for it.

    • Christina
      · June 15th, 2013 at 10:43 am · Link

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this amazing post. Yesterday, I received the most aggressive and offensive letter from an author and was completely shocked. It told me that it was apparent that I hadn’t read the book and cobbled together a bunch of other reviews to make my own review. And before this tirade, I had given it 4 stars and asked the author to do a promotional interview and giveaway. The author stated that I was condescending and basically just too young to give an accurate assessment and that the author was willing to help me edit my review to make it more accurate. I just don’t understand this type of behavior. And it puts a bad light on the amazing authors like you that actually are normal, great people who are rational and understand how things work. It’s not personal, it’s just a review.

  2. R B Harkess
    · January 9th, 2012 at 7:44 am · Link

    Aw, Stace, now none of the rest of us has anything left to say.

    By the gods, you make a good argument, though – and I agree with everything you say (even if I haven’t actually had any reviews yet – good or bad)

    I’ll admit, I have many writer friends and I have left reviews for a number of their books – but I’ve never given false praise and I’ve never bumped a 5 for something I dont like or have issues with

  3. Sheryl
    · January 9th, 2012 at 7:58 am · Link

    Wonderful post. I’ve been reading all the craziness going around and as a die-hard reader it really saddens me. Thank you!

  4. Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
    · January 9th, 2012 at 8:04 am · Link

    I :-)

  5. Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
    · January 9th, 2012 at 8:05 am · Link

    I *heart* you so much right now. There are so many things some authors do, from plagiarism to the review rants to review padding to reviewing their own damn books (don’t even get me started on that one–I personally know an author who did it recently and it still makes me twitchy).

    As a newbie in the business, there are so many ways to screw up that I really hate the idea that people will automatically think I’ve done all that crap too. I screw up quite enough on my own. I don’t need someone else’s asshattery on my head, thank you very much.

    However, I will admit that as a reader I look for SOME negative reviews of a book (especially if it has a lot of reviews) simply because not everyone is going to like a book. If all I see are hundreds of positives and zero negatives, I’ll question the validity of the reviews, but a handful of negatives are enough to counter that. For example (don’t hate me for using you–you just have a bigger number of reviews than I do :P), Unholy Ghosts has over 2000 reviews on GoodReads. ~20% are mediocre (3s), ~10% are negative (1-2s), 70% positive (4-5s). It’s actually an almost perfect balance for me as a reader–mostly positive with a few who weren’t fans. (Plus, it helps that when I look, a big chunk of the reviewers who have similar tastes as me gave it good reviews.)

    Having said all that, if I read it and hated it, I agree that I have the right to say so (even though Nat might give me grief forever :P). Just as you would if you read my stuff. It really doesn’t seem like it should be this hard for people to understand. Though it does make me wonder if publishing kicked all the asshats and speshul snowflakes to the curb, how many people would be left?

    Can we try it? 😈

  6. Clover
    · January 9th, 2012 at 8:14 am · Link

    Really great post! I completely agree with you. Things have been all kinds of ridiculous of late.

  7. JoAnne Kenrick
    · January 9th, 2012 at 8:32 am · Link

    Oh, man, not again! Why oh why do authors continue to jump on the ‘must defend my work’ train? I haven’t been writing for long, but for the few years I have been following blogs and tweeps etc.., this subject has come up far too often for my liking. And when the train wreck happens, I really want to shake the author and slap them silly. I can’t watch. I really can’t.
    Bad reviews suck. Of course they do. But not everyone has to enjoy our work, and they have every right to voice their opinions. Hey, bad reviews have even been known to help the sales of books so it’s not all bad. My skin isn’t the thickest, flimsy is more like it, yet even I’ve been able to ‘take it on the chin’ and move on.
    Here’s hoping, with this blog post, that you’ve saved a few more authors from making this mistake in the future!

  8. S. J. Maylee
    · January 9th, 2012 at 8:39 am · Link

    I think someone on twitter recently wondered how many readers you’d gain from this post, well you just gained this one 😀

    I’m new to all this, just started my site this year. But I KNOW not everyone will like my work. One of the first things I KNOW I will face when I start looking for my crit group, or agent, or publisher, or readers is rejection. Where has all the common sense gone? Oh and I really don’t like the bad apples making writers look bad, that gives me this face 👿

    We are all allowed to have our own opionion and mine says to go now and check out the rest of your site 😀

    Great Post!!

    • Katy
      · February 20th, 2012 at 3:02 pm · Link

      And another one here (from goodreads, too)!

  9. Janrae Frank
    · January 9th, 2012 at 8:48 am · Link

    I was pre-emptively banned from joining the British Fantasy Society when I gave a bad review to a friend of their president.

  10. Pyris
    · January 9th, 2012 at 9:04 am · Link

    I have stopped using reviews to influence my book purchases entirely AND I rarely read review blogs. I occasionally stop in at The Speculative Scotsman when I’m feeling uninspired but he reviews games and films as well as books and often uses his reviews as talking points rather than for the ‘ZOMG you must buy this’ factor. I also tried writing my own reviews but let that go when it became evident that Uni was going to eat my life, and I haven’t gone back to it nor do I intend too.

