Back when I was in college, I wrote for my college newspaper. By my senior year I had my own column where I commented about both the good and bad at my college. I was once pulled into the Head of the Student’s Life office because they didn’t appreciation my opinion. I was being too vocal, too harsh and it was giving my college a bad rap because the college newspaper was also sent out into the town and the local community. At that time I felt I was “bullied” into being silenced.
I refused to be silenced and carried on with my column, which was supported by the staff of the newspaper
The final article I wrote before I graduated from college was a review for the performance of Pippin. I had a less than positive opinion about the show. From what I remember, most of the reviews in the college newspaper for the theater department were very positive. I ended up writing a negative review for the show, recommending students and the public find their fun elsewhere. I also mentioned on lead’s lack of professional acting. The newspaper supported me and posted the article as it was written. A few days later the actor who played Pippin, who felt I singled him out unjustly, got very angry. One night he tried to find me so he could speak to me face-to-face on why he thought I was wrong with my review. I ended up hiding in a closet because I was afraid he would attack me for my honesty.
After my review for Pippin was posted, the show was sold out and went into extended performances. It was the most attended show in the four years I went to school. Also the brave (or maybe foolish) woman that I am went to see Pippin a second time. The actor playing Pippin, from what I was told, channeled his anger at my review and put it into his performance. If I had decided to write another review on the second performance I had watched, I would have given him praise because he improved drastically. Some may say he tried using “bullying” tactics to silence me or try to get me to re-write a retraction on my original review. I never did and was never told to.
I was never silenced.
I started reviewing on Amazon in 2003. The reason was because I would find books on Amazon that didn’t have any real blurb or mention of what the book was about. I took it upon myself to write a short opinion piece of what I had read. My very first review posted was for Where Passion Leads by Lisa Kleypas. I gave it 2 stars and felt it was D Grade. I started my reviewing career posting a negative review for an author who I consider is one of the greatest romance authors of all time. That review has been up on Amazon for over 11 years among the 7 reviews there in total. At the time I first posted that review there was no clicking of the helpful button or allowing comments to be left on reviews. The person leaving a review there had anonymity, and for the most part still do.
Since 2003 I have left 850 reviews (ranging from books to other products), using the same name- Katiebabs. Katiebabs isn’t my real name, but if I decided to post my full legal name, would that have changed the way I review, or the tone of my reviews? Perhaps, but I always stood by my words and would welcome anyone to disagree with me because I have nothing to be ashamed about. But some who post reviews on Amazon do enjoy the freedom and their anonymity as a platform where they can be honest.
Over the last few years there has been a lot of contention between some authors (both traditional and self-published) and reviewers (this could be bloggers, readers posting their feelings about books on Goodreads, or consumers “reviewing” books on Amazon) on how reviews should be written. There’s this growing belief from authors that readers, aka the consumer/customer who spent their own money on a product, aka a book, should give well written explanations on why they would give a book a certain grade or number of stars, much like a professional critic does who gets paid. Some authors feel if a reader gives less than 3 stars for their book, the reader better have a valid reason because anything less than 4 or 5 stars may lead to bad sales for the author. Some authors are in the belief if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything, meaning if you don’t have nothing but praise for a book, don’t say anything at all because you’re harsh and mean words have hurt the author’s baby, aka their book. BTW, who knew books were living breathing things that need to eat, poop and sleep just like human babies?
Lately Anne Rice, a very well recognized and respected author feels that Amazon is full of gangster bully reviewers and wants Amazon to change the way people leave reviews and how their names appear on message boards. She feels if people hide behind fake names or are “anonymous” they are more prone to attack and “bully” not only readers, but authors by leaving harsh reviews as some form of revenge, or just to be plain mean. Some authors agree with Anne and have signed her petition, as well as others. Some authors feel anyone who writes a harsh review, specifically on Amazon means that the reviewer is hating on the author for some reason and wants to see them fail. Maybe even these readers are wannabe writers who are jealous of the author’s success for some reason. If the reviewer’s real name is posted, and perhaps even their personal email, they will be less inclined to leave a scathing review or confront someone on a message board about their beliefs. Then that author or person can contact that reviewer personally and ask them for whatever reasons for that reviews and why. Maybe even the author can then use whatever means necessary to take down that scathing review they believe is hurting their sales and take down that so-called bullying reviewer.
This has been going on for years. I’ve written about this issue time and again here on my blog (The Art of Practicing ARC and Enough is Enough). The discussion is never ending. The way the word “bully” is used has become a joke and honestly insulting for those who have been truly been bullied. I am one of the insulted because I know what it’s like to be bullied. I was harassed and bullied from the age of 6 to 18 to the point I tried to kill myself twice over it when I was 12. I talked about my experience during the time of the “It Gets Better” initiative. For authors to assume a reader is a bully because they don’t like their book is just plain pathetic and sad. Most of the time there is hard proof that the author is responsible for the backlash. It starts when an author in a public forum like Goodreads or Amazon leaves a comment on a review disagreeing with the review for whatever reason. It’s usually condescending and has this, “how dare you ruin me this way and say such horrible things about my baby!”. The reviewer will respond defending their opinion, and then the author may come back. By then the author’s fans catch a hold of what’s going on and attack the reviewer, and then in some cases other reviewers will come to the defense of the reviewer being attacked. It never ends well.
What’s the solution to this problem? Say Anne is successful with her protest? Does that mean all reviews for any products on Amazon must have the reviewer’s information available so the creator of that product can get in touch personally with the reviewer? If whomever leave reviews/opinions for products on Amazon and elsewhere (such as IMDB for movies and Yelp for restaurants) must have their true identities listed on their reviews, then the same rules should apply for authors, correct? Authors then shouldn’t hide behind their pseudonyms if they’re asking the same for the consumers/readers who post reviews. If an author is going to interact with a reviewer then the author should have their real identity out there, just as the same as the reviewer. If authors are asking for all these “rules” for reviewers, then the same type of rules should apply for authors.
Authors work in a creative field, much the same as actors and singers do. Reviewers from all walks of life, to fans of actors and singers, are very critical and can be very mean in their opinions about celebrities. Most of the celebrities ignore it because unfortunately it comes with the territory. Authors need to have this same belief and stop thinking they are entitled and exempt from criticism or it’s a, “me against them” scenario.
I’m a reader who enjoys talking about books, both good and bad. I’m also an author who enjoys writing the best possible work I can. If there are people out there who feel I’m a lacking writer and are very vocal about their opinion on my work being horrible, so be it. Yes, it hurts but all I can do is move on and continue to grow and improve.
Perhaps some of these authors need to take a step back and listen to Marilyn Monroe, who was not only praised and admired, but was also put down, criticized and stomped on for the majority of her career: “When it comes down to it, I let them think what they want. If they care enough to bother with what I do, then I’m already better than them.”
I leave you with this post from Dear Author back in November 2013 titled, Taking the “Bull” out of Book Review “Bullying”:
“…However, I think what often happens in these situations is that the author in question, who feels personally attacked, sort of combines all of the individual critical voices together and calls “bully,” not because there is a repeated pattern of victimization, but because more than one reader criticizes the author’s commercial product.
This is not bullying. Just as it’s not bullying for a reader to use gifs and snark and even outright sarcasm, parody, and harsh irony in describing a personal reaction to the author’s commercial product. However, because it is in the perceived economic interest of the author’s commercial presence to have his or her product viewed in a positive light, an accusation of bullying can, in fact, create the illusion of personal abuse and/or harassment as the author merges the personal and professional aspects of her voice, empowering her readers with her commercial (authorial) voice in accusation, while simultaneously claiming personal victimization.”
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