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When do negative reviews go too far?

I know this has been discussed before, and I certainly don’t want to beat a dead horse (that’s just cruel), but I think this subject warrants a discussion based on recent happenings.

Last night on Twitter, Amy pointed out a post over at Babbling About Books And More entitled Reviewer Beware! No Books For You! The gist of the story is that Emmy, a book reviewer, received an email from a person who runs a site she reviewes for saying that publishers and authors have requested Emmy not be given books to review based on a few of her harshly negative reviews. Emmy has never claimed to be a professional reviewer, and her reviews tend to be her emotional reaction to the book as opposed to discussing plot, characterization, etc. To her credit, I think her reviews tend  to work for the genre that she reviews, which is romance/erotica.

(Edited to add: Thanks to Natasha for clarifying something that might not be clear about the situation (read Natasha’s full comment below): “Emmy was being asked to either tone down her reviews or no longer receive books from certain publishers because of the reviews she posted on a review site, as opposed to her own blog.”)

An interesting discussion ensued on Twitter, at the base of the discussion whether publishers have the right to deny books to bloggers who write excessively negative reviews. A few other issues came up that I wanted to discuss as well, so I’ve sectioned the issues out.

Can publishers and authors refuse to send books to bloggers who don’t write good reviews?

Publishers and authors can do whatever they want. After all, they’re the ones wielding the free books! I WISH publishers and authors were more discerning in who received free books. There was a point last year where all you had to say was “I have a blog!” and you’d get inundated with free books. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I think that is slowly changing.

I don’t think this is a bad practice on the part of publishers and authors. Publishers and authors should be more discerning in who they give free books to, largely because not everyone enjoys every genre of book.

Book bloggers are not professional reviewers

Good point. But is it wrong of publishers to expect professional behavior in return for sending a free book?

I think that in accepting a book for review, you’re entering into a business relationship with the publisher/author, and should behave as such. Saying, “I’m not a professional reviewer” is a cop out. The reviewer is essentially saying, “I want a free book but I don’t want to be held to any standard of conduct.”

It’s my blog! I can say whatever I want!

True. But what I don’t understand is when snarkiness became okay. It angers me to no end that society is going the way of “whatever you do is okay and no one can criticize you”. I’ll be the first to admit snarkiness is funny, but snarkiness directed at a person or a person’s work is rude, cruel, and unacceptable. Good for you if you pride yourself on being so honest that it comes out snarky. But frankly, I don’t think you would say your snarky things to the recipient’s face, so I just find it to be cowardly.

Specifically, Emmy used the words “craptastic”, “suckage”, and “OH MY GAWD MY EYES!!1!! *gouges out with rusty spoon to stop the pain*”. But don’t think I’m picking on Emmy! I bring up those examples from her reviews because she was the one who received the email about her negative reviews. To be fair, I wrote a particularly scathing review that is a little harsh when I re-read it, but believe me, the book really WAS that bad.  If I read that book today, would I write the same review? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ve written other reviews of books I didn’t enjoy (Bunko Babes and The Darker Side and Out Stealing Horses to name a few), and they certainly aren’t cruel. They’re honest, even very  honest, but never cruel.

I think that bloggers can “say whatever they want” when they only review books they’ve purchased themselves. When you purchase a book yourself, go ahead and trash it as much as you want (though I still don’t think that’s acceptable behavior). But when you receive books for free and trash the books and then wonder why no one sends you books when all you were doing was being honest  and you have a disclaimer that you’re brutally honest, wah wah wah, don’t come crying to me.

Why do professional reviewers in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and the NY Times get a pass on being cruel but book bloggers don’t?

I think people who review for PW, Kirkus, the NYT, etc, can be cruel because authors don’t have a choice. Those publications give them so much exposure that they take what they can get. But bloggers? Boy, do authors have a choice! And when people have a choice, they have the ability to somewhat dictate how things happen, because they’re confident they’ll be able to find someone who will  follow their guidelines.


I’m interested to know what you think about this. Can a review be too harsh? Do reviewers have any obligation to write reviews that aren’t cruel and rude when they receive books?

If you don’t have a blog, I’d especially like to hear from you! Do you think bloggers should have an unwritten code of conduct? Do you think publishers have a right to demand book bloggers not post malicious and cruel reviews?

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