Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Protecting Reviewer's Rights


A troubling new practice has recently been brought to my attention. One that disturbs me and leaves me scratching my head all at once. Authors, publishers, and blog tour organizers are telling reviewers what kind of reviews can and can't be posted for their books.

I'd love to hear from reviewers if you have encountered this, but here are my initial thoughts on this subject.

First of all, nobody has a right to tell a reviewer what they can and can not say in a review. One gal I know writes extremely humorous reviews. She's magnetic in her humor, and I love reading her posts. So do a lot of other people. She recently started a review blog. She's an avid reader and wanted a place to express her writing and her opinions of the books she reads. So, she read a book, wrote a review, and then sent it to the author before posting it. The author replied that she didn't want the review posted because, in her opinion, it "made a mockery of the seriousness of her literature." The book was about naughty aliens, according to this reviewer, so...how "serious" could that be? It's not like we're talking Tolkien or Shakespeare here. And the review was a good one. It just had a humorous flare. What author turns down a good book review?

Another friend of mine, who has been reviewing books for quite some time, said that she has been asked to take down reviews that were deemed "too negative" and that authors, publishers, and now blog tour organizers are telling reviewers that they can't post anything less than a 3.5 star review of a book...and some won't allow anything less than a 4-5 star.

In my opinion, this is absolutely WAY out of line. For authors, publishers, and blog tour organizers to dictate what a book reviewer says about their books goes against a reviewer's freedom of speech. If an author doesn't want an honest review of their work, then they have no business writing. By the very nature of the profession, once an author publishes their work, they have no control over what the public thinks, nor should they try to sway, persuade, edit, force, or bully anyone to say only positive things about their work. By writing and publishing a book, an author is saying that it is free to be reviewed by whoever wants to review it however they choose to do so.

A reviewer does not need to seek ANY author's opinion or approval for ANY review he or she writes, and I have never been asked by a reviewer to give my approval. That's not my place. I've done my job by writing the book. Now it's the reviewer's job to do theirs without my interference, and if I'm lucky, I'll garner some honest criticism that will help me write my next book. And if anyone ever did ask me for my approval of their review, I would politely express that it's their review for them to write it how they want. Reviewers are not obligated to seek an author's acceptance of their reviews. That is their opinion and their writing, whether bad or good. Just as an author is free to write a story in whatever manner they want, a reviewer has the right to express him- or herself the same way and publish their work free of an author's intrusive editing or dictation of their work.

Again, this is my opinion. What's yours? Are you a reviewer who has been told to remove a negative review or that you had to post a good one to be included on a blog tour, etc.? I'd like to hear from you.

12 comments:

  1. I also do a blog review which certainly comes across as more straight-laced than the Captain Cleavage does, although this is in no way a criticism of her. I LOVE her blog and can't wait to read her reviews. I wish I had more flair with words and expressions as she does. However, we each have to write to the style that is completely 'us'. Although I've only started my blog in the past month or so, I have had feedback from authors and it has mainly been pleasure on their behalf that I have taken the time to read and review.

    The thought of being told what I can or cannot write regarding a book that I have read is completely unacceptable. It may be your book but this is MY opinion of what I have read.

    I have read books that have a four or five star rating and some of them just aren't to my taste. Everyone has their own favourites, whether that be genre or characters, ie vampires, shifters or angels. I read what I want to and I will review on the basis of my opinion, no one elses and not the author.

    Long live independent reviews done by readers, not by people paid to review. LONG LIVE CAPTAIN CLEAVAGE!

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    1. Amen! :) Thank you for stopping by and giving your feedback.

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  2. I feel so LOVED! lol. I agree with you whole heartedly donya. I take care with my reviews to try and keep in mind when im reading that while I may not have enjoyed the book or liked certain things in it there is still a living breathing human person behind those words who has a lot of their soul invested and I can completely understand why they would take it as personal when someone writes something negative. It's not personal. it's just a simple fact that as humans we all see things, feel things, and read things differently. I could read the sentence "He made me so angry I wanted to reach out and squash his man nuggets" and laugh hysterically while another person would read those exact same words and consider it immature writing at best. Two different views neither right neither wrong. But when you demand nothing but positive from a review you take away the opportunity as a writer to grow and learn. Yes there will be harsh and sometimes unnecessary criticism but that is the risk that comes with the reward.

