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When Constructive Criticism = Lost Friendship, A Sad but True Story

So today I want to talk about something which has recently happened to me and at the end I’d really like your opinions on this subject, whether good or bad, I’d really like to open a discussion to all writers, artists and well, anyone who has an opinion…

Since becoming a reviewer and more importantly a book reviewer I’ve had the amazing chance of meeting lots of people, especially authors, many of whom I’ve come to call friends.  After reviewing a book for one author we started chatting and found we had a lot in common and as a result, like many internet friendships, we would chat, email, etc.

Like with many authors I’ve met I also tried to help them, I introduced them into the world of wordpress, helping to create a skeleton of a website (they really were clueless at first), helped them set up a goodreads profile and every now and then I pointed out a good website or blog post as they did for me.

Me being a reviewer this author still wanted me to review their latest book.  Of course there’s always the thought that you shouldn’t get friends to review for you, but I am professional when it comes to my reviews and this author wanted to have my opinion on their latest book.  In fact I was told ‘Whether you do or don’t like it, I’d still like you to tell me what you think’.  So I duly read the novel and at the end, rather than just reviewing it, I talked to my author friend first.

The novel was good, very good, but I personally felt something was lacking in part of the writing and so I told them that I preferred their other novel (the first one I’d read from them a while back) and would give this one a 4 star rating if I was to publically review it.  This clearly had a negative impact on this author who decided not to speak to me via email, messages, etc. for several days, throwing me out of admin controls of their website at the same time.

I’ll admit I was both shocked and a little upset by this behaviour.  I hadn’t even told my friend what it was that made the book a 4 rather than a 5 star for me and I actually wanted to help them improve their novel pre-release.  But they just didn’t want to speak to me.

A few days later though they seemed to come around, and conversation returned to normal.  I still hadn’t told them what it was that I didn’t quite like about their book, but I let them know I could elaborate if they wanted to know, I didn’t want to push the subject any further.  After a day or two I had just created my first facebook page for my site and we were joking about how many fans there are of meerkats on facebook.  Little did I know that this was the last conversation I would have with this person.

The next day I had my accident with my eye.  I went into hospital and lost vision in one eye due to a horrible bleeding in my left eye (more on that can be read in my post titled Doctor’s Don’t Always Know Best… ).  I had sent a message to this author who was my friend and who had called me a good friend, telling them of my accident, however I heard nothing from them.  I didn’t consider it a big deal until I read an email from them that came in the same time I was in hospital, a strange email that was very cold, virtually said nothing but that they ‘didn’t want to know what it was about the book that I didn’t like and didn’t want to know how it could be improved’  While everyone else on wordpress here were sending their messages of support for me, this was the only correspondence I got from this author.  I tried contacting them again but I’ve never received a reply and can only guess my email address and other communications have been blocked.

While this was only ever an internet friendship, it is still sad to see any friendship you have with someone dissolve and especially in this way.  While I could be upset or mad at this person for the way they spoke to me, they were very negative about my latest review despite the good things I said, and their apparent apathy towards someone who’s been in an accident, but I’m not.  I don’t feel upset at them, I’m not angry at them, I just have a sense of sadness over what happened.

Of course the review may not be the only reason for this cold distancing behaviour.  Maybe I upset them with something else I said, although honestly I really have no idea what it could be.  Whatever it is that is making this author ‘friend’ act like a donkey towards me just doesn’t matter anymore, however I am left with some questions and I’d like your help if you can take the time to comment.

Firstly there’s the constructive criticism.  When is constructive criticism constructive and when does it turn into just criticism?  If anyone’s a writer or artist out there, how much critique would you actually like to hear about your work?  Of course nobody wants to hear someone telling them they didn’t enjoy their book, but we all have different tastes and differ opinions on what makes a novel good or bad so what are your views on criticism?  Same question for anyone who’s ever created something, how much criticism would you say is constructive and how much would you be willing to hear, if any?

The second point is a personal one and it’s about the reviews I wrote for this author friend.  Should I keep the reviews up on amazon for this author’s books?  Of course the professional in me says yes.  But I am human and part of me wonders if I should take them down or at least the latest one?  If this was a straightforward review for a stranger I’d have no issues with that stranger hating my review, but this was someone who called me a good friend and who acted extremely ungrateful for the 4 star review I had posted (even though they told me to post it).  And so please what do you think I should do with these reviews?

So to make it clear and open up a discussion:

Do you welcome constructive criticism?  When does constructive criticism just become criticism?

and

Should I delete one or both reviews?

