Let me first say that I will, until the day I die, defend a reader’s right to give an honest assessment—good or bad—about any author’s work, my own included. It's their right, and after all, that’s what reviews are about. It’s a safe bet to say that opinions will vary greatly in this business, often going from one extreme to the other. Some may love a book, some may hate it, while others may have no opinion either way. I get that. But do they also have the right to be disrespectful or even downright mean?
I’m not so sure.
I do come across these from time to time and it kind of bothers me. I suppose that’s because as an author, I understand how incredibly difficult it is to write a novel and how much we give of ourselves during that process. Granted, we choose to make ourselves fair game—it’s what we sign up for. I’m just not sure whether ridicule and name-calling are supposed to be part of the deal. And if a reader wants people to take his or her review seriously, isn't that more likely to occur if they give their opinion in a manner that's thoughtful rather than disrespectful and angry?
|photo by Hannibal Poenaru|
I once had a reader call one of my books dumb, stupid, and ridiculous, not once, but four times in a review. Fortunately, his opinon was in the minority; most of the eighty-six reviews were five starred. But even so, I found it a bit troubling. I can’t imagine what I’d done to make him so angry—after all, it’s just a book—but I have to wonder if whatever that was, it merited such hostility.
I also have to wonder if he realized that as authors, most of us write because we want to give our readers enjoyment and that we’re just as disappointed when we don't as they are—maybe even more so.
Of course, I do realize this is the exception, that the majority who leave reviews on Amazon are extremely courteous and constructive, even when they don’t like a book.
But I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter, both as readers and as writers. Is it no-holds-barred where reviews are concerned? Is an opinion just an opinion, no matter how strong the language might be? Do we, as authors, give up the right to be human, to have feelings, and does our right to get respect end where the word "published" begins?