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Book Reviewing Isn’t Simple – The Dark Truth of Author Bullying

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*Ok, I’m honestly a little scared of posting this as I don’t want any more harassment from the wrong people…

The above picture pretty much sums up how I feel today.  I’m exhausted and drained from all the horrible things that have happened recently.  I’ve faced cold distant treatment, attacks on facebook and now I’ve been bullied privately, all because I wanted to be honest and help out an author.

Back in October I wrote this post A Tough Decision – Don’t blame the Book Blogger Blame Your Fellow Indies 😦 after facing a load of abuse from some indie authors.  In the post I talked about my tough decision to stop reviewing indie books, but several weeks later, after having only good communications, I took back my ‘no-indie’ policy and started receiving indie requests again.  BEFORE I go on I must point out that this post isn’t talking about all the wonderful indie authors who are kind, deal with reviewers in a fair and pleasant manner and who take time and diligence in publishing books that are of top quality.  Those authors are the ones I had hoped to review for….But there’s a large amount of indie authors out there who aren’t nice, professional and release books with horrible errors and many of these authors have taken to attacking me.  😦

The Books…

First I’ll talk about the books and then about the attitude.  In the last few months I’ve faced an ever increasing pile of requests to review books which are of poor quality.  I’m not talking about books where the story feels a little weak or uninteresting to me, I’m talking about books written by people with such poor grammar, spelling and punctuation that I wonder if they can even speak English properly.  I’ve been actively refusing a large amount of review requests.  Now this doesn’t mean that every refusal has been on the grounds of poor quality, in the last few weeks I’ve refused on the grounds that I just don’t have the time to read any more books.  But the amount of poor quality books appearing on offer for review is…well honestly shocking and I’m getting more of them the longer I seem to leave my submissions open.

Some of the books I’ve taken for review have seemed okay from the ‘look inside’ feature on amazon.  The first chapter or two seem flawless and so if the story interests me I’ve taken it.  But many books seem to fail past the start, they get increasingly worse as you read on.  One book I read recently was so bad, the grammar was out the window and the story itself ended with no actual ending (it basically didn’t make sense) that at the end of reading it I felt like throwing my ereader against the wall.  It actually made me upset and a little angry that this book was considered on an equal par with other indie books by decent authors who work hard to edit, re-edit and produce top quality books.

The Attitude….

This has been something I’ve struggled to cope with and if you read on you’ll hear just how bad it’s gotten.  I’ve read quite a few terrible books from cover to cover.  At first, with the help and advice of a friend, I approached the authors kindly and pointed out little errors or in some cases bigger ones.  I never put down their book, in fact in most cases the story was good but the writing let it down, so I’d let authors know that there were grammar errors and such but word it in a vey kind way (a bit like my reviews still list positives along with the negatives).

At first I deal with authors whose attitude was professional.  Thanking me for telling them and in some cases giving me the go ahead to publish the review anyway.  But I now realise this was RARE.  In fact many of the authors I’ve contacted privately have been angry and nasty, criticising me and ‘how dare I’ say such things about their books.  Their attitudes have been so nasty and hateful that I’ve taken the easy route out (the route so many amazon top reviewers use) I simply started telling people: Sorry, I didn’t get along with your work so I can’t review it. 

Not every book has been terrible.  Sometimes I just didn’t enjoy a book and I tell the author and don’t review it, but most of the times I’ve told authors this it’s been for the reasons that their books were so bad….And yes, I chickened out of telling them why because of how cruel some of them have been.

*And so you know, many other amazon top reviewers I’ve spoken to over the last few months do the same – tell indies they can’t review the book as they ‘didn’t get along with it’ and most now refuse indies point blank!