Please comment whether you’re a wordpresser or not, all comments are welcome and I’d really like to hear your thoughts.  Thank you!

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29 thoughts on “When Constructive Criticism = Lost Friendship, A Sad but True Story

  1. As a new novelist and a new ‘friend’ who has submitted my novel for your review, here are my thoughts.
    1. When asking for a review, I am asking for an honest review. How else can I improve my product unless I get honest feedback.
    2. I would be thrilled with a 4 star review, especially on a first novel.
    3. I have already suffered the cutting review of my editor who told me I should learn how to write first before creating my first novel. The editor sent me the titles of three books he thought I should read before tackling a rewrite. I can’t think of a more helpful review than that. How refreshing to get honesty and advice all at once. I purchased the books and rewrote whole sections of the novel before publishing.
    4. With regard to internet friends, I think you can be friendly but not really true friends without spending physical time together. This author was not your friend.
    5. If you are developing an audience that reads and trusts your reviews, then you must be honest with each and every review. Your audience is depending on your reviews before spending their hard earned money on entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. This incident with that author happened a while back but at the time I was a sad mess. I think it was both a combination of being new to the blogging/reviewing world and I wasn’t a keen internet goer so I was a little naïve in how some people can act. It certainly pushed me back for a bit but I’ve come out of this a much better and happier person (as expressed in my final part 3 which I just published ).
      I will always be honest with my reviews and I think the problems were all down to the authors own insecurities about their work (and a bit of my own naivety). It is more a waste for that author than myself. I won’t stop writing honest reviews and my reviews are always for the readers and not for the authors. Though I know how not to be cruel too.
      I think also that author possibly didn’t go though having anyone else really edit their work. You say your editor really helped with ‘criticising’ what was necessary but I don’t think that author, from conversations I remember, actually had anyone do that so perhaps that was another reason they so easily got upset.
      The whole experience has had an overall positive impact though and things are going well for me these days :). Thank you for taking the time to read through it, I must have sounded a bit of a mess when I wrote this post lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, I don’t think anyone likes criticism of any kind, constructive or otherwise. I think especially when it is something they have worked hard to achieve. The trouble is, what they are really asking you to do is tell them you love it as much as they do. The fact that they had no interest in your further assessment shows they were offended by your initial review.

    I also have to say that facebook or any social media “friend” is as virtual as the media in which your relationship exists. This person is not your friend in any valid way and particularly not in a way that should leave you feeling sad for their loss.

    I’m pleased that the outcome of your eye problems seems to be positive and I really wouldn’t concern yourself with this person again. There are so many wonderful people in the blogging community. People who will uplift you, don’t waste another moment on this person. I would remove any trace of them and think no more about it. Spend your time with people who appreciate your efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting and for the advice. You are right, it is wonderful to meet so many kind hearted and genuine people through wordpress here and these people show true interest in my writing and opinions. I won’t spend any more time feeling sad, I think I went through a little of a lost period where I didn’t know what to think but you’re right it’s not worth thinking about the ‘friend’. If they were a true friend they wouldn’t have treated me the way they have and still ignore me. Thank you again for commenting, I really appreciate your support and advice

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so sorry that you lost a friendship over this. It sounds to me that this person was hoping for an endorsement rather than an honest review with the goal of making good writing even better. I would hope that any person asking for constructive criticism would welcome the input of someone like yourself- especially when reviewing is clearly your forte! I would leave the review as is. You have acted professionally, and therefore have nothing to regret or apologize for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. Your words mean a lot and it’s great to have such support. I will leave the reviews up, after all it took my time to write them :). Sorry I haven’t visited your blog so often. I’m struggling to keep up with all my blogs and also posting.

      Like

  4. Firstly I am glad you wrote this, I know we discussed this situation a little and I think it was good for you to get this off your chest and to let others know that constructive criticism is not a personal attack.

    Secondly, any writer who is going to freak out over a 4 star review is going to be a bad writer. Maybe not bad at writing but bad in the sense of personality. 4 stars is great.

    This is actually a personal pet peeve of mine (runs slightly off topic) I have a little etsy shop and I always found tons of sellers on the forum complaining that buyers have left them 4 out of 5 stars. I personally think this complaining and even chasing buyers asking them for 5 stars has driven many buyers from leaving any reviews. It’s a bad attitude that makes someone think they should automatically get full 5 stars. In the end it’s an opinion.

