Anonymity, Reviews, and the Definition of “Bullying”

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve already heard about the petition requesting that Amazon require reviews to be posted under the reviewer’s “real” name. Last I heard, the petition had about 6,000 signatories, including Anne Rice. The idea here is that, if people are required to use their real names when reviewing books, they will be less likely to post “bullying” reviews.

Lots of people have posted their thoughts about this, but I really have to address the mindset behind these movements that set out to reduce “bullying” in the review sphere. Put simply, I find instances of anything that resembles ACTUAL bullying in reviews to be so few and far between that calls to put an end to it are a bit like recent legislative efforts to prevent/end voter fraud. I mean, sure, it sounds like a solid idea in principle: voter fraud is clearly a bad thing. It’s just that the actual problem with voting in the US is that people who are eligible to vote DON’T, not that people who aren’t eligible DO. Similarly, the problem in the review sphere ISN’T that people leave lots of bullying reviews, but rather that to few are comfortable leaving reviews at all.

Let’s define bullying, shall we? I like the Wikipedia definition:

“Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others.”

When an author tells me he/she has been on the receiving end of a “bullying” review, I always ask what they mean by bullying. Most of the time, what I’m told is that this author has a fellow author nemesis who has set up a sockpuppet account to leave cruel one-star reviews on the first author’s books. This is “bullying” because the writer of the review is doing it solely to damage the author’s sales and improve his/her own.

Except, no, that’s not bullying. It’s fraudulent (assuming you can prove that the reviewer is actually sockpuppeting and not just someone you suspect of it) and it’s certainly vindictive (again, assuming you’re right that it’s a jealous author and not just a reader who genuinely didn’t like your book), but it’s not the use of force, threat or coercion. It’s the expression of an opinion. Period. And unless the reviewer has enough time on his/her hands to set up multiple sockpuppets and write multiple reviews, a single one-star review from a jealous competitor is, frankly, not likely to have much impact on your career. Plus, that jealous competitor’s career is going to suffer if he’s spending all his time writing mean reviews of your books instead of writing books of his own.

Of course, that isn’t the only kind of review that’s labeled as bullying. Snarky reviews are often called bullying. (They’re not.) DNF reviews are often called bullying. (They’re not, either.) And then there is the special category of reviews wherein the reviewer makes credible threats against the author or his/her family. The latter would, in my opinion, qualify as a bullying review. I’ve also never seen one. Lots of folks have claimed to get them. But Internet Rule #1 is that if there aren’t screen shots, it didn’t happen. And if it did happen, I can guarantee that any of the major sites, including Amazon, alerted to the existence of the threatening review, would remove it.

(Note: Saying on Twitter that you’d like to “cut” the author for killing off a beloved character is not a credible threat. It’s hyperbole. It’s also not a review.)

So, the bottom line is that this petition to require real names on Amazon reviews is a solution in search of a problem. It’s also a foolish solution that would likely lead to many, many fewer reviews of any kind for all books. In this respect, the proposed remedy is precisely analogous to the voter ID laws intended to prevent voter fraud, but which actually wind up discouraging eligible voters from voting.

And fewer reviews isn’t good for anyone. Not for readers. Not for authors. Even those who’ve actually been bullied.

Reviews Are Not About You, Take 2

So, Jon Stock, author of the Daily Telegraph post I linked to earlier today, responded to me on Twitter today. Based on our conversation thus far, he seems like a decent fellow although, in my opinion, terribly misguided. His rationales for considering it part of his job to contact reviewers fall into three basic categories. I’d like to address each of these and explain why none of them actually pass the sniff test.

  1. But…sockpuppets!

    One of the reasons he cites for contacting so-called “hostile reviewers” is that they might be sockpuppeters. Presumably, this requires the author’s attention because the person in question is out to sabotage the book’s sales by “review bombing” it. The author must put a stop to this because it is unfairly tanking the book’s review average on Amazon.

    Setting aside the question of how common this is (I think it’s pretty much equivalent to voter fraud in frequency) and the degree to which low review averages actually harm sales (not nearly as much as many authors believe based on my observations of recent bestsellers), what is the benefit to the author of finding the sockpuppet? If this person is truly out to destroy your career, I’m betting large wads of cash that he/she is not going to respond to your inquiries and is certainly not going to change or take down the reviews as a result of your polite inquiries. In fact, odds are pretty good that your stalkerish behavior will induce the sockpuppeter to create even more sockpuppet accounts with which to review bomb your book because you have proved you’re a whiny jerk.

