In previous posts, I’ve discussed authors’ marketing techniques that turn readers off and authors’ bad reactions to negative reviews. This month I decided to flip the script and discuss readers and reviewers who are, shall we say, not displaying the best behavior. As an author, you’ll often hear, “You need to have a tough skin.” But there are times when readers and reviewers cross an invisible line that should never be crossed. Hopefully, this article will help you prepare for what is out there.
For the first question, I received input from fifty-three people, mostly review team members and readers. The interesting thing was reviewers, readers and authors all mentioned the same things. Below are the main themes I saw repeated.
What should NOT be included in a book review?
- Spoilers! – Giving away the climax, important plot points or the ending of a story was the number one item that the sample I took did not like.
- Personal attacks and moral judgments– This ranked up there close with spoilers. Here is a reply that summed this up nicely: A review, while a personal opinion, should not be personal. You are reviewing the book, not the author. Talk about the writing. Talk about the characters. Talk about the plot. There should be no name calling or accusation throwing in a review.
- Mean spirited – There was also mention that reviews were becoming mean spirited and written in a tone to tear down and disrespect instead of giving constructive criticism.
- Reviews that attack an aspect of what the title is. For example if you don’t like short stories, don’t read short stories then rate them poorly for being a short story.
- No useful information – Reviews that only say I liked or didn’t like this book are useless. People who base their book buying partially on reviews want to know what you did and/or didn’t like and why.
- Ordering experience – Reviews that give a 1 star because the reader didn’t like the price of a book, format, or how it was shipped.
- Unprofessional/disrespectful behavior – Some review groups write reviews, then going online and proceed to blast the author for writing a bad book or attack other review groups for liking the book. I’ll admit, I was shocked by this one but it came up a few times.
- Not reading the book but giving a review – Need I say more
- Promoting other books in a review – For example, Don’t waste your money on this book. If you are looking for a five star read, try 123 by #$%
- This isn’t a part of the review but at times reviewers agree to review a book, then they don’t.
The next question was for authors only. To protect the authors, I’m not giving names and will paraphrase.
What behaviors do readers display that are a turn off?
- Obsessed Fans – Authors need readers and vice versa. Most authors love to hear from their readers and to connect with them. There are some readers who take being the author’s fan too far and attack others on behalf of the author. For example, let’s say you are in a group and someone doesn’t like author A’s book or if the author receives a bad review, the reader attacks other readers and the reviewer.
- Follow up question: What did you do to combat this? I’ve only had this happen to me twice that I know of. The first time I found out about it by a reader contacting me saying she’d never read my work again because I’d had one of my “minions” attacked her. I wasn’t aware that I had minions. I went to the review she was referring to and knew by the comment of the obsessed fan who it was. She’d written to me several times. I didn’t have “proof” it was her, so without mentioning the review, I replied to her next email and explained that I was going to have to pull away from having so much contact with readers because there was someone out there attacking readers on my behalf and turning readers off from my work. I let her know that this person thought they were helping, but in reality they were hurting my reputation. She didn’t email me again, but I continued looking at my reviews and saw she stopped attacking people. If you know one of your readers is attacking people, then you need to stand up to that reader. They can do a lot of damage.
- Stalkers. Taking reader input is one thing and authors need the feedback and appreciate it, but some readers go overboard. I had one following me from Facebook page to Facebook page posting that I needed to be writing instead of on Facebook.
- Follow up question: What did you do to combat this? I blocked her so I couldn’t see her comments. She’s probably talking about me like a dog now.
- Readers who think you owe them something. I am grateful when anyone purchases one of my books, and I hope you enjoy it and want my future titles. You purchased my book, not me. I’m amazed at things readers demand because they bought one of your books.
- Writing is Business – Some readers don’t understand/care that writing is a business. We release our work to the public to make a living. Books only cost a few dollars, but there are readers who want to read the books without purchasing them. I don’t mind loaning a book to someone who hasn’t read an author’s work before, but to continually borrow books is stealing money out of authors’ pockets. And don’t get me started on those pirate websites. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to make a living?
- Writing is Business – I had a contest and the winner would receive XYZ, which fit the theme of the book. The winner contacted me and said she didn’t want XYZ, instead she wanted 123. Why did she enter if she didn’t want the prize?
- Poor Book signing etiquette – Some readers have the bad habit of coming to your table to speak about everything except your books. They block the way from people who may actually want to buy your book or they come to eat the treats at your table and move on.
- Poor Group etiquette – Immature behavior and lack of respect for members and/or moderator runs many from groups. Also if the majority of the groups content veers too far away than the groups purpose can cause authors to leave.
Well, that’s it for this go around. I don’t think anything discussed is a surprise, but sometimes we do need to be called out on our behaviors. As a reader or reviewer, be honest with yourself. Are you displaying some of the behaviors listed above? Is that what you want to be known for? Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article. You guys are the best.
Much Joy, Peace and Love
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