Merciless Reviewers, an article every author should read.

Axeman

You have always loved reading books and writing stories. You have a mind brimming with ideas for writing stories, constantly turning in your head. You find the courage to start formulating your ideas. You have been inspired by a few favorite authors, you have in mind the genre you are going to work in, be it romance, horror, science fiction…

You soon have a body of work ready for the world at large…all well and good. You get your nearest and dearest to read your manuscript, they offer words of encouragement. A close friend or two does the same. A close friend is a great graphic designer and has come up with a great design for the cover of the book. All well and good. After much work on your part your book is finally published…In celebration you open a bottle of wine.
Now you need readers and publicity to bring attention to your work. Part of this is to get reviews, so you subscribe to Goodreads, a site that will connect you to readers. On top of this you advertise the fact that you are searching for reviews. You are naturally proud of your work, it was done with good intention. All well and good…and then…

The hatchet man steps in. You sent him a copy to review in good faith. It seems his it is his intent to verbally pulverize your book, with as much a bile as he can muster. His sadistic, as brutally direct as he could possibly be. He has sharpened the knives and planted them right in your heart. You get a mandatory one star for your efforts (you spent hours writing, re-writing, editing and polishing, proof reading, scrutinizing every sentence for any flaws or errors.

He does not write a crisp short paragraph expressing his dislike for your work, he gone to great lengths to document all the failings he has found in your work, while mercilessly damaging your fledgling reputation, beyond repair (or so he hopes). Perhaps he is going through the male menopause, perhaps he is psychologically unbalanced, you will never know, he could be living thousands of miles from you, in another continent…Whatever he is determined to crucify your book and his review is now firmly etched on Goodreads for all to see. When you read the review for the first time you are both mystified and horrified. It is like getting a tax demand out of the blue for an amount of money you have no chance of paying back. You are now in a state of shock, that sweet wine you tasted when your book was first published now has bitter taste. Your work has been sullied, you feel violated. His words appear to be aimed to cause maximum hurt, and the reviewer has succeeded in this objective. Even other reviews of a much more positive nature seem empty now that you have been overwhelmed by this dark force.

The hatchet man could have sent you a curt e mail, to the effect that he was unprepared to post a review…that might of hurt, but not half as much as this…Some reviewers don’t post, if they think a book does not merit three stars. It could be argued that once you publish your work and engage with reviewers you should be able to take on board any harsh criticism that comes your way, that you can’t expect any sugar-coated reviews, reviews are supposed to be honest. At the same time it is unacceptable for fired up reviewers to use a new author on the scene as a kind of punch bag, to vent your spleen and spread their poison. We have to wonder why people take pleasure in decimating a writer’s work? It seems the same mentality as an internet troll.

While reviewing another author’s work I was drawn to two reviews of the distinctly“hatchet man” nature. A Neanderthal looking man seemed to delight in the use of the word “fuck”. “Who the fuck cares? ” he says laying into the fact that the author has nine pages devoted to dedications etc. He then goes into one attack after another. Another word he is prone to use is the word “retarded” a word where I come is a word considered not exactly politically correct, the Neanderthal seems to love using it. I thought this word was an insult mostly used in the playground by rather nasty children looking for the maximum effect…

On the other side of the coin, one writer namely a Richard Brittain, who published work on Wattpad (a facility for writers to get feedback on their work) took the extreme measure of hitting a teenager over the head with a wine bottle as retribution for a negative review. He tracked down the negative reviewer, went to her work place and applied his crude form of revenge on the unsuspecting reviewer.

I would not recommend a Richard Brittain type approach to dealing with reviewers.  I would say that reviewers should choose their words carefully and should not try to kill off aspiring authors before they have managed to bloom.  And Mr Neanderthal, stay off the “fuck” word, it’s really not too original, and you really show yourself up…are you for real?

Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter

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2 thoughts on “Merciless Reviewers, an article every author should read.

  1. As some one who frequently reviews books, this was a good read. I don’t post overly negative reviews, I can only think of one- but I doubt EL James is reading my blog. If I don’t care for the book, I just let the author know & nicely explain that it’s not something I think would be a good fit for my blog audience & part ways.

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  2. Great post, no serious ethical reviewer would publish an attack review. From another view, some readers (myself included) see an attack review and must see and check out what all the fuss is about. I have met other authors/poets I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered through attack review. Still, an attack review is hurtful, disrespectful and out of line. Many commercial review magazines and other media formats simply don’t allow them. I think Amazon will always be a “free for all” as far as freedom of speech goes, they are very slow to respond and remove attack review.

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