I am blogging today at The Many Shades of Life and Love and here is what I posted:
It doesn’t matter how great YOU think your book is. It matters not one whit that you’re selling huge numbers of copies, or that you’ve gotten awesome reviews.
It takes one clown to post a negative review and you feel like total crap.
Then you start to think, “Will this affect my sales?”
Should this lead to a writer suing a reviewer for a bad review? I personally don’t think so but I ask this question in light of director Joshua Newton suing the showbiz bible Variety over its very bad review of his movie Iron Cross. Until this lawsuit was filed, I hadn’t read the review. Since then, Variety has yanked the review from its online archives and sacked most of its long term review staff. You can bet freelancer Robert Koehler who penned the review won’t be getting any work out of the mag again).
Here is yesterday’s article detailing the lawsuit. http://tinyurl.com/ya7jlwh
I’ve since located a paper copy of the review and yeah, it’s a bad one.
Koehler dismisses Iron Cross saying, “It will be remembered as [the late actor] Roy Scheider’s Swan Song and little else.”
Personally, I hate bad reviews. I hate the ones that seem to derive pleasure out of being hateful. I hate the ones that have the characters’ names wrong and a storyline that doesn’t resemble what I wrote. I hate the one star reviews of books I haven’t even WRITTEN yet…
But should writers and directors sue?
I don’t think so.
I understand Newton’s point, though. According to him (and others I have spoken to) Variety’s reviews are positioned to not only critique a movie’s content but its marketability. Have you seen Iron Cross at a movie theater near you?
No, you haven’t and according to Newton, he couldn’t get distribution once the review came out. How likely is this? I wonder.
To be honest kids, I’ve had books that had rave reviews and didn’t sell so well.
I’ve had books that have been rated poorly and I’ve even had my covers attacked.
My book A Vampire Christmas had the dubious distinction of being awarded the Worst Cover (thanks Jessewave!) yet remains one of my best-selling and, most pirated books.
So, go figure.
I say ignore the bad reviews, preen over the good ones if you’re having a sucky day, but mostly, don’t place too much value on their financial influence.
Reviews can help you sell. Sometimes not. It’s a crap shoot. It really is.
Having said that, I think reviewers need to be mindful that while it’s fun to dish out sarcastic and negative comments, remember that there is an author and a publisher behind the book.
Should this temper a reviewer’s comments? No.
Depending on the reviewer, I find the negative and positive comments helpful. However, I find very inexperienced reviewers are the ones who are most often quite…vile in their critique and not especially insightful in their comments.
A few years ago, I took on a gig as a sub editor on a daily paper in Los Angeles. There was a college student who came in that summer as an intern. She was excited to be reviewing rock concerts. She was even more excited once she landed the plum assignment of reviewing her favorite band.
I happened to pass her in the hall the morning after the concert and asked her what she thought of the show.
She raved about it. Her eyes shone and she bubbled with joy.
Then I got her review. It was horrible. I couldn’t believe it.
I could have edited it and sent it to bed (as we say in newspapers) but I called her to my desk and asked her to take a seat. I was gentle with her, but I needed to know.
Why had she raved about the show to me, yet panned it in print?
She blushed. She confessed it was harder for her to put into words what she appreciated and loved about the show. She was worried about what people would think.
“It’s so much easier to write a negative review than a positive one,” she said.
I disagreed and sent her back to rewrite it. She didn’t. The review went to another sub editor and I’ve often wondered if that writer ever thought twice about her actions.
She, to me, was a sloppy sort of writer and I hope she got editors in the future with a lot more power who could make her write an honest review.
As for the paper, they had to endure irate calls from the promoter who had gone to great lengths to provide her front row seats, backstage passes…yeah.
Life sucks when you are held accountable.
You can bet when the intern graduated, the paper wasn’t so keen to hire her…so there are always consequences.
That’s not to say reviewers shouldn’t speak their minds, they should. Be mindful however that there should be legitimate reasons behind your bad review, beyond wanting to be cool, sarcastic, amusing and bitchy.
How about you? How do you feel about bad reviews? And should people sue? I really want to know your thought.
It’s interesting how often Authors only recognize “legitimate” reviewers from sites they gave free books to for said review. How unbiased is that? It’s not. I would trust a review from someone that paid for the book over that of any of the “legitimate” review sites. goodreads, Amazon, Librarything allow those readers with nothing to gain by sucking up to the authors to tell it how they really found it.
When “inexperienced” reviewers add their thoughts on a book they spent their hard earned money on their opinion whether you agree or not is legitimate. I find it repugnant when they write less than glowing accounts and are attacked privately and in public for their thoughts and reactions by the author.
I think you would learn more from the inexperienced reviewer giving honest thoughts than to the ass kissers you have cultivated to say what you want to hear in a nice way that won’t ever hurt your feelings. Not to mention guarantee they continue to get free books from you to review…nicely.
Once you publish a book you should expect the public to talk about it. There is no bad publicity even if that publicity is a bad review.
Posted by Otto on March 18th, 2010 at 12:59 pm
Thanks for stopping by.
