In California, a scorned author apparently assaulted a literary agent in her car as she waited to pick up her daughter at school.
And, a website that I will not link here continues to claim that negative reviews constitute “bullying” by the people who write them.
Is it any wonder that it is safer to review dead authors? And, frankly, is it any wonder that I stopped reading books by self-published authors several months ago? Because it just isn’t worth the time or the potential trouble for me to post reviews for new books. And, it has been my experience that even the best self-published books rarely meet the quality standard of the most mediocre of the traditionally published books (in spite of the plethora of five-star reviews that most of them have received), so the likelihood of me giving a glowingly positive review to a self-published book is quite low and the likelihood of me pissing off a self-published author is, conversely, quite high.
Oh, authors love a five-star review. Of course they do. And the reader who posts the five star review of their book, well, that reader is obviously brilliant and perceptive. But what if a reader is a reader like me? A reader who reserves the five-star designation for a book that is not just fun to read, but that I think is something genuinely spectacular. Potentially world-altering. I love the Mercy Thompson series, and think that Patricia Briggs just about walks on water as far as fantasy and urban fantasy go. But dang it, she didn’t write To Kill a Mockingbird, and she isn’t Leo Tolstoy. From what I’ve read about her, she seems to me to be a fairly humble, cool person. I bet she would agree with me.
When I rate books, I rate them relative to everything else that I’ve ever read, which is quite extensive – I’ve been reading for over forty years. So, if I’m going to give a book a five star review, I consider it on par with TKAM in importance, quality, use of language, and characterizations. This is a really high standard – I acknowledge that. But these are my reviews, and I get to use MY standard and no one else’s. I don’t really find most customer reviews that helpful, because it is obvious to me that they are reviewing a book based on completely different standards than the ones I use. I’m not saying that their standards are wrong – they just aren’t very helpful to me. Mine probably aren’t all that helpful to them, either, but I can say with total conviction that I have resisted the pressure to inflate my ratings.
Sometimes I am happy to read a genre romance – something reasonably well-written and fun to read. Maybe something by Lisa Kleypas or Julia Quinn. But Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn, in my world, don’t write 5-star books. They write romance of above average quality. This is true of most of the YA that I read as well – it would hover between 3 and 4 stars – Maggie Stiefvater at the high end, other writers at the lower end. Still fun, still well worth buying, but not great literature. Not the sort of book that keeps me up at night, mulling over the characters, reliving moments, wondering about motivations and the thought process of the author.
So, I like to think of my posts as discussions, and I am increasingly hesitant to give star ratings. I quit reviewing on amazon, even though I enjoyed it, and received good feedback on my reviews. I still post reviews on goodreads, and I plan to continue to do so, although I only review a small percentage of the books that I read on GR. But I am more and more convinced that star-ratings are worthless, whether they are mine or someone else’s. And the possibility of being online
stalked tracked down by a disgruntled author or his or her rabid fans is sufficiently off-putting that I’m just not willing to expose myself to that kind of crazy.