3.28.2015

Bracing for backlash

I have been incredibly lucky online. (Knocks on wood. Tosses salt over shoulder. Looks up more tricks for averting bad luck.) Many of the reviews I write are positive, or at least balanced between the good points and the bad. Fortunately, none of my negative reviews have drawn fire the way that other amateur book reviewers have. Other amateur reviewers (those of us who don't get paid for our literary opinion) have had to put up with stalking and online harassmentThe one time I had an author respond to a negative review of mine, he was very civil and understanding about why I didn't like the book.
Not a recommended format for book reviews.

Unlike many amateur reviewers, I haven't felt the need to be braced for impact all the time. My audience is primarily composed of (I think) readers and the occasional authors who Google themselves. Then I read Brenna Clarke Gray's experience on GoodReads.  Clarke Gray chalks her experience up to sexism, but my picture and name make it clear that I'm female. I have been a user of GoodReads for ages and adore it. But I haven't been exposed to the vile comments Clarke Gray has. I suspect that I have been flying under the radar. I'm not saying that Clarke Gray is wrong, but I think that the sexism and vitriol she's seen is just a part of a large wave of trollish behavior.

Criticism is hard to take. Learning how to learn from criticism is a difficult lesson—but it's absolutely necessary to learn that lesson, especially if one is a creative. Criticism can feel personal. Sometimes, it is personal. Who are these amateurs who think my book sucked? Why did I get three stars instead of four or five? It would help if more of my fellow amateurs knew how to write book reviews, especially the occasionally necessary negative ones.

Authors, you're not doing yourself any favors by attacking your readers. You're making things worse.

Amateur reviewers or readers, if you're going to give a book a low rating or negative review, explain your reasoning. Otherwise, you're just providing fuel for the fire. And for the sake of everything that's holy about reading, do not attack authors.

Everyone, let's try to be civil. All we have is text (or emojis, if you're that kind of person) to communicate with each other. The sorts of virulent rhetoric and bullying that have been making headlines on the bookish Internet are driving people away from talking about books.


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