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Book Blogging 101 - Bad Reviews & Authors Behaving Badly

Jumping on the "hot topic" train, I just couldn't help myself, in this BB101 we are going to go over a few topics. 
  1. Authors Behaving Badly - reacting negatively to a negative review and how you, as a reviewer should deal with it
  2. Writing Negative Reviews - are you in or out?
  3. Nasty Threads - how to deal with them, let 'em go or cut them off?
  4. PR - how one stupid statement can go viral, if you have an online persona you need to protect it
If you are not familiar with what sparked this particular blogger scandal, let me catch you up. Before though, I start, let me just say, I'm usually not one to jump on the book blogger rant fest but, after seeing the twitter explosion and then reading the thread I knew this would make a perfect BB101. goes.

A fresh faced blogger that goes by the name Big Al { BigAl's Books & Pals circa Jan 2011 } wrote a review of the book The Greek Seaman. The review gave the book 2 stars and stated "spelling and grammar errors" as the reasoning for the low rating.

Obviously the author did like his assessment of the book so she made a rather odd comment on his blog and then began to put quotes from 4 and 5 star reviews form amazon in his comments. Let's just say after a few Anom comments, the author degraded into cursing out the blogger and everyone who was commenting in the thread. 300+ comments later it is not the talk of twitter (or it was on Monday) and everyone thinks this particular author is a lunatic. (I'm not judging I'm just regurgitating general consensus - yes I do think she might have forgotten to take her meds before she commented) Judge for yourself, here is the review.

So, this leads us to our first topic.

Authors Behaving Badly, how to deal with it.

What do we define as "acting badly"? Well in Jacqueline Howett's case it was the fact that she, one asked the blogger to remove his review, two tried to argue her way into a higher rating, three insulted the blogger and called him a liar, four used profanity in comments, five it is believed that she wrote five-star reviews for herself on amazon (speculation in comments - based on the fact that one of her 5 stars reviewers has the same last name as her, and the 2nd one is a one review only reviewer)

Ms. Howett's case is a rare one, usually it doesn't happen this blatantly, but it does happen. I've had authors try to argue their way into a better review, or to actualize it, just try to "justify" my grievances with the novel. For example, I stated in my review "I didn't like the shifting POV, it confused me" and they replied that my statement was false because they implemented a technique used by Joyce or Faulkner.

I've also had authors insult me because of a bad review, saying things like "you do a fine and very literate job of being snide", "you've destroyed my bottom-line", "thanks to you no one will read my book." All done in comments of course! Why not call me out in public, right?

I've luckily, never had authors curse at me though, but I do suspect that authors routinely write their own glowing reviews on amazon.

How does one react to stuff like this?

Let's take #1 - What happens if an Author asks you to remove their review?
My answer would be a resounding "No way." BigAl I thought responded beautifully, with professionalism and even wrote another post following it up that states his policy on negative reviews. I thought it was nicely done and something we could all learn from. What would you do?

#2 - Author tries to argue and explain the problems in their book. What do you do? My mind usually goes "cut them off now." You don't want to perpetuate an argument, especially in your comment section. My first negative thread was on amazon not on the blog, and it was my first time dealing with something like this so I argued back. I believe I made a mistake in that regard. Made for good dramatics, but I feel guilty about perpetuating the issue. To change things I would have just made I quick statement, "I'm sorry you don't like my review, but that is my opinion. I wish you luck in your writing endeavors." What would you have done?

#3 & 4 - Author insults you & uses profanity. I think the best reaction to this is no reaction. Back out of the thread and be done with the situation, maybe even disable comments from this review. I would be tempted to even delete all comments, just so something so crazy would have have my name all over it. What would you do?

#5 - Author is faking her own 5 star reviews. This one is hard to prove, but sometimes it is obvious. Should you call the author out on it? Then you risk looking like a fool. Would you report it to Amazon or Goodreads? I'm still up in the air on this. I know ya'll are probably wondering what is a blatant case. For example, there is a certain author on that comments on all her review, negative or positive. Most of the time she says "thank you, sorry you didn't like the book" for negative reviews but sometimes she can get ugly, which is why when weighing in if I wanted to read the book I made a point of reading most of the reviews and the comments on the the thread. There were a few five stars that struck me as very similar. Too similar and then of course when you click on the person's name the only books that this persona has reviewed are this author's books. Well, it was it is right? Further down the thread though, the author made a comment on another review and forgot to change her log in, so she commented with a persona that reviewed her book and signed it her author name. Dumb mistake. But, it made it obvious she was reviewing her own books. What to do? I didn't buy the book of course.

