The Author Behind That Book You Hate

As young reader I can’t recall ever reading a book and thinking it was horrible. I was much more accepting, much more willing to read a book with open eyes, not critically looking and examining what I believed to be faults in the story or the writing. I just read for the love of reading. I accepted the story for what it was. But then, that’s the beauty of youth, the way we keep our minds and hearts open, and simply allow stories to entertain us without judgment or malice. Weren’t we just the cutest things back then?

Today, it doesn’t seem to be that way. People are reading and reviewing and rating (they have every right to of course) but a part of me can’t help but wonder what happened to plain old reading for enjoyment. Why does everything have to be rated and what it the purpose behind these ratings? Some argue that it helps them decide if they want to read a book, but with so many varying opinions how could you possibly decide if a book is beautifully written or not and worth your time? If twenty people rave on about a book, there are bound to be some who absolutely hate it. Guaranteed.

Having your work out there to be scrutinized by others isn’t the easiest thing in the world, people. Ask any author. But it’s part of the territory, like it or lump it. We write the best story we can and, God willing, we might be able to share it with others. But there’s always going to be someone who won’t care about the work you put into it or what it means to the author to be able to express themselves with the written word. I’m not sure there is any other craft out there that comes under fire the way writing does. People can get nasty. I’ve seen it, myself, in the reviews of some of my favourite books and I wonder what would cause another person to write such nastiness. I’m all for honest reviews. If someone didn’t like a book they didn’t like it.

Behind every book, good or bad, there is a person. Someone who put their heart and soul into the story they want to tell. Hopefully, people will one day read it. And when/if they do, they’ll form opinions. They’ll either like it or they won’t. One thing I know for sure is, we won’t like every book we read, no more than everyone will like the book we write. It’s a fact of life. But being an author, I try to be as objective as I can and while I won’t like every book I read, I certainly respect the writer for creating it. Many, many hours goes into the writing of a book. We write and then we rewrite. Then rewrite some more. It’s a craft worthy of respect.

Honestly, I never used to think about the author behind the book until I became an author myself. I never wondered who they were or what kind of life they had. I only ever thought of them as an author, as if writing was their entire life. Of course, today, an author bio is on the back of books and we can get a small glimpse of who that person behind the book is. But that doesn’t tell a complete story. No bio I’ve read has ever told me that an author is trustworthy, honest or loyal. Or that they’re warm or caring and have a heart as big as the outdoors. I’ve not read a bio that told me how the author worked at perfecting his/her craft, working through the pain of rejection to produce something they truly believe in. Nor would you read in an author bio that someone’s nasty review was so hurtful that the author never wrote that second or third book because they stopped after number one. Nope, you won’t find any of those things in a bio. Although I’m not sure many people would even be interested in any of that and I’m sorry for sounding a little bit cynical at the moment

So while I don’t expect you all to love every book you read maybe you might stop for a moment and consider the author behind that book you either loved or hated.

 

Have you ever given any thought to the author behind the book you loved or  hate? Do you consider the idea that the reviews you write might be read by the author? Would you care?

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20 Comments

  1. Don’t you dislike how everything has to be rated and people have to have brands? Everything is a commodity for sale it seems. I don’t like the whole marketing side of writing. And it seems so cutthroat. A reader can write a bad review about a book so easily these days. Too much power to the masses.

    So much work and promotion goes into getting a book published in the first place. I admire those who get through all those hurdles with their sanity intact. They deserve to be applauded. Even if I don’t like the book, I commend them for getting that book out there.

    Reply
    • We live in a world that seems to judge everything we do, and no, Cathy, I don’t particularly like it. I’d much prefer celebrating the fact that someone wrote and published a book, and share in that accomplishment because I do know how difficult that is.

      Reply
  2. As a child, no, I never thought about the author, but as an adult I did wonder about my favorite authors. And now, of course, with the Internet you can find out more about most authors. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes not.

    As for reviews, before I became a published author I’d only publicly “reviewed” two books. And I put review in quotes because I don’t write true critical reviews, I give my opinion, which is what most “reviews” are at places like Amazon and Goodreads. For that reason, I don’t let those opinions of my books upset me.

    Like you said, not everyone will like our books. And they have the right to say why, but I don’t respect those who tear into the author with a personal attack. Or those who write a negative review and then have all their friends–who haven’t even read the book– instantly “like” that review so it will become prominent on Amazon. (Yes, it happened to me.)

    That said, some “reviewers” act as though reading a book they didn’t care for practically ruined their life. Seriously? Get over yourself.

    Reply
    • I agree, Linda, that personal opinions of our books really is just that. It often takes an author quite a bit of time to come to that place of acceptance. Good for those of us who have. :) Still, I don’t like to read nasty reviews of other books any more than I would want to read a really nasty review of my own. Personal attacks are just mean-spirited and certainly not cool in my opinion.

      Agreed as well, that no author deserves to be attacked personally. It’s a book for goodness sake. The fate of the world does not rest upon those who like it.Yes, sometimes we can get a bit too wrapped up in ourselves.

      I had no idea that people can “like” reviews on Amazon. I know about the “like” button on GoodReads. I’m sorry you had that experience with a review. I know I wouldn’t like that at all.

      Reply
      • Correction, Laura. I didn’t mean that the author should
        “get over it.” I was referring to the reader who writes reviews a book so negatively like reading it and not liking it was the end of the world.

        But we authors do need to toughen up so bad reviews don’t hit us so hard … though they’ll probably never not hurt a bit.

