Monday, February 11, 2013

Ellen Oh and Negative Reviews: How Much Can Authors Say?

I'm a little sad to report on this event because I think this author is  a kind person, but the greater conversation it can start makes it worth posting. Make sure you click all the images to see what's going on.

In the one time I got to go on Goodreads yesterday (2/10/13), I saw that my friend Miranda didn't want to read Ellen Oh's novel Prophecy anymore because of something she saw the author post. I clicked all the links she posted and before anything could get deleted, I got screencaps.

Tumblr and how it works can be kind of confusing for people who don't use it (I barely know how it works and I DO use it), so I'll start at the beginning of the "thread". That's the easiest way to explain what it is and what happened. This was the original image another user posted:

This is what Oh added when she reblogged it (she has since deleted the post):

And this is what Miranda added when she reblogged it (and she was not the only person to disagree with Oh):

After that, Oh sends two messages to Miranda's inbox that she answers before telling Oh to leave her alone.

That was all that had happened up until the point I went to bed. While checking Goodreads between classes the next morning (2/11/13), I saw a notification for new comments in Miranda/Merle's review. The new comment brought up that Oh was now talking about what happened on Twitter. Indeed she was! This is one big conversation:

When I say I think the author is a kind person, I mean it. She did something for me that she didn't need to because it didn't involve her in any way and I'm still thankful to her for it even though I was no fan of her book. Still, what she posted was out of line. Her choice of words on Twitter when she said Miranda "twisted [her] words into a mockery of [her] true intent" and her declaration that what happened is all her (Oh's) fault don't match up either. ETA 2/12/13: What I've heard since making this post initially is making me reconsider this, though. Sad.

I've got a lot more to say about what Oh posted and none of them are kind, but I'll keep them to myself because that's not the issue here. What I'd like to see discussed is how much authors are allowed to say about books--books that aren't their own, in most cases.

When we see an author complain loudly about a negative review of one of their own books, we usually write them off as a Badly Behaving Author and go on with our lives. It's a different story when they're talking about someone else's book. Everyone has the right to be honest about how they feel about books, but you don't see a lot of authors who review and give out one-star or two-star ratings. One of the few I know of who does so is KT Grant (who I have secretly admired since I started blogging, but I guess it's not a secret now).

The way it seems, most authors don't do negative reviews. I can imagine why: they don't want to put off readers because of a single negative review or otherwise cause trouble with it. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" seems to be an unspoken rule there.

When I get published, that's the end of my book-blogging career. Boom. Done. I'll make a post saying the game is over for The YA Kitten, my reader Goodreads account will go dead and I'll let my author account be a clean slate, and I'll only maybe keep reviewing on Amazon for the sake of staying in the Amazon Vine program for as long as I feel like it. There have been occasions where I wavered from this resolve and wondered if maybe I could be an author who reviewed books honestly and wasn't afraid to say a book was bad, but incidents like this put me right back where I started. This is what I've had planned since I began blogging.

Authors like Grant and a few others (some of whom are my friends, I have to admit) can pull off being authors who review honestly, but I've seen them get some flak for it too. I won't be able to deal with that because I'm not very good at holding back. If you've followed me long enough and seen me review a book I passionately hated, you know exactly what I mean. I might not even be able to hold back if someone tied me up and put tape over my mouth!

Enough about me. What say you? Is it what the author says, how they say it, that they say it at all, or some Frankenstein's monster-esque combination of the three that causes issues like these?

ETA: This is not her first time saying something questionable about negative reviews, it seems. Some tweets are quite pointed toward her own reviews.