I'm sure many of you are familiar with the big stink on Twitter recently about the author who called book bloggers who gave her a negative review "trashy" and "unprofessional." The author then went on a rant on another blog warning authors to avoid unprofessional, subjective reviewers- by which, of course, she meant bloggers. She then linked directly to the bloggers she was trying to blacklist. I read the review that pissed her off, and of course it was fine. The blogger even said the book didn't work for her, but that she was open to other stuff from the author. Obviously, this author is a whiny little child.
This makes me happy that all the books I review were written by people who are currently, and hopefully will remain, dead. I don't get nasty emails from Charles Dickens calling me unprofessional because I thought The Pickwick Papers was the big boring. Steinbeck hasn't left me snarky, anonymous comments because I thought the dialogue in East of Eden was unrealistic and distracting. Of course, this may change when I die and get to heaven. I have a sneaking suspicion that Charlotte Bronte is up there waiting to spank me because I didn't like The Professor.
Anyway, this angry author lady writes romance novels, I think, and I wouldn't ever read her books anyway BUT now I'm wondering how many people she has pissed off who would have been totally open to her work. So, generally speaking, her hissy fit is outside the realm of what I normally blog about but it has got me contemplating two things:
THING ONE- HOW IMPORTANT ARE BOOK BLOGGERS ANYWAY? Important enough that this author solicited a review and pitched a tantrum when the review wasn't glowing. Important enough that many of us- myself included, though my niche is limited- receive numerous review requests from authors and publishers alike. In her tirade, Angry Author makes repeated reference to "unprofessional" book bloggers, a term she never really defines. I assume she means "not paid" or "not working for the NYT." Here's the thing- most readers I know do not read the NYT. Most readers I know get their book recommendations from friends, family, and bloggers. Angry Author also seems to forget that book bloggers are first and foremost book readers- and some of the most prolific. WE SPEND MONEY. We then tell other people who trust us how to spend THEIR money.
That's the difference here between bloggers and "professional" book reviewers- we're personal. Readers trust us because they know us. We have conversations through comments, social media, and sometimes we even meet face to face. I talk to or hear from my favorite bloggers every day through their posts, through Twitter, through wherever. I don't talk to reviewers from newspapers or magazines. Even if I did- I don't trust their taste. I'm not saying that paid reviewers aren't important, I'm just saying that the relationships book bloggers develop with their readership makes THEIR opinions just as- if not more- important. So maybe try not to piss off the entire community, eh?
THING TWO: WHAT DO WE OWE THE AUTHOR?
As a classics blogger, I say we owe authors just this: not changing their work, an issue that has been discussed at length since the Huck Finn censorship deal.
Aside from that? Jack squat. Angry Author seemed to be under the delusion that reviewers are required to like her book or remain silent. Reviewers are readers, and readers are under no obligation to quantify or qualify their opinions about a book. If a reader doesn't like it, a reader doesn't like it. Just because that reader has a blog doesn't mean that reader owes an author 5, 000 words about why their characters are one-dimensional. Now, most book bloggers do not operate this way because who wants to read a blog that just says "This book was le suck, move on." People want to know why, and I want to tell you why because I like the sound of my own voice. Not really. It's because reviewing books is about the conversation. It's not because I feel like I have to justify my opinion to any author.
So what do you think? Just how important is the book blogging community? And do we owe the authors a justification for our reviews? Do we owe the authors anything at all?
ETA: I purposefully did not link to Angry Author's rant because I don't want to give her more publicity than I absolutely have to.