    If I am going to read a book or watch a film for that matter, I do not want it spoiled. Reviews, no matter how carefully written are in my opinion spoilers. Hell, I’ve seen reviews that could very well function as Cliff Notes! So why then would I need to purchase the damn book, I already know what happens. I would rather ‘waste’ my time looking at covers and reading the blurbs on the back cover in and actual bookstore than rely on a review!

  11. Day
    · January 9th, 2012 at 9:23 am · Link

    This is a post that made me want to dork out and start a “slow clap”. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

    Writing, although more of a solitary craft, is a creative work. And like other creative art forms (acting, music, etc) it is personal because it is an expression from the individual themselves. Unfortunately, when we choose to make a living using that creativity we are putting it out there for the world to have. Hopefully they enjoy it, but if they don’t you can’t dwell on it.

    I don’t like onions…at all. But, many people LOVE them. I don’t think Nicole Kidman is especially attractive, but millions of people do. My opinion isn’t going to make people stop cooking with onions or will it effect Nicole Kidman’s ability to draw in crowds at the box-office. The world will continue to spin whether I love or hate something. Not everything can be for everyone. *shrugs*

  12. Jenn Watts
    · January 9th, 2012 at 9:26 am · Link

    I <3 everything you said here. As I reader and aspiring self-publisher (someday, but not yet) I am appalled by the same author reactions you've been citing. If you want all good reviews of you stuff…don't publish it. Your friends and family will blow all kinds of sunshine up your ass, but the reading community isn't always going to like it. If you as an author can't deal with that then don't publish. It's that simple and you put is so very eloquently in your post.

  13. Liz
    · January 9th, 2012 at 9:31 am · Link

    I can add another one to things-authors-should-NOT-do: have their “loyal fans” do their dirty work and attack negative reviewers. Because fyi, not liking one book doesn’t mean I’m never going to read you again, but having my account spammed by dozens of your “close friends” telling me what a horrible person I am because I didn’t love and adore every word you wrote means that not only will I not read another thing you write, I will shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone else I know not to read your stuff either.
    (Note- The ‘you’ here definitely does not refer to Stacia Kane, and the rooftop shouting is more e-mailing and complaining to friends, rather than descending to the spammers’ level and spreading the author’s name around blogs.)

  14. Stacey Jo
    · January 9th, 2012 at 9:55 am · Link

    The only thing that REALLY gets on my nerves as a reviewer, as a human being in general is when 1 person continually spews malicious attacks to one author. About. Every. Single. Title. That’s where I draw the line and almost lose my cool. Seriously–I have nothing published. And I REALLY don’t like every book I have ever read. BUT I think it is completely wrong to bash someone else for their ability to be a published author. Even I f I believe the book is not even good enough to be toilet paper—It is still someone’s baby. Someone put their blood, sweat and tears into it. I may not agrre with the book, but my job isn’t to agree with it. It’s to review it as a NEUTRAL party. Sure, I don’t like hurting anyone. That’s just me. So, I try to find other things about the book i.e., creativity, certain characters I managed to like (even in the middle of crap)…there is SOMETHING in any given particular piece of work that calls for some form of adoration. People may not like the fact that I TRULY enjoy reading and writing great reviews. But in my humble opinion, there is enough negativity in the world and I’d like to do my part to try to balance it out. Can you imagine how it would feel if I said “so and so’s book sucked”, let’s say my review was the only one read. That author’s sales go down….would I like that on my shoulders? No. So I think there’s a line between “constructive criticism” and being flat out mean. And I really do not blame some authors who have been trashed because of immature, morons who didn’t hink to read the details of a book BEFORE purchasing or reading it. Writers are artists. Would everyone feel the same if an artist was bashed and yelled from the rooftops about their horrible art review? Would they be considered jerks? I think it’s human nature to be upset (even more so as an artist) when people don’t like your work. As for my reviews, I welcome anyone to like them, hate them, just not care. However, hopefully people understand that my human side tends to come before my reviewer side. If it’s wrong, so be it.

    • Snickers
      · February 15th, 2012 at 10:57 pm · Link

      The only thing is that it wouldn’t be the only negative review or the only review period. I won’t deny that there’s people who seem to be gunning for specific authors, but if someone really wants to spend the time and effort to mock, slam, or poke fun at a specific author then that’s their prerogative. It doesn’t matter if anyone likes what they’re doing or if they’ve got a million followers. Like Kane said, it’s their right to say what they think about an author, no matter how mean their comments might seem or how much they seem to gun after one author.

      In my long history of reading and purchasing books, those types of negative reviewers don’t really lower sales all that much. If anything, they actually pull readers in because they want to see if the book is truly as bad as the person says it is. The pure curiosity of it all, if you will. This is the reason Uwe Boll keeps making money: even though they know he’s a terrible director, everyone wants to see for themselves if he’s really that bad.