    In short, then, sockpuppet=ignore.

  2. But…spoilers!

    Stock’s next rationale for contacting the reviewer in the instance he describes in his article was that it contained spoilers, and not just for one book, but for all the books in the trilogy. That actually seems like a pretty fair reason from contacting the reviewer–if for no other reason than to ask them them to add a spoiler warning to the review.

    Except…okay, here’s the real truth about reviews, especially on Amazon: most book buyers don’t actually read them. How do I know this? Because my short story, The Reiver, gets repeated reviews complaining that it’s short. Even though its length is disclosed in the product description (at the beginning, no less). Even though at least a dozen, if not more, reviewers have given it low ratings for being, in their opinion, too short. Surely, if people who were buying (or in this case, downloading for free) a book for which they had read the reviews, and many of those reviews complained that the book was short, they would not feel compelled to post their own review complaining that the book was short.

    Beyond this, however, how many of you have read a book more than once? Even though you KNEW how it was going to turn out? Stock says that since his book is a thriller, the plot is so important that knowing who gets killed will ruin the experience. But I have never yet had my enjoyment of a good book (emphasis on good) spoiled by knowing how it was going to to turn out. I’ve read some mysteries and thrillers multiple times, even though I clearly know “whodunnit” when I start.

    So, while I do think it would have been nice if the reviewer had labeled her review as containing spoilers, in the final analysis, I don’t see this as a legitimate reason for making contact. Especially since I firmly believe that people who want t a particular book are unlikely to be dissuaded from doing so by a few plot spoilers…unless, of course, you as the author really believe that’s all your book is about.

    But…it was about me!

    The third reason the author in this case gives for contacting the reviewer is that the review called him a misogynist and a serial killer. Now, I have to give him credit here in that he’s right–that’s certainly what the review title says. However, the review makes it clear that it’s the content of the books that has informed her judgment on this subject…and I don’t think that any rational person would actually believe the reviewer was suggesting the author is, in actual fact, a serial killer, although they might well believe she was suggesting he was a misogynist.

    Look, I get it. No author wants his character impugned based upon what he writes. But in the final analysis, you have to ask yourself why it matters. Is your professional reputation on the line because one Amazon reviewer called you (insert slur here)? Is this a hill you need to die on? My answer, plainly, is no. I’m not willing to make it more about me by engaging with the reviewer, however unfair or personal the comment may be.

I can, however, think of one time that I tracked down and contacted an Amazon reviewer and I think I was right to so. Someone left a review on Hot Under the Collar on Amazon. It was a lovely, 4-star review. It was also not for my book, but for another book with the same title. So, here’s the one situation in which I think it is “not creepy” to track down the reviewer or, failing that, to comment on the review. Because the other book deserved that four-star review, not mine.

It’s Not About You…Unless You Make It That Way

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (do people even understand what that means anymore?), I feel the need to talk about authors responding to reviews. Yes, again. My apologies in advance for beating the dead horse, but apparently, it’s like the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and not quite dead yet.

Why do I say this? Check out these links:

Finished with your reading? Depressed, shocked, and horrified yet? Thought so.

Before I go on, I’m going to be completely honest here. I have responded to reviews. I believe I have always been polite and respectful in doing so and that no one would accuse me of “behaving badly” in those interactions. However, I was wrong to do so. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And the reason I was wrong is because the instant I posted a comment on a review of my book, I made it about me.

And that, my friends, is the reason authors shouldn’t comment on their reviews. Over and over, I hear authors say that that reviews should be about their books, not about them. But then they persist in making it about them by commenting. It doesn’t matter whether the comment is polite and respectful or mean and nasty. It doesn’t matter whether the review is positive or negative, or whether author is trying to change the reviewer’s opinion or not. The second the author puts his or her oar in, the book is no longer the issue; the author is.

I’m the first to admit that it’s difficult to sit on your hands in the face of a bad review. It is also hard to sit on them in the face of a glowing one or if the person who has posted the review is someone with whom you have a friendship that extends beyond the context of author-reader. In the latter case, it almost feels rude not to acknowledge and thank the reviewer for their kind words. The problem is, those kind words aren’t for you. (Neither are unkind ones, by the way.) So unless the reviewer explicitly invites you into the discussion, you need to keep your grubby fingers off the keyboard. Whatever your relationship with the reviewer, it’s not your relationship with everyone who will read the review and potentially want to discuss the book. But if you’re there, hovering like Big Brother, any discussion of the book is likely to be stifled because people know they’re being watched. And whether you’re perceived as nice or mean, it’s probably pretty likely that people won’t feel they can be truly honest as soon as your presence is perceived.

Should authors be allowed to discuss their books with readers? Absolutely. It’s just that reviews aren’t the place to do it. Use your own website/blog for that stuff or guest posts you’re explicitly invited to do on other blogs. Otherwise, shut up and let the discussion be about your books. Because that’s what you want.

Are DNF Reviews Fair?

There’s been some discussion on the interwebs lately on the subject of DNF reviews and whether it’s really “fair” for a reviewer to opine on a book he/she didn’t actually finish. How can a reviewer know whether the book “worked” or not if he/she didn’t read the whole thing?

Well, my answer to that is that I can tell a LOT about whether a book works for me or not based on whether I finish it. If the author can’t hold me all the way through to the end, for whatever reason, that tells me something about the book. The question is why didn’t the author keep me reading?

For me, as a reader, a DNF review is just as useful as any other. The reasons a reviewer couldn’t finish reading a book are as important as their reasons for giving a book they did finish any grade from an A to an F. They help me decide whether it’s a book I want to invest my time and money in.

So, all you reviewers out there–please post your DNF reviews. I read them, I appreciate them, and I use them.

Why Is It Wrong to Rate Your Own Book?

This morning, a writer friends IM’d me to show me a five-star review of a book on Amazon–posted by the author herself. I’m not going to tell you the title of the book or the name of the author, because it’s not relevant to the question and I don’t want to cause trouble for the author. But it did make me ask the question that is the title of the post. Becuse as much as I have a knee-jerk reaction and think rating/reviewing your own book is a bad practice, I’m not sure it’s an objective or reasonable reaction.

The thing is, authors are expected to promote their books. Promoting your book with commitment and enthusiasm presumes that you think it’s a good book, that it’s worth buying and reading. Is adding a positive rating for that book on Amazon or GoodReads or LibraryThing really so different from going onto a blog and touting your book’s merits there? I suppose you could argue that because it’s a given that an author loves her own book, giving it a five-star rating is a little redundant, but is it really so an issue? Especially assuming the author posts the rating/review in her own name, thereby allowing anyone who reads it to discount it as an indictor of how well readers liked it.

In fact, I’d argue that posting a review of your own book under an assumed identity is far, far worse than doing so openly because it doesn’t allow readers to consider the source. The problem is that, short of the author inadvertently outing the alternative identity of the sockpuppet, it’s prctically impossible to know whether an author is engaged in this behavior or not. Which is all the more reason I wonder if we are making the ratings system less honest rather than moreso by discouraging authors from rating their own books. We wouldn’t discourage politicians from voting for themselves in elections, so why do we think authors shouldn’t “vote for themselves” in the court of public opinion?

All of that said, I’m not exactly in favor of authors rating and reviewing their own books. It just seems desperate and even a little pathetic. I’m just not sure why it SHOULD. Maybe it’s really just honesty.

Am I wrong? Tell me why…

Making Nice in Book Reviews

Once again, the “you shouldn’t say mean things about a book/character in a book because you might hurt the author’s feelings” crowd has come out in full force, this time in response to a Dear Author review of Susan Grant’s latest release, Sureblood. In this particular review, the reviewer said that the heroine “made her want to puke” and was roundly chastised by some commenters for being cruel and unprofessional. (To be fair, she also got a lot of support.)

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve always been on the side of reviewers sharing their honest, gut-reaction opinions about the books they read. As a reader, I want to know how a reviewer really felt about the book because it helps me decide whether or not I might like it (and in some cases, if a particular reviewer hates a book, it means I’ll probably love it because our tastes differ that much.) And as an author, I don’t want reviewers to be afraid of giving an honest review for fear of hurting my feelings. I’m a grown-up, I put my work out there for criticism by getting it published, and my craft isn’t going to wither on the vine because one reviewer (or even half a dozen) says my work sucks.

