You’re so unclassy, Theodore!

theodore-the-cute-one-theodore-the-chipmunk-21779609-500-320I’ve gotten a few (always anonymous) comments about my reviewing other IR authors’ novels. My first response to my very first comment is here.

But I wanted  to answer this comment, because 1) I was super-impressed that someone leaving one of these comments admitted to being another IR Romance Author. Finally! Maybe someone will actually use their name one of these days–fingers crossed for 2014. And, 2) It brought me some amusement, because initially I was accused of getting sales by reviewing way more successful authors’ books. However, this writer is accusing me of being an established writer that gets off on belittling new writers. This is a step up, and it made The Jeffersons theme song go off in my head.

Some pre-negotiations if the commenter or anyone else chooses to reply. I’ll leave the original comment up. That’s fine. But if you want to leave further comments and/or have a discussion about this topic, here are the rules:

You have to read my original post on why I both review and write.

You have to read my reaction to your comment in its entirety.

You can disagree with me, but if you attack me as a person–“oh you’re terrible, you’re the devil, you’re a hack, blah blah blah,” I’m just going to delete any follow-up comments you leave and go about my day. You’ll see that I don’t personally attack anyone in my response below and I expect the same respect.

Here’s the comment, copied and pasted verbatim, which I’ll address point-by-point below it:

As a fellow interracial romance author I think writing bad reviews of other books in the genre is in bad taste and doesn’t speak well for our genre. It’s not any different than running around Amazon leaving bad reviews on your competitor’s books. Theodore, your books do well enough that you don’t need to belittle the new writers who are, I’m sure, trying their best. I’ve read Naomi Lecroy’s first book and thought it was pretty good for a first book. Most of her Amazon reviews were 4 and 5 stars. How do you think she would feel if she read your review of the second one? While we don’t need to give away our trade secrets, I do think as a group of authors we should strive to have some class and be above doing things like this. Sure, there’s some pretty bad books in the IR romance these days, but I would never give someone a bad review in our same genre because its bad karma. What if we all started review blogs and ran down each other’s books? We all use the same keywords, etc. so this is just BAD business. Let’s all show some class ladies! We don’t want to end up like some of the urban fiction writers who are threatening to fight each other on a daily basis. Seriously, this doesn’t set well.

 

Theodora’s answers:

1. Bad taste is totally relative. Award-winning novelists review other novelists’ work all the time. Fine, this commenter think it’s in bad taste. I think complaining about bad reviews is in bad taste–I mean, really bad taste. Stalemate shrug.

2.How do you think [Naomi Lecroy] would feel if she read your review? The same way every author feels when she reads a bad review. This is why I don’t read reviews, why I don’t seek them out–because “I’m an artist, and I sensitive about my shit.” My basic life philosophy is that everyone is allowed an opinion–especially if they spend money on the thing they are opining about; and no one else is obligated to pay any attention to that opinion whatsoever.

3. Are there trade secrets? What are they? I’d love to know them.

4. What if we all started review blogs and ran down each other’s books? I mean, okay, let’s consider that. First of all, I’m sure you realize that I don’t exclusively give C reviews to other books. I’m one to put a truly bad book down without finishing, and I never review a book I haven’t finished, so the vast majority of my reviews are B’s, with A’s coming in second, C’s third, and the rare D trailing in last place.

So what you’re really asking is what would happen if all IR writers started review blogs, in which they gave serious consideration to a genre that’s often ignored by mainstream review blogs. Judging from all the email and comments I got while I was on maternity leave, wondering when I would update this blog, I’m thinking readers would be very grateful to hear what their favorite IR authors thought of other books. Quite frankly, if it’s an author I really like, like Delaney Diamond (who I’ve given both good and middling reviews), I’ll read anything she recommends on Goodreads.

So if all authors reviewed books, I think it would be pretty good business. I make enough to pay a babysitter for date night in monthly Amazon Associate fees, so that’s awesome business. And you’d be shocked how many people go’on ahead and buy the books I’ve given C and D reviews. Keep in mind that even if a ton of people buy the book I just reviewed, I will never make as much money in piddly Amazon fees as the author does on copies sold. So don’t worry, if Naomi Lecroy does herself the disservice of reading this or any other bad review, she’ll have the money she’ll make because I gave TO HOLD AND TO HEAL a B+ review to comfort her.

I said it in the beginning and I’ll say it again now, other authors benefit way more from these reviews than I do. Also, if it ever came to pass that more authors complained to me directly about this blog than authors write me asking me to review their books, then sure I’d consider putting a pin in it. But so far that hasn’t happened. I think a lot of people are just happy to have someone reviewing the IR genre, and I feel continuously guilty about my backlog of review requests.

5. I’m not sure what this karma would entail, but I’m fairly sure that I would still get bad reviews if I weren’t also writing reviews. I’m also assuming the commenting author doesn’t write reviews and has still gotten bad reviews despite her good karma.

The main thing is that I simply don’t think what I’m doing is a terrible thing. I strive to give thoughtful reviews that really breaks down for the potential reader why a book may or may not work for them.

On a personal note, my husband reads my Amazon reviews and will occasionally pass on some info from a thoughtful one-star review–for example, this reader was offended by X or this reader found Y impossible to believe. Okay, now I know. Sometimes I file it away for future books, but most of the time I just shake it off. I’m very lucky to have a lot of readers that really love what I love to write. Really, it would be greedy and ridiculous to expect every single person who reads my books to love every single thing I write. That’s just not how the world works.

Also, I don’t believe in karma, so there’s that.

6. Class is, again, relative. I had no idea urban fiction writers were fighting. Seriously? They should do what I do and try to never, ever pay attention to what others are saying about them. Maybe other authors have complained about me or my books or my reviews on their own blogs. I totally wouldn’t know, and I’m not beefing with any of them (as far as I know), because I’m not paying attention to them. I’m just writing and reviewing and reading and mothering and wifeing and dayjobbing, and I hope it doesn’t upset this commenter too much when I say, I’m totally happy doing what I do. And so many good things have happened since I started both writing and reviewing IR that I’m pretty well convinced that I must be doing something right.

Whew! Now back to writing…

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. IR Reader
    Dec 29, 2013

    I like your reviews. They’re usually spot on. Please keep them coming and if someone doesn’t like them don’t read them!

    • Theodora Taylor
      Jan 5, 2014

      Thanks for the encouragement. After thinking hard on the subject, I believe you’re right. The reviews will come back this week.

  2. shellett2000
    Dec 14, 2013

    Just to put in my two cents, the truth is there are quite a few Interracial romance novels out there that are pure crap. This can be said about other genres but those are not the genres we are discussing. In the beginning I was really about to give up on this genre because badly edited, discombobulated, nonsensical, under developed stories were the norm. It was and still is rare to find a really good book, but thanks to honest reviewers like Theodora and the unpaid reader I take more chances on unknown authors. As a matter of fact a few years ago, Theodora was an unknown author. I hated wasting my money and my time on badly written novels that were reviews by the author themselves or someone who was compensated for a fake favorable review. It is because of this that I make sure to add my reviews as well. I say to anyone who criticize a writer for reviewing a genre that she loves so much she adds her own imaginative stories, take a step back and think! It is best to be honest with your audience. I have hundreds of books by different authors. U all compete for my dollar by spinning tales. Wouldn’t you prefer that I spend my hard earned money on someone who has earned MY money instead of me deserting the genre under the assumption that none of you have talent? The truth is I have hundreds of books so you are not really competing for my money because if I want a book I will buy it. What you are competing for is my mind! Instead of complaining about someone fairly reviewing a book complain about the large influx of crap in the genre that threatens your bottom line by running customers away.