        Reply
        • No, I understood what you meant—that the reader should “get over it.” I guess I didn’t make myself clear. I reread my comment and can see why you misunderstood what I was saying… And I’m supposed to be a writer. ;)

          Toughening up, I believe, evolves over time. I’ve read that some authors don’t read reviews of their books which might not be such a bad idea. While the good reviews put us on top of the world, there’s probably not a lot to be gained by reading a negative review which is much different than constructive criticism.

  3. Sue Harrison

     /  May 15, 2014

    I love your post, Laura! I do review books and I try to find something good to say about each book I review. My reviews always take into consideration the genre. I don’t expect a light inspirational romance to read like a literary novel. That’s not the author’s goal. If my review is negative because of the genre, then I might as well be criticizing a horse because it’s not a cat. If a novel is too horrible, I simply don’t review it. Why break somebody’s heart because of my (perhaps erroneous) opinion!?!

    Reply
    • “If my review is negative because of the genre, then I might as well be criticizing a horse because it’s not a cat.” A wonderful attitude, Sue and absolutely true. I do think we can usually find something good in most books. Genre can be a big factor when it comes to reading. Why wouldn’t it? And as for “breaking someone’s heart” I’d never want to be responsible for that!

      Reply
  4. It’s terrible that people actually attack others through book reviews. I’d never even thought people would do that sort of thing. I’ve only reviewed book I’ve been asked to by the author. I usually don’t depend on reviews other than recommendations by friends with like-minded reading tendencies. As a writer, I do tend to wonder about the author behind the book.

    Reply
    • Sadly, I wonder if those who attack the author even realize that their review comes across that way. Perhaps people don’t take the time to think about what they’re saying when you can post things and not give it another thought. We see it all the time on Facebook.

      I still believe there are many more kind reviewers in the world than those who are not so kind, though. :)

      Reply
  5. I often do think about the writer of the books I read, especially when I am going to review the book. I don’t want to crush them after all the work they did, so if there is something I really don’t like about their book I try to go around it in a tactful way. On my blog I rate in a different way, not by stars or anything, just a comment.

    If I were to one day have a book published, I would be very nervous to read reviews of it. I know it only takes one slanderous review to drop one’s rating and turn potential readers/buyers away. Sadly, there are those people who are malicious just for the fun of it.

    As a reader, I look over reviews and often buy accordingly. Sometimes the negatives seem so meaningless I select that book anyway.

    Reply
    • I’m sure you do think of the writer, Lynn, especially since you do interviews and reviews!As you say, not everyone does and that’s kind of too bad. I know people have varying opinions on this, some think that if you have a book published then you need to be able to take whatever good or bad people have to say about it. But no matter what we make or do no one won’t to be told it stinks! We all have the right to create things. Hopefully, we never allow anyone to take that from us.

      Reply
  6. I have always wanted to know more about the author, even as a kid. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about Jane Austen, Margaret Laurence and Lucy Maude Montgomery to name a few. I just finished a wonderful book about Jean Little (Little by Little). Authors have always inspired me. I usually finish a book, even if I’m not that keen on it, out of respect for the author. Now that I’m a published author myself, I’m even more respectful of the time and effort that goes into creating a book.

    Reply
    • You’re right, Darlene. A lot of time and effort does go into writing. I’m sure the average reader might not realize just how much. Respect is always a good thing when it comes to writing, something all writers understand.

      Reply
  7. Laura, I don’t think of the writer while I’m reading. I want to get to know the story. I don’t read tag lines or book covers or jacket synopsis either. I may have heard of the book by word of mouth, or I saw it bundled together with a recent purchase on Amazon. However, I get to read something, I let myself become one with the story.

    As for negative reviews? I have never and never will write them. If I don’t like a book, I don’t leave any review. If I loved it or just found it interesting, I leave a review either on Amazon or Goodreads. It is at this time that I think of the author.

    I think about them often when I read something that was self-published: What on earth were they thinking? Why do so many edit themselves? Bad writing can distract me from what the author was trying to say. But no matter. I keep all negative opinions to myself :)

    There should be a common sense rule … “if you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    Reply
    • I’m with you, Florence, I would never leave a negative review. I know how difficult it is to have your work out there. Our writing is very personal to us, a part of who we are, what we believe and what we’d like to communicate.

      I agree that there really isn’t anything to be gained by writing a negative review.

      Reply
  8. I do wonder what my favorite authors are like. When I was a kid I wanted to meet and hang out with Judy Blume, certain she’d be a lot of fun. There were books I didn’t like when I was a teenish. They made girls sound so dumb, or the kids were unbelievable to me, either too smart/talked like grown ups, or their parents were never around (and that wasn’t part of the plot). Anyway. I have left reviews, but not until I learned how. I write about what I like and then kindly state what isn’t working for me. That’s how we do it in the writer’s group I attend and I think it’s a good way to approach a review. And of course I’m much more sympathetic since I began writing for more than myself.

    Reply
    • It sounds as though you review books in a good way. I think it’s a good to state what doesn’t work in a kind way. I do think that, as writers, we’re much more sympathetic to these things and do understand how difficult it would be to have someone post a nasty review.

      Reply
  9. All I will say about this is that I try even harder to review a book based on the actual story and writing itself when I have been asked to review a book that turns out to be problematic for me. I don’t want to be remembered as the horrible reviewer, nor do I want to tear down anyone, but I do want the reader to be informed. Sometimes tact goes a long way.

    Reply
    • That makes a lot of sense to me, Lynn. I totally agree of being tactful. There can be all sorts of reasons why a story gives us problems. It’s not always the writing.

      Reply

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