Negative Author Reviews

Discussion Post

(this post was inspired by a series of Tweets from Shelly but it’s been so long I don’t know where they are anymore, if you do, for the love of all things good, please link me).

Why is it a thing that authors never, ever, ever seem to negatively comment on another author’s books? This hurts my soul.

The one idea I can rationalize is that in the face of outside criticism it’s nice to have your fellow authors to fall back on but that isn’t really a thing. To outsiders, maybe, but it isn’t. There are too many stories whisper behind private messages about authors who don’t like other authors works or the author themselves.

Yet, it’s still a pretty taboo thing for an author to openly say “I don’t like this book.” or say… Anything negative about it. I’m genuinely sitting behind my keyboard trying to think of authors who openly say bad things about other authors.

Now, okay, I can smell the comments coming because there are a group of authors who will take and criticize other authors. But, they’re pretty much the same people every time and the negative things they say are in regards to the books god awful rep which I’m going to talk about.

When it comes to bad rep I feel like there are three kinds of responses from authors. You have the group above who will take up arms and go after the book the way it deserves to be torn after. There’s the group who will allude to the problem and the final group who just goes on their merry way like nothing ever happened.

I have weird feelings about the second group. Those who merely allude to the problem. They’ll make vague threads or tweets stating their feelings about whatever happened but never actually say what happened, when, and where. A lot of times they could be referring to anything it’s just the convenient timing that makes you go “it’s probably that issue”.

My weird feelings stem from a feeling of “I’m glad they’re saying something but are they doing enough?” Because on one hand YAY they’re acknowledging what was done was wrong but they’re doing so without actually stating that what the author did, what was in the book is wrong. It feels a bit like being neutral to an issue which almost equates to allowing an issue to stand. There isn’t much being done from this group to confront it other than vague tweets and hey, they’re also probably trying to better themselves and ensure that they don’t make the same mistake.

But by not stating the actual source of the problem it’s almost like giving them a pass. Like when you’re in class in high school and the teachers are like “hey guys, I really don’t like seeing phones out” and the teacher never has their phone out, but they aren’t directly saying “Hey,  Jimmy, put your phone away.” So, we know the behavior is frowned upon but we also know there isn’t an actual consequence for doing it.

That’s why I’ve grown to appreciate those who just blatantly call out wrong doing. That way there is a consequence and the consequence is fix your damn mistake or you won’t be welcome here anymore.

Then, of course, there’s the third group but what can I say for them? Those who just sit by and let this stuff happen? I can’t tell if there’s a lot of them or not but they’re awful either way. Being silent is allowing it to happen. And 80% of the time there is no fucking way they aren’t seeing that something is wrong. Some of these people are on Twitter too much and follow very specific people so, no, I don’t believe they aren’t seeing anything.

 

Now, there is something in regards to this, I meant to talk about before that I think would make talking about problematic books easier for people who are new to it.

That’s just sharing their opinion. I can seldom think of any time I’ve seen an author just say that they weren’t a fan of the book publicly. There might be a reason for that but I can’t really see what it is.

I feel like I’m always seeing authors reading their fellow author’s work or just a book they picked up and we either hear “THIS BOOK IS AMAZING” or absolute silence and while I understand why they wouldn’t broadcast every time they don’t like a book I’m confused as to why it never happens.

It’s one of the most known aspects of writing that you need to be able to take criticism and know that not everyone will like your book. Some people don’t like certain genres, sometimes writing styles don’t resonate with people, sometimes characters aren’t the best for the reader. It happens to everyone, all the time, and authors are no exceptions. It shouldn’t be taboo for an author to openly admit if asked or it they want, that they just didn’t enjoy a fellow author’s book.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world. Even if they don’t admit to not liking a book in public, they still won’t like it in private so what’s the difference? That they know that that person doesn’t like it? They already should’ve known people didn’t like their book. You’re fine, move on.

If it is genuinely just a personal preference, an opinion, why can’t it be shared? Why are authors treated differently? We are told constantly that they are people, so treat them like people (which is true) but the second it comes to their opinions about certain books or publishing or anything like that, they must be neutral.

It’s silencing them like that which makes it harder for them to speak out when there are issues, real issues that seriously need to be handled.

Now, this is just my conclusion. It isn’t like I’ve extensively discussed this with my imaginary author friends (I feel like there are some I could talk to about this but the idea of talking to an author makes me go numb). This is just a lot of observation and internalized, attempted empathetic rationalization.

Again, I don’t know where this taboo comes from, I don’t know when publishing and the book community decided it was dirty for one author to negatively speak about another’s book (or another author if that author’s behavior is atrocious).

Either way, along with other things we’re working to normalize, I feel like we should work to normalize authors having opinions and speaking out about other books.

That’s all for this post, let me know your thoughts below, if you have any, otherwise thank you for reading and check back later for my content!