    Someone will love this person’s book 100% someone will hate it and there will be many more throughout that spectrum.

    You were gracious and professional and their behaviour was shocking and unforgivable.

    I am sorry you lost a friendship, but as they have shown, it would not have been a good friendship in the end if they can turn so sharply on someone they called friend.

    Blessings
    Ari

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. I don’t have any thing on etsy but I do review on amazon as well and have had Chinese sellers bug me for leaving 4 stars too. Chinese sellers however I put in a different place but it is very frustrating and annoying to be asked to change a rating. I’m sorry you encounter so many people like this. I think every review is a priveledge to get and that writer will never improve themselves without taking constructive criticism. I’m feeling far better these days as I know I’ve done all I could do to help and I’ve decided to leave the reviews as I’m professional. It’s such a shame there are so many negative people who believe they deserve praise. I’m glad I’ve met supportive and like minded people here on WordPress 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  5. We already talked a bit about this… It’s very disappointing for someone to stop being your friend over something that isn’t even negative in the first place! A 4 star review is amazing. Now if you gave that book a 1-star review without giving any legitimate reasons, then I can see why the author would be upset. However, your reviews are always honest, thorough, and fair. Keep on the great work! 🙂

    As for constructive criticism… That is entirely needed in order for an author to grow creatively. The keyword here is constructive. I’d prefer someone to point out my weaknesses and how to improve them instead of say something along the lines of, “I really like it” or “This isn’t that good.” The first statement gives you an ego boost at best, and the later just upsets me, because there isn’t anything there for me to work with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I am still surprised that a 4 star review was seen as negative. Books are subjective and to a certain degree there’s always going to be less positive reviews from those that just don’t like a certain genre or writing style, though I personally like most types of book:D. Thank you, you’ve certainly brightened my day with your words and the encouragement I’ve had from you and others here has really boosted my own confidence and motivated me to keep going with the reviews. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I am a bit late reading your post and anything I was going to say has already been said and said better than I could ever have done! Your friend needs to grow up a little and/or grow a thicker skin. If a person wishes to be a successful author, actor, artist or poet they have to learn to accept criticism and not be too precious about their work. You have done nothing wrong and from my knowledge of your work I am sure you gave an excellent review. Try not to worry about all this – I am sure you have done nothing wrong.
    I hope your eye is beginning to improve. Get as much rest as you can and fretting over a very silly person won’t do you any good at all! (Sounding like a mother here – sorry! 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. :). I don’t mind you sounding like a mother, lol, I think I needed to hear those words anyway.
      My eye is taking its time but I’m going back and forth to the hospital for treatment and according to doctors there no permanent damage so I think I’ll be fine, and my vision has improved a little in that eye. Thank you for asking, I haven’t spoken to you that much online and you are a truer friend than that author, thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I had this happen to me a lot, so I will only try to give an advice (that, mind you, might not be a good one!) (don’t say I didn’t warn you!) : do not let this one person make you fearful and dread conversing and befriending other people on blogs, goodreads, or wherever on the interwebs. You did something from your honest heart.
    People, and writers in general, tend to ask for criticism, especially from friends, for various reasons, one of them even being to develop a thicker skin when they come from strangers (cause to a lot of us, it is easier to hear something honest and bad from someone we know, than from a stranger.). There is however people and writers, who expect star treatment even though they state it otherwise. For them, the friendship you develop is not only a friendship, it is marketing as well. Sad, but honestly, it is often true.
    I don’t think you should delete the reviews. Knowing you, even for so little a time and little conversations compared t this other author, I think you gave them from the honest heart. I can see that someone mistreating you like this and hurting you, even, especially at a time where you would expect your friends, be they internet or not, be there for you, can make you not want to give their products and practices a good luck. But I would leave them. May this be the last good thing this person got from you, honestly and from the heart. But if it bothers you too much, if it makes you feel like you are betraying yourself and putting a blackness over your mind that isn’t really there, by all means :delete the reviews.
    This is the tricky part, because authors often try to befriend reviewers in order to get a more favourable review, because the emotional side matters. To use an example, I would not feel inclined to read a book written by a convicted serial rapist. I would not want to read and review a book of someone who acts as a scumbag to me. You don’t have to be nice, you can be cordial and concise, and that is enough. Don’t sweet-talk me just to get something! 🙂
    As for constructive criticism, I welcome it. It hurts me, oh, big time. But I am a stubborn little fairy, and chances are, if I find the criticism given to be biased or misplaced, I will not take heed of it. I don’t have any thick skin, and am also a cry baby, but I prefer honesty regarding my books, writing, photography, digital art – because, ultimately, the sweet-talking so I review a book back or give a Like to someone’s post feels even more hurtful, and even more, it feels degrading. I especially like criticism like you give it, listing both good and bad sides, giving some ideas and info to author – instead of just saying Ye, this sucks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I will leave the reviews up, I did take the time to write them so that’s the part of me that doesn’t want to delete them. I honestly had no idea some people befriend reviewers in order to get better reviews…It doesn’t work on me unfortunately, lol. It’s such a shame so many people do this, if someone’s work is good then they should feel proud to get an honest review (and besides my review for that friend was 4 stars!). Thank you for the compliment on the way I review, I always try to see the good and if there is any bad the bad. I certainly never want to upset someone, just try to let them know what didn’t work for me.
      Even though we’ve only spoken a little online I have to say I really do value your friendship and thank you for all your kind words, I think I’ve thanked you 3 or more times in this post alone 😀 I do mean it though!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Criticism, is always best written in, (as in my own opinion, although other readers may not agree), being an author myself, for me it is constructive, pushing me to think harder, and yes it does hurt a tad, although one must teach thyself to accept this as positive, some can not because of pride along with other reasons.
    As a reviewer, you are a professional, leave the reviews up, you did your job. One review I was asked to do, would have been rated a 3, i contacted the author and told him my findings and why, asking if he wanted the review posted, needless to say, he was extremely upset, refusing further contact with me, oh well, what can I say, you want to help, but they have to want the help, leave it alone and move on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I will leave the reviews up, afterall I did take the time to write them and I still think the books deserve the rating I game them. I’m sorry to hear you’ve also experienced this. I think these authors just cannot see the difference between something constructive and blatant criticism, that and the fact that everyone forms a personal opinion on a book. Thank you again, you’ve been very kind to me through this and I wish I could give you a hug of thanks :).