The Bullying…

So now comes the ugly stuff.  I’m not going to go into great detail over what has been said and I’m certainly not going to name names but the truth is that I’ve spent the last few weeks in an ever growing depression due to the way I’ve been treated.  I’m not the type of person to openly admit I’m struggling, when I do finally tell people I’m usually at breaking point.  The other day when I wrote this powerful poem You Do Not Want The Truth (even if you don’t like poetry please read the words) I was trying to deal with all the abuse I’ve faced recently.  Not only have I faced authors who have used me, befriended me and then blanked me; and authors who have attacked me via facebook and some who have left ‘odd’ comments on my reviews and posts both here on my blog and amazon.  But now I am facing personal attacks via personal messages and email.

These messages are ugly, bullying put downs that I’ve only ever seen the likes of in the school playground.  Indie authors who don’t like to hear that their books aren’t the best 5 start thing in the world.  When I’ve told them I refuse to review it because I don’t feel it’s good enough to award a positive review, I get a barrage of comments, nasty comments that are so cruel and nasty that it makes me question why I’m doing this reviewing ‘job’ at all.

I review books for free.  I’ve never made money from this and I’m doing all authors a favour in reading their books and reviewing them.  It wastes my time to both read and have to write about a book that is terrible.  And no, it’s not a matter of taste – we all have books we may not like, but it’s not those books I’m talking about.  I’m talking about books where the English grammar, spelling and punctuation looks like it took a holiday.  It’s not fair on me, or indeed any reader, to even have to read such books, and it’s not fair to place these indie books alongside others by professional authors whose books are a quality standard equivalent of traditionally published authors.

The Solution…

I don’t have one.  No yet.  But I am going to take a break from this blog and reviewing.  I’m not going to disappear completely, but I can’t commit as much time as before…not until I feel better.  I know I have a backlog of books to review but I only hope authors can be patient with me as I’ll take my time doing these reviews.

As for the solution to what to do about the bullying.  Please tell me as I’m at a loss.  It’s certainly something that many good indie authors don’t want to talk about, either through fear, ignorance or maybe because you don’t want to antagonise or talk about the negatives.  But the truth is that many authors…not some…MANY have a bad attitude towards reviewers and anyone who says their books aren’t good.  It’s giving all indies a bad name and that’s not fair.

So many authors ask me to give my honest opinion, but when I am honest and write a review from a readers/buyers perspective I get hounded and abused online.  It’s not fair on anyone.  It’s not fair on me and this whole process and the way I am feeling right now makes me wonder if it’s worth continuing to review books if I get such hatred for being honest. 😦

*Again I feel the need to emphasise that a large proportion of authors are good and civil and very professional in dealing with me as a reviewer and in creating flawlessly written and edited books.  But the amount of the authors with a bad attitude that I’ve met seems to be increasing :/

If you have any comments please discuss but keep comments civil please.


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Book Reviewing Isn’t Simple – The Dark Truth of Author Bullying Daily prompt written by C the happymeerkat on Happymeerkatreviews.  Conveniently links with today’s daily prompt word: simple

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169 thoughts on “Book Reviewing Isn’t Simple – The Dark Truth of Author Bullying

  1. This is horrific. People are such turds, they really are. Please take care of yourself, step back, do whatever it takes to reset and recover. You, and the other reviewers like you, are doing a wonderful thing and most authors are appreciative and grateful. I confess, I seldom seek reviews because my books are a hard sell, indeed, most of the main dpsites won’t touch them with a barge pole. However, if people don’t enjoy my work it’s allowed! Any author who can’t cope with rejection or with the occasional reader disliking their stuff shouldn’t be writing.

    I suppose stupid comes in every shade but I’d be tempted to publish screen shots of the emails and comments, myself, because these people are damaging every other independent authors reputation as well as their own.

