Reviews! They’re great! If they weren’t, I’d be out of a job! But do you know what sucks? Writing a negative review of something and then tagging in the person you’re being critical of. Come on, why would you do that? What is there to be gained from that grandstanding? Of course, this debate is nothing new. If you’re in any way familiar with social media, criticism, or just the general state of humanity on the internet, it won’t shock you in the slightest to hear there are people who think it’s a personal slight against them to be told it kind of sucks to direct creators to your dislike of them.
The latest cycle of this conversation happened over the weekend when YA author Angie Thomas, the New York Times best-selling writer of The Hate U Give, took to Twitter to say she didn’t like being tagged in reviews of her work. While she later clarified that she specifically meant she didn’t like being tagged in negative reviews, some people still found the energy to be angry at what is a very reasonable request.
I said don’t tag authors in reviews and someone said they’ll throw my books away now. Do you, boo. pic.twitter.com/snL2uNsATR— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) June 29, 2019
Y’all. Reviews are great. Tagging authors in negative reviews is insensitive. Write all the reviews! But don’t make us read the bad ones. How is that a bad thing? https://t.co/ontp3f4LqO— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) June 29, 2019
I know and I’m sorry. I should’ve clarified negative reviews. My mistake. https://t.co/P3YjvgbRd3— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) June 29, 2019
It didn’t take long for other authors to weigh in on the conundrum, although they were almost universally bound by the same response: Please don’t tag them in on negative reviews! Author Laurie Halse Anderson also alluded to a Facebook group inciting ire over this debate in a racist manner directed towards Thomas (I’ve seen screencaps from said group and will not post them here since it includes people’s full names).
The convo re: tagging authors in negative reviews is interesting. The racist BS in a FB group about it is horrible & disgusting— Laurie Halse Anderson (@halseanderson) June 29, 2019
I agree w @angiecthomas - plz don’t tag me in a neg review. Readers wont like every book - no worries. But reading neg reviews is a knife in the heart
Lissen, tagging an author in a negative review is pretty much hunting them down to tell them their shit sucks to their face.— LL McKinney (@ElleOnWords) June 29, 2019
I mean…rude is just the start.
I don't get why reviewers want to tag authors with their reviews.— Justine Larbalestier (@JustineLavaworm) June 29, 2019
Your reviews are not for me. I know what I think of my books. Your reviews will not sway me to buy or not buy my own books.
I find it kinda weird.
That said when it happens I RT. I figure that's what they want.
"But if we don't tag authors in negative reviews, how will they get feedback?"— Andrew Shvarts (@Shvartacus) June 29, 2019
idk maybe from the betas, editors, copy-editors, authenticity readers, and dozens of others whose feedback we've sought out?
Do not ever do this to me. I'll post your name.— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) June 30, 2019
And yeah, I believe negative reviews are good publicity too. But reviews aren't for us, they're for readers. And it should be the author's choice to go look for them, if they do. Not some rando's. https://t.co/39MNp0aF12
As a former book blogger, I am all too familiar with being in the trenches of the often sticky dynamics between authors and reviewers. It’s immensely easy as a mere book blogger to get hyper defensive about your work, especially when you’re doing it for no money, very little support, a small readership, and there’s an entire societal default mode telling you that critics are worse than dirt. I get seeing Thomas’s initial tweet and thinking, ‘Hey, does this mean she isn’t a fan of reviewers full stop?’ But seriously, why are there so many people who are legitimately furious that an author wouldn’t want daily reminders that there are readers who think her work sucks?
Reviews, in my humble opinion, are by and large for the consumer and not the creator. They’re a way for people to join in on a wider cultural conversation and also a simple way for people to figure out if they want to put their own money down for the book, film, song, etc, being discussed. Negative reviews can be good business for an author - believe me, I know way too many books that got sales boosts because of memorable bloggers going all in - but to throw that in an author’s face as an excuse for tagging them in on your negativity is seriously cheap.
What a lot of this conversation has done is open up some familiar questions over what exactly it is that bloggers and critics, not just in the book world but all of pop culture and journalism, want from their subjects/creators. Do they want to be friends? Do they want to ensure those streams are never crossed? What do they think the purpose of negative criticism is? The latter is of particular interest to me because a frequent talking point that came up from people who seemed the most angry at Angie Thomas was this notion that they simply had to let her see their one star review of The Hate U Give on Goodreads because how else would she receive such valuable feedback? I imagine being an author with multiple proof readers, an editor, a publishing team, and countless members of your own family and friends circle on standby would be a helpful substitute for said ‘feedback’. What do these people think will happen if they read that bad review? Will they be ever so thankful and go on to produce exclusively excellent work that satisfies that one person who made this miraculous change possible?
Personally, I don’t even like tagging people in on my positive reviews of their work. If they find the review themselves and are happy to share it, that’s fine, but I don’t want to throw myself at their feet and beg for their approval by letting them know how much I loved something they created. On a purely professional level, it’s just kind of tacky, but it’s also an uncomfortable dynamic I don’t wish to foster. My job isn’t to provide feedback and it’s suspect at best to pretend doing something you know could be hurtful to someone, like tagging them in on that one star slam, will satisfy anyone other than yourself.
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