As an author, I’m sensitive to the subject. But I’m also a reader, and that allows me to see both sides of the issue.
No, I don’t approve of author bullying—or any kind of bullying, for that matter—and I’ve seen too much about the bullying culture on GoodReads to be happy about what appears to be going on there. It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes take place when the sale to Amazon is finalized. I certainly see bullying behavior in Amazon reviews and forums, so I doubt it’ll go away completely.
On the other hand, not all negative reviews are bullying, or even bad. Some authors take negative reviews or one- and two-star ratings too personally. As a reader, I want to point out that I have purchased books based on two-star reviews. When I’m deciding, I read the spectrum, and sometimes reading what someone else didn’t like reassures me that the book contains something I do like.
That’s why the article on romance blogs and the culture of never giving less than three stars bothered me. Not all criticism is bad. If a reviewer never reviews critically, it calls their objectivity into question, and lowers the value of their reviews.
I struggle with this when I review books and apps. Honestly, I rarely finish a book I don’t like, so I’m not likely to write a one- or two-star review of a book. Maybe that’s a flaw with me as a reviewer, but I don’t like wasting my time reading a book I don’t like. So I try to temper the reviews of books I do finish with pointing out at least one thing I don’t like in a book.
Apps are easier. It doesn’t take as long to find the flaws in an app as in a book, and I’ve been pretty critical of apps. (I still remember an email I received from a developer thanking me for the review, but mentioning it wasn’t quite what they were hoping for.)
Let me close by reminding readers that authors spend a lot of time writing their books. If you don’t like a book, fine. But please refrain from personal attacks. Writing a bad book doesn’t make an author a bad person. And one person’s bad book is an “instant classic” to another reader.
And authors, take criticism in stride. Remember that sometimes bad reviews actually sell your books. Even though they hurt, they are often a reflection of the reader more than the author. And if you’re self-published and get enough constructive criticism, you have the freedom to change the book to improve it.