    Good luck and God bless.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry for all the trouble you’ve been going through. Even if they’re not happy with the review, just because they can’t accept it, doesn’t mean they can attack the reviewer on it. In the end, it just looks poorly on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello. I’m an indie author and I found your blog post because it was linked in one of the groups I’m part of. The things you’ve been put through are terrible. I’m sorry that people have treated you that way. When I put out my first book the one thing I saw every where was don’t respond to reviews, good or bad, don’t do it. I’m thankful if someone took the time to not only buy and read my book, but to also leave a review. The not so flattering ones hurt, it’s human to feel a little twinge of pain, but it comes with the territory. I say you went above and beyond by contacting the author privately before publishing your review. Just because you agreed to review the book doesn’t mean you agreed to give it high praise. At the end of the day I would like the honest feedback, even if it hurts. How else am I supposed to grow as a writer? Indie authors do face a stigma and hearing what you went through doesn’t help in anyway. A few bad apples are spoiling the bunch for the rest of us. 😦 Take care of yourself and I hope the bullying stops and you can get back to enjoying reading and reviewing for the fun of it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve just clicked on the link to your site via Rosie Amber’s blog. What an awful experience, I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. There’s some great advice in the comments though. I’d like to add that there’s no excuse for writers not re-editing their ebooks if a reviewer points out language errors. The process is really simple (I, non-techie, figured it out) so it’s just laziness not to correct your mistakes. I also saw a comment from someone who had been involved with Vanity Publishing. When Amazon created the opportunity for aspiring authors to self-publish I gave a huge cheer for democracy. But as time has passed it’s become clear some authors are abusing the opportunity and publishing work that is frankly sub-standard. Maybe that notion of ‘vanity’ is behind the reactions of those who can’t stand honest criticism!
    Hope you’re feeling better now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. First, I am so, honestly sorry that you have been treated this way. As an indie author myself, I almost feel like I shouldn’t join this discussion, I am so ashamed at the idea of being associated with these jerks.

    But thank you for being so brave and speaking up. And more than that, I totally agree with what you’re saying.

    About a year ago, I tried reading a few self-published books (since I’d started thinking of getting into self-publishing). The locally released books I found were terrible. The spacing looked like the software crashed 500 times during printing. The spelling/punctuation/grammar errors made it clear this person had been playing Candy Crush on their phone during English class. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me who was speaking when, or when the next paragraph had started, or what the heck was going on. And you’re right, if there was an amazing story in there, as a reader, who could tell?

    Then I took a chance on an indie author who had joined my social media community. His novel was thoroughly well-edited, and I found maybe 3 or 4 minor things (like the spacing was off a tad, or the grammar was slightly incorrect). But they were so minor, it didn’t get in the way of the reading at all. The story was well-thought-out, and the only issues I had with the plot were things of personal taste for me, and in fact, I even gave this book a good review, because I determined it was well-written, and just because it wasn’t for me, didn’t mean others wouldn’t enjoy it.

    As I’m getting ready to print my first novel this spring, I am almost going batty over catching and correcting every single little thing in my manuscript that has an issue. But it will be worth it to my readers.

    Thank you so much for standing up and being brave to share these things we need to talk about. It isn’t right that you’ve been treated this way. Please have faith that most of “us” aren’t like that at all. And as a writer, and a reader, I greatly appreciate any reviewer who tries to give an honest but thoughtful and considerate review.

    Hope you’re doing better now!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am an indie author as well as a book reviewer. I have ran across the same problem with giving honest reviews. I have to admit when I first published, I didn’t use an editor/proofreader. I couldn’t afford one. And, yes, I got zinged for my editing issues. I use an editor & proofreader now. But that still doesn’t mean errors won’t happen. Some authors think that if you are an author & book reviewer, you automatically have to give 5 stars to reviews. Really? I give my reviews as a reader. TBH, most books don’t deserve a 5 star. Not even mine. Anyway, here’s hoping you get back to your reviews. I really do enjoy them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m late to this one (just got back from another India trip) so please forgive my tardy comments. But I really do know where you’re coming from. In my submission guidelines, I tell authors that if I feel I can’t give three stars, I will stop reading their book and cancel the review. I remind them that while their book isn’t a good fit for me, it may well be appreciated by a different reviewer. I no longer offer specific details UNLESS their book clearly violates my submission guidelines. Does it stop the abuse? No. But until now, I thought it cut down on it. But lately, I have to agree with you that the vitriol levels have risen. I don’t know why, except for a nagging suspicion that people generally are more short-tempered, and that political signals are giving a green light to expressing sentiments they might have kept to themselves before.

