Every writer gets trashed, sooner or later. And there isn’t a darned thing you can do about it, if you don’t want to make the situation worse. I just had my first experience, and it isn’t pleasant. A person who just reviewed Hidden Boundaries and gave it one star on Goodreads was apparently pissed because I gave two stars some time back to a book she loves. Apparently, no one has the right to differ from her in their opinion of a book.
So what did she say about Hidden Boundaries? “As a serious work it lacks depth, originality and charm. The characters are composed of construction-grade spruce with equally contrived inner conflicts.” I’d consider her entitled to her opinion – if she had actually read it. She spend the first half of the review of the book she’s defending on her diatribe, calling Hidden Boundaries master-slave erotica, which it isn’t, because I don’t write erotica. She points out that you can read a sample at Amazon and won’t have to spend any money on it, and admits that she was “unable to finish even a few paragraphs as it is quite juvenile both in style and content)” She’s obviously miraculously insightful if she can discern so much about the book from the first few paragraphs.
Not content with trashing my book, she goes on to trash me, personally. And I should mention that she joined Goodreads just this month. She put my name in quotes to imply that it’s probably not my name, and has “discovered” that I have a reputation for trashing new authors. Even worse, I had the nerve to give a Hugo winner a “lashing,” as if there aren’t plenty of Hugo winners who come in for their fair share of criticism. In her final crushing blow she says I “wrote a nearly identical review to the one she gave . . .” I won’t mention the name of the book because I don’t want anybody hunting her down and starting a ruckus. Since each of my reviews is completely individual, I’m wondering where she got that little tidbit. Would it be fair to say she made it up, along with my bad reputation?
Okay, so why am I going into such detail about someone who adored a very bad book and apparently took my review as a personal insult? Even though I wrote the review months before she showed up? Because this is so typical of attacks that other writers have had to put up with. Lies, distortions, and personal attacks that have nothing to do with the book under consideration are becoming par for the course. And often enough, if the author tracks the reviewer down, it isn’t unusual to find that the reviewer is the author of the book or a book that might conceivably be in competition. More usually, we’re dealing with a friend or a fanatical fan of the author who got a bad review.
This is one of the reasons that many authors don’t write book reviews. No matter how honest and objective your reviews are, you never know when they’re going to come back and bite you in the ass, for whatever reason, whether it’s about competition, someone’s ego, or just plain crazy. Normally, I don’t even bother to review books unless I can give them at least three stars. So this one did come back to bite me.
Checking more closely, I now see that it’s a coordinated attack, since Hidden Boundaries received three one star ratings in a row. One person went to the trouble of giving one star to all four of my books. Which probably means that all three are either fans of the author or actually the author herself, using different IDs — sock puppets. Or is it just coincidence that all three people are new to the site? I wrote to Goodreads with the details, but don’t seriously expect them to do anything. It’s happened to other writers there, and Goodreads doesn’t seem to care very much.
So beware, if you’re an author and you write reviews. This is a problem that’s getting worse, and you need to consider how it will impact your own books.