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    1. Also...This is the Captain Speaking lol

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    2. Aye-aye, Captain! :) Totally agree. Negative reviews are a means of growth for an author, and any author who obliterates that learning opportunity by clearing anything negative off their shelf will never be as great as they can be. Yes, negative reviews sting. But they also provide fabulous opportunities for growth and improvement. But what is even more baffling is when a review is positive and an author still doesn't want it posted. That's just plain silly.

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  3. I've been blogging for about 2 years now and post all over the ratings board from DNFs to 5 stars. I work with a number of publishers and have never had one try to restrict me on reviews--and mine, well, I say what I'm thinking and tend to have a dirty mouth lol. On tours I've been asked to delay a review that wasn't glowing but never asked to not post it ever. And I can understand that in a way. The tours are meant to promote the authors at key times and having someone bust out with a 1 star review for their tour would suck. But again never had them say don't ever post it just a would you mind holding off until after the tour.

    I have had street teams put restrictions on us and that annoys me to no end. Even if it's an author that always hits 4 and 5 star reviews for me being told do not under any circumstances post below that. Well. It comes off dirty to me and those are the teams I leave or quit reviewing at all for. I also have been asked to vote down negative reviews on Amazon by certain authors--even if the reviews are valid and well thought out. Again. That to me is just dirty.

    On the other side I know a number of bloggers who restrict themselves on reviews and will not post under a 4 star. If they don't like a book they don't review it. To me that kind of leaves your readers hanging. If I trust your opinion I want to know which didn't work for you just as much as which did work for you. And if you explain it sometimes your reasoning will be WHY I pick up the book. So a negative review can be a good thing too.

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    1. Excellent input. Thank you for the reply.

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  4. Great post Donya and I am probably going to stir up a bee's nest of problems. In my opinion, asking a reviewer to remove a review or change up a star rating is unethical. I consider the majority of my reviews to be positive. I will sometimes point out issues of flow and inconsistency, or if I do not like something but to me these are not necessarily negative but constructive. I will not crucify an author or their book-this is their hard work and it is not my place to destroy an author's hopes and dreams. There are times when I can NOT write a positive review and therefore I will give the author/publisher the option of my not posting.

    I was involved in another online discussion of this very topic when a blog tour operator/author defended the position of 'demanding' nothing less than 3 star reviews and no negative comments. Her defense of the 'request' was that authors were 'paying' for the blog tour and freely giving the book for review and therefore should not expect negative reviews in return. They should only see 'positive' reviews for their money.Please note the blog tour operator is also an author so her opinion came from a different angle and one that benefited from only positive reviews.

    So I commented that in otherwords, the author was 'buying' ONLY positive reviews? that by 'giving or gifting' an ARC copy to the reviewer it is to be expected that ONLY positive reviews should be posted in return? that paying for blog tours means paying for ONLY positive reviews? and the blog tour operator/author replied...YES !!. That if an author is paying for said blog tour they should expect positive reviews-that they are paying for the promotion and do not want anything posted that will reflect negatively against their books.

    To me, this screams issues of control, ethics and morally questionable ideals. I wonder if the NY Times or the Huffington Post are told to take down their reviews when someone deems them to be 'too negative'?

    I recently had a conversation with several blog reviewers and they felt uncomfortable writing anything perceived to be negative if they

    1. Were on the author's street team.
    2. Were friendly with the author on social media
    3. Were sent the ARC by the author for a blog tour (sounds similar to the blog tour requests for no negative comments)
    4. Were interviewing the author along with the review.
    5. Were sent an ARC by the author for review.

    These aspects were frightening. Many thought they could only be objective about books they purchased themselves -one reviewer said it alleviated her guilt over negative reviews if she purchased the book.

    I am beginning to wonder if the option to review a book for a blog tour will be removed and all tours will become promotional posts only?

