Axe to Grind: Negative Reviews – Where to draw the line
As a book blogger with over two years of experience under my belt I know that it’s impossible to please everyone. Authors love you when you post a glowing review but negative ones are a whole other kettle of fish.
As a reviewer I strive for balance; I think it’s important to be respectful of authors because books are their babies after all, if I told you that your kid was ugly you probably wouldn’t react very well now would you (with good reason!)? However, my commitment is to my followers and for me, the most important part about a review is honesty. My followers read my reviews because they value my opinion and if I falsely lead them to believe that I enjoyed a book when I didn’t my credibility suffers as a result.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you know that recently I had an author drop out of my Holiday Foreplay event because of a negative review that she received from one of my associate reviewers. This is the first time that this has NEVER happened to me so, needless to say, I took it quite seriously. Deciding to add members to my team was a huge decision for me and one that I didn’t take lightly because I was worried about losing control of my content and of situations like this. Even though I didn’t personally write the review I have to take some responsibility for it because it did appear on my site and the fallout impacts my reputation. I won’t name names as to who the reviewer was nor the author but if you want to know feel free to message me in private and I will share this information. This post isn’t meant to put the blame on the author nor the reviewer but rather to shed some light on a tricky situation and to hopefully help other reviewers. Over the years I’ve received countless e-mails from fellow bloggers asking for advice about exactly this. Should you or shouldn’t you pull a negative review because an author/PR rep/publicist asked you to?
My answer is no, you shouldn’t. In this case I contradict myself because I did out of respect for the author and because I didn’t want to cause more fuss than the situation warranted. I gave the associate reviewer in question the option of revising their review but ultimately I INVITED this author to participate in my event and tasked a member of my team with reviewing the book to help lighten my blogging load. I am partially to blame for this situation because I assigned a novel that was outside of said reviewer’s reading preferences so I knew that there was a chance that the feedback would be negative. That being said, I personally didn’t think there was anything wrong with the review. There was no author bashing in it and the book still received a 3/5 star rating which isn’t horrible in my opinion. However, I agree that it wasn’t very objective and had minimal substance. The reviewer repeatedly said that they didn’t like the novel but the reasons why were unclear. There was very little mention about the plot, character development, writing style, story arc, etc. The fact that these elements were missing also impacted my decision to remove the review from my blog. The complaint fell in a gray area and I’d rather be safe than sorry. It is the Canadian way after all!
As for where the author is concerned, in my opinion, she could have handled the negative feedback better. In her e-mail to me she mentioned how she strives to “eliminate all negativity from her life” and couldn’t in good conscience contribute to a blog that didn’t appreciate her book. I see that as a lack of professionalism on her part and think that her expectations are unrealistic. I’m not an author so correct me if I’m wrong but, anyone who is should be able to take the good with the bad. Again, it’s impossible to please everyone and people have a right to their opinions just so long as they are constructive and not inflammatory. Also, it’s been my experience that negative reviews often generate more buzz and sales than the 5 star ones so if anything, she should have seen this as an opportunity to attract a larger audience. I found it noteworthy that before I removed the review, it received a surprisingly large amount of traffic because of the controversy. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? The fact that this author pulled out because she thought that I was setting her up to fail is not only insulting but hurtful. It implied that my goal is to bash authors rather than promote them which couldn’t be further from the truth. If I dislike an author’s book I almost always give them a second chance to change my mind because often enough debut novels aren’t up to par; it’s their first crack at it so it’s to be expected that there are improvements to be made. Isn’t that how we learn, from our mistakes?
The response that I received from my followers and surprisingly, even a few authors, was overwhelmingly in favour of the reviewer and I can’t thank you enough for your support and feedback. I was actually commended for opening myself up to criticism and for taking ownership of the situation. So, in case you don’t follow me via social media, I’m posting this for the world to see and offering you the opportunity to chime in. Should a blogger pull a negative review at an author’s request? In my opinion the answer is no; respect is a two-way street
and I have just as much right to my opinion as an author has the right to publish a book that doesn’t please everyone.
About the Blogger
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I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada