Author V Critics

We all have opinions, and we use the internet to prove it. While leaving a rude comment on someone's post is a good reason to receive backlash, what if you faced backlash for an honest review of a service, company or product? Censorship for reviews should not exist, but some people attempt to enforce unjust censorship. This has been a recent phenomenon in the book-ish community, which consists of readers, writers and publishers on the internet. The recent topic is whether or not authors should interact with reviews of their books, especially negative reviews. It has sparked controversies in the book-ish community, which is, ever so often, a traditionally supportive community. This online community exists on and is connected through every social media site but is primarily on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Goodreads. 

In the past few months, the book review side of Twitter has been getting spicy, and the drama has bled into BookTube. It started when authors attacked reviewer and BookTuber Gavin Hetherington for negative reviews and his video "The Worst and Disappointing Books of 2020," which is a video trend every year. Children's authors came at him from every angle. 

Hetherington reviews a variety of books; however, he has a niche for reviewing children and middle grade books. Some of his attackers were authors he admired and supported while others were complete strangers, so he responded by removing their books from his shelves. It is important to note he did not tag any of the authors in his post or video, and authors whose books were not mentioned made this controversy their business. 

Many have deleted their tweets they were so bold to post when the drama started; however, Jess Owens, a book reviewer, has found receipts and documents the events on her YouTube channel. One example from these authors which is still searchable is from author Sharon Bairden who tweeted, "I just think it would feel hurtful to be included in such a list, like imagine being on a list of the most disappointing bloggers of the year? So it's not the reviews that I think are the issue. It's just the list." In the same thread, Hetherington responded by tweeting, "If someone did a list of most disappointing bloggers, that would be criticising the bloggers. A list of disappointing books is criticising the books, NOT the authors. There are millions of lists like this for books, TV, movies, games, etc. Don't censor reviewers." 

A list of disappointing books is one person's opinion despite the awards these writers have received. Hetherington also responded to another thread on Twitter saying, "Bad writing, bad characters, bad plot etc. are all valid criticisms. I never called the authors names or directed hate at them as people. What is not respectful is authors invading reviewers spaces, or arguing with them about their right to review honestly." 

These authors should not have gone after Hetherington. No one should be attacked for their opinion, and all reviews should be honest. Furthermore, authors should avoid reading reviews on their books, especially when they are not tagged. Reviewers should not tag authors in negative reviews anyway because it is rude. 

However, it is not rude to post an honest review of a book for other readers. The book review realm is for readers not authors. I personally have experience with authors commenting on my book reviews, whether or not I tagged them. However, each time was a positive review, so I did not get dragged through the dirt. It may be tempting to search hashtags and doom-scroll through posts about your works, but along with invading reviewer territory, that is not a healthy hobby. If authors believe negative reviews are hurtful, imagine having a swarm of authors invading the reviewers' spaces for the attack. It is not a fair match. 

To note, Hetherington is not the only reviewer to be attacked recently. According to Herb Weisbaum with NBC News, "Congress has reaffirmed your right to post truthful negative reviews about a product or service provider — even if you signed an agreement that bans you from doing so." 

Of course, this right applies to the U.S., but even Goodreads supports freedom of reviewing honestly. Goodreads states in their terms of use that reviewers can say anything, positive or negative, about a book; however, they also say their users should not use negative language toward an author. Finally, Goodreads' terms refer directly to authors and state, "Don't engage with people who negatively rate or review your books." This policy should be the general rule to prevent authors from engaging in messy behavior. If you want more people to read your books, do not attack reviewers. If you do not want negative reviews, then do not look for them. 

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