The other day I received a text from a friend of mine with a screenshot of an Instagram post. The post in question was a negative, but a valid critique of a novel, The user said that while the book was well paced, the twist was very impressive, but the novel itself was “just okay” and “not for them”.
While this is not exactly what every author wants to hear, as far as reviews go, the internet has been worse. If it were my book, I would be very content with that type of review negative or otherwise. If something just is not for you, that’s completely fair. In that sense, everyone is entitled to their opinion. That being said, the Poster, tagged the author of the novel that she did not like.
Not even that she didn’t like it, she just didn’t like a lot. “This book honestly fell short for me, but that does not mean you shouldn’t check it out for yourself.” the Instagram account writes. She follows it up with praise for a few plot devices the author uses. The only thing reads as “good, not great.” In short; she gave it a B minus. It’s passing. It’s respectable.
“Can she even do this?” my friend asked me. “Is that not a thing? That’s gotta be against a rule,”
Was the review particularly nasty? As I said, no. Is it okay to tag an author in a post? Depends. The person who posted this probably did not expect the author to freaking comment on it! If I get a retweet or a reply from Maureen Johnson on Twitter and I would be freaking out for days. (For the sake of my dignity, we will not get into how many times I’ve tweeted to Stephen King and have gotten NOTHING.) I know the Poster did not expect the author to respond to this post let alone with the line; “Please don’t tag authors in reviews of their books that ‘fell short for you’. We are people too with feelings. Thanks.”
This is one of those things where I kind of had to squint at it, for a second. I am of two schools of thought in this scenario; one is plain fact, the other I think is more of a symptom of Internet culture. Firstly, my knee jerk response was “Hey Doll, criticism is part of the job if you cannot handle just a very professional review and opinions such as the one that this young woman posted, maybe head over to be a nurse or something.
Because a little insta post like this is going to be the very least of your worries.” I stand by that, being an author means you have to have some kind of thick skin, if you don’t you’re just Emily Dickinson and you’re only shot at getting published is your little sister taking your stuff and sending them out because you never felt the need to leave your room.
It comes with the job, the fact of the matter is, you are not a one hundred dollar bill, not everyone is going to like you or your work so you cannot take this kind of thing personally. There’s a big difference between; “The twist was solid, great narrative, it would have been better if XYZ had happened.” and “this sucks, never write again, go jump in a tub with a toaster,” are vastly different.
Stephen King used to get death threats mailed to him before Twitter. He would get handwritten letters telling him he was going to Hell where none of his “millions of dollars would buy him so much as a glass of water”. The hills are indeed alive with the sound of douchebaggery. People suck. Writers know this. We would not find such a solitary career path if we were people who need people, okay?
My second thought is clearly a sign I’ve been on the internet too long because it was something to effect of BURN THE WITCH! That I just chalked up to drinking the Kool-Aid of the Internet’s cancel culture. I was ready to roll my eyes and throw out this author for reacting the way she did. I mean so someone doesn’t think that you are the next Jane Austen – chill out bitch you will survive. When it comes to “cancel culture”, while I think it is completely justified and applicable in the case of say, R. Kelly. It took a minute to realize that I was being a bit too harsh on this woman.
To the author’s point, it takes guts to write a book. Not a lot of people realize that. Most books come from a personal place, Pet Sematary? One of Stephen King’s sons got out in the road and luckily turned out fine but when you have kids it makes it hard not to obsess over the worst case scenario, I don’t have kids myself but I’d imagine that’s where any parent worth their salt has a meltdown. This is going to be okay, you will survive a bad review, no one has ever died of inadequacy, it’s why Stephenie Meyer and EL James are still employed.
All of this to say, everyone is entitled to their opinion, just like everyone is entitled to their reaction to that opinion. As an author, you have to learn to take criticism as it is, just “yes, and” the review and carry on with your work. If it’s constructive, listen, if it’s undiluted negativity, then it is not your problem. The moral here is maybe don’t tag authors in your reviews? We will find it do not make it easier.
The Novel in question; The Favorite Sister
The author: Jessica Knoll
I give this blog post five stars,