Social Media brings out the best and the worst in the literary community. Yet, mostly everyone seems to be blaming the book bloggers.

Back in August I read a nondescript article on SLATE about social media changing literary culture. [source] Prompting bloggers and other authors to adopt these über happy personas and LOVE ALL mentalities because of an intrinsic self-consciousness of a negative social media shit-storm. It would seem that authors and other social media personalities are learning from the misbehaved one’s {1} {2} mistakes via twitter, Amazon and Facebook and taking Thumpers Mom’s advice, of not saying a word unless it is nice. It has more importantly trickled down into the reviewers mentality, because of certain negative retaliation via troll sites masquerading as “anti-bullying” sites.

The Result: A Fuzzy Bunny Mentality of Happy Reviews for All? This is great, if all you want to hear is applause and have cotton candy floating around your head. It is also great for the authors, with fangirl tweets raining upon them. And if this takes hold with a majority of bloggers then those idiotic troll sites and temper tantrum throwing authors have won! Grr!

But, what happens when you need to say something negative? Some have taken to not posting negative reviews at all…large review sites in fact. Like reviewers from the TIME’s and NPR. Not all of them of course, but a select few. Or just you as a personal blogger? Will you be afraid of negative backlash and trolls?

Rabid Author Stalkers

And while these rabid fans, or misguided authors who believe they are fighting for the good of authorship, go on the attack, the only people they are hurting are the authors themselves, who have inadvertently sparked a negative review. Because the first thought in most people’s head is that it is the authors themselves making these comments. Who else would care so much? Whether that persona attacking turns out to be the author’s husband, their agent, or just their Beta Reader…in the end, the repercussions fall upon the authors head and his /her sales are affected by the negative publicity.

I have never agreed with this fuzzy bunny mentality of “never review a book I don’t like.” And I have also never been intimidated with malicious anonymous comments or author disapproval. But, also, after it was demonstrated this past week via one of Lori’s Indie reviews [review of Love Can be Dangerous], negative reviews can bring out the very mean-spirited and angry trolls that attack very viciously on a personal nature. And trolls, like the name suggests, shouldn’t be acknowledged, yet sometimes their words cut, because you know it’s a real person behind those anonymous threats and a lot of the times it might be a peer, a fellow author or blogger. Which I in fact knew these trolls were, fellow reviewers and fans of the author. This, unfortunately leads a blogger to second guess her opinion, should she have written this review? Was she unnecessarily harsh? Should she pull the review?

Hogwash right?

Where is the line then? What do we do to keep the review on the “right” track? Reviews that evoke your criticism, but stem the hostilities and troll attracting verbiage. Thus, stemming the common thoughts that book bloggers are killing literary culture? (Boo! I know!) Research led me to an article by J. Robert Lennon, which also had me scratching my head. But, granted his piece was directed at authors reviewing other author’s books.

Some of his suggestions were:

  1. Read most of the authors works, so you of course can provide a detailed “shape of the writer’s career and show how the new book fits in it.” So, that being said, if you were to write a negative review on authors with prolific careers, you better have read a few of their prior titles.
  2. Your opinion is a small fish in a very big galaxy. Lennon wants you to tell readers that your opinion is just one of many and that your thoughts are not the end-all-matter-of-factness. Take them with a grain of salt. Humility in your reviews.
  3. Give debuts a little credit, even if it is the third book. First books are generally not as good as later books. And you need to “let the writer down easy” because they writer might be awesome in the future.

At about this point in the article I was rolling my eyes. Especially as I scrolled down and read “The writer worked harder on her book than you will on your review, even if the former sucks.”

name-calling

Politics I think is the best representation of difference in opinion leading to negative representation and name-calling.

I do agree with him on some points, to not be a dick, to think things through that sort of thing. He actually argued the point that he is justified in writing critical reviews of the negative variety and actually got a hell of a lot of flack within the comments section. Once again trolls resorting to name calling just because someone varied in opinion from their own. And while I think Lennon’s take on negative reviews is a little PR friendly I would never call him out personally when differing in opinion from him. Just state that some of my opinions are different. I never understand this knee jerk reaction to calling people “across the fence” names. Why? It is just a matter of opinion.

And that is the basic point when crafting your reviews. A review is an opinion and you should always state your opinion. You should state your opinion with vigor and belief behind it.  You should not make things personal, much like you would when critiquing someone’s outfit, what sounds better:

“You must be some kind of slut to wear that outfit.”
or
“Honey, you are showing a lot of skin, you might want to reconsider wearing that, it might give boys the wrong idea about your bedroom proclivities.”

Neither are of a sugar and spice mentality. But the difference was insulting the wearer, or casually pointing out what is wrong with the outfit and the reasons behind the “wrongness”. Yet, both are opinions. My idea of slut attire might vary very differently from say a more conservative person and much more differently from say a person of the nudist variety. I do believe if your opinion is covered in a review, with your feelings back it along with evidence of why you feel this way, it can’t be that bad, right? It is just an opinion. That snark behind it, might sting, if you are prone to snarkiness and if you really can’t find any redeeming qualities in the book, but would saying, “I respect this author, but the book sucked” make it better in the end regard?  It is like a southern “Bless Your Heart” saying, yes, it sounds nicer then “you are an idiot” but frankly it is conveying the same meaning.

Personally, my advice in the regard to writing a review, especially as a blogger, is to just be honest. Don’t be a dick, or take a personal tone with the author. Stick to the book and back up your disregard with a clear argument. Much like you would in a debate.

This is why I did not like the book. X, X & X.

Yes, we are not literary critiques or professional reviewers. But, this does not limit our influence. Our review if read 100 times could influence a good bit of readers to purchase the book. You are like one piece of the cog in a consumer’s book buying experience. And if your opinion becomes trusted, as an honest book blogger, your street cred will continue to rise in readers opinions. You do this with honesty, you do this by giving thought out opinions and by “not being a dick”. You also do this by not letting trolls and misguided “justice” sites bully you into changing your opinion.

[inspiration 1] [inspiration 2]

Inappropriate caterwauling?

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Reader Question of the Week:

I have recently gotten some negative feedback on actually a positive review that I wrote, because I mislabel the genre. I believe it is the author because of how the comments are written, but they are coming from a few anonymous accounts. I don’t know what to do, it is very annoying and I don’t understand it. – Kathy

You won’t understand it. It could be anything. I always titter whenever I see Nicki Minaj get offended when being compared to Lady Gaga, even though you know she was probably aspired by her awesome. Maybe the author doesn’t want to be categorized in that genre for some personal reasons or misguided dislike. Or who knows, it might just be some random reader that just wants to offset you by pointing out your mistakes. It happens. I actually had a troll that would read my reviews and point out grammar issues and things like that, in public comments. It was another blogger, I guess she considered me competition and thought to knock me down a notch or two. I would just delete her comments. I would do the same with these if they keep popping up and if they are anon – disable anon comments on your blog for a bit. No reaction is the best reaction, because people like this are commenting to get a response from you and when nothing happens — they’ll lose interest. If you feel it is necessary, fix your mistake and maybe this will also stave it off.

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Book Blogger News:

Nothing really crazy happening in the Book Blogger world as of late. Or at least I don’t know about it. Romanticon is about to start up, so I’m sure we will be seeing a bunch of jealousy inspiring tweets from attendees.

I would like to keep you informed of any inspiring or note worthy news — so if you have any events that focus on book bloggers, or start up memes (not giveaways please) you are free to email me and let me know!

Happy Thursday. Talk Less. Read More. Blog with Integrity.

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