What would you do?

My whole take on this thing is that there are idiots in every group of people, and unfortunately one idiot can make a whole group look bad. A few bad apples can spoil everything for the rest of the group. My dealings with two self-publishers and their very bad reactions have led me to not take any self-published novels. Now granted, there are a lot of good self-pubs, I know this. But, burn me twice and I'm out of the game. IMHO. It is really upsetting.

Writing Negative Reviews. Do you or Don't you?

I write negative reviews. I think I would be remiss as a reviewer to not write them. Now, granted there are more positive reviews than negative (mainly because I use the 50 page policy - and I won't review a book if I've only gotten through 50 pages), but I do write them when they are necessary. I believe bloggers that say they only write positive reviews are "copping out". Taking the easy way out. How are we supposed to believe your reviews if you only wrap everything in pretty bows?
I will admit something though, so I can't be called a hypocrite.  I "copped out" once. I was supposed to write a review for a blog tour. I couldn't get past the second chapter. I wouldn't write a review of a book I just read ten pages of, so I wrote the blog tour host that I couldn't review the book. The only thing I did on my date was post the book cover and blurb. I felt stupid for doing it, but I made a commitment. What do you think of that, honestly? Should I not have done anything? Should I have written my opinion and the reason why I stopped reading? Do you write negative reviews?

Nasty Threads.

Has a nasty thread ever started on your blog? Personally I think that I've had very good discussions that take place in my comments, I've never had anything nasty spring up. But, how would I deal with it if it did. I have had some nasty Anonymous comments pop up --- guess what I do? Delete them. But what if, while nasty, they are pertinent to the discussion? What if they are one goodreads, like this one? What if an author was cursing in my comments, do you leave it to show the world what an idiot this person is? I probably would leave it. There you go, see what a fool this person is! Is this justifiable, or should we nip it in the bud, who wants to perpetuate hate and discontent?


And last but not least. I want to go over something with you guys and that is protecting your online persona. 

This might be all fun and games for you, but it is not for me. Parajunkee is my persona and I protect her. I don't want this alias tarnished or destroyed. I wouldn't move on and become Parajunkee32 or what not, and because of this I try to watch what I say and maintain proper decorum. Not, saying I act differently, it's just I wouldn't act a fool and make stupid comments and sign it with Parajunkee. (Leave that for the Anonymous! j/k never made an anon comment either, figure if you have to hide behind anonymous to say something - you probably shouldn't say it.)

An author or business blogger should treat their persona the same way. The online world is your forum for promotion, if you tarnish your name in anyway there is NO going back. This little rant by the author was an epic #fail and she can't repair it. Her little tirade has now garnered her 11 negative reviews (update: as of this morning she has 76 1 star reviews) on which has brought her overall rating of her book down to a 2 star. She screwed herself over BIG time. This was the stupidest thing she could have done.  And this also brings up another moral point - do you think all these 1 stars have actually read the book? Is this internet bullying? Should these reviews be removed from Personally I think these 1 stars are perpetuating hate. Fighting nasty with nasty and that can never be good. The woman's made a mistake --- but does she deserve this kind of attack? Just don't buy her book. That is payment enough.

This was the worst kind of PR and it can happen to anyone. One bad statement can lose you followers and people will be talking about you on twitter until the next big thing comes along. I've seen bloggers crash and burn from one silly mistake like selling an ARC or doing a questionable vlog. You need to protect your persona. Comment like you would to someone's face. Don't hide behind a computer. Would you say something like this to another's face? If the answer is no, you might want to rethink what you are writing.

I also feel really bad for the author. I think she must have been having one hell of a bad day and one stupid reactionary string of comments is going to kill her book. But, it might make her hire a proofreader on her next go round...

