Posted in Just For Fun, Musings
April 30, 2013

Bad Reviews, Bad manners, and Netiquette

So we all get bad reviews from time to time. Sometimes it’s a good thing, we can learn from them, and it shows that people are actually reading our books. Not everybody is going to love our books. We know that, right? In fact, with my mystery writing, I sometimes like the rougher reviews because it shows that I’m pushing buttons. I like that.

What I’ve learned, though, is to consider the source when it comes to reviews. ANYBODY with a computer can write one, whether they know what they are talking about or not. So many of my reviews show that the reviewer has skipped over parts or wasn’t really reading the book—and ya gotta wonder about some of the reviewers who read like 20 books a week. Seriously. How careful of a reading can they be giving your work? It kind of pisses me off, even though I try not to spend to much energy on it. On the one hand, everybody is entitled to an opinion. On the other hand, if you are going to voice it, you should at least be thoughtful and respectful enough to give it a real reading.

Reviews aside, it seems that the digital world has provided a voice to some very ill-mannered sorts. But what ever happened to manners? Do we disregard manners because we can easily hide behind a pen name or user name? I wonder. Are manners really that difficult, even in the digital world? To me, it’s second nature to say thank you for sending me flowers or a gift as it is to say thanks for “retweeting” my tweet.

Maybe good manners don’t count anymore for some folks. But in my world, they do. Maybe folks are a bit confused about the world of digital manners. Here’s a list I came up with, not meant as an exhaustive list, but as a way to get the conversation rolling. Do you have anything to add?

  1. As mentioned previously, thank people on Twitter for retweets and any public interest they take in you or your books.
  2. Same thing for Facebook. (Even as I write this, I’m thinking “Do I really need to?”)
  3. When you are invited to post on a blog or to be an interview, if you decide it’s a good match and move forward with the post or interview, always help to publicize it and keep checking back through the day to see if there are comments you should reply to.
  4. Never respond to bad reviews. This is just not a “manner” thing it’s a professional thing. It never leads to a good place.
  5. If you belong to a group blog, always help publicize the other writers’ posts and book releases. The Lady Smut bloggers do this and we provide a united digital front for one another.
  6. Concerning emails. Even if you can’t respond to a lengthy email right away, it’s a good thing to dash off an email back saying. “Got your email and will get back with you as soon as I can.” (This is a pet peeve of mine with editors and agents, as well. Not only is it polite, but it’s safe and effective communication. We need to know they’ve gotten our emails and our submissions and so on and it’s not been caught in Spam.)

I found a few websites that off tips on netiquette. http://www.netmanners.com/

Here’s one specifically for Twitter use: http://heidicohen.com/twitter-etiquette/

And one for Facebook:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/169120/facebook_etiquette.html

How about you? Anything to add?

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  • Kemberlee Shortland

    I reviewed for 15 years (still do if I have strong feelings about a book). I can tell you, being able to write a review for a book you didn’t like is an art one has to learn. Reviewers must keep some things in mind —

    Never disrespect the author
    Never disrespect the work the author as done to get the book published
    Never disrespect the publisher or editors
    Never disrespect the book

    Yes, it all comes down to respect. We may not all like the same books, but there is absolutely no reason to resort to flaming the author, the book or the publishing team.

    If you don’t normally read the genre and agree to review the book and you don’t like it, don’t write the review. And especially don’t start a negative review with “I don’t usually read this genre.” That instantly tells everyone the review will be bad. If you don’t normally read the genre, don’t agree to review this. You *know* you’re going to give a bad review so why set the author up for failure because this is not your genre??

    It’s plain and simple. Say what you didn’t like and be respectful.

    And always remember, a publisher saw something in this book that was publishable. As a professional reviewer, the job is yours to discover what that thing was, even if you didn’t like the book.

    The world today is moving to a more aggressive stance on just about everything. We’re forgetting respect for each other. We don’t all have to get along. That’s fine. But be respectful. Watch your language, tone down aggression, and remember Karma is a beotch!

    And *always* put your review aside for a day or two. Reread it to see if you still agree with your ‘heat of the moment’ comments. Rework it if necessary. There is such a think as editing reviews. If you’re going to slam an author for poor editing, be *sure* your review doesn’t need it too. 😉

    Reply to Kemberlee Shortland
  • cmkempe

    Agree with all you’ve both said! Take the high road even if you’re seething. Especially if you’re seething!

    Reply to cmkempe
    • Kemberlee Shortland

      Especially. I know a long-time reviewer turned author who got into trouble when she went back to a reviewer who’d left her a less than favorable review. Talk about the stuff hitting the proverbial! As an author, I say, just let it go. It’s just one opinion. And if they don’t have a command of the English language without using profanity, don’t send a book to them again for review. If they want to review the book, they can buy it 🙂

      Reply to Kemberlee Shortland
  • Post authorLizEverly

    Thanks so much Kemberlee.Sometimes I wonder how much people actually rely on reviews. As a reader, I never check them out until after I read the book myself. And YES Margery, always take the high road, especially when seething.