      Just ignore the negative reviews you don’t like. When we start drawing lines saying “only these types of people can and/or should review” then we start getting dangerously close to being like the authors who scream when they get anything below 4 stars on Amazon or Goodreads.

    • Snickers
      · February 15th, 2012 at 11:10 pm · Link

      Is it nice? No. Probably not and probably never will be, just like it’s ultimately not nice for someone like Perez Hilton to sit around and make fun of celebrities.

      Should they have the freedom of speech to do and say these things? Yes. As long as they’re not physically keeping you from reading the things you want to read or threatening anyone (the danger of losing a book sale doesn’t count), they have the freedom to do and say as they please.

      You see, when we start limiting the freedom of others we run the risk of losing our freedoms as well. Just like you have the freedom to dislike what they say, they have the freedom to vehemently dislike and mercilessly mock an author… and continue to read them despite this.

      If we draw the line here and tell these people that they shouldn’t do this, then again we become no better than the authors who try to censor or restrict reviews they don’t agree with. We’ve actually become them.

  15. slayra
    · January 9th, 2012 at 10:08 am · Link

    Greetings from sunny Portugal. ^_^

    Exquisitely written (ahah). Totally agree. The base idea here is freedom of speech, yes? The reviewers’ target audience is other readers and I don’t get why authors think we write to them… I mean I actually say in my reviews that I’d like the book better if the character had done A instead of B… how can this be for authors? It can’t, obviously, since it pretty much shows I’m giving a very subjective opinion. Completely subjective.

    I get it’s hurtful to read negative reviews, but no-one is universally appreciated. 😯

  16. Pamela
    · January 9th, 2012 at 10:26 am · Link

    I love you Stacia! In a non-stalker way, I promise! That is all.

  17. Marta Acosta
    · January 9th, 2012 at 11:37 am · Link

    Hi, Stacia, looking forward to your next book!

    I studied reviewing and reviewed for newspapers. There is such a thing as “constructive reviewing” and the purpose is not to help the author, but to give an intelligent, thoughtful review of a performance or book by considering plot, characters, context. “I hated it” doesn’t say anything. “I hated it because the characters were one-dimensional” or “I hated it because the violence was gratuitous” fall into the “constructive criticism” category.

    That said, I’m happy that so many people are reviewing, even if it’s “I read this book and you might want to, too.” I love the enthusiasm online for books.

    I must be “amateurish” because I always pay attention to thoughtful and insightful criticism. There are so many really wonderful critics online — smart people who love books and understand the elements of writing — why is their criticism of any less value than criticism in a writing group?

    I try to ignore the negative criticism, but I do get irked by reviewers who clearly haven’t read what they’re reviewing. I had one reviewer who gave me raves that seemed strangely familiar — she was copying them from other reviews because she wanted authors to send her free books. I won’t even go into the “reviewers” who ask for books so they can sell them on Ebay or the “reviewers” who “read” ten books a day.

    Amazon reviews mean nothing because Amazon is a merchant gaming the system to sell product. That is the purpose of everything Amazon does. That’s why there is no “no star” reviews and that’s why they’ve developed the Vine Program and keep their ranking algorithms private. How many of the Vine reviewers give five-star ratings to everything from Cheez-Whiz to the latest bestseller because they instinctively know it will keep the freebies coming?

    I prefer Goodreads, because it doesn’t have a dog in the fight. (I’m sure that will change because the site’s owners will want to generate bigger profits.) There are some amazing reviewers on Goodreads. I was struggling to finish reading a novel and I went on Goodreads and found a really “constructive” review that helped me to understand what the author was trying to do. I went back, finished the book, and appreciated it.

    I give only five star reviews on Goodreads, because I’d prefer to promote other writers, but in personal conversation, I certainly critique movies, music, books and, yes, chicken dinners. The Husband likes to quote my comment that a salad wasn’t to my satisfaction because the vinaigrette had a “metallic aftertaste.”

  18. Amy Ashley
    · January 9th, 2012 at 11:50 am · Link

    Goog freaking God. I can’t believe this is even a topic for discussion.

    I don’t want to know what readers think. It’s difficult enough to write, revise, edit, and get through all the waiting. Dealing with constructive crit from betas and agents and editors is tough! I don’t want to juggle fan hate too. I’d rather focus on writing something else.

    This is also why I don’t often talk about any other author’s books. Once you start writing on a professional level you just aren’t a reader anymore.

  19. Stacey Jo
    · January 9th, 2012 at 12:26 pm · Link

    I’m really most surprised that so many authors do not care what the readers think. I don’t even know what that means but it implies that the books are for the authors themselves? I truly believe it doesn’t make a difference if you are a professional writer or not. it doesn’t make you more than a reader of someone else’s work. That implies, the unpublished, un record breaking authors of the world are “less than”. At one time, everyone was unpublished. It seems only the unprofessional writers actually respect the fact that there are reviewers. Thanks for the eye opener.