Switched (Trylle Trilogy, Book 1)She could turn it all around and be a sensation, much like another self-published author I just found and guess what, I downloaded her book! Her name is Amanda Hocking and after rejection after rejection decided to self-publish. Now, her books are sitting (in the Paid column) at the #26th (right under Mockingjay), 32nd, 34th, 60th, 72nd, and 79th positions on the kindle top 100 books. This is a testament to self-published authors. They aren't all a little skewed, with bad editing and poor grammar. They might be able to write a decent book it just might not be what agents are looking for. I've called my own stereotype into question and bought her book. I haven't read it yet, but I do plan on honestly reviewing it - and if it is good, I'll call out my dumb stereotype - and if it is bad, I'll write the negative review. 

I think this might have been the longest BB101 ever. That's it folks. Sorry for the long monstrosity. XOXO 

That's it kids. Talk less. Read more. Happy Thursday!

Spread the love, tweet it: Let's Talk #BB101 Author's Behaving Badly & Bad Reviews. What would you do? @parajunkee

Ask your BB101 Questions here...


Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

Very well written! I write negative reviews (thankfully haven't had to write many). I have been lucky to only get one "I can't believe you posted that review" email and at least it was just to me. It always amazes me how many times things get out of hand in the blogging world but I mostly miss it because I avoid it like the plague. I think this is good info for those starting out! I have always done the act like you want to be treated, even when dishing out negativity.

Midnyte Reader said...

Thank you so much for letting us know about things that have happend to you personally. It really helped.

I have written 2 star reviews, but I try to be constructive just as I would if a friend gave me their book to read and critique.

Avery said...

Within the last couple of weeks I have received some E-books from authors to review and I felt like the books didn't really do all that much for me, so I was having a quite a hard time reviewing them (how do I say what I honestly think without coming off as being mean or rude and whatnot), and this post really helped! Thanks a bunch!

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) said...

Great topic and again learned alot too about online persona.

Sara said...

Well written. I'm not a fan of sites that are always positive, I'm not reading a commercial, I want a review.

Barb said...

Thank you so much for this post! I was just made aware of the latest author rant this morning and was disappointed by her continued unprofessionalism. The fact that she couldn't see her own errors is troubling. It's sad that comments can be made on the internet (be it blogs, goodreads, amazon, etc.) that a person would probably not make if they were face to face. Once made, they are out there and as you point out - permanent! Very sad. I have been struggling with the idea of negative reviews lately. It's an interesting topic - to do or not to do. My first thought is that I'm too busy to waste time reading what I think is a crappy book. If I can't read it, why would I find time to review it. Why not just decline the chance to review with a "not my cup of tea" comment and move on to the next book. I realize that there will be differing opinions on this. I think that I need to give this topic some more thought so that I have a firm decision should I have to face this situation.

As always, I appreciate your opinions and your thoughts. Thank you for making me think this lovely morning!

Gabrielle said...

Great post! The author made a huge mistake arguing with the reviewer. Just because I write something and publish it (self pub or through my publisher) doesn't mean everyone must like it. It's the first thing you learn when you allow your work into the public.

And Hocking just signed a $2 million deal with St. Martin's, so she won't be self published for long. Quite a Cinderella story!

Birgit said...

Great post!!
I'm relatively new to book blogging and my blog is mostly about reading and writing in general, with a few reviews thrown in for good measure. I only review for NetGalley and BookSneeze though, plus I usually have a "lucky hand" with picking books which means that my ratings are often between average and great, because I usually choose wisely what I want to read or not. That's not to say I wouldn't post 1star or 2star reviews if a book really disappointed, but so far it just hasn't happened. The big difference between receiving galleys from publishers or from authors directly is that publishers will probably hardly ever give you, as a reviewer, such a "headache" as the one you wrote about.

Sarah said...

Personally, I have written and posted 1 and 2 star reviews, but since I tend to pick books that I think I will like, I have many more 4 and 5 star reviews. Since a review is a personal opinion, it only makes sense that some reviews will be positive and some will be negative.

I have luckily never had anyone respond negatively to a bad review so far. But if they do, I plan to just leave it be and move on. Customer service training has taught me the easiest, most professional, and least stressful response is none at all.