  3. Lavender Parker
    Oct 9, 2013

    As a soon-to-be first-time author (and fan of TT’s and IR) I think other authors need to be open to constructive criticism. Any artist needs to be, for that matter. If you can’t handle any kind of criticism, then your work will never improve. The work is what’s really important, at least to me. I hope to improve with every book. The only way I can do that is by receiving constructive criticism. AND I will also say that nobody’s ‘fighting for the same dollar’. Romance readers are, for the most part, voracious. You’re not the only author they’re reading. And quite honestly, if the books are consistently bad, they WILL give up on you. So I’d think if the dollar was really important, you’d welcome ways to improve. Just sayin’.

  4. Gissie
    Sep 8, 2013

    First of all, apologies for any mistakes in my English. I’m
    not a native speaker.
    I’m not a writer, at least not of novels. But I enjoy
    reading, especially novels. And because I’m in an IR relationship (Dutch black woman – Dutch white man), I have a fondness for IR novels. Since I discovered IR novels (mostly written by American authors) two years ago, I’ve been on a IR diet of 4 books a month. In the beginning I decided what to buy based on reviews from fellow readers, but those were not always liable. So I’ve sometimes encountered absolute crap: books with too many typos, downright bad English (although I’m not a native speaker/writer, I can recognize bad grammar), plots that go nowhere, implausible stories and, my absolute big no, using google translate to get some poorly constructed Spanish sentences for the Latino lover of choice (I speak fluent Spanish so this bugs me big time).
    But I digress. I was spiked to comment on this thread
    because I felt a need to express that I am very happy with Theodora’s reviews. Because they help keeping me from doing bad purchases. And most importantly: I
    don’t get as disappointed as I used to because I bought a fluke. There are authors (and really everybody and their mother seems to be an author these days) out there that put more effort in the excerpts than in the actual books.

    @ Interracial Romance Author: I don’t see why a fellow
    author can’t review books in her own genre. Especially when it’s done the way Theodora does it: fairly. By expressing the good plus the bad and not putting the author down. I haven’t encountered a review where she viciously slayed a book down.
    You say that an author reviewing another author is bad for
    the genre, I’ll say: not outing the bad books and letting us, the readers you all thrive on, purchase them anyway and become dissapointed is way worse for the genre.

  5. Melissa Blue
    Aug 8, 2013

    This is probably going to end up epically long for no other reason than I’m avoiding my WIP. Go get a drink and come back…

    I’m at a lost here to see how these two things can be related. Not just in the IR corner, but romance as a whole. There’s been a lot of hubbub lately, and what seems like a never-ending argument, that somehow a criticism of the genre makes the genre looks bad.

    Why would anyone cheerlead the bad parts of their genre? How can we ever get the accolades we deserve if we pretend like the crap books don’t exist? How much more will we shift to the readers to say? We’re authors. We should be the first ones to say Edit Your Book. Present A Decent Looking Cover. Show Pride In Your Work. Turning a blind eye doesn’t help. Having someone give IR a try for the first time and reading five books in a row with piss poor editing does way more damage than another author giving a less than stellar review.

    Here’s the thing, we write IR because we love it. Of course, since we write, we’re likely to be harder on it. For every one book I love and would hand sell to my friends, there’s ten that makes me want to rock in a corner, suck my thumb and ask the writing gods WHY?

    But the bigger issue here is the belief that IR authors are somehow in a competition. The prevailing belief in that kind of statement is that there can only be one winner. I don’t want to come off sounding like some special snowflake and that my books are so speshal, but I doubt very seriously if you pick up Delaney Diamond you can expect the same exact read from Nana Malone. Or, me. Or any of my writer-ly friends. ‘Cause quite frankly that’s insulting to IR authors. If you’ve read one, then you’ve read them all?

    No. Absolutely not.

    It’s a belief that puts so little trust in readers. They’ll only want one IR author. Ever. Ever. And ever. It’s a belief that sows seeds of professional jealously. That does a whole lot more damage to the IR genre than any one review ever could.

    Okay. I think this is long enough. Off to stare at my blank page and hope some words show up in my head.

