Monday, May 20, 2013

The Terrifying World of Authors and Reviewers

Most of you probably don't know this, but last year I wrote a review of a book that thoroughly pissed me off. I paid good money for it, and found that it was complete trash. In my review, I wrote about all the plot holes and the complete non-effort the author went through to make sure that it was edited properly. I also offered some sage advice, which was to get an editor and take the time to flesh out the story and its characters (this was a published author, btw, so there was no excuse for this level of inattention--she knew better)...and I was attacked ferociously.

By whom, you may ask? Well, I got together with a group of people who investigated the private messages I was being harassed with and they were able to track it back to the author's very own husband and a set of their mutual friends, some of who created accounts just to 1 star all of my books in retaliation. After my review hit, dozens of people stepped up and found that I was on to something, and that author's work was put under a microscope. In response, she attempted to distance her bad work from her successful work by putting it under her maiden name. It didn't work. Reviewers are smart. They know when someone is trying to dupe them. It was then that the author pulled the book, designed a new cover, gave it a new title, and rereleased it. Readers flocked to it....and found out it wasn't much different. A couple of them even made the connection to the old book, having already read that one, and were understandably upset that they had once again been duped. Needless to say, that book is not doing very well.

As for me, well, reviewers were so upset by the fallout I experienced that they rallied together and boosted my books back up to where they had been previously, while simultaneously attacking the other author and dragging her book down into the trenches. I've never seen such a show of solidarity before, and it gave me the lift I so needed at the time. However, my experiences during this dark time definitely left a scar. I am no longer the reviewer that I once was. Why? I guess I am a little afraid to voice my opinion now knowing what may come of it if someone doesn't agree with my opinion.

My feelings were confirmed yesterday when I came across some surprising posts regarding another author's work that I had recently considered checking out: Reviewers hold considerable power.

Kendall Grey, author of Strings, recently wrote a post about her story calling it out for what it is: smut. She holds no illusions to what it is and she makes no apologies. What she does, however, is  tell her adoring audience that she is a "sell-out." She proceeds to say that she prefers to write urban fiction, because that's where her heart lies, but she never got the recognition she felt she deserved from it, so she chose to give the readers what they wanted, and that was erotica. She said she wasn't comfortable in that genre, but she wrote in it anyhow--and she'd be willing to write in any genre that she wasn't comfortable with--just to make money. She has succeeded. Very well. But then she went too far. In not so many words, she called her reviewers simple-minded, who wouldn't know true art if it walked up and bit them in the ass.

Readers went nuts.

As I combed through the reviews, I noticed at a number of people who have enjoyed the book actually went back and revised their ratings in response to these comments, added her to their DNR shelves, and are boycotting everything she has written or will write in the future. They are on the attack, passing the message along like a plague. It has reached the upper echelon of the book world. In essence, we have a witch hunt on our hands.

Now, I agree that Ms. Grey was wrong to say what she did. If she thought that it wasn't going to get out to the masses because it was said within the privacy of a very public forum she belongs to, she was sadly mistaken. This is the age of technology. You cannot hide. Once you put something out there, it is forever accessible, so whatever you say or do, you'd better put your best foot forward, always. This is my understanding, and I practice it every day. Sadly, Ms. Grey seems to have missed the memo.

To be fair, she has no clue all of this is going on (or so she claims). The only knowledge she has of any controversy comes from those in her group who monitor Goodreads and other sources. As an author, I can't say that I entirely believe this. No matter how busy I am, I keep a pretty close watch on all my work. I know what is happening at any given time and how my words impact the public. Now, she did issue a very unofficial public apology. If you care to read it, it's located in the bottom rungs of a blog post on whales in response to a reader's advise to do address her public and stop the insanity. You can find it here: 

How generous of you, Ms. Grey. I just know that every reader/reviewer out there will appreciate your extraordinary efforts to make things right.

If I sound less than thrilled, well, I am. Had this been me, I would have jumped in front of the firing squad and issued that apology with flair to be sure they heard and understood my message. I would NOT behave as if a token apology that people have to comb the Web for was good enough. It's kind of a slap in the face to the consumer.

I decided to check out the sequels to Strings and found that this has, indeed, impacted the future of Ms. Grey's writing career. For those she has rubbed wrong, they are being proactive and shunning her upcoming work. Heck, some of it already has 1 star ratings, and guess what? It isn't even out yet!

Will this impact her sales? Probably. In fact, she'll probably start selling like hotcakes, but will it last? Probably not. These reviewers are similar to the long arm of the law. If they don't want you to succeed, then you probably won't. They will swarm in and bring you down.

It's a terrifying reality, but it's true.

I don't ever want to be where Ms. Grey is. Although I have added her to my "do not read" list on principle (I cannot support an author who does not respect or appreciate her readers), I feel for her situation. It is not a good position to be in, and I truly hope she doesn't let it dissuade her from continuing her passion to write. From what I have read of her work, she has a talent for it, but she's kind of shot herself in the foot.

My advice: Stick to what you know, write what you love. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. And most importantly, watch your tongue, because other certainly are.


Ms. Kendall addresses her readers

Frankly, I think this is a very well-written apology. It explains her stance, why she decides to write what she has, and how it has affected her. Regardless of what you or I or anyone else may think, this lady has balls, and you have to respect that.

While I don't think it's going to change the die hard haters' minds, I do think an apology goes a long way in soothing hurt feelings and mending fences. I hope Ms. Grey is able to get beyond this hiccup and continue making herself and her readers happy.

But please, Ms. Grey, no more "selling out." If you write it and you own it and you do well at it, you have simply transitioned. You are not selling out for deciding to branch out.

I've said my peace. Peace out!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from you! Please leave your comment below.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...