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March 25th, 2014

6:32 PM

Indie authors ruining our lives, take 6,131

There's an entry on Dear Author chiding authors, especially indie authors, for killing all joy in online reviewing.

What an odd thing to say. The entry author has been around for almost as long as me, so she should know that there are always people unable to grasp one's fabulous wit and insight (ahem). And it's up to the reviewer to ensure that what she is doing remains fun. If people's opinion gets to her that easily, then perhaps she needs to explore other online opportunities or resort to commenting in blog comment sections instead of taking the reins and leading the charge to make the Web a better place.

It's not an author's job, nor is it Goodreads's, or anyone else for that matter, to make life easy for reviewers. In fact, I wonder why this generation of reviewers are so... wimpy, for the want of a better word. Back in my days, we create our own websites - yes, old dog telling stories of how things were better in the old days, so watch out - and fought our own battles. When authors flame us, we flame back. Now, everyone expects Goodreads to bend over backwards to make us happy, flame wars are won by who have the bigger number of crazy allies willing to devote time making sockpuppets and downvoting the other side, and the moment someone calls us a bad word, it's playing the "Oh no, you are an insensitive brute showing your asshole privileges so I win as I am automatically a better person" card right out the gate.

By putting words on the Web, we reviewers are, in essence, authors. Therefore, we should follow the same rules we insist authors do. When our reviews ("books") are criticized, well, that's allowed, as those "reviewers" are "reviewing" our "book" for the public. And the public can judge for themselves whether the reviews have merit. Some of us gain new fans from "negative reviews", so hey, there is no such thing as bad publicity. That's the attitude I adopted since back in the old days, and when faced with critics, I just thumb my nose at them because, clearly, they lack the intellect to grasp the truth behind my razor sharp wit and incomparable insight.

Why reviewers do their thing matter too, I feel, in deciding how long they can go on before they burn out. Reviewers that write for the greater good, to change the world, et cetera burn out fast because this hobby - it's a hobby, let's face it, not a crusade that will make the world a brighter place for readers because, gurl, I'm a reader too and I do just fine without reading other people's reviews thank you very much - doesn't bring much glory to the reviewer. No medals, no fetes, nothing... although you may be paid to write books and speak in conferences and rub noses with authors, but that's more due to the networking you do on the side.

Sure, there are free books, if you live in the right country, but that has its dangers too, If you review to get free books, the fun won't last for long. Reviewing free books because they are sent to you and you feel obligated to review them ASAP, thus putting review queue over your personal choices, is one of the fastest way to burn out, if not the fastest way. Reviewing shouldn't feel like a job if you are not getting paid money for doing it. Netgalley allows you to pick the titles you want to read, but, again, there is still an obligation to review within a time limit.

The longest reviewers, I feel, are those that have a narcissist and even sadist streak in them. They love seeing their words online, and they don't care if they are changing the world (or not). They don't care about being perceived as negative or mean - they just want to preen under any perception, period. They find it fun. It's again like "real" authors - "real" reviewers go on the way they do because they have a love for stories, the written word (even if that doesn't always show in the reviews), and the hubris to believe that there is at least  a handful of people out there dying to read their insight and thoughts (hi, Mom!). Their reviews have character, a distinct voice or style, because this is the reviewer voice that comes naturally, and hopefully becomes more refined in time, to them. If this character comes off as vile or obnoxious, so?

At the end of the day, if the reviewer feels that the pressure is getting to her, it's time to step back, relax. I took a two - or is it three? - year hiatus in the early 2000s as a result of real life issues and burning out, and I was seriously considering switching genres. Quitting never occurred to me, because I like reviewing. I miss it when I'm not able to do it. But that's because I apply the same things to myself that reviewers apply to authors - people that criticize my work or call me mean, et cetera, are just doing what they do and they have the right to do this. Only I can make myself quit, and if I do, it's because I no longer want to do it. Not because detractors force me to.

So, unless these mean authors and their crazy street teams actively force a reviewer to quit, maybe by smashing every computer the poor reviewer tries to get her hands on or something, these people can't force a reviewer to quit just as a reviewer can't force an author to quit. So why blame other people if we can't take the heat? Perhaps the truth is more discomfiting to accept: not everyone is cut out to be an Internet Mean Girl and, like "real" authoring, only a few would stand out while the rest are doomed to languish forever in midlist obscurity.

And if "traditional publishers" like Goodreads and Amazon are being annoying gatekeepers, reviewers, go indie. Make your own freaking website and publish your own work. You even get to "set your own price" (place ads, et cetera) instead of being paid zilch or pennies by these "evil conglomerates"....
2 comment(s).

Posted by AQ:

Would the flipside then be that reader reviewers are killing the joy of writing?


Let's talk numbers. Which reviewers have quit specifically because of negativity thrown either at their free content or themselves? As opposed to burn-out, lack of interest, lack of notice, lack of money, lack of time, lack of... How long do we mourn for their loss in that online community? (cuz I'm mean and cynical)


Why should the evil empires (Amazon, Google, Goodreads aka Amazon, Twitter, etc.) care one way or the other about free content providers when they have more important things to worry about like influencing political policies (which may be in direct opposition to what the free content providers want / believe).


Thank you for the content you provide. I've enjoyed it immensely over the years. And if half of the rumors I've heard about the negative crap thrown your way is true then all I can say is what are these other people complaining about?

As far as the original post: too many tangents discussed and not enough focus on the main thrust of her position. I found your argument must more concise and to the point.

I also love that you think of yourself as narcissistic and sadistic since you are one of the longest running sites with the most individual reviews. Love it!!!:P:P
March 26th, 2014 @ 8:11 AM

Posted by Mrs Giggles:

Too many tangents - I agree with you on that one when it comes to that article. I think Robin just wanted to take some authors to task for antics that she doesn't agree on, but tried to do so in a way that makes it seem like she's just concerned about the greater good for all readers and reviewers.

She doesn't speak for me, though. Reviewers should be big girls, especially those that portray themselves like insult comics on Goodreads. Nothing wrong with that, but don't act like wounded doves when someone gives back as good as they dish. Disingenuously playing the victim never looks good on anyone.
March 26th, 2014 @ 8:55 AM