Bad Blogs and Bloggers?

A recent blog post from an author I follow sent me to another blog written by yet another author. In her post she was complaining about bloggers behaving badly, at least in her opinion, and upset at “bloggers swindling her.” That’s what she calls it when a blogger “promises” a review of her book and the review isn’t forthcoming. In a follow up post she provides a short list of bloggers who have “swindled” her.

This is only the latest in a growing trend I’ve seen in the indie publishing world that I find disconcerting. This trend is calling people out in public (it doesn’t get much more public than the internet) for perceived wrongs. You can find threads in the Amazon forums for outing authors alleged to have behaved badly and reviewers who are supposed to have done the same. There are numerous lists and shelves on Goodreads for those badly behaving authors. One of the latest is a site devoted to “Goodreads Bullys,” (which “fights back” against readers accused of writing vindictive reviews on the popular reader review site by posting personal information about them). The Huffington Post has had at least three separate articles about this site.

I’m not going to comment on most of these other than to say that some of the problems being addressed may be legitimate (others, maybe not), but that the solutions are often at least as bad as the problems they’re trying to address. At least that’s my opinion. (My cohorts at Indies Unlimited will probably want to distance themselves from my opinons.) But I do have some thoughts about the post complaining about blogger follow through, both for book bloggers (as well as anyone thinking about starting a book review blog) and for authors.

First, for my fellow bloggers, while I disagree with much of the post, not all of her points lack merit. One is that while she is really stretching to call a typical (or even atypical) review blog a business, showing a minimal level of professionalism isn’t unreasonable. Most important, make sure your submissions process sets reasonable expectations for authors and be careful about over committing.

For authors, I know many of you appreciate the service provided by review blogs, however, if you view the situation the same way this author does, you’re going to be disappointed. A typical review blog is more like a small volunteer organization than a business, usually with a single volunteer. What little income most receive (probably from being an Amazon affiliate) is unlikely to be enough to fill their car with gas once a month. Very little of that income comes from purchases of your book, but from the breast pump or marital aid a reader decides to purchase after clicking through to your book listing. While there are “professional bloggers” who make a living from their blogs and related pursuits, these aren’t bloggers who regularly review books from indie authors. Any blogger who starts a book review blog with any financial goals on his or her list of reasons for doing so, is going to be disappointed and won’t be around for long.

As with any volunteer organization, volunteers sometimes have to back out of their commitments. If the boss at their paying job needs overtime this week, they have a family emergency, or they just need a break to recharge their batteries, their volunteer work will suffer. It’s basic prioritization, and everyone, not just bloggers, sometimes can’t accomplish something they planned on doing.

In the year and a half since starting my blog, I’ve posted more than three hundred reviews. To say each one is time consuming would be an understatement. It takes several hours to read most books, writing a review consumes much more time than people who haven’t done it would guess, and all the other activities to keep a website going are an unbelievable time sink. No reviewer is going to do this for any amount of time for the chance to “swindle” an author out of a copy of their book.

Since I’m objecting to the reaction of one author, it seems fair that I offer suggestions for how I think she, or any author who feels the same, should approach this situation. First, do your homework. Before submitting your book or sending a query to a review, read some of their reviews. Follow the submission policy. Make sure you know what they appear to be committing to do. Make sure they are actively reviewing. See that this site isn’t one that mostly does hit pieces – there are some of those out there and your book is not going to be the exception. A little homework will help insulate you from the less reliable. If you are sending ebooks (which I’m assuming the author of the post in question does, since she doesn’t appear to have paper books available on Amazon), don’t look at this as an expense. It cost you nothing. It didn’t cost you a sale. Last, for the author of the complaining post, I’m sorry some of my fellow bloggers dropped the ball, but please, whatever you do, don’t send me your books.

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

20 thoughts on “Bad Blogs and Bloggers?”

  1. Quite unnecessary to name and shame in this type of situation. I have to say I was immensely grateful to book reviewers who took time to read and comment on my book, even the ones who didn’t particularly enjoy it.

    Last year, I read one blogger review that indeed caused a stir with his less than complimentary feedback, of which he was quite entitled to give. The author was furious that he had published his thoughts, thus making them so public on his blog. The author argued with many commenters, and really made herself look very unprofessional. Constructive criticism is paramount, especially for indie authors, such as myself.