      Like

  9. This is really a sad way for a friendship to end. I too get all emotionally winded up when something like that happens.
    Coming to your questions, I guess as a professional you could just leave the reviews as they are. Unless you really wanna avenge 😋, cause someone who may have read your review and picked up the book, won’t do it!
    Criticism does cause a prick to the heart, but if you aren’t ready to listen to areas of errors, how are you going to improve? I have had some wonderful friends critique my work. The same was admired by few while others felt it was just above average. So, weigh on what you can pick for improvement and work on them! – would be my approach!
    Don’t bother about such people as they showed their worth! Relax and hope you’ve recovered well!
    Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It is a shame as all I wanted to do was help my friend. I will leave the reviews I think, I have no hatred for this person and despite their actions (or lack of) towards me, I still want their books to sell well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. To start, you have to remember that reviews are written for the readers. Yes! That’s right, I said readers. They are not written for the writers -I know I have a hard time with that, too. They are written for readers to decide whether or not to by buy the book. Simple as that.

    The more fuss that is made by the author because of a not so impressive review the worse things get.- as you are finding.

    Should you remove or delete your reviews? Only if you want to stop potential customers from reading the book. Your opinion counts. You went to a lot of effort to read it and write your thoughts. I don’t believe that you should take them down.

    The friendship, that is a different matter. It seems as though you and the writer have ended your relationship and perhaps at a time where you weren’t keen to end it so soon. And now you are feeling discomfort and possibly guilt around the timing. You don’t need to feel guilt. I know it is unfortunate the person didn’t appreciate your honesty. They will adjust. And, hopefully, they will remember the reason to have reviews: for the readers or customers who are looking to enjoy a book, not to stroke somebody’s ego.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and advice. I think this author just wasn’t ready to hear any form of criticism, and it coming from me, a friend, clearly made it worse. I hope they adjust, just a shame the way It ended, not even a goodbye, just no more contact.
      I hope you and others will continue to read and enjoy my reviews, whatever my opinion may be.

      Like

  11. The only way to make your book the best it can be is by listening to others opinions and criticisms during the beta reading stages. It may hurt at first, but often if you look objectively at the advice there will be things you can take from it and use to improve your story.

    It’s a shame to fall out over something like this. I would probably just leave the review on and try to stop thinking about it. A 4 star review is still brilliant, I’m sure you will have pointed out lots of good things in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I did point out good things, yes. It’s just a shame, as you say, that this author threw away a friendship over this. It’s just an internet friendship, but still a friendship.
      Thank you again, I appreciate your commenting :).

      Liked by 1 person

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