    • Stace
      · January 9th, 2012 at 1:27 pm · Link

      Stacey, what author doesn’t care what reviewers or readers think? Of course we care; of course we want readers to love our books. And I apologize, but where in the world did you get the impression that I don’t respect reviewers because I think they have the right to any opinion they want and that authors shouldn’t bully or harass them over those opinions?

      And how did anyone imply that unpublished writers or non-record-breaking-non-bestsellers (of which I am one, I point out) or anyone else are somehow “less than?”

      Sorry, but I’m honestly confused as to how you got any of that from my post about how writers should leave readers and reviewers alone and quit trying to tell them how to review books, because they don’t owe writers anything and they don’t write reviews for us but for other readers.

      • Stacey Jo
        · January 9th, 2012 at 2:59 pm · Link

        via Amy Ashley’s reply. My apologies, this was to go to hers instead. Sorry for the confusion

        “I don’t want to know what readers think. It’s difficult enough to write, revise, edit, and get through all the waiting. Dealing with constructive crit from betas and agents and editors is tough! I don’t want to juggle fan hate too. I’d rather focus on writing something else.
        This is also why I don’t often talk about any other author’s books. Once you start writing on a professional level you just aren’t a reader anymore.”

        Stace, this was in no way towards your post. It was for Amy. I COMPLETELY understand your post. And although I do not agree with authors begging for reviews, I must say WE LOVE REVIEWING :) It is a complete honor when we are asked by an author to read and review their book, good or bad. So,, with that being said, when an author such as Amy comments that she doesn’t care, etc. It irks alot of us. So rry for the confusion.


  20. BernardL
    · January 9th, 2012 at 12:39 pm · Link

    Any review is a good review. As you state, if you’re an author believing you can write a book everyone will love, you’re living in an alternate reality. I’ve noticed Amazon has begun policing the reviews on their products and books. Amazon also created author pages, which help quite a bit, because readers can contact authors directly. It’s tough to get anyone to review a book an author writes in the first place. When someone does, even if it’s a slam, it’s instructive. If you stir someone up so much they read your entire novel while hating every aspect of it at the same time… wow, that’s power. :)

  21. Laurel
    · January 9th, 2012 at 12:59 pm · Link

    Yay for this! Also, as a major book junkie (I spend a LOT of money on books- I consider it my major vice), I pay attention when authors over-react to a negative review. There are two possibilities:

    1. The reviewer was an idiot and threw out an irrational negative review. Not worth your time because readers who rely on reviews will recognize this.

    2. The reviewer put up a well thought out review with explanations of what they didn’t like and why and it hurt your feelings. Also not worth your time if you think about it, because I might buy the book anyway. Maybe that thing they didn’t like is a trope I just love. Or maybe it isn’t an issue for me. But if the review was thoughtful, the fact that the reviewer didn’t like it won’t stop me from buying it.

    Either way, the best response is none at all. It’s the only way to not look either crazy or juvenile.

    I do think it would be fair to allow for mulligans every now and then. Sometimes someone just snaps under the pressure and responds when they shouldn’t. If it isn’t a pattern, I chalk it up to a momentary lapse. Everybody’s human, even authors.

  22. Piseog
    · January 9th, 2012 at 1:27 pm · Link

    I’m really glad you did this blog because I do book/series reviews on Youtube (on your books too) and I worried about authors not liking them. Well now I can do them with no qualms.

  23. Melissa
    · January 9th, 2012 at 1:38 pm · Link

    I’ve been known to stop reading authors who respond poorly to reviews even if I like their work. There are too many books and too many authors out there for me to waste my time and money on those who feel the need to tell me what I should think. For the record, I don’t write many bad reviews but if I was put off enough by your book to write why I didn’t like it, I did so to be helpful to other readers, not to personally insult you as an author.

  24. midnightblooms
    · January 9th, 2012 at 1:47 pm · Link

    I agree 100%. Reviews are not the writer’s business. They won’t help you. They might hurt you. It’s best to just stay away. You can’t change things once it’s released (unless you’re George Lucas), and there is no way to respond professionally to a review, good or bad, except to say “thank you for reviewing my book.” Period.

    And begging or demanding positive reviews is just pathetic. Have faith in your work. Or at least know you did your best and leave it at that. It’s not easy, but then what about this process is?

  25. Chelsea / Vampire Book Club
    · January 9th, 2012 at 2:11 pm · Link

    Thank you! It’s appreciated when authors get that reviews aren’t for them. I can send you an email to go fangirl and tell you what I think is fantastic about Chess, but my reviews are for other potential fangirls.

    I understand authors having strong reactions to less-than-favorable reviews. You’ve invested yourself in your writing, so it’s hard not to see the judgment as reflecting you and not your work.

    That’s just not the case though. And when you decide to sell people a product — even if it’s an artistic work — you cede control there. If you can’t handle seeing the bad alongside the good, turn off your Google Alerts and don’t click the links.