  6. Interracial Romance Author
    Aug 7, 2013

    Okay, so I’ll comment one more time then let it go. Truth is we’re all going for the same dollar in this genre whether our readers realize this or not. It seems to me you’re using this review blog as a platform to run down your competitor’s books. They are my direct competitors too but I wouldn’t do it. No matter how dreadful they are. And yes I’ve read your explanation about why you review. I read almost everything in this genre too but giving bad reviews to my competitor’s doesn’t feel right to me. Its the same as downvoting another interracial romance book’s good reviews or upvoting the bad ones. Your reviews would be perfectly legitimate if you weren’t WRITING in the same exact subgenre and using the same keywords, categories, etc. as they are. You’re going for the exact same customer so that’s where the problem lies. We’re all on each other’s also boughts lists so you know this is true. If you and your blog readers can’t see that as a conflict of interest…

    • Theodora Taylor
      Aug 7, 2013

      Okay, well I think we’re at an impasse because I think that you honestly think my aim is to take out my competition, and I don’t know how to convince you that’s not my intention. I don’t consider other IR writers my competition because I’m a reader and I know that my and probably your books are so competitively priced that readers don’t have to choose. If someone really wants to buy my book, they’ll buy it even if there’s another IR book on the market at the same time that she really wants, she will most likely buy both. For example one of my books came out at the same time as sienna mynx’s. I really don’t think it affected either of our sales negatively.
      Also, I hope you understand that most book criticism by authors concerns books within their genre.
      Please understand that there is a difference between thoughtful criticism and purposefully running another author down. I honestly think that I’m giving thoughtful criticism to a genre that doesn’t receive a ton of thoughtful criticism. If you believe the opposite of that or that my criticism has a mostly self-serving motive behind it, I’m not sure how to convince you otherwise.
      By calling this a conflict of interest you’re saying that I’m purposefully reviewing others in order to detract from their sales or add to mine. I’m not. You can either believe that or not.
      I’m not going to stop reviewing other’s books, and most likely this will always leave a bad taste in your mouth.
      We won’t change the other’s mind because we both really believe in our positions. I’m not surprised. Writers are gods of their universes and to a certain extent we have to have the absolute faith of our convictions in order to do what we do and not completely unravel.
      So thank you for saying your piece. I don’t agree with you at all, but I respect your passion.

    • Ani
      Dec 6, 2013

      Personally, I believe that’s a serious load of “Bull…” As one of those readers who will use Amazon’s “1 Click” at will, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a chance on what had to be, a “half baked” IRR, and gotten seriously pissed about it. As the members of my Goodreads.com IRR group can testify, Ms. Taylor’s books are for the most part well-edited and not to mention, well worth the money. And most important of all, this blog has helped a lot of us weed out the “trash.”

      That doesn’t mean that she’s perfect, but what it does mean is that she is a voracious lover of awesome IRR’s, and that she chooses to tell it “like it is,” regardless if the book is a “5 star read” or a ” 1/2 star read” that’s riddled with a load of “piss poor” editing and half baked story development. Simply put, she’s a reader who writes for the reader in all of us, who craves perfection, regardless if the book is free or even 99 cents (& over)…

      So yeah, I’m choosing to disagree with you, in regards to your charges of bias against Ms.Taylor. I would have to say that the only thing she can be considered guilty of is “brutal honesty.”

  7. Holley Trent
    Aug 7, 2013

    Yikes. Whew, indeed.

    I do a lot of reading and judging for contests, as well as for fun. That means I read very widely, and I review a good chunk of what I read. I hold everyone up to the same editorial standard, ’cause that’s what that expensive degree I earned taught me. I don’t care what colors the characters are or which way they swing. I want to be wowed.

    I have to be careful about what I recommend publicly, because–believe it or not–readers look at what you praise, and sometimes they may be disappointed if they try that book and it doesn’t live up to the hype. Consistency is a big deal, not just in fiction, but anything we publicly attach our names to.

    Oh. I write both IR/MC romance and mainstream romance, so having a foot in both realms, I probably have a skewed perspective on this.

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