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8 thoughts on “Negative Author Reviews

  1. I completely agree with your opinion! I remember back when Carve the Mark came out and Sabaa Tahir had said she had read it and thought it was amazing…blah blah blah. I haven’t personally read the book because I didn’t hear anything good about it, but just going off the synopsis it sounded racist. And everyone was upset because Tahir most likely just said those things because her and Roth are most likely friends or acquaintances. I don’t like it. I think authors should be able to say if they don’t like a book or if they think a book is problematic, it would definitely help us readers.

    Awesome post lovely, and you make some really good points!

    Like

  2. Agreed with your thoughts Cat. Like, there’s a difference between being critique partners and actually supporting hurtful books publicly. I do appreciate when authors are more low-key with their promotion of problematic books because it’s probably one of those publishing etiquette pieces where it’s rude to publicly call out authors or something. Who knows. Anyways, nowadays I only have few (all marginalized) authors whom I trust with their recs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, yeah, agreed. I don’t really look at author recs anymore but I do trust those from marginalized authors and reviewers because they usually /know/ what to avoid and such.

      Like

  3. Interesting topic!

    To be honest, I can understand why authors don’t say bad things about other author’s work. For one, it’s probably seen as unprofessional in the industry and is most likely bad etiquette. Once you say something negative you can’t take it back and that could affect your career later down the line, or it could affect someone else’s career. There are so many things that could go wrong if authors confessed what books they don’t like and it could affect more than just themselves.

    While I agree that we all know not to trust an authors recommendation because it’s always positive, I also think we don’t use authors for recommendations. Authors are paid to promote books. Plus you either like a book or you don’t, it’s 50/50, and there is no such thing as a 100% opinion.

    Everyone has their own opinion and authors will affect that opinion negatively before readers have even picked that book up. And how is that fair to the author of that book? I mean if I found out my favourite author didn’t like one of my favourite books from another author, I would feel weird and sad about it.

    As for promoting hurtful books, I guess the authors don’t realise it’s hurtful when they’re reading it at the time, or as apart of their contract with their publisher, they have to submit a sentence about the book.

    I believe if authors started telling readers what books they didn’t like, then all hell would break lose. I wouldn’t want someone’s career ruined that way. And I’m perfectly fine to not know what books my favourite authors don’t like! I would rather they spread the love 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks for reading!
      Personally, I don’t think there’s anything unprofessional about having an opinion about something that’s completely subjective and it isn’t like there are any hard feelings against the authors. It’d also be really sad if saying something negative hurt someone’s writing career down the line. Authors learn to write by reading works similar to those they want to do, a lot of them have been reading and having opinions on books their whole life but suddenly have to stop because they have a contract? Especially those who have English majors and were likely taught to read everything critically. It seems unfair to suddenly ask them to drop all of their subjective, book opinions. Saying they can’t publically admit they didn’t enjoy a book they read for pleasure or if they did, they have to keep it critical and love everything else otherwise.
      On top of that, a lot of book reviewers want to be writers, are actively writing and seeking to be published. It doesn’t seem fair that it might hurt our chances because we have negative opinions of books because at some point we said something bad about a book. It doesn’t seem fair to ask us to stop either, just because suddenly we’ve decided we want to be published. Being published shouldn’t cost someone their ability to state an opinion if they chose to.

      I agree that most people don’t really take author recs and no they aren’t there for recs, yet they still give them. Even if rarely anyone actually listens to it, other than a few stans.

      On the opposite end of that, if an author’s positive opinion doesn’t affect a book then how will their negative opinion? Again, unless they have those wild loyal stans, most people are just going to ignore it and move on. Honestly, I think the only thing that would change with authors choosing to voice both positive and negative opinions would be we know what books they do and don’t like and if they want to share that opinion with readers, they should be allowed to, like with any opinion.

      People are going to read what they want regardless. If an author I loved said they didn’t like a book for completely subjective reasons, I’d view it like I view other people’s opinions: cool, they exist, I still want to read it. People are different from one another, we aren’t all going to like the same thing and if someone I really liked didn’t like a book I really liked I don’t care. As long as I’m not learning about their dislike of a book through me saying “I like them” and them responding “well I didn’t” (which reviewers have done before), it doesn’t change my viewing and I can’t imagine it would change anyone else’s (minus wild stans).

      As for harmful books, at this point in time, I’ll believe it if the author read it before the problems came to light but other than that? Nope. If a book has caused serious harm and very loud outcry, I’m not going to believe certain people just didn’t see it. As much as I love authors, I think their overall priorities should be the readers and if the readers are harmed by a book they shouldn’t have to sit there quietly or be muzzled, I think they should be allowed to say, “we hear you all, we know that’s wrong, we don’t endorse that.”

      I’m positive there would be problems but this is the book community. We have problems all the time, we can work through the serious ones and ignore or dissuade the petty ones.

      Spreading positivity is awesome and it’s always possible. But in the end, I don’t think authors should have to make the choice of being positive or negative. It isn’t fair to them.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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