    Because when it comes down to it, Stace, you’re right: reviews are for readers.

  26. XenanRoc
    · January 9th, 2012 at 2:32 pm · Link

    You basically said everything a reviewer would love to say themselves to some authors! Bravo your awesome! A big ole TY sent your way!

  27. MichelleR
    · January 9th, 2012 at 2:34 pm · Link

    Now I’m doubting my memory. I thought you’d said that you’d be upset if your pub signed on someone who’d given you a negative review. I love this current post, but could have sworn the other view existed as well, because I reluctantly stopped reading you at that point; I have no designs on your pub, or even know if I’ll ever write again, but it made me wonder what you considered to be a negative review — and since it’s not unheard of for an author to take umbrage at even a 4 star…

    I don’t read what I don’t feel comfortable reviewing, and I must confess that my interpretation of this previous entry made me uncomfortable … and bummed since I considered myself a fan.

    So, now I think I misunderstood the whole thing.

    • Stace
      · January 10th, 2012 at 4:23 am · Link

      No, I never said that.

      What I did say was that I might be a little hurt if my agent signed a client who’d given me harsh reviews in the past (agent/author relationships are different from editor/author relationships). Not that I would say anything to my agent, not that I would “warn” them ahead of time or demand they not sign said person or anything else, but that I might feel a little hurt. And to be honest–and I don’t mean to be rude here, at all–I’m not sure why admitting that I may sometimes have personal feelings about a negative review, feelings I do not express publicly or even privately, means my books aren’t worth reading.

      To me the kind of review that might be hurtful is the kind that makes personal comments about me. Frex, not long after UNHOLY GHOSTS was released someone claimed that I only wrote an addict as a “gimmick” to “seem edgy.” That’s not a comment about my book, that’s a personal comment about my artistic integrity, and yes, it was hurtful. Did I say a word about it to anyone, my agent or editor(s) or anyone else? Did I think that person didn’t have a right to their opinion? Did I respond to them? No. I did none of that. But it was hurtful, and I think I’m allowed to feel that it was hurtful (and frankly insulting, implying that I wrote what I did to get attention and not because it was something I felt and cared about, and that I was thus exploiting thousands of people in pain for my own profit).

      What I consider a negative review changes on a case-by-case basis; like with obscenity or art, I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. I certainly know it’s not a four-star review. I know I’ve gotten very few reviews that bothered me in any way; to be honest, I don’t read many of my reviews anyway, so the odds of my even knowing what someone said are pretty slim, and I certainly don’t keep a list or anything.

      I never expect anyone to love my work, much less expect *everyone* to. And I have always been firmly behind readers and their right to say what they think; that series of posts to which you refer linked back to several other posts I’ve written over the years standing firmly behind the rights of readers to say whatever they want about a book. It’s not any author’s place to tell them what they can and cannot say or how they can or cannot feel. But by the same token, I’m entitled to my feelings, too. I’m entitled to be disappointed, and I’m entitled to be hurt or feel bad. I’m just not entitled to berate the reader, publicly or privately, or ask others to do so, or otherwise react.

      The post to which you refer was written specifically with an eye toward informing aspiring writers–not readers or reader/reviewers in general, but specifically those who are actively writing and submitting–that once they become published things change and they’ll no longer be able to speak freely. The point was just to let them know–to give them a piece of advice I wish very much someone had given me when I was starting out–that anything they say online can come back to haunt them (as more than one published author has learned) and that it would be good idea, as they set up their professional blogs etc., to keep that in mind. And that once you are a writer you are no longer seen as a reader; readers do not tend to see you as one of them and authors don’t either, and that’s lonely and a bit scary and very surprising when it happens. The bit about aspiring writers writing reviews was a very small part of the whole, but it’s the part that everyone chose to focus on and misrepresent wildly all over the internet with claims that I said I’d tell my agent not to represent someone who didn’t like my books or whatever, which I never said; in fact, which I specifically said would NOT be the case, just as I specifically said more than once that I didn’t have anywhere near the power to “ruin” someone’s career or even inhibit it in any way, even should I want to do so, which I wouldn’t and don’t.

      • Michelle R.
        · January 10th, 2012 at 11:21 pm · Link

        Thanks for the clarification. I’ll confess that seeing the type of antics you write about here makes me extra gun shy, not just for myself, but for other reviewers … and gun shy folks are apt to jump the gun.

    • Stace
      · January 10th, 2012 at 4:29 am · Link

      Just as a follow-u, here’s another post I wrote which sums the whole thing up, I think:


      • Stacey Jo
        · February 20th, 2012 at 7:29 pm · Link

        Thanks Stacia :)

  28. Erin Satie
    · January 9th, 2012 at 2:48 pm · Link

    As a reviewer, I agree with you absolutely. I find new books and authors almost exclusively through reviews nowadays, and as a result I try authors I’d never have found otherwise and buy fewer books that I hate.

