I was recently directed to a rant by indie author Carroll Bryant on Goodreads. (Click here to go to said post.)
Basically what Bryant posted was that a number of blogs had approached him for copies of one of his books (I think it was Children of the Flower Power) and then never delivered the reviews or interviews they'd promised. To a degree I can certainly understand his frustration, even though I'm not an author. It's got to be really upsetting when you send a physical book out to someone, spending your own money to send out copies of a book that you only have in limited supply. I've had to spend my own money to mail out books from various contests I've held, so I know how expensive it can get when you're sending out 3-4 books at a time to various places on the globe.
Yet what makes Bryant's rant a little off is that he's threatening to post names of various bloggers.
This is both good and bad in a way. Why is it good? Because quite obviously, there are a few bloggers out there that are exactly what Bryant's rant complained about. You're going to get people like that everywhere, not just in the literary world. How many of the bloggers on his list actually are freeloaders or scammers though... that's where the list turns bad.
Reason number 1: Not every blogger has loads of free time to review books non-stop like a machine. This past year I myself have gone through months where I'm only able to read for 2-3 minutes at a time and review books have piled up like snowflakes in a blizzard. I've got novels that I've purchased years ago that have piled up because I feel that I should read the review books first. This isn't something I recommend, though, because when you start reading only to review, you begin to lose joy in the very thing that you love: reading. This means that you do less of it because it feels like work, even if it's a book you know you like. (Although in my case my lack of reading tends to be more because I'm coming into my final years of college and have to take all of those great 300 and 400 level classes that I've been putting off.) That some of his reviewers were teenagers just sort of takes this to a new level because life is pretty busy when you're a teenager, or at least that's what it felt like when I was still in my teens. (Now I miss the free time I had back then, but when I was about 16-17 it felt like I didn't even have enough time to take a breath!)
Reason number 2: Sometimes the blogger doesn't give a review or holds off on giving a review or interview because they just didn't like your book and are afraid of hurting your feelings. I've done this in the past. I've put off giving a definitive answer because I didn't want to hurt the author's feelings, especially if they were indie. Being told that your baby smells bad hurts even if it isn't being said maliciously. I don't like telling people that I didn't like their books because I know that even the nicest criticism still cuts. I know it's necessary for the author to grow, but that doesn't make it any easier for you (the author) to hear or for me (the reviewer) to say. Sometimes I'll write negative reviews if I think I can write them well enough, but a lot of times I'll pass on them. Why? Because many times I'm pretty sure that I'm just not the right reader for a book and I don't want someone to pass on a read because they read a review where the reader was just the wrong person. Of course the fear of angry author rage doesn't help this out any either.
Reason number 3: Just because a blogger reneged on your deal doesn't mean that they're bad sauce. It'd be nice if they were to just say "no, I'm not going to review your book or interview you because of ________", but it's not always like that and sometimes there are good reasons behind it that have nothing to do with a blogger being flighty. Just because you had a bad experience with a blogger once during a certain point in time doesn't mean that this is standard for the blogger.
Reason number 4: Because it makes you look like a nutter. Sorry, but this is the truth. Threatening to post names of bloggers, whether they deserve it or not, looks very bad. Indie authors have to fight for publicity and to get their novels out, which isn't helped by the growing group of readers/reviewers/bloggers that are looking for bad behavior to feed on. This isn't the same as trying to neutrally report on it, mind you. No, there are people out there who are looking to crucify any author who makes a move that is even slightly dubious. I'm not going to name names, but I've seen people holler over author behavior that isn't all that bad, to be honest. This type of trend makes a lot of readers and reviewers leery of reading new authors, which makes it harder for many indie people to be taken seriously. It also makes it a lot harder for the author behaving badly to be taken seriously.
Reason number 5: Because you'll get blacklisted in return. Even if every single blogger on Bryant's list deserved to be black listed, creating a list of bloggers that shouldn't be used or visited makes the other reviewers and bloggers leery. What exactly do you have to do to be put on a list? Would any behavior do? What if the qualifications for being on the list changes over time and you get put on it simply because you're slow in responding to emails and other stuff? It makes you look as if you're a powder keg waiting to go off. As a result the blogger/reviewer crowd in general will simply stop doing business with you because they don't know how you'll react. This doesn't mean that everyone will ignore you, but it will make it harder for you to get that serious review or interview with Dear Author or any of the other big name blogs out there.
I guess the bottom line here is that authors just have to be careful about posting stuff like this. I understand Bryant's frustration, but he's got to understand that this is actually pretty standard. Even the big names in the literary business have people who get review copies and then never actually follow through on their promise to review. Some of the publishers get responses back saying that they won't get a review from Publisher's Weekly, some of them never even get as much as a one sentence email saying that Klausner can't make the time to post a review on Amazon. And these publishers send out far more copies of their books than the indies do. (Granted they have more money to be sending out copies en masse, but it still happens.)
So this brings us to the big question of what can you do if you have something like this happen?
First off, complain privately and only to a group of people that you know won't blab to outsiders. I know that you might mean well, but public rants can and will be taken badly. It doesn't matter if you have the world's best argument, it won't go over well when the subject is creating a list of bloggers that you think have bad practices.
Secondly, if you must make up a list, keep that private as well. Only give it to those trusted friends. NEVER discuss them publicly unless you absolutely can talk about it neutrally. Even then, make sure to say that this is only your personal experience and that it might differ from person to person. I've had some pretty bad experiences with authors, but I don't go around making big public lists of authors that you shouldn't read. Not only does that make me look bad, but come on... the author might have been having a bad day or something along those lines. If I have that happen I tell a few of my closest and most trustworthy friends to beware of those authors and then move on.
Thirdly, invest in ebook copies of your book. It is exciting to send out and receive paper copies of books, but go for ebooks. Not only is it more environmentally friendly to send out ebooks to reviewers, but this way you lose out on less if the reviewer doesn't follow through with their promise to review you. This is why I usually prefer ebook copies. I know that if I were to go through a slow period of reading, I won't feel bad that an author sent me a paper copy that could've gone to a more prolific reviewer. (Or that if I have a paper book I don't like, that the book could've gone to someone that would've liked it more.)
Finally and most importantly, the best advice is to just move on. No matter whether or not the reviewer deserves your scorn or not, there's nothing good that will come out of posting public lists or rants about them. If they are a bad blogger or reviewer, they'll do a good job of shooting themselves in the foot and most times reviewers like that will end up quitting their blog after a set period of time anyway. Blogs in general tend to only have a life span of 4-5 years, with the blogger either retiring, forgetting about the blog, or passing the torch onto others for whatever reasons. There's nothing to gain from publicly roasting bloggers for what is ultimately small potatoes. It stinks that you're out the cost of postage and a book, but just tell a few trusted author buddies not to use that blogger and move on. The short-lived publicity you get when others report on your actions is not worth the grief you'll get from it later on down the road when someone continues to associate you with something you wrote in a heated moment you'll later come to regret.
Well, it looks like the original thread on GR has been deleted and Bryant has been banned/blocked from the site. Despite this, he still posted the list on his personal blog, which seems to have also been removed. I am not going to repost the list, for obvious reasons. The only comment that I'll make is that it's a good thing that Bryant removed it, and not because he posted names of blogs that he wants to warn others about.
What this might mean for Bryant in the long run has yet to be shown. I'm trying to remain somewhat neutral about this in public, but this is really just another good example of what not to do when faced with something that upsets you.