Authors and book reviewers function in a system where each side benefits from working together. Authors provide books to reviewers, in some cases before they are released to the public. Reviewers read these books and provide honest opinions on their blogs, websites like Goodreads and amazon, and various social media sites. While this runs smoothly for the most part, in any system involving people, there are going to be issues. I had written a blog post entitled Seven Deadly Sins of Writers, but I also wanted to talk a little about the other side of this system: the reviewers. So today’s post is about the etiquette involved in being a book reviewer.
There is no rule book that is provided to people who review books. In fact, there are no specific rules involved in reviewing books. If you’ve been reviewing books for more than a week or so, you’ve probably come across some drama involving conflict between an author and a reviewer over a negative review. I have dealt with plenty of conflict resolution in my career field (mental health), and I've come up with a mix of ideas that can help to avoid a conflict in the first place, and prevent it from becoming a bigger issue if a conflict does arise.
Hopefully, these will help to keep the system working as smoothly as possible. Keep in mind — these are just my suggestions, although I’m definitely open to ideas from other bloggers, especially those who are more experienced than I am. I'd also like to give Kristy from Caffeinated Fae a shout out for helping me come up with some ideas and providing feedback on this list.
#1. Don’t tag an author in a negative review.
I can only speak for myself here, but I started reviewing and blogging because I genuinely love books. As in, when I find a great book, I want to shout it from the rooftops so that everyone can read it. I want every single book I read to be an incredible book. I’m sincerely disappointed when any book isn’t amazing, and it sucks to write a negative review. I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to be a writer who works so hard on a book, only to have it reviewed negatively. Many authors really work not to read through their reviews at all, or only read the positive ones, but I can see it being hard to do if they’re tagged in a review.
#2. Don’t revenge review.
When we see an author attacking reviewers or even other authors, it’s hard not to take it personally. But our job is to review the book, not the person. I have the utmost respect for reviewers who can see this happen and still retain enough perspective to critically review the book without judging the author. I can’t always separate the author and the book enough to do this yet, so I just pass altogether. As Kenny Rogers says in his song The Gambler, “[You've got to] know when to fold ‘em/know when to walk away/and know when to run.”
#3. Don’t engage with an author who is behaving badly.
Let me start off by stating that the vast majority of authors do not behave badly. The ones who do can take their bad behavior to pretty serious levels, making reviewers feel threatened. Authors doing this may try to bully or threaten reviewers into changing their ratings, berate people they don’t feel appreciated their book properly, release identifying information about the reviewer, or have their minions *cough* I mean adoring fans harass bloggers online. While ignoring them won’t make them go away, it also avoids feeding their need for a reaction. In this case, flagging their messages and blocking might just be the better choice.
#4. Make sure to properly edit reviews.
As reviewers, it’s important to make sure we avoid making spelling and grammar errors. Always reread to make sure that the book title and author’s name are spelled right. There’s nothing more embarrassing for me than reading through my review and realizing that I’ve almost published a post with the author’s name misspelled. Spellcheck doesn’t always catch errors in names, for authors, characters, and the majority of words in sci-fi or fantasy books.
#5. Don’t rush authors to produce books.
This one applies to everyone, not just reviewers. As someone who frequently falls in love with books in series, I totally understand that feeling of “oh crap, I just finished the last book that’s been published in the series, what am I supposed to do with my life until the next book is released?” But on the long, long list of things I’ve come up with, do you know what the one thing that’s never once popped up on that list is? Here’s a hint — harass the author to hurry up and produce the next book immediately. Not even after waiting almost a decade for the next book in an unnamed series that kept getting delayed for years, despite EIGHT seasons of a show based on it. Why? Well, a) it’s just obnoxious, b) I believe in quality over quantity, and c) if you rush something, chances are it’s going to lead to a crappy result that I’m going to be even less satisfied with than if I had just waited. Plus, authors have lives outside of writing, which can include families, health issues, other jobs, other projects that they want to work on, or even a vacation. Whatever it is, we don’t get to demand that they produce anything on our schedule, because we’re fans, and we aren’t entitled to control their lives. *gasps in shock*
Do you have any additional tips about reviewer etiquette? Have you ever dealt with an author behaving badly? If so, what did you do? I want to hear from you guys, and hope that we can all do and be better in 2020!