    As an author who has a publisher and also indie books, I’m worried. As a reviewer, I don’t have answers. But I don’t like it.

    Thank you for this brave and thoughtful post. And good luck with your reviews.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’ve only just come across this post today (via Terry and Rosie!) and I’m truly shocked at what has been happening to you. I don’t know you but send virtual hugs and hope that life has improved considerably for you since you wrote this. To be honest I would feel like naming and shaming these authors after all you have been through. That would be a warning to other book bloggers out there to steer clear. Now I’ve found you however I shall follow in the hope that I see you back reviewing and blogging when you feel up to it. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s a shame that this kind of thing happens. If you’re a writer and you’re putting your work out there, then you need to take all the weight that comes with it and that includes accepting the possibility (in some cases, the fact) that not everyone is going to like your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am an indi author and actually feel the need to apologise for the way others have treated you. I am someone who pays for a professional editor and proofreader, and can honestly say that the bad review I got was not down to grammar. However, when the reviewer asked if I wanted her to post the unflattering review I instantly said yes. At the end of the day I asked for an honest review and that’s what she gave me. I think some people just can’t handle criticism. But please keep in mind we are not all the same, and many traditionally published authors can be just as unwilling to take criticism. That being said, I’m still appalled to hear what you have been through. If I were you I would just read books for fun for a while, perhaps it will help to not have to think about reviewing them. I hope this all blows over for you soon, and you start to feel happy again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your support ❤ I have been taking some time away and it has certainly helped. I don't mind reviewing books but I think taking the pressure off how many and how often I review, and which books, is helping :). I do know traditionally published authors can be bad too and I don't blame or put all indies under the same umbrella, it's just having to find a way of separating the bad from the good. Thank you again ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I am so so sorry you have had this response from indie authors it makes me ashamed to be one. If only these people had written for a living and had work criticized time and time again – you learn and you improve as a result, even if you don’t agree with the client, s/he pays the bills and is therefore always ‘right’. I don’t trust some of the reviews I’ve had and I find that a worry. I had to persuade the author who only wanted to give me a 3 star review to post it – I stand by what I believe in. I love to read and review but I am so conscious that if I pm and say, look, this is not … then I’m open to trolls giving me a run of 1 stars which may or may not be justified (it has happened) and that flattens your chances of being accepted for book promotions. Like you I was shocked by cyber bullying, many of these people have never met you, don’t know what you are like and are cowards to hide behind social media. I wish you well in whatever decisions you take and please remember there are some nice authors out there who applaud you for your honesty and in writing these blogs have earned our utmost respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your support ❤ I don't want to abandon all the indie authors who are nice, but it's hard to find true authors who could take a criticism (if there is one ) from those that will attack in whatever way they can. I know the same thing happens with reviewers able to attack authors online too with scathing reviews that just berate the novel rather than add any valuable insight into why it could be bad. I think social media has a lot to blame for this. It is so easy to be able to leave comments and attack people and in some cases even build up support for the attack. I don't know if you would like me to review for you in the future, if you truly were okay with an honest review no matter what the rating. But if you did then perhaps you could email me and I'll be able to keep you in the loop of when I open up submissions again. I'm not going to openly announce I'm open and I want to only review for authors who can truly handle honesty (though none of my reviews have ever been nasty or indeed all negative). My reading list is too big at the moment but I have promised one author who has spoken privately as you have that I will let her know when I'm open. Of course no problems if you don't want one either, I'm just not sure when I will open up at the moment, I still need to take some time to myself at the moment :). Thank you again for all your support and for commenting ❤

      Like

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