    Kathryn Brown (Crystal Jigsaw)

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful post! I worry about authors losing it online, going after their reviewer. They forget on the internet everything is forever. As a result of “The Strange Case of Carroll Bryant” (as it is being called), a few more bloggers have slammed their doors on the self-pubbed.

    1. Thanks for the comment rasanaatreya. I think there are things happening on both sides, author and reader, that are, at a minimum distasteful, and often questionable. The thing is, fair or not, an author is almost always going to come out looking bad in these situations.

  3. Great post, Al. I read the blog and Huffington post article with interest and am always shocked at the lack of common sense. Common sense to realize every writer, blogger, reader, reviewer out there has a life in addition to and things happen. Life happens. There is absolutely no reason to get your panties in a wad because a blogger/reviewer can’t review your book after all (not realizing perhaps something even bad happened in the blogger/reviewers life), and if authors are acting this way, why would anyone want to review there book?

  4. I agree with Jacqueline’s comment. I’ve sent out review requests and gifted ebooks to reviewers who have not reviewed my book (I hope they will eventually), but I don’t hold it against them, things happen in their lives, and I’m not the center of their universe.
    To flip this topic over, not only would I not buy a book from an author I knew was acting badly, I wouldn’t submit my book for review to a site that posted attacks on authors.
    Thanks for not painting all indie authors with this reputation. Most of us are capable of rational behavior – or at least have some concept of good manners.

    1. Thanks, PA. I happen to know I’m one of those bloggers you’ve submitted to and haven’t seen a review. At least not yet.

  5. As I have learned in the music world, any reviews that I received either good or bad, I will thank the reviewer for their time and effort and using their feedback, I will always continue to improve my writing from said good and bad reviews.

  6. I am of the opinion that if you can’t take negative feedback and turn it into something constructive, don’t be any kind of artist. Moreover, if you cannot give negative feedback in a constructive way, you should not be reviewing. Saying something sucks is all well in good but have a reason behind it, WHY you in particular think it sucks. If someone is reviewing your material, be patient and understanding not hatefully adding your reader’s name to a list because he/she didn’t review your masterpiece in a decent amount of time of your choosing. Ridiculous. Is the indie community (not all, perhaps) devolving into Jr. High school? Authors and reviewers who behave badly should take their bruised egos and book it from any sort of social network. In the end, they’re hurting themselves and don’t deserve the time of day or publicity.

  7. Thank you for your thoughts on this, Big Al. For me, sending books to potential reviewers is part of doing business as a writer. If a serious reviewer or dedicated book blogger asks for a book, I’ll gladly send one. And then it takes however long it takes. Sure, I’ve parted with books and never seen reviews, but life’s too short and it’s not worth the bother or worth compromising my professionalism to complain. The next time, as you’ve said, I’ll do more research. As for the reviews….look, I ASKED for this. Because I’ve chosen to publish, the world gets to say what it wants. I cringe when I see those public battles over reviews. It’s not good for any of us.

  8. Thanks for a great piece, Al.

    I’m always grateful to anyone who reads my work and posts a review, no matter how long it takes them to get around to it. And yes, as far as I’m concerned, the #1 rule of thumb on teh intarwebz is: Always act like a professional.

  9. Hi Big Al,
    Constructive criticism is a gift to the writer. A nasty review will reflect on the reviewer, and to honor it with a rebuttal is useless and a waste of energy.
    Lots of people misbehave on the Internet. It eventually catches up with them I have not sent books out to reviewers because I hear over and over how most of the real services won’t review unknown authors. Perhaps I will change my opinion when my next book comes out.
    Thanks for the informative post.

  10. And sometimes reviewers take the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” approach and choose not to publish a review at all rather than say that something sucked. So it’s possible that this author with her plethora of non-forthcoming reviews just isn’t a very good writer, and those bloggers are doing her a favour by not saying so publicly.

  11. I agree with the need for professionalism on both sides of the fence and I also agree with the comment about how what we put on the net is forever.

    Just recently I was trying some techie wizardry which involved doing searches on myself. I was pleasantly surprised at having so many of my blog posts come up but I was also a little daunted to realise that comments I made on other people’s posts were recorded forever more as well.

    I don’t write anything horrible in comments so that doesn’t worry me but I’ve always thought of those comments as little conversations that others are welcome to join but still, somehow more personal than formal posts. Finding that they’re recorded for posterity too makes me realise that the digital world is not quite like the real world. You really do have to watch every word you put out there.

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