Yes, I’m posting this under Guest Posts, even though this is all me, Angie Martin, writing it. 🙂
I recently received a bad review on Conduit. This is bound to happen from time to time, as we all know not everyone is going to love our books. Sometimes a bad review doesn’t bother me because it teaches me something. If every review that is negative teaches me how to be a better writer, then I would welcome them with open arms. In fact, I love to read bad reviews on Amazon in my genres so that I can learn what upsets people and try not to do those things.
But this review was different. Every author knows what I’m talking about. That feeling of something just isn’t right. I don’t know how I ended up on this “book club’s” (I use the term loosely) hit list, but I made it right up to the top. The review spends an inordinate amount of time tearing my book and me to shreds. There is a lot of nastiness, cattiness, harsh, and downright hurtful things said. There are things I don’t comprehend, like why would you keep reading a book you hate and makes you incredibly angry, let alone read it 1.5 times? I won’t say anything to address the points in the review (which I could) and I won’t go on and on about my background in English and writing because I’m just not filled with anger and hate and I have a point to make here.
(And just to set the record straight, I would write this no matter whose book they did this to because it is simply not right and I’ve seen way too much of this behavior recently to stay quiet.)
Yet… none of what she said to attack my book is what bothers me the most.
What bothers me about this review is that this reviewer claims to be an author. In fact, she even went so far as to “rewrite” one of my scenes just to show how I should have written out the flashback (though I have very specific writing rules for why I did it the way I did). So this “author” claims that I made a ton of mistakes. Okay, so I’m human. Do I possibly have a dangling participle in there? Sure, it’s possible. It’s also possible I have a typo or five (just as it’s possible she does as well). When I find them, I correct them. All writers are bound to make mistakes and—shock and awe!—sometimes they make it into the final, published MS even if you’re with a big publishing house.
But to my point. This author doesn’t use their real name. Or maybe it’s part of their real name, but their account on GoodReads is a sock puppet account. This means it’s fake (something that GR has strict regulations against). It’s not their real account, it’s not their author account. In fact, I’m the ONLY review or rating she’s ever done. If she is such a great author, as she claims to be in her review (and tries to show by rewriting my scene), why the need to hide behind a sock puppet account? Does she fear that if she doesn’t, she’ll have her book read and judged the way she judges others’ books? Does she worry that her books aren’t as good as she claims? Even if she’s an unpublished author, why the need to pretend you’re someone else and not use your real GR profile to attack a book?
Now like I said earlier, I don’t mind a review that is negative if it is constructive. Yet this review is written from a fake account and is not constructive in the least. If she really felt I was such a bad writer, she had other outlets. 1) She could have not finished the book. 2) She could have contacted me privately and said she’d like to help me learn. 3) She could have not read the book 1.5 times. That she spent so much time and energy expelling whatever anger and hatred she has inside of her tells me that she was really after one thing: to be hateful.
Hate really has no place in this world, yet there are a lot of people who live and breathe the emotion. Psychology tells us that a person who is so angry and hateful, who dedicates their time and efforts into that anger and hate, is someone who is trying to elevate themselves in either their own eyes or the eyes of others. In other words, they want to feel superior to the person they are attacking. I think there’s a lot of truth to that, yet when someone feels the need to do this, they shouldn’t do it anonymously. Shout it from the rooftops! Let everyone know how you feel! If there is truly “nothing wrong” with the review you post that attacks and attacks, then do it from your real account and let us other less-intelligent and less-talented authors read your books so we can learn from your immense ability. Your readers might even thank you for allowing them to see the horrible books that are in the world.
Usually when I read a book I don’t like, I just don’t finish it. If I have taken it on as a review, I politely email the author, let them know it’s not my thing, and move on. The only book I’ve ever negatively reviewed and spoken out against is 50 Shades of Grey. This is part bad-writing, but mostly because of the fact that it paints domestic violence in a positive light and lots of women follow the book in hopes of being on the receiving end of this abuse (which they are told is BDSM, but really isn’t). In this case, there is a message that I feel very strongly about (domestic violence) and I won’t stop speaking out against books that say it is okay for a man to abuse a woman. I also do so publically, meaning you will find my full review of 50 Shades of Grey on public forums under my real name. I won’t hide behind a fake account to give a negative review on a book. The primary reason I negatively reviewed that book is because of domestic violence, though I do discuss the writing, plot, and characters since I like to give full, detailed reviews. Any other book I strongly dislike, I stop reading and don’t review. I don’t need to waste my time on hate or anger or trying to tear another author down to make myself feel better.
So what bothers me about this review just as much as the use of a fake account to review the book is that she hides behind the guise of representing geeky girls. The name of their organization is Bitch Team Alpha (and I certainly don’t mind if you find them on GR and read the review of my book in their discussion group – I don’t try to hide the bad reviews). When I discovered they had somehow stumbled upon my book, I had that sinking feeling just from their organization’s name. Who wouldn’t?
Then again, they claim to want to bring to light that girls love comics, too. Yes, we do! I love comics! I find zen in comic book stores! I love comic cons! I love action figures and statues and have a massive collection! I play video games all night long! I write reviews of comics and graphic novels as a guest contributor for a comic book publisher! Geek is what I am and what I will always be.
But when you claim to represent a group of people, you should do so positively. If you don’t, you cast negative light on that group—in this case, geeky girls. I have spent a lot of time educating people about girls that are geeks, having been one my entire life. Everything that the geek community stands for is contrary to the cattiness, hate, and anger this reviewer spews toward my book.
When I go to a con, I go for the atmosphere and the people. I love to sit in a line with a group of people I don’t know and just talk geek. I’ve had some of the best conversations in my life at cons and comic book stores. That’s because we understand each other where others don’t. We accept each other where others don’t. We read comics filled with superheroes who stand up for those who cannot. We don’t push people down so we can walk all over them for our own perceived self-worth. And we certainly don’t represent our community with hatred and anger.
I could question a lot of things about this reviewer and their authorship and if they are really a geek or a b*tchy girl who is pretending to be one because of the recent geek fad, but the point is it will get me nowhere. I’m not filled with that kind of hate. I’m just not engineered that way. I still believe in superheroes and the people they stand up for when the villains come to town. Obviously there is freedom of speech and this person can say whatever they want about whatever they want and hide behind however many fake accounts they want and they can claim to represent the geeky girl community. But please don’t buy into that last part. They are not representative of the community that I grew up in, that I love and embrace.
And authors, as a rule, don’t be awful. It’s okay to say you hated a book to a friend, but doing so publically (and behind the mask of a fake account) just makes us all look bad. We are all in the same group, whether we are a best seller or a struggling indie author. We should try to help each other, not hate each other or rip each other to shreds. It accomplishes nothing. I hope this author finds her way and remembers what draws her to comics. If she wants to be a villain, then she’s accomplished that and good for her (just not good for the geek or author community). But if anywhere inside of her she gets even the slightest bit excited about the hero taking out the villain, then I hope she rethinks her public persona before she puts another author through the full Bitch Team Alpha treatment.