Book Twitter is no stranger to drama.
However, this latest bout reveals deeper issues relating to the power dynamic between author and blogger.
For those not in the loop, author Lauren Hough recently published her debut collection of essays Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing. It sounds like a really great read. Based on the critical reviews I’ve read, it also sounds like an immensely personal work, which is perhaps where the tension lies.
However, in a bizarre move, Hough publicly berated bloggers leaving 4* reviews, using screenshots to publicly humiliate them.
Since then, Goodreads users have responded in kind by review-bombing her book with 1* reviews.
It’s a messy situation where nobody comes out particularly well. But it does raise some serious issues about the author/blogger relationship.
Unfair Pressure on Reviewers
Let’s be clear, right now.
The majority of book bloggers and reviewers don’t do this gig full-time, and in many cases do it unpaid. They do it for the passion of reading, writing, and discussing all things book-related.
It’s a choice, of course, but the fact still remains – bloggers blog largely on passion (and, much like authors, copious amounts of coffee/tea/wine/delete as appropriate).
There’s an inordinate amount of pressure on bloggers – especially those who rely on ARCs (advance reading copies) – to review books in a positive light. In any case, no reviewer with any credibility genuinely enjoys rating a book negatively.
Those who follow Tales from Absurdia will be aware of my criticism of bloggers who use the 3* as a crutch. Largely to avoid appearing to be ‘too critical’.
And then there are some people, like Lauren Hough, who actually think that a 4* rating is bad. Wow.
For a bunch of Goodreads reviewers to say genuinely fantastic things about Hough’s Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing and award her book a very impressive 4* is fantastic news. So, her subsequent decision to ridicule the blogging community is laughable at best, deluded at worst.
The entitlement from Hough, who has since doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down, is extraordinary. It demonstrates a disdain for the reading and blogging communities.
Not a great look for a debut author. Good luck with that one.
The Problem with Goodreads
On the flip side, here’s another uncomfortable truth.
Review bombing is trash. Irrespective of the reasoning. And any blogger who contributes or encourages the practice has zero credibility. If you haven’t read the book, don’t rate it. Simple as.
Review bombing undermines Goodreads as a platform and it means readers who have zero awareness of the ideological turf wars between authors and bloggers cannot make an informed decision about their next read.
It also undermines genuine reviewers who are trying to share their thoughts amidst a sea of rage bait.
However, let’s be honest – Lauren Hough can’t exactly be surprised that her comments would result in some sort of push-back from the reading community.
Reviews are not for authors
Lauren, let me allow you in on a little secret.
Reviews, especially on aggregate sites, are not for you. By all means read them. Love them. Hate them. Agree with them. Disagree with them.
But don’t post screenshots of your paying customers and ridicule them on your platform of 66,000 Twitter followers for – let’s not forget – actually loving your book.
Don’t do that.
That’s not to say you cannot gain useful feedback from reviews, but ultimately, a critic is not there to tell you how to write. You’re a published author – you already know how. They’re there to tell fellow readers whether they should invest their time and money in your book.
Congratulations on becoming a published author and I (truly) wish you the best, but do the right thing and apologise.
And if you cannot take feedback well, get off of social media. If a 4* review is that insulting to you, you’re going to be pretty startled when the more critical reviews start rolling in.
Bloggers. Stop review-bombing Lauren Hough’s book.
I suspect the majority are Goodreads account holders rather than genuine bloggers, but don’t do it. And don’t encourage it.
By all means criticise Lauren on Twitter. Make memes about this. But don’t give the blogging community a bad name for the author’s own imbecility.
Her own foolishness is punishment enough.