Becca B said...

Really good post! I have to say I learned a lot from your post, and I don't shy away from negative reviews, but I try to say the negative in a nice way and include a couple positives. Luckily I only had one book I was really not crazy about, and it was a self published. I agree that you need to spend the money on a proof reader! But I guess the old adage when it comes to threads and protecting your persona is if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. Or at least don't get caught up in nasty battles of words!

barmybex said...

Thanks, that was a great post, very good. I think that author behaved dreadfully, I wouldn't dream of swearing at people like that. It's shocking. SHe has definitely not done herself any favours.

Thanks for all the advice. Luckily I haven't had any negative or rude comments on my blog. If I did, i think i would either delete them or publish them but not make a follow up comment, I think their comment would speak for itself. Let people see what they are like but not fan the fire, they can burn themselves, I won't help.

I always try to be respectful, I treat my online persona carefully and I want to protect it and maintain a positive image. Thanks again. :D

Danny said...

Perfect! Awesome post and I couldn't agree more with more.

What makes me beyond sad is that I read many comments from blogger not accepting self-pub or indie authors anymore. Of course, there is really bad stuff out there - but there are also jewels out there. Just like Amanda, or Scott Nicholson or JL Brian or Robert Dupree or HP Mallory , etc etc etc.

I just hope that we (blogger) don't let this scare us so that we don't give them a chance anymore.

Honestly, Mrs Howett ruined her own career with that. Her own fault but now she has to deal with the consequences and no blogger will accept to review any of her books anymore.

I will write negative reviews and I did so - fortunately I was lucky enough and never got attacked. But this all will not change my mind about writing reviews and accepting authors.

Juju at Tales of said...

Part 1: Whoa. She seems unhinged.
Part 2: You're right about it being a cope out.
Part 3: FANTASTIC post about PR!

Emily said...

Awesome post! Somehow I just knew you'd mention Jacqueline Howett in the "Authors behaving badly" section.

Anonymous said...

Uh, WOW! I can't believe the way that author was talking!!! it scares me! LOL

Great post!!!!

Amber (aka BBB) said...

If a person/site never posts negative reviews, they lose credibility with me. I use negative reviews to gauge a blogger's likes, dislikes, and reading preferences. If I don't hear anything about what they *don't* like, I can't tell if our tastes match up.

Plus it will seem as if a reader isn't reading critically at all, which isn't very useful to me when trying to decide which books to buy, which to borrow, and which to avoid entirely.

There's a big difference between being negative about a book and being negative about an author. As long as it's clear your complaints are about the book, a negative review is fair and professional.

I haven't had any authors react badly (publicly) to a review I've written, but if they did, I'd probably just ignore. Comments like that are looking for validation or an opening to argue. And it doesn't really serve any purpose to make a review a debate instead of an opinion.

Bethany C. said...

Great post- well said.

Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiner's Book Blog) said...

I also tend to pick books I like so they are mostly positive on my blog.
I've done a few negative reviews, but usually if I don't like, I don't finish, and if I don't finish, I don't review.
Thanks for the great post!

Brie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brie said...

Oops! I posted my comment by mistake on the “ask a question” form up there! Sorry about that! Just ignore it please Parajunkee!

Brie said...

I believe the author’s comments speak for themselves, there’s no need to go to Amazon and give her 1 star reviews, unless you have read the book, which wasn’t the case in at least 99% of those reviews. Do I think that’s internet bullying? Absolutely, I think in those cases you’ve got to be the bigger person, because otherwise you’re as bad as the author behaving badly.
My blog is really new and nothing like that has ever happened to me, but if it did, I would never take down the review, and my only comment would be I’m sorry you feel that way, but my review stays, that’s my opinion and it’s nothing personal. I clearly state on my review policy that my reviews are honest, respectful, and most important are opinions, which means that what works for me may or may not work for others.
At the end, it just comes down to the author, If he/she really believes that a potential reader won’t buy a book because of just one bad review they’re delusional, they’re giving too much credit to the reviewer and not enough credit to the reader, hence is no wonder they go crazy and react like that!

Anonymous said...

I do write negative reviews. I've only had one author contact me about a bad review. It was through my email, so it was completely private, which I think is a lot more professional for the author than posting in the comments.

