I would like to shine a light on an issue that should be stopped, but is difficult to do so. The first thing to do is to identify what that issue and alert others, which is what this post is about.
A few years back a friend of mine privately complained to me about a bad review he had for his recently published novella. He was very upset by it, but being an author had to accept it on the chin. I then went digging in that critic’s other reviews – mostly 1 or 2 star ratings. That critic obviously had a bad chip on his shoulder about science fiction. I mentioned what I had discovered to my friend and although he did not say anything to me, I am sure he complained about that reviewer to the website’s management.
But the point is that because it was an early review, it biased potential browsing readers against buying what is actually a very interesting science fiction story. The author and the publisher both lost revenue because of that one critic and his damning review.
This can have a knock on effects in all sorts of ways – lack of morale for the author to spur him to write more interesting science fiction, the publisher being reluctant to publish more novellas by the said author, a reduction in choice of science fiction works for the reader, to name but a few.
The critics are obvious to spot if the viewer takes time to go digging. And the websites can and do ban such destructive reviewers. But there are others who are more subtle in their approach and are harder to differentiate from the genuine review.
The first is the pedant critic. This is the type that spots typos and then complains about there being typos even when there are so few of them.
Let’s get one thing straight about typos – they happen. Even the best editors miss the occasional one, particularly if they are working to a deadline. Take any recently published novel and go looking. You’ll see what I mean. Typos should only be complained about in a review if they are frequent enough to significantly slow down the reading and hence the enjoyment of the story.
The pedant critic is the one who takes enjoyment from finding minor faults and telling everybody about them, just to show how clever he/she is. They would make a darned good line editor and maybe they should seek employment as such, but when they come to putting up their review they blow up these minor faults out of all proportion and make it sound like a disaster movie.
But again having such an early review which this kind of damnation has similar effects to the critics who just want to do any book down.
Then there is ‘this is not what I expected’ type of critic, the one who wants to write the story themselves. It does not matter what interesting and poignant aspects the author has to say, it is not the story the critic wanted to write.They will go on to say what should have been written instead. Therefore the book is damned.
Admittedly some readers will pick up a book thinking it is one thing and finding out it is something different. That may be the fault of the blurb or advertising, but the author is nevertheless harangued for writing the story his/her way. In this case they should point out where the fault really lies.
My answer to this type of unjustifiable critic is go write your own book and see how time consuming and difficult it is. Do not expect other authors to write your book because you are too damned lazy to write your own.
Like the damn-all-books and pendant reviews, an early ‘this is not what I expected from the author’ review is bad unjustifiable news certainly for the author.
Of course there are bad reviews of some books that are justified. But any reviewer should be able to point to the evidence or say why they are giving a bad review. They should be able to identify what went wrong with the book. These are the bad reviews to take seriously. Any decent author will recognise that such a review is fair and try to do better in their next piece of writing. It is the way the world works.
I have seen too many authors suffer from these unjustified bad reviews. Their morale and reputation takes a knock. They can’t say anything in public because it is not the done thing or for fear of provoking troll reactions.
It really is time to start standing up to these types of so-called critics. Being able to identify the types as I have started to do here is a first step. Authors and the reading public would then know which reviews deserve to be dismissed for the silly nonsense they are.
The really important point is that will also stop authors and their publishers from suffering from the damage they inflict on their creativity and business.