    In the age of indie authors and indie publishing, there are many books that have not been properly edited or spell-checked; there have been no alpha or beta readers to help with constructive comments or issues of flow and consistency; and in this there is bound to be some less than positive reviews for blog tour operators and authors. Again, I give all of my reviewers the option of NOT writing a review if they feel the review will reflect negatively on the author but to be told by blog tour operators that NO negative reviews or nothing less than 4-5 stars reviews will be accepted wreaks of power, control and unethical operations ....in my opinion.

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    1. I agree. I'm finishing my latest blog tour today, and even though I didn't pay for it, I put in a month's worth of hours to coordinate, prepare, and write the posts, so this tour was an effort of blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of time spent away from writing my next book, so it still had a cost. So, whether an author pays for a tour or not shouldn't matter. It sounds like this author would think that someone like me, who did 90% of the work for my tour (I had someone assist me a little) and didn't pay someone to do it for me, would be inviting bad reviews since I didn't "pay for them." So, that's an irrational argument to defend demanding only good reviews on a tour.

      And when I sent out ARCs to those bloggers who wanted to write a review, in the back of my mind, I was aware that I was inviting both good and bad reviews. It doesn't matter that this was a free ARC sent to the reviewer. I realize the risks I'm taking by asking people to review my books. I also realize that not everybody will like everything I write. I can't expect to get 100% positive feedback. That's just unrealistic. Am I relieved when I see a positive review? Absolutely. But I know that I could just as easily see one that's negative. It's part of the business.

      Mind you, I'm not promoting that people get crazy and start plunking down the one and two star reviews just because they can, or that that it's okay to crucify an author's hard work for the sheer joy of releasing frustration (or whatever). But I am promoting the idea of honesty. Reviewers should feel comfortable being honest, whether they're writing a one or a five star review.

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  5. I do also want to point out the other side as well. If someone is reviewing a book I feel they are obligated to give their thoughts and feelings on the book...not the author personally. I have seen many many reviews that were clearly an attack on the writer because of personal issues that had nothing to do with the book itself. you can write a review that's negative without being nasty about it and I have yet to read even one book that had no redeeming qualities what so ever.-The Captain

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    1. Exactly. Reviews don't have to be personal attacks.

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  6. I just wanted to chime in on this...I've recently joined a blog site and have noticed that when we receive the tour blog information, usually included along with it is a request that if we cannot give the review at least 3 stars, to either delay the review until after the tour or provide a promo post instead of the review. This may sound harsh, but I really don't care if the author has paid for the tour and doesn't want negative reviews to impact it...translation, not risk losing money on a sale. I pride myself on being honest, respectful and having integrity when writing a review. I admire the time, effort and sacrifices authors make when creating their books; and do my very best to honor that when writing my reviews. There will always be writing styles and genres that reviewers favor over others and when those sync with an extremely well written story, you're going to feel those emotions in that review. But even a book genre I'm either not familiar with or usually do not read that I've been given to do a review on, doesn't really matter, a well written book is just that, a well written book. I've also had some books that are well not great but not bad either, but I will still find positives to put in the review trying to keep in mind maybe it just wasn't my style or especially a debut author and you can really see the potential and talent. But then there are some books... well, they are just awful, and it almost seems as if the author is more concerned about making a name for themselves as being a published author, than trying to move the reader with the story...does that make sense? There's no emotional transfer to the reader, sloppy editing, and not just a word or two, but dozens upon dozens, grammar, repeating the same exact phrasing over and over...it just comes across as lazy and uncaring. So, as I mentioned earlier, I don't care that the author spends money for a tour blog, the readers are spending their money on these books and they trust bloggers like myself to give them at the very least an honest opinion, but at the most...well, that I didn't just read this book, but I lived it, I was right there with those characters, laughing and crying feeling everything they felt because I opened myself up to all experiences the book held within it and hopefully, it was the same way the author felt when they wrote it because they lived it too when they created that world. That's what authors should focus on, writing books they love and elicit that kind of response from their readers, not dictating to reviewers on how their books should be rated.

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