She actually thanked me for reviewing her book, no matter what rating I gave it, and she said I had a cool blog. In my review I tried to be as nice as I could stating why I didn't like the book, rather than bashing the book, and I think the author was grateful that I was honest, but kind.

Bloggers really do need to watch how they are perceived, because the relationship between bloggers and authors/publishers should be professional. If they are willing to send you a book to review, they need to know you can handle writing a professional sounding review and aren't just in it to get to read for free.

This is a very great post, involving topics every blogger should think about!

Liviania said...

Excellent post!

I've recently had issues with a NEUTRAL review on Amazon, and I've been debating whether to post about it or not. I find the whole thing annoying and hurtful, but I also don't want to turn it into some kind of drama. (Mostly I want to call out Amazon. Only one person has been helpful.)

As for posting negative reviews, I don't do it much. Simply because I try not to waste time on books I don't like. (Unfortunately, most of my negative reviews tend to be vitrolic because I have to really hate a book to consider it worth my time.)

I try to protect my persona too. After all, I have my blog on my resume. I don't want to be embarrassed by anything I've said under my penname.

Man of la Book said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Man of la Book said...

I had that happen to me twice.

Once, I didn't even review the book (self published), I just sent an email to the author. It was his first book and I really didn't want to publish anything because, really, I had nothing good to say about that book.

I got back two pages, in caps, filled with curses. Some of them I haven't heard before (and I was in the military).

The prolific author then published my email and his letter on Facebook so all his friends could see (by the way, he uses that profile to market his book as well).

Stupid to say the least.

The second one happened this week ( - not as bad but the author kept digging her self deeper and deeper into the ground.

She also left me a nasty comment on Goodreads, two (out of four) nasty emails etc.

I take it as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Great post...I loved the comments about protecting your persona..:)

Awhile back there was a huge blow up about some teacher who wanted to ban a book and the blog world went ape crap and of course I jumped on the banning books is wrong wagon and later found bloggers bashing, making fun of and just dogging this teacher. I was embarrassed that my blog had posted a reaction to it. Matter of a fact it changed the outlook and content of my blog. I think we as bloggers need to think before we write...and not have knee-jerk reactions to what an author or another blogger can say to offend us. I heard a few weeks ago an author refer to me as a person who can only write grocery lists. It seems a lot of hate is flying on both sides of the issue.

Diana (Book of Secrets) said...

Oh, dear. I had not heard about the Big Al brouhaha. I'm speechless!

Fireflywishes said...

I heard about Ms. Howett via Twitter (and I'm like brand new as you know Parajunkee! lol) so that just goes to show how viral that went! As a new book blogger too, I am scared of getting this kind of response from self-published authors. Lately I have gotten several requests to review self-pubs and a few I've declined and a couple I've said yes. So far everything has been professional, and I plan to keep it that way. I haven't had to post any 2 star reviews yet, a posted a 3 star recently (the book was just mediocre for me) but since I got the book from NeGalley I didn't expect any author response either way. I have been on the internet blogging (as a personal journal) for several years, and posting to forums, so I know about protecting your online persona. It's important to not get caught up in the fling fests when they come around. As for the people who posted 1 star reviews on a book they never read - that is shameful too. Her words were punishment enough - I mean they went viral! Everyone knows, no need to rub it in her face and tarnish your own image by reviewing a book you've never read. I loved the way Al handled the situation and because of that I decided to become a follower of his blog. I think the whole situation worked in his favor - he came out shining! So good on him!

June G said...

Well said. I did see that whole mess on Big Al's blog and it made me question the lady's state of mind. She seriously seemed to be having a melt-down. It is quite sad because the premise of the story sounds quite good and even the reviewer said as much and complemented that. It is certainly a story that interests me, but after all this...I don't know...I may still buy it, but I do have concerns about the grammer and sentence structure...

There are so many people writing books and trying to write books, that it's really no surprise if some of them have problems, the sheer number of people writing pretty much guarantees this. I hope she'll be able to learn from this most unfortunate incident. Thanks again for your reasonable response and great advice--as always:-)

Jennifer said...

