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March 4th, 2008

11:56 PM

Cuddly Bunnies and Delicate Wallflowers

Cuddly bunnies

This may be old news but I've recently read through this thread at Publishers Weekly which discussed Amazon reviews and I'm amazed at the number of multi-published authors who still behave as if the world is a Pollyanna doll house. Oh no, the reviews can be so mean! Why won't Amazon do something? Readers, please click "No" on all those "Is this review useful?" option on Amazon! Some authors claimed there that they often felt that any negative review on their book is a personal attack on them so oh no, there is no excuse to be mean, ever! Down with mean people!

A part of me truly cringed when I realized that the authors who did this "Mean people! Down with them!" thing were pretty much exclusively romance authors. What is it with that genre and the delicate oh-so-sensitive authors that seem to spawn from that genre? I don't get it.

Also, I know authors aren't to be expected to be best friends with reviewers, although for some reason many romance authors insist that everyone should get along and be friends (read: everyone should lick their boots and praise their books to the wazoo because romance authors, being delicate fragile femmes who will shatter into tiny shards of tears at the slightest mean thing said about their books, will otherwise die). But I'm tickled by the number of fluff reviewers that showed up in that thread, many of who will never give a halfway negative criticism of a book even if you hold a gun against their heads, to denounce the mean girls while not-so-subtly promoting their own review sites. Fishing for ARCs? Compliments? Who knows.

What I really want to know is how a review is considered a "personal attack" on the author. Where do we draw the line? Because, like "mean girls", "personal attack" is never really defined clearly so that phrase has become a popular catch-all accusation leveled at critics whose opinions rub an author the wrong way.

For example, I can say that the heroine is stupid, can I? Is that okay?

How about if I say that the author can't write halfway decent heroines because the heroines in her books so far are stupid? I've had people accusing me of "personally attacking" the author when I say something like this. It does seem to me like I sometimes have to pretend that the book is created in a vacuum, with no author involved, because while I can criticize the characters, I can't criticize the author for creating those characters because some people consider any reference to an author in a review as an attack on the author. But is there a difference here or are we all just screaming at each other over semantics?

Some folks have no idea how tiring it is to be "mean", if by "mean" we are talking about... well, you know, not being on friendly and cuddly terms with authors. I don't even know what "mean" means anyway, because I've seen even benign sites that happened to say something that rub off wrongly on a bunch of authors being accused as "mean". As I've mentioned, "personal attacks", "mean girls", and similar related phrases seem to me are fast becoming increasingly meaningless catchphrases used by these authors and their supporters to nail the site owners in question to the wall just to salve their bruised ego. If I can bring myself to praise a book to the stars even if I for some reason give it three stars, I will, because trust me, I'd rather deal with lots of warm fan mails and virtual hugs than having to constantly refute and clarify what I said or didn't say until I could just collapse from the exhaustion of dealing with all that drama. But I just can't because I'm not that kind of person.

I have been told that personal attacks could be threats or aspersions on the author or her family or something like that. But I don't think I have seen enough of them on Amazon or on any other websites to believe that they are everywhere like some of these people claim. A part of me also wonders what kind of delicate wallflowers romance authors as a breed must be if they can wilt and get depressed over some barely-literate weirdo on Amazon calling them names.

Some of these authors claim that they can't write for days after reading something mean about their books on the Web. Boy, I'm now glad that I haven't gotten around to review Alyssa Day's The Warriors of Poseidon series yet because I suspect that I may end up sending her to some kind of ICU if I do. These authors are so delicate, I wonder why they even look at those Amazon reviews in the first place. Instead of calling for Amazon to protect them from those marauding pixels that make them feel so terrible in and out, why not just not look at the reviews in the first place? Shouldn't common sense warn them that with anyone able to submit a review on Amazon, these authors are opening themselves to all kinds of reviews from strangers? The more I see these authors wailing that the mean reviews are just sending them into depression, the more I suspect that these people are just being big drama queens.

I don't know what to say about those fluffy, happy, cuddly reviewers who see no problems in attacking "mean girls". Sure, the "mean girls" have often mocked the cuddly reviewers before - yours truly here included - but I've seen those criticisms go only as far as the value of those reviews. On the other hand, those cuddly bunny reviewers see no problems in banding with the self-righteous authors to constantly speculate, often nastily, the various agendas that mean girls may have, most of them involving some imaginary great conspiracy of envy and jealousy designed to bring these delicate wallflower authors down. It's weird, really, how these self-proclaimed good people often behave much worse than those they accused of being mean. No?

For me, I don't go out of my way to seek out what people say about me because it's not worth my time to get involved in any online drama that I may end up being dragged into. Some people will say that I'm lying even if I say that the sun rises in the east because I'm That Person in their mind. Well, tough - I'll live. But it does get tedious and tiresome when these cuddly bunnies show up on my doorstep bearing torches and pikes and screaming for my head, because of the noise.

Why can't the cuddly bunnies and the mean girls just leave each other be? That's what I'd like to know. There will always be accusatory authors pointing fingers at people who rub them off the wrong way, that's a given, but what I don't understand is why the cuddly bunny reviewers see fit to join in the fray.

Professional jealousy? Oh please, most of us, mean girls or cuddly bunnies, are amateurs whose main qualification for going online to talk about romance novels is that we are readers. I've been asked so many times to prove that I am qualified to review anything, but I don't see the mob storming down the gates of Pink Fluffy Bunny Reviews screeching to know the qualifications of the cuddly bunny reviewers there. I'm accused of being a coward who hide being a pseudonym, but these authors will happy quote from rave reviews written by people who go by nicknames like Sunshine and Waterlilies on Happy Bunny Reviews Website. People, we can't have two different sets of rules. It is ridiculous to hold people you label mean girls to one standard of behavior while letting the cuddly bunny reviewers get away with everything because they feed your ego.