    As an author I’m still at that stage where I just need to figure out how other people react to my work. Maybe getting to the point where you can ignore reviews is a milestone along the way. I’d like to be someone who ignores reviews, but…I can’t imagine having that kind of fortitude right now.

    When did you stop caring – or did you ever? How did you figure out that it was time to draw a line in the sand and sit on the author side while the readers chattered amongst themselves?

  29. Julia Knight
    · January 9th, 2012 at 3:01 pm · Link

    Man, looks like I picked the wrong week to give up watching internet train wrecks, huh? 😀

    Reviews are for one purpose only – to tell a reader whether this book is the sort of book they like, and if it’s any good and why (or why not).

    Sometimes a reader’s tastes will jive with a reviewer and they’ll like the same stuff, as often not – there’s at least one reviewer who, if he hates a book I go straight out and buy it, cos I know I’ll love it!

    That said, a nicely worded review is appreciated, and I find even negative reviews help me as a writer – I look at them as unsolicited beta comments. It’s always nice if that’s above the level of ‘Sucks’.

    My latest book seems to be a bit of a marmite book (love it or hate it, though I haven’t had any really scathing reviews. Yet.) But that’s fine. You don’t have to love my book. Really. Anyone thinking that everyone SHOULD love their book…is probably in the wrong business.

    • Julia Knight
      · January 9th, 2012 at 3:03 pm · Link

      ETA: (:D)

      Also, of course I care if readers love my book, but I also know that it won’t be for everyone. Knowing that doesn’t mean I don’t care.

  30. Cassandra
    · January 9th, 2012 at 3:06 pm · Link

    One, let me say I think you rock. As a recovering addict myself, Chess blew my mind so keep on doing what you are doing. Second I deleted my Goodreads account because of authors commenting on my reviews, just put me in an awkward position and was really yucky. I don’t know, a book is such a personal thing and my response so intimate it felt wrong and I lost some authors that I enjoyed or were hit and miss for me. I guess what I am trying to say is that… You are a class act and thank you for your post.

  31. kindle-aholic
    · January 9th, 2012 at 3:18 pm · Link

    The whole fake reviews, hounding a reviewer because of their opinion, all that bad behavior, ugh! There have even been a couple of times on Amazon where I checked myself before I gave a 5 star, because there weren’t many reviews yet, and I knew I’d be considered by some to be a sock puppet, but screw it. I’m honest with my reviews – if I think it’s worth 5 stars, I’m givin’ it 5 stars.

    I also think that some reviewers need to remember that (just like an author needing to accept that some people will not like their work), that not every reader will appreciate their opinion, laugh along with their snark, immediately fall all over themselves to thank the reviewer for giving the world their magnificent opinion (and I’ve come across many, MANY reviewers who get their egos in a twist). It’s an OPINION. You have one, I might agree, I might not. If you hated a book that I loved, it doesn’t mean I’m a stupid shill. It means we have different tastes. That’s a bit OT, but I think it is also part of the issue – some reviews are actually pretty confrontational (and it’s directed at other readers), and I find if you come to the table looking for a fight, you will undoubtedly find someone who will join in. Then it goes round-n-round the internets.

    I’ve seen some douchey behavior from both sides. I’ve also seen a lot of awesome bloggers and reviewers who can accept that not everyone will agree. And luckily (for me I guess) the vast majority of authors I’ve dealt with have been awesome, professional, and very cool to work with.

  32. Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com
    · January 9th, 2012 at 3:50 pm · Link


  33. Brenda Hyde
    · January 9th, 2012 at 3:55 pm · Link

    How the hell I missed EVERY one of these situations is beyond me, but I did. I am glad that I missed the crap hitting the fan, and can I say I missed your ramblings SO much and I was excited to see one. 😎 Granted, it sucks that you had to rant over such immature behavior, but still…

    By the way, I agree completely with your rant, and can’t understand why these authors are not understanding the damage they are doing to themselves by acting this way.

  34. Melissa
    · January 9th, 2012 at 4:11 pm · Link

    Someone linked to this on Twitter, and I have to say that I love what you have to say here. I haven’t read your work yet, but I will certainly be looking it up now. 😉

  35. Jeffe Kennedy
    · January 9th, 2012 at 4:16 pm · Link

    Amen, Stacy! I totally agree on all counts. Writers have plenty of places to go for criticism, constructive and otherwise. And, as you say, that’s BEFORE the book is published. More and more I think authors shouldn’t read their reviews. It’s not healthy. Plus, reviews are for readers!

  36. Midnyte Reader
    · January 9th, 2012 at 5:29 pm · Link

    This is an amazing post. Thank you so much for expressing your thoughts and sharing.

  37. Ace
    · January 9th, 2012 at 5:37 pm · Link

    Eagerly awaiting next installment in the series.

