A few days ago I came across a review of Mark Lawrence’s second Broken Empire novel, King of Thorns (link), which is up for nomination for the David Gemmell Legend Awards in the Legend category. The Legend Award is given to the Best Novel of the previous year. On Twitter and Facebook, I talked about how that review justified all my reasons and fears for not reading further into this series after my experiences with the first novel, Prince of Thorns (review).
My tweets eventually spawned off a discussion about negative reviews, which led into the review that forms the basis and reason for this entire post. In January last year, reviewer Liz Bourke wrote about Michael J. Sullivan’s first Riyria Revelations novel, Theft of Swords (link). This review was brought to my attention by a friend on Twitter who had taken exception to the way that Liz Bourke took potshots at the author and his editors at Orbit Books.
Going through the review and the comments thread, some things become apparent to me as to the intent of the review, the tone it is written in, and what, ultimately, were the reactions. However, what really ended up happening was that it all sparked off some self-examination about negative reviews. And that’s what this post is all about.
So welcome to another Publishing and Marketing blogpost.
So right now on Twitter and Facebook, there is an intense debate brewing regarding (as of when I started writing this last night), essentially, the right of authors to step into blogger-space to offer commentary on reviews, whether they are stepping in to correct mistakes in a review, or making narratives clearer by offering their intentions with the choices they made, or whatever else. It all started with a highly condescending blogpost on the Strange Horizons website, by blogger Renay. And that in itself is an extension of a review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series on the Book Smugglers blog. The comments sections on both posts are very illuminating.
Now, before I get into the meat of my argument about the behaviour displayed by the people concerned, I’ll say this outright: this kind of behaviour pisses me off. This is why I sometimes hate being a reviewer because it is people like Renay and Ana at Book Smugglers who outright give reviewers a bad name, whether they realise it or not.
Hence, why this article is titled Writers Welcome and Reviewing Etiquette. So, here’s another Publishing and Marketing post. As always comments are most welcome, whether you are an author or a reviewer or just a reader.
Being withing the publishing-related blogosphere, etiquette is becoming ever more important day by day. Week on week there is some instance where etiquette breaks down and some kind of meltdown happens. Last year was especially notorious in that regard with several controversies stemming from reviews over at Goodreads where authors and their posse attacked reviewers for negative comments or even vice versa where reviewers (Goodreads reviewers to be specific) engaged in deliberate author baiting.
It was so bad for a while, in my opinion, that it was as if Goodreads was just going to implode and gain a certain notoriety to such an extent that authors would just give up on the site altogether. Fortunately, that never happened.
In recent times, it has all been replaced by a beast of another kind: reviewers baiting each other or authors engaging in some really despicable bigoted thinking that is absolutely vile (no, I’m not referring to a certain “master” SF author here). The latest example of the reviewer baiting happened a few days ago over at Fantasy Faction. And the culprit happened to be none other than “Overlord” Marc Aplin, who runs the site and is its chief editor.