While I was on blog hiatus, author Hannah Moskowitz posted an open letter to people who post nasty reviews on Goodreads (language NSFW). (UPDATE: I believe I actually misread Hannah's point, which I think has to do with commenting on bad reviews than leaving bad reviews. So please take this more as a jumping off point than an extension of that discussion.)
In essence, Hannah argues that while vitriol from readers is hard to take for any author, it's especially hard and egregious coming from fellow authors. Hannah suggests that authors actually give up their right to write casual (and especially casually negative) reviews:
...I don't really get to be a reader anymore, not fully, and that's just [bleeping] reality. And maybe it's not altogether awesome, and maybe I miss it, but it's a pretty small price to pay for being a [motherbleeping] author.
That doesn't mean I can't write reviews, even negative ones; I do sometimes, and there are some amazing combination writer/reviewers out there--Phoebe North, anyone?--but it does mean that if I go out there and comment on bad reviews with sarcasm and bitchiness and general [bleep]-dom, I make writer-hannah look like a [bleeping] idiot.
So is she right? Do authors give up some rights when it comes to reviews?
While there's a great and long tradition of writers penning thoughtful negative reviews that demonstrate respect for the subject at hand, I agree with Hannah. I do believe writers give up the right to write casually bitchy reviews.
For the following reasons:
1) You don't need the karma.
And forget the cosmic implications, this business is hard enough without having people out there wishing you ill. Behind every book is a team. You don't need teams turning against you.
2) You should be following the Golden Rule.
How would you like it if someone casually dished your book as a piece of trash not worth the pixels it was printed on and it should be burned in a fiery pit of suck?
Not very much, I'm guessing. Not very much.
3) You won't look good.
There's no way to write a cruel review and come away looking like anything more than a mean person. No matter how wittily you think you tore the book apart.
4) You're better than that.
You are! Look at you. You're smart, you're erudite, you have a way with words. You insult yourself by resorting to ham-fisted takes on books and not giving them the thoughtful treatment.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying authors can't write reviews. But writers should require themselves to write thoughtful reviews. They should elevate the discourse, not lower it. And they should treat their fellow writerly comrades at arms with the respect they deserve.
What do you think? Do writers give up rights when it comes to reviews?
Art: "H.L. Mencken" by O. Richard