(As an aside, I’d rather have dozens of negative reviews of my book available on the Internet than only a handful of very positive ones. Reviews, whether good or bad, equal exposure, and the more exposure a book gets, the more likely it is that readers will know it exists. Few reviews, even if they are all slavishly adoring, don’t do much to help a book get “traction.” The negative reviews might not make me feel as good as the positive ones, but they’re likely to do a lot more for my book’s visibility.)

But all of that said, what I find most fascinating about this debate is that there does seem to be a core thread of belief out there about not going “too hard” on books in reviews that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else in the entertainment world. I’ve never seen a movie/television reviewer taken to task for writing a searingly negative review. And believe me, I’ve read/heard plenty of really painfully negative reviews of films and TV shows, either on the grounds of the writing or the acting or both. So why isn’t anyone worried about the egos of the poor scriptwriter(s), actors, directors, producers, camerapeople, etc.?

I suppose there may be some fans of actors who DO defend their idols with great vigor, but as far as I know, screenwriters NEVER get the kind of “defense by the minions” that authors of books seem to, and in large part, it’s the SAME job. Yes, a screenwriter’s vision goes through many more people to finally reach its audience than a novelist’s does, but by and large, it’s still about writing, about plotting, about characterization. And as for the directors, producers, and so on…NO ONE seems to worry a bit that their feelings might be hurt by a bad review.

This baffles me. I get that, when approaching a novel, it’s easy to feel a very personal connection to the author who wrote it, and that this doesn’t necessarily translate to other entertainment media (TV, movies, plays, music). But by the same token, I can’t understand how anyone believes that screenwriters, directors, actors, musicians, etc. are any less emotionally invested in their work and therefore any less subject to “ego-crushing” than authors.

I’m interested in any thoughts you have on this. Am I wrong? ARE there people out there jumping to the defense of their favorite screenwriters/directors/musicians? Or is this really something that’s pretty much unique to books, particularly fiction?

On Reviews and Fairness

I’ve meditated before on how hard it is for authors to sit on their hands and not argue with a review they disagree with. I’ve also said I think it’s the only right way to handle it. As an author, you have to put your book out there and let it speak for itself. If a reviewer doesn’t “get” it or doesn’t like it, for whatever reason, it’s appropriate to thank the reviewer for their time and then turn away. (I did recently respond to a review in which the reader said she found the POV shifts hard to follow, and because I knew we’d taken out the scene breaks that originally demarcated them in the editorial cycle, I mentioned that in my comment. But even without the scene breaks, if she wasn’t sure whose POV she was in at all times, it’s my fault as the author for not making it clearer and obviously something I can do better.)

That said, I’ve been thinking lately about what is “fair” in a review and what isn’t. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed a fair number of comment threads in which the reviewer is taken to task for allowing his or her biases, education, or preferences to “prejudice” their reading of the book. Apparently, these folks think that reviewers ought to read as if they are blank slates, with no prejudices whatsoever, and judge the book solely based upon…what exactly?

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? If a reviewer can’t invoke his or her biases, education, or preferences in evaluating a book, what the heck is left? I don’t know how anyone can ever come to a book without any preconceptions. It’s just not possible. Every reader’s response to every book is as individual as that person. If no one is allowed to bring their life experiences to their perceptions of a book, no one can ever review any book, period, because everyone’s reaction to a book is inherently subjective. There’s no such thing as an “objective” review, and I think we ought to throw the idea that they can or ought to be out the window with the baby and the bathwater.

That said, there’s objective and then there’s “objective.” By “objective” in quotes, I mean that the reviewer has somehow been “cherry-picked” and/or influenced in some manner to give a particular review, usually a positive one rather than a negative one. As an author, I always prefer reviews written by people with whom I have no personal relationship. Not that I don’t love hearing how my friends loved my book, but that’s a lot less important to me than the opinion of a reader I don’t know from Adam. I also find there are some review sites which seem to give glowing reviews of nearly every book they review. I tend to have a lot less faith in the “objectivity” of those reviews, especially when I know the publisher has provided a free copy, than of those where the ratings vary from the very positive to the very negative. (And I would be just as wary, of course, of a review site that seemed to post nothing but negative reviews.)

