Home » Reviews, Social Media » When tweeters attack: why do readers send authors their bad reviews?

When tweeters attack: why do readers send authors their bad reviews?

30 May 2017

From The Guardian:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. It’s a simple enough rule that most of us learned as young children. So why is it that some readers seem incapable of holding back from telling an author that they didn’t like their book?

It is a lesson one reader might have heeded before addressing the writer Nina Stibbe with some feedback on her 2013 novel Love, Nina: “My #bookgroup really not loving #lovenina. Voted it 1.3 (out of 10). Our lowest EVER score in 5 years and 60 books. Sorry @ninastibbe.”

Aside from the score – how on earth did they reach that .3? – the “sorry” makes it sound like Stibbe was on tenterhooks for her feedback. She wasn’t. But she did retweet the comment, much to the amusement of fellow writers who then shared their experiences of similar reader over-shares. The Latte Years author Philippa Moore’s experience was typical. “I was tagged in an ‘I won this book, didn’t like it, gave it to my mum’ Instagram post once,” she said. “I was like WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW THAT?”

. . . .

Every author I know has been tagged by readers like this. Usually the reader announces they have reviewed the author’s latest novel. Only it’s a vicious review, awarding two stars (one for arriving on time). Why would they announce that to the author?

Crime writer Alex Marwood says snippy comments directed at her come through her Facebook page, which is meant to be for fans. One reader kindly told her she was “a craptastic author”. Another delighted in telling her about a scathing Amazon review (since removed), which Marwood later printed off and framed.

What is telling is that in almost every case – including that of Stibbe – the reader removes their original comment soon after it has reached its target. Could sudden self-awareness be at work? It is as hard to fathom as it is to know why they tagged the author in the first place.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Reviews, Social Media

20 Comments to “When tweeters attack: why do readers send authors their bad reviews?”

  1. I treasure my 1* review. Fellow authors tell me it legitimizes me.

    I have a 2*, and a 3* (which on GR is positive, on Amazon negative).

    I have arrived.

    I don’t like ONE of my 28 reviews – it is positive on Amazon, but irritates me every time I look at it. To me, it smacks of passive-aggressiveness. A friend who does reviews told me my skin was too thin. Oh, well.

    I’ve saved every review – so I can print them out if I want to. Some reviewers have allowed me to use their lovely words. Every review, even the most negative one, is a gift from a reader somehow encouraged into action.

  2. “Dear Reader,

    I am thrilled to receive your review. You now join the literally several people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m glad to have received so much of your attention, and I hope you’ll also read my next book.”

  3. Ah, so that’s why I should get a twit account (or not …) 😉

  4. Holy cow is it hard to resist the urge to respond to unfair reviews. A necessity, but hard. I think it might be easier to quit heroin.

    • It’s doable if you remember that RESPONDING almost never goes well, and even those who might have supported you may turn against you because they believe that reviewers have the right to say what they want.

      Look up ‘authors behaving badly’ for examples.

      But you may share with close friends, and treasure bad reviews as something every good author gets.

  5. What is telling is that in almost every case – including that of Stibbe – the reader removes their original comment soon after it has reached its target. Could sudden self-awareness be at work? It is as hard to fathom as it is to know why they tagged the author in the first place.

    Maybe they want attention but not responsibility. Maybe they didn’t realize a #[author] tag summons an actual person and isn’t unconnected like a #pleaforacceptance tag is. An interesting question that probably has many answers.

  6. The couple times I’ve had this happen, I’ve blocked those people.

  7. I highly suspect in a lot of cases it’s more that the person tweeting doesn’t realize that the @ tag means it’ll send a notification directly to the person. In a book review (even a bad one), it’s usual to identify the author. The intention may be to identify the author and lead readers to the author’s twitter page (if they have one) more than to send the review directly to the author, the same as someone leaving a review on their personal blog might include a link to the author’s webpage. Which, if that’s the case, would explain why the tweet is so quickly removed. They didn’t realize it was going directly to the author, so they’re embarrassed about that, and then on top of that they’ve been mocked by the author and the author’s friends for their review.

    Don’t always assume hostile intent when ignorance/incompetence might be as easily to blame. Or I might say to those authors: get over yourself. It isn’t necessarily all about you.

    • I think you’re right about this; it’s very easy to make an innocent mistake in this scenario even if you are internet savvy.

      …and then on top of that they’ve been mocked by the author and the author’s friends for their review.

      I can’t see that ending well for an author. Even if the mockery is deserved. There’s an episode of the Flintstones where Fred says he doesn’t want to be uppity by talking about himself, so he suggests that Wilma and Betty should talk [highly] about him instead. If a review is insane or unfair, authors should let their fans handle it.

      • I think most authors probably do ignore it, but as the article points out, at least some authors retweet it (which seems like a passive-aggressive way of sending their fans after the reviewer, unless they make a good-humor comment showing they’re not offended) or respond directly or start a discussion amongst their friends (in public, since Tweets are all public). I think more authors actually respond in such ways on Twitter than would do so on blogs/GR/Amazon, but really, the same “don’t respond to reviews” advice applies no matter the forum.

  8. Twitter may or may not be an individual author’s thing, but as long as it allows for interactions like these, I remain a fan:

    https://twitter.com/stephenking/status/503561760511889408

    https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/852974627756404736

  9. Some reviews may seem unfair to me (the bad ones), but I keep my mouth shut. Except once. Some nut job–okay, reader–bought one of my books on Amazon and the download got screwed up. Did they ask Amazon to re-send? Nope, they posted a one-star review, despite indicating they were enjoying the book until they got to the didn’t-download part.

    I’m sure they had no idea I would see this or that it would make me look bad if there weren’t a lot of other reviews. Anyway, I posted a comment to ask Amazon to please re-send this buyer another copy of the book. Amz picked up on it, asked whether the review was an abuse of the system (yes!) and removed it.

    I hope the reader got his/her book. And enjoyed it. Never found out.

  10. “When tweeters attack: why do readers send authors their bad reviews?”

    Misery loves company? 🙁

  11. What bugs reviewer me is when I don’t share the critical review on Twitter, but the author tweets me about it. Why?

  12. Suburbanbanshee

    If people do not like my work at the day job, they tell me directly and in public, in front of everyone. I am not allowed to respond, and neither are my friends. The customer is always right.

    Tweets are received at leisure, in privacy, and are text, not getting in one’s face. If the author does not follow Twitter much, he never has to see it at all.

    Yeah, I only wish criticism at the day job would arrive in such a quiet, civilized way.

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