October 21, 2014

On reviews, and receiving them, and the reader's right to expression

About a year ago, I wrote this post on feelings and the problem when our expressing of them steps over a line. It's still one of my most 'popular' posts, traffic-wise. This year, there's a similar firestorm happening, but in the reverse. It started with this article (that's a no-traffic link, btw) from an author who, frankly, stepped over the line. Way WAY over the line.

As authors, we write books, and if we're brave and crazy enough, we share them with the world. And here's the thing: the world is allowed to hate them. Publicly and loudly. That's just how it is. Readers are perfectly within their rights to hate every single word of what they just read and, also, to tell people about it. Know what else? So long as they're not actively threatening or condemning the person, the one who wrote the words they hated, readers can express their hatred for a book however they want. Really. However they want. With swears, with anger, with gifs and pictures which may or may not be rude.

Negative reviews are a bummer when it's your book on the receiving end, but that's part of this deal. Not everyone will love your book. Not everyone will be nice about it either. I don't love every book I read. And while I'd not personally choose to write an angry or caustic review, I respect a reader's right to do so.

There are many ways to deal with the pain of negative reviews. Cry, email friends, look at puppy pictures, bake, exercise, channel your emotions into something productive, like more writing. Just for a few examples. The top best way would be not to read reviews at all. Now that takes a willpower I don't possess, though I wish I did. So I do read reviews, even the negative ones. (I posit it's just as bad to read only positive reviews, but that's an entirely different issue.)  I also respect an author's right to engage a critic, respectfully and through established channels, though I don't recommend it.

What's never, ever, ever, ever an okay way to deal with anything, including negative reviews?

Stalking someone.

Seriously, what this author did is not okay. It is not even sane.

I'm equally horrified that a major news outlet gave her a platform to flaunt the insanity and even, just as ludicrously, gain (some) support for it.

Unlike my post a year ago, there is no complexity about this issue. None, zero, not a smidge. There is no gray here whatsoever.

Stalking a reviewer--anyone--is not okay. Not if you meant no harm, not if you just wanted to talk, not even if you wanted to thank them or give them a cake. Just no.

To all the bloggers and reviewers out there, no matter if you loved or passionately hated my books: thank you. I'm so desperately sorry that today some of you have reason to feel afraid.
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