Zealous belief that in all mean girls on the internet must be eradicated? Fervent belief in that romance authors are fragile femmes needed to be protected from the cruel world who will only devour these hapless authors? I can only wonder.

Authors who feel that their egos are bruised so they lash out at those critics who dare to make them feel unhappy about their Harlequin books, yes, that I can understand. What's the cuddly bunny reviewers' excuse?

12 comment(s).

Posted by Nathalie Gray:

I think authors go on sites like Amazon to check their reviews as a sort of "quality control" thing. Readers go there, so I guess in some authors' mind, they figure they should go too and make sure what the readers see isn't likely to turn them off the book. My take. I wouldn't know, I don't think I have one single review on Amazon (please don't rush to remedy that situation, I'm happily circling in orbit of Planet Romance).
March 5th, 2008 @ 1:46 AM

Posted by Amarinda Jones:

I write for EC predominantly and some TEB. Some people are not going to like what I write. To me, it would be unrealistic and pompous to expect everyone to give you glowing reviews. While it's good to have a healthy ego, I believe a healthy dose of common sense is also required

March 5th, 2008 @ 4:08 AM

Posted by anny cook:

I have to admit that I'm puzzled by the weight given to reviewers in general. Every person that reads my books has a different take on them. Some laugh. Some love them. Some hate them.

Whatever the reaction, it's not going to stop my writing or lay me low for days. Perhaps I'm not delicate enough? Oh, please say it's not so!
March 5th, 2008 @ 4:45 AM

Posted by Kelly Kirch:

And some authors relish bad reviews because it has a way of bumping up the sales.
March 5th, 2008 @ 5:25 AM

Posted by Cindy Spencer Pape:

Reviews should be opinions on the work. I'd be upset if a reviewer said, "We should all go burn her house down." But "I'm off now to burn the book," is probably legit. (especially if the heroine is too stupid to tie her own shoes.) While you can't please every reader, you can sure learn more from the ones who criticize than the ones who coo.
March 5th, 2008 @ 5:27 AM

Posted by Heather Hiestand:

As an author, I am not so much unhappy at a bad review, but one where I feel like the reviewer was reading another book than the one I wrote. Yes, most of us have the ego to want to be reviewed after a thorough read of the manuscript at least, if not kindly. I was a reviewer before I sold my first novel and I have to say being published has made me choose my words more carefully, though I hope I'm a kinder realist rather than a total fluffy bunny reviewer now.
March 5th, 2008 @ 5:34 AM

Posted by Terri Beckett:

Reviews are one person's opinion. I don't take much notice of them as a reader -- so I don't sweat them as a writer.
March 5th, 2008 @ 5:44 AM

Posted by Chris Power:

Personally, I'd sooner have an honest review than an ego-stroking exercise. That way I can at least consider any adverse points raised and decide whether or not they're valid. How else do I continue to develop the craft? After all, the moment an author has a book out there in the public domain, the book and the author are fair game. Someone once said something about heat and kitchens...

My blog is http://chrisvpower.spaces.live.com/

My web site is http://www.thepowerfamily.demon.co.uk/chris/index.htm
March 5th, 2008 @ 5:46 AM

Posted by Charlene Leatherman:

It's strange. It used to be that an author was a craftsman/craftswoman. A review was something that told the author how to improve his or her craft. Have we as modern day authors become less crafts persons and more of arteeests? Just because an author writes romance should not make that person any less proud of their ability to write. Pride comes when the craft is done well. If we as authors will not take the bad reviews and use them to improve our craft, then the good reviews mean nothing because we can not determine if our craft is worth reading.
But hey, what do I know? I just write romance.

Charlene Leatherman
March 5th, 2008 @ 6:18 AM

Posted by Kathy Kulig:

Reviewers and readers have different tastes. I've read a NYT best seller or two that I personally thought was a wall-banger. Bad reviews are part of the business. The same holds true for movies. Do the opinions of movie critics stop you from seeing a movie? Not me. Sure my books have received less than favorable reviews, and I'd be lying if I said they didn't sting. But it doesn't dampen my spirit to continue to do what I love-write. Besides, when you're still an unknown author, nobody cares about my bad reviews anyway.:)
Cheers, Kathy Kulig http://www.kathykulig.com
March 5th, 2008 @ 6:41 AM

Posted by Desiree Holt:

First of all I think you have to have a really tough skin to be in this business because truly, opinions of books are very subjective things. If you hate a book, no matter how well it's written you'll have a hard time giving it a good review. But that's the way it goes. And reviewers cover all spectrums. I have had one reviewer tell me my book was so bad I should sell my comoputer adn another tell me the same book was so fantastic she gave it a top pick. So I think you have to take everything with a grain of salt and realize that in every review there is a bugget of something you can take away with me.
March 5th, 2008 @ 6:44 AM

Posted by Mona Risk:

With my debut book recently released I am yet to receive a review. I know readers' feedback is great for the ego, but the reviews are more interesting to see. Reviews are a bit like contests for unpublished writers. They tell what’s good, what’s bad. You evaluate them and decide to believe them or not. Although every review good or bad can make you improve.
March 5th, 2008 @ 7:02 AM