    Reply to LizEverly
    • Kemberlee Shortland

      We’ve been hosting a poll on one of our blogs about where people find the books they buy. This came as a result of reading an article on the same topic. We wanted to see if our results matched theirs. And they pretty much have. Today is the last day of the poll but the results are interesting — http://www.heartoffiction.blogspot.com/2013/03/buyer-habits.html (the number after the method relates to the number of votes and overall percentage of preference compared to the whole poll) —

      1 – Book Reviews and/or Author Endorsements 20 (86%)

      2 – Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) 14 (60%)

      3 – Blogs (author’s personal blogs, guest blogger, virtual blog tours, etc.) 10 (43%)

      4 – Feemiums (free books, giveaways, contests, etc.) 9 (39%)

      5 – Radio and/or TV Talk Shows 8 (34%)

      6 – Author Talks (seminars, conferences, etc.) 6 (26%)

      7 – Book Signings (local bookstores, conferences, etc.) 5 (21%)

      8- Press Releases 4 (17%)

      9 – eZines and/or email marketing (newsletters) 2 (8%)

      10 – Video Promotions (video book trailers) 0 (0%)

      Granted, some of these categories can be combined. We just listed the exact same ones as the original article — http://www.teleread.com/publishing/book-promotion-what-works-what-doesnt.

      I read reviews, but usually put them in context —

      Did the reviewer buy the book or was it given to them for review?

      Is this the reviewers first review? (look at the review history)

      If not the first, what is their habit of reviewing? Do they always give good reviews or always negative, or a variety? (look at their review history)

      Does the reviewer normally review this genre? (they’ll usually say ‘I don’t usually review this genre’ in their review)

      Look at the language in the review. It’s easy to tell amateur reviews and reviewers who are obviously very young.

      If they give a negative review, look at the language. Also look at WHY they’re giving poor scores.

      Other criteria go into my decision, but it also very much includes reading the given sample. If the sample isn’t provided (buy my book if you want to read the sample) or it’s just all filler from a poorly formatted book (reviews, promos, etc but no excerpt) I *will* look at the author’s website to see if a sample chapter is available. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. If it is, I’ll read it. I shouldn’t have to go looking for it. But it the cover is attractive, the blurb looks interesting and it’s getting decent reviews, I’ll make the extra effort.

      Reply to Kemberlee Shortland
  • Elizabeth Shore

    Great post, Liz, and I echo the comments from Kemberlee and Margery. In my RWA local chapter we hold a contest every year in which authors can submit the first three pages of their ms to see if it “hooks” an editor or agent. We give honest critiques and put a lot of effort into the judging of each submission. However, what we absolutely don’t do is flame the author and/or disparage the work. Even if we hate it, we’re going to find something good to say. It’s a very vulnerable feeling to open your heart for someone’s perusal who could very well rip it out. So we don’t. It’s just not cool, not professional, and not called for. Our jobs are to support fellow writers and to help them, not slay them at the knees.

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • ellaquinnauthor

    Kemberlee, those were very interesting results. You didn’t have recommendation from a friend on your list, and I wonder how that would have changed the voting.

    I agree that responding to bad reviews is a terrible idea. I do wonder if an author should respond to good reviews. I tend to think not. Tweeted.

    Reply to ellaquinnauthor
    • madelineiva

      Well, certainly passing on a good review through your social media is one way to respond to it. 😉

      After reading a lot of professional book reviews I tend to divide the review into two parts: here’s where someone is expressing opinions or analysis of the book and here’s where they stopped really doing that and started entertaining the reader.

      Some PR maven once said that even negative publicity is still good publicity–people talking about your book is a bigger compliment than not saying anything. If they REALLY hated it, you must have been doing something powerful to push their buttons so strongly.

      Mostly I think a lot of online off-the-cuff reviewers who rant reveal more about themselves than they may realize and give everyone reading the review plenty of material to consider the source.

      But what am I saying? I haven’t published a book yet. Let’s see how dispassionately I feel when it’s me getting jabbed by cruel words.

      Reply to madelineiva
    • Kemberlee Shortland

      Like I said, we were copying the original article. We asked people to put in the comments if their method was different. A couple said friend referrals there.

      Re responding to good reviews, absolutely. Never hurts to say thank you to someone who’s said something nice about you or your work 🙂 Sometimes I might even step out of my comfort zone and thank someone who’s given me a negative review . . . “Thank you for reviewing my book. I’m sorry you didn’t like it, but I’ll take your comments on board and hope the next book is better.”

      Reply to Kemberlee Shortland
  • cmkempe

    My pal Mr B always posts his one star reviews and laughs. It’s one way of dealing with them 🙂

    Reply to cmkempe
  • Misty Dietz

    Love this! #6 seems to be more rare all the time.

    Reply to Misty Dietz
    • Kemberlee Shortland

      Misty, Do you mean author talks? I think in this day and age of digital publishing, authors don’t think they can do book tours, autographings, and talks. It takes some creativity, but it can be done. We have one author who’s done an autographing at her local bookstore. She had some postcards and bookmarks made up with her cover on one side, blurb and buy links on the other. We provided her with a promotional kit which she copied onto CDs (including a graphic she printed out on a CD sticker which she put on the CD). On the CD included blurbs and excerpts from all her stories in her series, book covers, author bio and picture, buy links and a time-stamped discount code if they wanted to buy the book. The author then was able to autograph it all.

      We have another author going on the road for two weeks in August doing a similar thing but spread out around her state. She’s organizing to give readings during the stop . . . reading then autographing. Anyone wanting to buy her book can download on the go and still get the autograph and give aways.

      As well, we’ve implemented a new program where all of our newly published books will have an author autograph in the book (not like AuthorGraph) which will be available for a limited time. During this woman’s state tour, her book will have that autograph in the book.

      So it’s possible for authors to host author talks, seminars, autographings. They just have to be more creative about it.

      Reply to Kemberlee Shortland

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