I also think it’s not fair to give a book a negative review because you don’t like the author personally, because you think the author is ugly or fat, or because (and this one is a little more slippery) because you hate all books of that genre. This isn’t to say that I don’t think reviewers should ever try to read a book in a genre that hasn’t previously appealed to them or to read books with characters or plot situations they usually find unpleasant or distasteful. It’s just to say that if the only reason for reading it is to confirm your suspicion that you are right and everything like this is trash, it may not be a good idea of actually write a review after you’ve read it, unless, of course, you are completely upfront about your intentions. (And by, it might not be a good idea, I don’t mean you can’t write a review. I just mean that when people accuse you of not being fair in your review, they’re probably right.) This sort of thing happens a lot with books in the romance genre (we’ve all read the opinions of people who’ve read one romance and concluded it’s all mindless drivel), but I’m sure it also happens to books in other genres as well, and that sort of blanket criticism truly isn’t fair.

But other than those situations, I can’t think about much that’s not as fair in reviews as it is in love and war. As a writer, I might like it if I could tell readers to judge the book solely by MY intentions and what I believe I put on the page, but the reality is, I know that’s impossible. One reason I know it’s impossible is because I can’t do it, either.

So, what do you think? What makes a review fair or unfair? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

WTF Wednesday: The Only Honest Reviews Cost the Reviewer Money

Yes, yes, I know it’s only Monday. But sometimes, WTF Wednesday comes early. Think of it as like Christmas in July :).

This week’s early WTF Wednesday is brought to you by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). By now, you’ve probably heard about this strange new set of guidelines, which basically requires bloggers who review books they have received for free (or, apparently, even books they paid for but to which they provide an Amazon link for purchase) to disclose their “financial” relationship with the publisher/author/seller of said book. Well, at least if they say nice things about the book.

I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of the rule here, because others have already done so. Instead, I simply point you to the post that made me drop my jaw in disbelief–an overview of a discussion with Richard Cleland of the FTC, explaining why bloggers who don’t actually get paid to review books should be subject to a different standard than those who are paid to do reviews by newspapers, magazines, etc. I’ll wait for you to get back if you haven’t already read it, because it is seriously WTF-inducing.

Back? Picked your jaw up off the floor yet?

Okay, so here was the first thing that got my undies in a twist (I’m not sure what gets yours; there’s plenty of grist for the mill): Cleland believes that when a blogger receives a free copy of a book to read, there is an “expectation” on the part of the party providing the book that the review will be positive in nature. Apparently, then, the free book is “payment” for a service being rendered by the blogger–to wit, an endorsement of the product.

Except I don’t know ANY authors who believe this. Every author I’ve ever known who has sent out review copies of her book to bloggers has worried whether the resulting review would be positive or negative (or whether there would be a review at all). And in fact, in many cases, there IS no review. Sites like Dear Author and Smart Bitches can’t possibly read and review all the books they receive–the people doing the reviews can’t read that fast or live that long. And I’ve sent out plenty of copies of Behind the Red Door to reviewers who NEVER reviewed them, one way or the other. Guess what? I don’t expect them back. They aren’t payment for a service–they’re a gift, plain and simple. There’s nothing I can do TO get them back, even if I wanted to, so the notion that the book is a payment strikes me as ludicrous. It’s only payment if you don’t get it until you do the work…but that’s pretty hard to manage in the case of book reviews.

But what troubles me even more about this rule isn’t that the FTC is asking book bloggers to disclose their “sponsorship” by authors/publishers who send them free books for review. It’s that they’re exempting the folks who really DO get sponsorship (and lots of it) from publishers and authors from the rule. You see, apparently, readers of magazines like Romantic Times or other “traditional” book review media (including the booksellers themselves) are somehow aware that those publications’ endorsements of the products reviewed in them are, by definition, NOT THE REVIEWER’S HONEST OPINION.

Um, wow. Thanks for saying what I knew all along–we can’t trust the reviews of paid media because, hey, they’re being paid for it! (And yes, I believe that WHICH books are reviewed/recommended in traditional media is strongly influenced by money. I don’t mean that publishers are paying for good reviews/recommendations per se, but I do believe that publishers DRIVE which books get attention with their advertising dollars, and that translates into greater attention to those books by reviewers.)

Okay, so now the book bloggers who don’t actually make a living at reviewing books are being asked to disclose the fact that they received a book for free (with a WHOPPING value of, what, $8 for an mmpb, $15 for a trade, and $25 for a hardcover) because I MIGHT believe their review is an honest expression of their opinion of the book. Well, heaven forfend!