Like I said, I don’t think reviewers should be sued. As for the inexperienced reviewers I referenced, I think there is nothing to be gained from somebody who writes a negative review for the sake of it. I was very clear in my example here.
There is a big difference between an inexperienced reviewer and a reader airing their feelings and many times readers come up with very valid points. So do reviewers. Like I said, there is much to be learned from somebody making an honest criticism of a work. I don’t find value in a review that makes mistakes as pointed out – wrong character names, wrong plotline – I read sharp and often nasty reviews on review sites geared to readers. I sometimes wonder what on earth a reader is doing continuing to buy my books and reading them and continually slamming them. There is one woman in particular who does this with every release of mine. She has also given me 1 star reviews for unwritten works so clearly she has low expectations of me.
With over 50 books pubbed I have begun to scratch my head. Why does she keep reading me if she hates my work so much?
The answer is clear. I must have beaten her up in another life.
Would I sue her? Nope. I just hope she picks up a book she likes a bunch better one day and has something CONSTRUCTIVE to say
Posted by admin on March 18th, 2010 at 2:41 pm
Sue for a bad review? Not unless something written is grossly incorrect and libelous. Then that’s a *completely* different situation.
There are numerous authors who write incredibly formulaic stories. Is that good writing? To me, it’s not but I may be just one person in the crowd and the rest look forward to each and every release. When I’ve shared my thoughts via blogs, I like to mention that the formula doesn’t work for me while it obviously works for others.
To me, a review is that person’s opinion….and that person may or may not care for the author’s writing style, method of acting, whatever. For me, I could never give a good review of a movie with Julia Roberts in it. It doesn’t make it wrong and certainly doesn’t make it right.
Then there’s the old adage of how even bad publicity is good publicity. That’s not always the case, obviously, but word gets out there.
So, after all that, suing isn’t the answer and seems beyond frivolous for a bad review much less adding the burden of the jammed court system. Again, just my opinion……
Posted by Sherry F (from the Midwest) on March 18th, 2010 at 8:34 pm
Sorry, you’ve probably forgotten by now that you even wrote this – I actually jumped here from a negative review of (ok, someone objecting to, but that doesn’t fit as nicely) this blog post that I just read. I’m responding not as an author but a reader who sometimes writes reviews, which I prefer to call responses, since I’m not a professional, as well as a sometime director for theatre.
Now, professional critics too (or especially) have all too frequently made it their life’s work and pleasure to rain misery down on their helpless quarry. In the art world, there have been a mere handful of critics in the mid to late 20th century who have gleefully made and broken the careers — and lives — of countless artists. I suppose the Variety review can be seen in this context, and yet, if the review was well-considered, Variety should imo have firmly stood behind and supported its critic’s opinion, because that is the mandate of a respectable free and independent press (whether Variety is that or an industry organ, I don’t know or care, so I won’t argue the case).
And I find myself agreeing in essence with your (well-considered) assessment of the nature and role of reviewers both professional and amateur.
But I think the main and troubling subtext of this event does not get adequately addressed by you here (I know you opened the floor to discussion and appreciate that you do state you “don’t think reviewers should be sued). I strongly feel that reviewers should be actively protected from ever being sued for anything except gross factual misrepresentation and libel, and that any author worthy of the title should vociferously support this, regardless of how pissed off they might feel about a particular review or person. It’s the nature of the beast, which would otherwise become a monster.
Setting the precedent of suing over a bad review would irreparably destroy the reader/reviewer/writer dynamic. Like requiring the voter to sign her name on the ballet would destroy democracy (even further), although of course it’s a different for-instance based on the protection of anonymity rather than on your right to free speech, but you get the point. Would you WANT to have your book reviewed in a world in which reviewers daren’t write what they believe for fear of financial and legal reprisal?
What’s next, readers suing authors for ruining their day/life/relationship by refusing, in the last book, to meet the expectations set by prior ones or worse, being artistically daring by changing up their formula on the poor reader, who suffered grave personal harm because the dog died at the end? And for sheer self-preservation, each author would henceforth have to offer a money-back guarantee? No more ludicrous, I don’t think, than the other way round.
I direct plays (when I am lucky enough to find work), and they’re fragile, short-lived things that could also be prematurely murdered by a single trusted review. But while I might rail against the boorish ignorance of the reviewer and even allow myself (at the risk of appearing a right dick) to publish a counterargument, I would (at least publicly) defend the reviewer’s absolute right to his opinion, much as it might stick in my craw to do so. That’s what I let myself in for when I joined the game.
And I think that’s the major point that ought to be made here.
Posted by Goesta Struve-Dencher on February 23rd, 2013 at 2:10 pm
I have far from forgotten having posted this blog and I know the thread you are referring to that trashed it. I wrote this blog a long time ago and I did say I don’t think reviewers should be sued. I said in one sentence what you’ve said in multiple paragraphs. I could have deleted the post but didn’t. I stand by what I wrote. I don’t need to go in detail here. I cited a specific case and at the time it was a hot topic. Thanks for your comment but I too have had my share of bad reviews. I haven’t threatened to sue anyone. I just choose to ignore the really nasty reviews – especially of books I haven’t even WRITTEN yet!