    Shame there’s no “eating popcorn smiley”…

  38. Maura
    · January 9th, 2012 at 6:57 pm · Link

    Although some of the recent kerfuffles have involved commercially published authors.. I wonder if some of the uptick isn’t a result of the explosion in self-publishing. Maybe having extra layers of agents, editors, and publishers involved in you and your work gives you a different perspective than if you just wrote something you love and your family said was good and print it up in a book and try to sell it to people. Then maybe it feels more like “your baby,” and you have a little less distance; people criticizing the book feels more like they’re criticizing you personally.

    • Marta Acosta
      · January 9th, 2012 at 7:20 pm · Link

      One blogger-reviewer told me she wouldn’t review self-pubbed authors because she’d been attacked too often when she said anything critical.

      But the bad behavior is not limited to authors, self-pubbed or not.

    • Shiloh Walker
      · January 9th, 2012 at 8:24 pm · Link

      Maura, a lot of the current explosion, I THINK, is coming from YA authors, pubbed from traditional houses. Not sure what the deal is there, and I also think it’s a relatively small number who are doing this.

      It’s just when they do it? It’s in a big…shiny…loud…explosion that catches a lot of attention.

    • Jennifer Lane
      · January 15th, 2012 at 7:22 pm · Link

      Interesting theory–I like that.

  39. Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy]
    · January 9th, 2012 at 10:10 pm · Link

    You just made me so happy right now. I saw the internet loose it’s mind last week too. Crazy stuff.

  40. Sarah
    · January 10th, 2012 at 12:00 am · Link

    Hmm, munch munch, food for thought. I’m just a lowly reader (who likes your work alot), so I recommend it to others that I think will like it. If I didn’t care for a book I read I don’t think I’d be in a big hurry to talk about it, but I certainly am ALLOWED to. I like checking out reviews from other readers with similar interests for ideas. I think that it’s great that writers have the nerve to put their work out there on a silver platter for us silly little consumers, because they risk criticism. How unfortunate that some would resort to bullying to pad their stats. Gasp! Where is their honor? Seriously though, that’s quite rude. If a book has buttloads of 5 star reviews I wonder what small demographic they’ve tapped because, of course not everyone likes the same thing. It’s impossible to have depth and resonance with every single reader. How generic. Sometimes the bad reviews are as intriguing as the good. There are a great many wildly popular authors that do not deserve their kudos, in my opinion….. wait, I still get to have one right?

  41. Jen K Jovus
    · January 10th, 2012 at 5:32 pm · Link

    I love that you wrote this ballsy post and didn’t sugar coat anything. :)

    This is a difficult subject – as I see both sides of the situation. It feels like reviewers/bloggers and authors are forgeting that we all have symbiotic relationships.

    From a blogger’s standpoint, I feel like sometimes authors forget we do it for free. (I am soo going to make a t-shirt that says bloggers do it for free! LOL) I spend time and money to promote my blog and books I enjoy.

    As for the positive review’s comments – I only read books I like or am interested in. therefore my reviews are generally favorable. I would not read a biography and try to review it because I wouldn’t like it. It would not be fair of me to try and review a book that I know I am not going to like.

    As far as authors “padding” the review’s on Amazon and Goodreads, shame on them. But how do you prove it? What do we do about it?

    I really appreciate this post and hearing your opinion as an author on such a sensitive subject.

  42. Jennifer Lane
    · January 15th, 2012 at 7:21 pm · Link

    Amen! This recent trend is disturbing and embarrassing to authors.

    “I wasn’t aware that purchasing and consuming a product meant I was under some sort of fucking thrall in which I’m only allowed to either praise the Pop-Tart (which to be honest isn’t hard, especially the S’mores flavor) or, if I am going to criticize a flavor, offer a specific and detailed analysis as to why, phrased in as inoffensive and gentle a manner as possible so as not to upset the gentle people at Kellogg’s.”

    Ha ha ha. Great metaphor.

  43. louise
    · January 18th, 2012 at 8:09 am · Link

    Agree with all Stacia says, although I do feel sorry for some of the ridicule authors get. It *is* hard receiving a bad review, and it *feels* personal even though it isn’t. I think this comes with experience – the newer the author the more upset they become at poor reviews.

    And this is why I’m feeling nervous about starting a reviewing blog. I know there is plenty of crap out there nestling with the gems, and I know I’m going to have to review that crap to get to the gems.

    Maybe I’ll add a link to this blog in my disclaimer!

  44. Lana Baker
    · January 24th, 2012 at 9:19 pm · Link

    The only time I sincerely hope that an author actually reads my reviews is when I say something like, “Get an effing editor!” Since I publish my reviews on Amazon, I say it politely, of course, but if that’s my beef with the writing, I say it, right out loud. And hope. Otherwise, I’m just sharing my opinion, and if somebody reads it, great. If not, great. I do feel like I’m a “real” reviewer now, though, because I got my first troll. What fun!

