I've recently run across several review sites on Amazon and Goodreads were a book reviewer and the author of the book they reviewed was behaving badly. And by badly I mean, badly. I'm pretty sure there was both virtual hair pulling and nipple twisting involved in several of these cases. While I admit that a part of me was intrigued and somewhat excited at this display of unprofessional behavior, I couldn't help but think, wow. That's so sad. In the end, it made me think that about the importance of being a good, but fair reviewer and how as an author, you have to not let a review or even a comment about the review, get under your skin.
Since I work on both sides of that slippery slope, I know how hard it can be!
So I thought about a few things that both reviewers and authors can try to keep in mind.
1. Opinions are like first time manuscripts. Everyone's got one shoved away in the back of their closet, and they can make or break any relationship. You don't have to like everything a writer has written. There is no rule book I've seen as a reviewer that says that you do. It's okay to write that you don't like something, but my opinion is that if you want people to respect your thoughts, think carefully about how you express them.
Authors, opinions are not the end all, be all, final last word on your book. It may sting to hear criticism but be professional. You'll get a lot more respect if you keep your mouth shut than if you start talking smack on the internet about the reviewer. That just makes you look petty.
2. What are the good things? I believe as a reviewer that there should be a least one positive aspect that you can write about the book. It may be the book cover. It may be a minor character that keeps you from falling asleep. Maybe it's the way the author handles the setting. Try to find something that sounds positive. Why? After all it goes back that opinion thing, doesn't it? Yes, but saying at least one thing that positive can make you not look like such a giant jerk.
Authors take the positive and learn from the negative. Better yet, take the negative and ask yourself if perhaps the reviewer is right. Is the pacing of your story off? Should you try to cut some backstory? Maybe hiring an editor isn't such a bad idea for the next book….
3. Genre can sometimes be to blame for a bad review for a good book. Let's face it: I don't like erotic murder mysteries with a touch of steampunk in them. It's just not my thing. As a result, I try not to review the genre erotic mystery steampunk (I'm making that genre up, by the way). Surely, I'm not alone in not enjoying every type of genre out there though. Sometimes a reviewer's review comes off as negative because it's just not their favorite style of book--not because the writing is poor.
Authors, before asking a reviewer to read your book, make sure they understand what genre it is, especially if your book cover or synopsis is misleading. In fact, don't send it to a reviewer who doesn't like that style of novel. If you are part of a book tour and the tour manager sends it to a reviewer who gives it negative press, it may well be a genre thing. Don't worry about it!
A few weeks ago I read a book about how negative reviews can actually be helpful for the author. Sometimes a review suggests that something is bad that a reader has to see for themselves just how bad it is. However, sometimes negativity can be bad for the reviewer. If you are malicious or tip up a book just for the sake of doing it, then people won't see you as a credible source.