Monday, March 7, 2011

Fear & Book Reviews

Despite the fact that I've been Internet connected since I was fifteen years old, I'm actually fairly new to the whole author(aspiring or published)/agent/publishing online community. Seriously, before I started reading Stuff Christians Like, I didn't read blogs. Never had any interest in them. And I really didn't know anything about the publishing industry at all. I discovered SCL and started doing research my third year in college, which is the year I also started blogging, just for fun and mainly just for my friends.

Generally, the more I know the more I realize I don't know anything (thank you Socrates), but as I read writerly blogs, I discover something else. The more I know the more terrified I become.

Mainly in the context of book reviews.

For almost two full years, I have been blogging book reviews. Sure they haven't always been regular, but I started this blog with the intent that I would review every book I read, in a short concise way. Why? Mainly because I firmly believe books should be rated and wanted to put ratings out there for other people. But also because I read more than any of my other friends, and a lot of them do come to me for recommendations. So I figured why not put them all in one easy to access place?

My reviews are generally positive. They're not always enthusiastic for every book, but I firmly believe that every published book has merit--or else it wouldn't be published. This book is some writers baby, and I respect that.

But I sometimes post bad reviews. Sometimes I'm frankly not just unimpressed but horrified by what I read. However, in all of my time of blogging, I can only remember posting one really awful probably slightly mean review. From what I hear, I don't really think Mr. Goodkind cares about my opinion anyway. However, I recently read one book that frankly horrified me, and though I don't think the review I prepared is mean, its definitely negative.

And I'm now afraid to post it.

Why? Well for the past couple of months I've begun to realize that there is a not so subtle message coming from people in the publishing world (be they agents or authors). Only publish good reviews. Never publish a negative review if you want to be an aspiring author. Only publish reviews of books you truly love.

As I say, this really hasn't been a problem for me. I mean look at my reviews from last week. They were like love letters to Cassandra Clare. But I had planned to post this bad review today, and I double checked it to make sure it was critical and not snarky and figured that would be enough. After all, this is a little known blog, its semi-anonymous, and its really just for my friends. I don't want them to accidentally pick up this awful book and then ask me why I didn't warn them.

Then something crazy exploded in the blogosphere. Truly insane, really. The discussion has been labeled as YA Mafia, and for a good recap, go here to YA Highway.

Basically the underlying message of the discussion was: don't post negative reviews or it may come back to really bite you.

So now my heart is filled with fear. I've never really considered myself a YA writer, but my current WIP is YA. And I totally get networking and not wanting to burn bridges; however, I am also really outspoken about my beliefs.

Let's put it this way. If I ever met Terry Goodkind, I would be unfailingly polite and I would honestly tell him everything I loved about his books. (Like every straight female whose read Sword of Truth, I can't help but like Richard Rahl). However, if asked I wouldn't lie to him about what I didn't like: the plot. His characterization and ability to make you love a character is stunning. But I found the plot very lacking.

I'm not looking for conflict, so if I met the author of the bad review I want to post, I would never without prompting tirade against them and their books. In fact, I'm afraid of conflict. But if it came up in conversation, if they asked me, I would not lie to them. And isn't the point of reviewing saying what you liked and didn't like about a book?

So basically, I have no idea what to do about this book review. I wrote it. I planned to publish it here today. But what if, one day, that author sees I wrote a bad review and then decides to shot block me somehow? Because despite the YA community's reassurances that there is no mafia, everyone still cautioned that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all, because it may actually hurt you.

What do you guys think? If you're one of my friends who reads this blog because you know me personally, what are your feelings on me posting negative reviews? If you don't know me in "real life" but follow this blog--what's your opinion on negative reviews? Have you been following the YA Mafia insanity? What are your feelings on it?

And I guess the underlying question is: should I post the negative review?

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