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Should we tag authors in our bad reviews of their work?


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The issue of tagging authors in bad reviews of their work has come to light recently, after a heated discussion began on Twitter when Angie Thomas, author of the acclaimed novel The Hate U Give, shared her view that tagging authors in bad reviews of their work is needless and upsetting.

Image credit: Abhi Sharma via Flickr

The issue highlighted by Thomas here isn’t that she doesn’t want her work to be criticised, but simply that she and fellow writers not be forced to read these reviews.

Negative reviews of beloved works are of course hurtful. Neil Gaiman offered this advice on his blog back in 2010: "If bad reviews (of whatever kind) upset you, just don’t read them. It’s not like you’ve signed an agreement with the person buying the book to exchange your book for their opinion."

However, tagging takes away this choice to seek (or not to seek) negative reviews out, which is what many, like Thomas, find issue with. As Thomas said, writers are people with feelings, and them being unwantedly included in negative takes on works close to their heart would naturally be upsetting, something which many wholeheartedly agree on.

Author Andrew Shvarts and Thomas herself also pointed out that they get the constructive criticism they need, and prefer it from sources they’ve sought out for themselves.

However, where Thomas sees a boundary between interacting with readers and getting critiques, some would see these things as one and the same - and that including authors in critiques of their work is actually a form of writer/reader interaction.

Despite the opinions of the above authors, many still think that tagging authors in reviews is a valuable source of feedback and an important part of the writer/reader discussion, no matter if the review is bad or good.

There is also the point that tagging authors helps potential readers to discover them, which the following Twitter user mentions.

Two bloggers, Abby Hargreaves and H.P., agree that the idea of tagging authors in reviews is a complex one.

Hargreaves especially goes on to point out the complex nature of this issue, that it is not as simple as just not tagging an author in a negative review, as whether a review is positive or negative can completely depend on the person reading it. She wrote for "I may even move toward not tagging reviews at all—because so often, there’s more nuance than just good book/bad book. If we lean toward caution and decide against tagging authors in negative reviews, we can’t tag authors at all—it’s rare that any review worth anything doesn’t mention anything that hasn’t gone well in a book. In that case, authors are losing out on additional potential readers."

H.P. wrote on their blog, Every Day Should Be A Tuesday, "First things first: I do not write my reviews for writers. My blog does not exist to service them. I write for the benefit of readers (unlike writers, a scarce resource these days). Tagging writers points potential readers toward the writers themselves. Providing some service, however small, to readers is more important than maybe pissing off a writer."

Thomas' original tweet angles more to the abusive side of the “reviewing” scale, with some “reviewers” threatening to do things such as throw away her books, which is less a critique and more a hurtful catcall. And, rightfully so, Thomas is not staying silent.

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