As romance writers we can no longer in one breath bemoan the romance genre’s lack of credibility, cry that no one respects the books we write, hate the fact that they are considered trash/mommy porn at worst, escape/beach reads at best, and then in the next breath complain about bad reviews. “Mean” reviews. Critical reviews.
It sucks getting a bad review. There’s no question about it, it’s debilitating and some of them can be snarky and personal and the ones with the gif’s…? Oh, it’s a stab to the heart that can send me right back to bed.
But our genre’s path to credibility and respect is through more thoughtful criticism. Criticism from people who love the genre, who read all across the genre, who write their reviews with an understanding of context and history. Who can explain why a book works – not just emotionally but technically - and more importantly why it doesn’t. Reviewers who understand a genre that has deep ruts but at the bottom of those ruts there is still gold to be found.
If the New York Times Book Review is the epitome of credibility, then we need reviews and reviewers that hold our books to the highest standard. Men and women who can write a great review, even if it’s a bad one.
But in order to get those voices, we need to let all the voices talk. Obviously, there are reviews that cross a terrible line; reviews should be about books, not about authors. Personal attacks against authors because you don’t like the books he or she writes, have no place in the romance community. And the same can absolutely be said for authors who go after reviewers who give “bullying” reviews.
And frankly, I’m glad I’m not in any position to have to monitor a community, be it Goodreads, or a chat room or a blog. Talk about a thankless job, but I think there are ways to do it that are fair and equitable and civil, to both readers and writers.
Buying reviews or review sites that only hand out glowing reviews – these things aren’t going to serve us in the long run. If we want to be taken seriously in the literary world, we need to take ourselves seriously and behave professionally and that means sucking it up when those gif reviews come in. There are reviewers out there who only review books they like – and I completely understand this. In terms of the way I talk about books on-line, this is the camp I fall into. But there is a difference between a discerning good review and a generic one.
Reviews don’t change the way I work. Or how I view my books. I don’t expect reviewers to appreciate in any way the work I’ve put into the book – that’s not their job. I have a book out in October and the bad reviews will come. They always do. But I’ll take a well-written bad review if it takes the work seriously and elevates the discussion about romance novels. In my opinion that should be part of our collective goal – discover our next great stay up all night book to read and raise high this genre we all love.