Should we tag authors in our bad reviews of their work?
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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.
Plenty of authors have asked people to stop tagging us in reviews. Specifically negative reviews because guess what? WE ARE PEOPLE WITH FEELINGS. What’s the point of tagging an author in a negative review? Really?— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) June 29, 2019
Hey, those of you confused, it's really simple: Would you say it to a stranger's face?— N J Simmonds (@NJSimmondsTPK) June 29, 2019
If yes, they'll love to hear it...tag them. If not, because you're entitled to an opinion but it will make them feel bad...write it, but don't tag them. What's so hard to understand?
You’re entitled to your opinion, and to shouting it loudly. But tweeting it to a writer is like grabbing their cheeks and shouting it into their face.— Lauren Groff (@legroff) November 11, 2018
I don't need to be tagged. I can check the reviews on my own time to take the criticism when it's MY choice. Having someone shoving something negative or critical under my nose shows a lack of boundaries on the part of that reviewer and makes it clear that they don't see the— Golden Angel (@GoldeniAngel) June 30, 2019
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.
If you are a creative person, you hold it close to your heart. obviously, you don’t want to see negative reviews because that’s like someone kicking your kid. If other authors feel that way, then maybe it needs to be more clear to help (re) establish that boundary— Lexi (@readabookplz_) June 29, 2019
"But if we don't tag authors in negative reviews, how will they get feedback?"— Andrew Shvarts (@Shvartacus) June 29, 2019
idk maybe from the betas, editors, copy-editors, authenticity readers, and dozens of others whose feedback we've sought out?
Getting feedback from too many sources can harm your writing process. I have a group of people whose feedback I value - my editor, my agent, other authors who act as beta readers. With the position I'm in, social media is for interacting with readers, not for getting critiques. https://t.co/bQFvPyShsC— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) June 29, 2019
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I don’t know - I understand how probablematic trolling is but if a reader/reviewer tags you commenting you with a negative review it doesn’t seem that bad. Like how are you supposed to get better as a writer without feedback? Otherwise what’s the point of being on social media?— U.C. Kalu (@uckewrites) June 29, 2019
There is also the point that tagging authors helps potential readers to discover them, which the following Twitter user mentions.
I completely understand, but as an author shouldn’t you learn from the people who read your books? Even if it is negative you could still learn what people want out of it and how they feel, even if it is negative. It is completely rude to be tagged in negative review though.— GoddessofWords (@GoddessofW) July 1, 2019
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 Bookriot.com: "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.
But it didn’t say negative. It said good or bad reviews. Look, respect if you don’t want to be tagged, however it’s the internet. And plenty of authors do, cos it’s how things work now. I wouldn’t have heard of you or your work had it not been a review I read.— Selina (@SelinaAbram) June 29, 2019
I'm heading off tonight, but here's the thing - I wrote a book about not being quiet. So you can be damn sure I will NOT be quiet. Harassment, attacks, microaggressions, coded language, ALL of it, I have no problem calling it out. Book community, you are toxic and problematic AF— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) July 1, 2019