Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Bloggers Beware of Unprofessional Authors

So the latest scandal to grace the book blogging community is the rantings of a certain author who apparently could not accept a few negative reviews of her books for what they were - opinions. Now, I've been reading strongly opinionated posts from several book bloggers whom I follow, but it took me awhile to track down the original post that started this whole mess, so I may be a bit late to the game. Nonetheless, I've been part of this community for over a year now, as well as bookstore management under my belt, so I feel my thoughts on the matter are valid enough to contribute.
First off, I want to qualify what I write by saying that I've been an avid bookworm my whole life. I know books, I know authors, I know fiction, no question. My years in the bookstore further expanded my knowledge of authors' names to vast lists, as well as familiarized me with the revolving door of the publishing industry. But this author? I've never heard of her before today or the books published under her name. The fact that she compares herself to Stephen King at the end of her article, with a misquote no less, and then follows it with the phrase "our huge royalty checks" is laughable. Stephen King has little to no respect for the kind of romantic fluff that she writes, which he discusses in his memoir for those interested, and rare is the author that can actually survive off the royalties that proceed from their publications. In addition, Stephen King wrote that to be a successful writer, one needs to spend 4 to 6 hours a day minimum reading. This author writes "the people who set up these kinds of blogs have never written a thing in their lives, except maybe a grocery list." Well, she's dead wrong. What are book reviews? Writing. In fact, I have lost count of the number of book bloggers I have discovered who started as book bloggers, and later became published authors.
The author complains about objectivism versus subjectivism in the negative reviews. Guess what? "Objective opinion" is an oxymoron. All opinions are subjective - that's why everyone is entitled to have one, and NO opinion is right or wrong. Dictionaries are wonderful tools. She complains that her books were described as predictable and one-dimensional. I don't find this hard to believe, considering that the romance genre as a whole is often mocked for these qualities. But on the flip side, I have read romance books that are very well-written with incredibly unique characters, think The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffennegger, and very unpredictable endings, such as Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely (Quality)) by Melissa Marr. This author defends her books by saying they are supposed to be like this - can you say cop out? 
What seems to be so easily forgotten about book bloggers is that they are by and large nearly all volunteers. Where would this world be if it were not for the dedication and passion of volunteers? The professionals in the book industry are paid for what they do, yes, and sometimes, they even have a fancy degree to back up their "professionalism." The flip side of this is that they do their jobs to keep that paycheck coming, not necessarily because they are passionate about what they do. No job description requires passion and love and a nearly-undying devotion to what some would consider a nerdy pastime, but that is exactly what book bloggers have to offer. Book bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, from the high-school kid who shells out her own pocket money so that someone half a continent away can get a sought-after ARC, to the over-40 mom, with a full-time job, who writes in the wee hours of the morning to recommend her latest great read to a handful of followers who highly respect her choice of literature. Book bloggers will sacrifice both sleep and groceries to fill that hunger for great literature, often reading fast enough to fly through several books in a single week, much faster than the average bookstore browser. The book industry's best customers are often the book bloggers themselves, and sending a single copy to a book blogger with 500+ followers is much more efficient advertising than sticking a sign or a poster in a chain of bookstores and crossing your fingers that the patrons notice (which, based on the number of people that can't find the neon bathroom sign in a bookstore, I would say is not very many). So what if a few people don't like your book, I find that the good reviews nearly always outrank the bad in quantity, even on sites like Amazon. Plus, as the saying goes, "Any publicity is good publicity." (Hence the reason I refuse to name the author or her book titles.)
And just to be thorough, I tracked down the negative reviews that offended this author so personally. The first one was from Rowena at The Book Binge, and the second was Chick Lit Plus here and here.  The first review was long where the second was short, but other than that they both seemed to agree with each other, and neither one fit the descriptions that the author gave of "trashy", "rubbish", or "unprofessional". I especially enjoyed Rowena's review, as I think I have a better idea of why the author took this so personally - but I'll keep that matter to myself. I also find it cowardly how the author hid behind the "Anonymous" title to comment on Rowena's review, when it's very obvious who it is.
This whole event is rather trivial in the grande scheme of things, and more than one author has lost many a reader based on behavior that parallels hers. One thing I have learned with good writing is that the book makes you forget about who is doing the writing. This author apparently never got that memo.

What do you think of this mess?


amandawk said...

I totally agree with everything you say. Especially about un-predictable romances. People not liking your books is a part of being an author, and if she can't handle it, she shouldn't be writing. The smart authors are the ones who know how much influence we book bloggers can have if we choose. I do not know of a single blogger who blogs only to get free books. And if we do get "free" books, we still have to read and review them, so I don't think they're exactly free. I will definitely not be reading this author's books now. Great post!

-petit said...

Really, I feel sorry for her. After that she lost lots of readers. I know that she spend a lot of time writing her book, but sometimes you've to read reviews and take notes, so after that you can do a better work. Or she could have asked the reviewer to be more specific or something like that. This whole mess could be avoided.

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