  45. Stephen Graff
    · March 1st, 2012 at 5:56 pm · Link

    Whether we’re talking about book writers or reviewers, we’re talking about writers. All writers are capable of egotism and that can be discussed ad nauseam, resolving nothing. The real issue is how we choose to conduct ourselves online: with dignity and integrity, or with selfishness and dishonesty. A writer’s work is fair game for criticism. But to attack the writer–either the writer of the review or the book–simply shows a lack of “class.”

  46. MaryJanice Davidson
    · February 21st, 2013 at 12:46 pm · Link

    I’m late to the game, but your post was so brilliant. I think all writers should repeat your mantra: AUTHORS, REVIEWS ARE NOT FOR YOU! (Heck, with all the internet agendas out there, sometimes they’re not for the consumer, either.) Terrific post!

  47. Melissa K.
    · March 4th, 2013 at 11:09 pm · Link

    Brilliant post about heckling readers and bribing family members. 😆 However, it’s not easy to come to the realization though that reviews don’t matter.

    I’m just starting out(my books have been out for less than a year on Amazon, yes I’m self-pub) and I take my scanty reviews seriously, both the good and bad ones. Most reviews are asking for a longer story.

    If searching for writing tips in reviews makes me an amateur, I will admit I never joined the writing world claiming to be Danielle Steele. I want to grow as a writer and reviews (rather than boring tips/pointers in a textbook) are an interesting way of learning.

    • Stace
      · March 5th, 2013 at 6:50 am · Link

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for the comment. I do believe you’ve perhaps slightly misunderstood my point, or rather, perhaps taken it as an insult when absolutely none was intended. None at all, and I am so very sorry if you felt insulted by it.

      There’s nothing wrong with taking reviews seriously, and with wanting them; of course you do. We ALL do. There’s nothing wrong with reading one and thinking, “Oh, you know, that’s a good point, I’ll keep that in mind.” (Just as there is nothing wrong with reading a review and being hurt by it, as long as you don’t respond.)

      My point was that there seems to be a subset of writers who think the entire point of a review is to give feedback to the author, and that the reviewer must keep the author’s feelings in mind when writing them, and that I don’t agree with that viewpoint.

      I wrote a couple of posts here about feelings about reviews, and the rather ridiculous idea that we as writers aren’t supposed to have feelings or care about them; the first is here:


      And the second, called “What Are We Afraid Of?” is the very next post on the blog. I hope they help clarify my opinion a bit. Of course you can and should care about reviews; it’s just that they’re not written for you, and writers shouldn’t expect them to be.

      • Melissa K.
        · March 5th, 2013 at 8:04 am · Link

        Hi Stacia…

        For the record, your blogpost hit home to me because I tend to take reviews personally and bad ones do hurt, while good ones make me slightly pompous.

        I really want to overcome this condition, and I’ll be subscribing to your blog from now on… in the hope that I realize that reviews are not meant for me :)

        Thanks for the blogpost, a lot of authors including myself do need to hear it.

  48. amelia bishop
    · November 27th, 2013 at 5:43 pm · Link

    I know I’m late to the party here, and maybe I shouldn’t comment since this is an old post? But I will anyway, because I keep seeing quotes from this article all over goodreads, and just have to say something “for the record” (as if my two cents count).

    I honestly don’t keep up with most of the author vs. reader wars, but I’ve seen enough (MORE than enough) just without even trying. It’s kind of sickening. I agree with 99% of what you’ve said here, and in your other, related, blog posts.

    The thing that bothers me about the quotes people keep pulling from this post is the reference to Pop-Tarts (bear with me). I do agree with your analogy, to a point, but I think there is a major flaw in that many authors are not even close to kellogs-level. It would be more accurate, in terms of customer-dissatisfaction, to use the example of buying a muffin off a food truck, or from a small mom-and-pop diner. Maybe it’s not the best muffin you’ve ever had, maybe you thought it was blueberry and turns out it’s cran-orange and you hate cranberries. You’re disappointed, but you eat it. Then you think about how crappy that muffin was, and decide to write a letter to the editor of the local paper, telling the whole town about how you just had the world’s worst muffin and where you got it and just how bad it was and how stupid it would be for anyone else to go there and pay for a muffin.

    Just to clarify, a reader/reviewer should be able to write whatever they want, I am with you 100% there. And I’m not saying they owe authors anything, or that they have to be nice or constructive or anything like that. What I AM saying is that when people write hurtful, mean spirited reviews they are hurting a real, everyday person, not a big faceless company.

    I guess what prompted me to comment here was seeing quotes from this post used to justify some really ugly behavior. So I wanted to say: just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t make it right.

  49. Amanda Clark
    · September 16th, 2016 at 2:42 pm · Link

    I’ve recently had an influx of authors starting shit with me over my reviews. One actually left a comment under mine on Amazon. Another author had her fan club vote down my review and a pretty well known author tried to call me out on Goodreads in a public kerfuffle about a “true story” book and the speculation surrounding it. Your post is everything I wish I was! Thank you so much!

  50. Stace
    · October 5th, 2016 at 6:48 am · Link

    Wow, Amanda, I’m sorry that happened to you! That really sucks.


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