To me, the irony is that I think when people read a review in the New York Times or on Publisher’s Weekly, I’m betting that for the most part, they actually think they’re reading the revewier’s honest opinion, even though the reviewer is getting paid to do the review. If we DIDN’T believe that when reading a review, regardless of the medium, why would we bother at all?

And of course, this doesn’t even get into the whole free speech thing. If I love a book and want to recommend it to my friends, how I came by it is irrelevant. I should be able to say what I want about it.

Frankly, I’m stunned by this. Even more so that this is the FTC under my president. What gives?

WTF Wednesday: Only Writers Should Review Books

By now, you’ve probably heard about author Alice Hoffman’s unseemly outbursts on Twitter in response to a less-than-glowing review of her latest novel by Roberta Silman for the Boston Globe. If you haven’t, you’ve probably been living in a hole in the ground. (I’d say a cave, but I kinda think you can get wireless in most caves these days.) However, for those who did manage to miss it, here are a couple of links to summarize:

Now, I’ve always said that an author never does herself a favor by responding to a negative review unless it’s simply to thank the reviewer for his/her time and thoughtful commentary. In other words, if you defend the book or attack the reviewer or call on your fans to give said reviewer what-for, you’re only going to come of looking bad. A truly inaccurate or vicious review speaks for itself, and readers will know it’s not trustworthy. No need for the author to come out with both guns blazing like a mother bear defending her cub. (Yeah, I know. Way to mix metaphors. So shoot me!)

That observation out of the way, what set me off about this incident isn’t Hoffman’s behavior, because as foolish and unprofessional as it may be, what she did was hardly unique. (Heck, this very week, another author by the name of Alain de Boton posted on a reviewer’s blog that he wished said reviewer nothing but ill will and would hate him until the day he died. Oh yeah, way to sound like an adult!)

No, what got me about this whole episode is this Tweet of Ms. Hoffman’s and the response to it:

“Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. Who is Roberta Silman?”

Many of Ms. Hoffman’s critics were quick to point out that Ms. Silman is, in fact, an author with numerous publishing credits to her name. They also suggested Ms. Hoffman might have considering Googling Ms. Silman’s name before she suggested the woman wasn’t “qualified” to review books by virtue of not being an author.

But that entirely misses the point, doesn’t it? Do people honestly believe only writers should review other writers’ work? WTF?

That’s like saying that anyone who’s not a painter can’t have an opinion about a painting or that a film critic has to be an actor or director to provide an accurate assessment of a movie’s merits. And I don’t think anyone believes either of those constructs. So where on God’s green earth does this “only writers can review books because they’re the only ones who can ‘understand’ them” come from? Because Ms. Hoffman is hardly the first writer I’ve seen express this opinion, and the folks who determined Ms. Silman’s qualifications for the job seem to be supporting that contention. (Note: I haven’t read everything that’s been said on this point; there may be folks out there who are saying exactly what I am. I just haven’t found them yet.)

Okay, so here’s the deal. READERS are the people we should expect and WANT to review our work. Why? Because they’re our customers! And while most writers are also readers, and therefore a segment of our “market,” they’re a tiny subset of the much larger group of folks who are just readers. If your book only appeals to the segment of readers who are also writers, you’ve got a problem. By the same token, if the segment of readers who are writers generally dislike your book, but the readers who aren’t love it (I can think of a few recent runaway bestsellers in recent years that probably fit this criteria–Da Vinci Code, anyone), I think you’re in much better shape.

It’s true that pure readers and readers who are also writers don’t always see books the same way. Just as the painter who looks at another painter’s work sees how the brush strokes were applied, how the colors were mixed, and other technical aspects that the rest of us don’t, the writer who is reading can appreciate technical elements of the craft (or decry the lack thereof) in a way readers probably can’t…at least not consciously. But that doesn’t mean that a reader’s response to a book is any less valid or less well-considered than a writer’s. And as a writer myself, I want to know that my book worked (or didn’t) for my readers…all of them, not just a tiny subset who happen to write.

So, to all the reader-reviewers out there: Please keep it up! If you review my book, I will never attack you in any way if any element of your reaction is less than positive (even if it’s really negative), and I will never pull the “you just don’t understand because you’re not a writer” card. I value and appreciate readers who take the time to think about and comment on my work (and that of other writers), so don’t let the nasties out there treat you as if you are not worthy.

In my opinion, you’re the worthiest people I know!