I’ll start by acknowledging the obvious: I write books. I read books. I love books, and I love the fact that many different books exist – even if I don’t enjoy them all.
The Internet has created an unprecedented opportunity for authors to reach an audience, and equal opportunities for readers to express their opinions (good, and bad, and everything in between) about the books they read. On balance, and in the real world, these are both good things.
I don’t enjoy every book I read. Similarly, it’s unreasonable for me (or any other author) to expect that everyone will like the books I write. Some will, some won’t, and that’s okay. People like different kinds of books, and different kinds of stories. This is a good thing, because it enables authors to write, and readers to read, many different kinds of stories.
Problems arise when I, or any other author, attempts to control what readers think or what bloggers say about my work. I had my say…on the pages. By releasing my novel into the world, I’ve let the genie out of the bottle, and now the readers get to have their say.
Some reviews will be well-considered, grammatically correct, and thoughtful. Other reviews will express themselves with less polish. Still others may choose to talk about me as well as my work–which may or may not be relevant to the review. However, every review–regardless of content–reflects a person’s opinion, and though I may disagree with what the reviewer says (or thinks) about a work (or an author), I will nonetheless defend that person’s right to express an opinion.
Because opinions matter. Opinions are an expression of a person’s thoughts, and an exercise in freedom of speech, without which not only book reviews but books themselves would rapidly cease to exist.
Obviously, I don’t defend conduct that crosses the line from “expression of opinion” to deliberate harassment, stalking, defamation, or other illegal action. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re discussing honest opinions, honestly stated–and everyone has a right to an honest opinion, and to express it in a legally-permitted manner, without fear, whether or not other people agree with the opinion expressed.
Don’t like my books? That’s fine. I hope you’ll phrase your opinion politely, but even if you don’t, I respect your right to express an opinion. I also hope you find a book you do like, and that when you do, you’ll give it a good review. Or tell a friend. Or simply enjoy it and do nothing more. Readers owe me nothing–not even a read of my books–and anything more than “nothing” is a gift.
(Note also that when polite people receive a gift they don’t actually like–whether it’s an ugly sweater or a bad review–they put it away and don’t talk badly about the gift or the giver in public. That’s called “manners,” and if the concept is foreign to you, I recommend you investigate the topic further.)
It is a sad, and unfortunate, reality that the Internet gives a few unhappy people the chance to consciously stalk, and troll, and try to destroy the joy and lives of others. But it also gives a voice to those who speak positive messages into the world–and on balance, I think the good outweighs the harm.
It is never okay to threaten, stalk, harass, insult, or harm a person whose opinion differs from your own.
Disagree all you like, but do not cross that line. Opinions matter. People matter.
Every day, each of us has a choice: to help or to harm. To build up or tear down. That choice does not depend on how another person made it, and you cannot justify your choice by the choice another person made.
I respect your right to an opinion, even if it differs from mine–because people matter. Opinions matter. YOU matter.
And that’s all I’m going to say on this matter now.