Cyndy Aleo

Four Little Bees Writing & Editing

author, freelance writing, editing, and a little bit of web development, helping clients with content development, book editing, and blog set-up and customization

And we were doing SO WELL in the ongoing author/reviewer peace talks!

Ugh. There is nothing like having an absolutely shitty day in which your doctor reminds you that you're fat (YES, I KNOW THIS) and your kid's teacher craps all over them and then you log into Twitter to ask friends to turn their cats into tacos and blow off some steam when this:

Oh, man. So much to say here, so little room on this page.

So from an author and friends-of-authors perspective: yeah, some of this drives people insane. Like, why one star a book you're never going to read other than to pick a fight? And why bitch about a book that's outside your interests or squick level in the first place? We don't get it. No one gets it, really. Except the people who do it. And that's really the point. I'm sure no one would understand my spreadsheet things but I don't post them either, so there's that.

But from a reviewer standpoint? Dude, just... [This is where I make my deep WHYYYYY sigh noise]

Some of this is WHAT GOOD REVIEWERS DO. I review up to 12 books a month. Sometimes even more than that. And when I'm reviewing a book, I'm not reviewing it for me. If I was, why bother? I could write in my diary. I GET PAID MONEY TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT I THINK OF BOOKS. That means I have to think of what I like and what my mom likes and what Jane Conservative in Wichita who is horrified when they add a new vitamin to Wonder Bread likes. So when I'm doing that, I'm trying to review it from all angles. There are some things I like in books: "OMG, this blood play scene in this menage erotica was SO HOT!" But my mom is going to look askance, and I bet Jane Conservative is going to schedule a book burning. So yes, "I really liked the blood play, but SOME READERS MAY NOT."

Also, when I'm talking about relatability of characters, I'm trying to put myself in the place of readers. I don't review a whole lot of YA books, but you'd better believe when I do, I've let my actual teens have a shot at the book as well. I'm trying to read from THEIR perspective as well as that of adults who enjoy YA. If the parents are more relatable to me? I've found odds are the teen character isn't coming across well, and it's possible that's because an adult author didn't quite come across the way they intended. Or the ending might be one that makes adult YA readers happy, but puts my teens (and or their friends) off because they'd want a different ending.

Reviews are going to be subjective. It's the nature of the game, and I can't think of a single school of thought in critical theory that allows for a 100% purely objective review, because it's impossible to review in a vacuum. I've read books friends have loved that borrowed so much from books before them that they felt piecemealed together, but the other person hadn't read those other books. I've read books I thought were absolute trash when compared to others in the genre that readers loved precisely because they were new to the genre.

That happens. 

And while stuff like this can be lighthearted and funny and something I think all authors totally identify with, at the same time, it isn't going to feel like that to a lot of readers and reviewers, who spend time and often money of their own to try to read those books critically. I can't say it enough times... I want NOTHING MORE when I open each new book to give it the top rating and sing its praises from the mountaintop. There is NOTHING that thrills me more than seeing a book I reviewed start picking up awards and having friends read it and love it as well. That is the ONLY reason I review, because I'm never going to get rich doing it.

And no one is perfect. NO ONE. We all, in our individual corners, snark about the bad parts of the job. it's stressful and it's frustrating and we all lose it at times with the crap that comes along with it. When you've read the 16th iteration of an author trying to capitalize on the success of a certain book and it's so cliched and copycat that you feel like it's someone writing Mad Libs of the popular book, you want to pull your hair out as a reviewer. And when you're an author seeing yet another 1-star review (My faves is on Amazon... when it's not a verified purchase) and you're fairly sure they didn't even read the book, and if they did, it's because they grabbed it off a torrent site, you want to burn down the world.

But that's maybe the time you highlight a particularly cliched section of a page and strip the identifying book info and snicker to your friends. Or when you screencap the reviewer's favorite books (really? they gave every single one of those dinosaur porn books five stars?) and laugh about it to your fellow authors.

But the second that gets posted on social media, everyone is compelled to take sides. it costs authors good will with readers, and reviewers good will with authors. I mean, shoot... I'm banned from a multi-NYT bestselling author's Facebook page because she got mad I was trying to point her to relevant information. She called reviewers a whole slew of names. She lost me as a lifelong fan and I'm sure I'm not the only one. 

As a reviewer? I laugh it off. As an author? Odds are I laugh even harder, because I know some of those reviewers are people who probably weren't the right audience, and bitching me out for not ending something the way "this other book here did" doesn't make any sense. I didn't want to write that book. That book is already there. And maybe if one reviewer had said "Hey, I liked this, but if you liked this other thing, you probably won't" that person could have saved their torrent bandwidth and six hours reading it and found something else.