Good post. I've got 1 or 2 two-star reviews on my blog so far, but no comments yet. And I always make sure to post what I did like to soften the blow.

In the end, it doesn't matter...I'm only one opinion.

Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog

Julie said...

As you know I talked to you about this on Twitter. I thought it was funny at first until I saw all the people leaving negative reviews for Ms. Howett on Amazon. That's going too far. First, Ms. Howett was wrong for being so nasty to Al. She even went to the excuse that Al didn't download the correct copy. Then she started dropping F-bombs. I left a comment that she should stop going after Al and retain some dignity.

I love reading self-published or indie books. Whatever you want to call them. Within the comment section of the Howett debacle someone started screaming that self-published books aren't indie and self-published writers basically suck. I took offense to this! Some of the comments started sinking to Ms. Howett's level. Leaving terrible comments on Amazon is downright bullying -- even if she started it.

I've never had anyone get mad at me or leave a nasty remark about a negative review. I think negative reviews are important, as long as we aren't criticizing someone personally. I give constructive criticism. Negative reviews, here and there, on a book can't destroy an author's career. Look at many bestselling authors. Not every book they write is top-notch, but people still buy them. There's plenty of books out there that not everyone enjoys for certain reasons.

But going after a author is not a good reflection on readers, bloggers, reviewers or writers. As a writer, I'm thinking of going the self-publishing route. It's a great way to get your story and voice out there to the people who matter most -- readers! But I'll definitely make sure I have a good proofreader and editor! Ms. Howett and Al certainly received notoriety. This whole fiasco was even posted on Salon!! And yes look at Amanda Hocking! Proof that Indie authors can make it in the world of publishing.

ham1299 said...

Excellent post. I agree about negative reviews. I think I'm more credible as a reviewer because I share both books I love and books I don't love. No one likes everything they read, it's just life. I do try, however, to find SOMETHING positive to say, even in my most negative reviews. Those are few and far between, though, thankfully.

Riv Re said...

Very interesting. I just read through those comments, and Ms. Howett accomplished nothing but ruining her own rep and landing Al, the reviewer, 800 followers.
In response to your question about negative reviews: I've written one negative review in the past, which I feel bad about but will not take down. Currently, I only review one book a week, so I try to stick to books I like (I'm fortunate to rarely come across bad books). But when I review, my review isn't all glowy. I tell my reader what irritated me.
If I were asked to write a review of a book I hated, I'd probably email the author before I write the review and tell them the review won't exactly be glowing. If they say no, maybe I'll make a brief mention of the book somewhere on my blog, for publicity, but I'll respect their wishes. Being a writer myself, I don't feel comfortable bashing someone's book utterly.
Good post, thanks.

Jasmyn said...

I think that it's important to be constructive in your negative reviews. Don't just say, "I hated it!" Try to find examples of what it was that you disliked. I try very hard to do this when posting reviews under 3 stars. I have also been lucky enough for the authors of these not so good reviews to comment in a civilized fashion. A good author will say something along the lines of, "Thanks for the feedback."

I have also seen where someone has picked up a book because of my not so glowing review. My explanation of what I disliked in a character just happened to be something they loved in a character.

Kah Woei said...

I agree with you on a lot of the points ... though it does give me pause, I will still write bad reviews if I don't like the book. My reasoning is that this is MY opinion. I don't expect everyone to share the same opinion but this is what I would tell you if you asked me what I thought.

I know myself that while I read reviews of books I intend to buy, a few bad reviews do not necessarily make me NOT buy the book. Depending on the reasons given, I might or might not still go ahead and buy it. :-)

As for the books I don't finish, while I don't post reviews, I will post that I did not finish the book and why.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent post. I think your policy of not writing a review for anything you read less than 50 pages of is a good one. I think I'll adopt that one too, I hate having to wade through a terrible book, just so I can write the review.

The other issues I'd decide on a case by case basis, but my rule is that I don't publish a review I couldn't give 3 stars to. I'll send the review to the author though.

The reason being that as an author I feel I have to be more careful to protect my name because I can't afford to have some vindictive author go on a smeer campaign, but I really appreciate reviewers who tell it like it is.

I have a few posts on this topic too. You might be interested in this one

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