Social media have made it easy to let novelists know directly when their work has disappointed but why do so many people want to do so?
If you cant say something nice, dont say anything at all. Its a simple enough rule that most of us learned as young children. So why is it that some readers seem incapable of holding back from telling an author that they didnt like their book?
It is a lesson one reader might have heeded before addressing the writer Nina Stibbe with some feedback on her 2013 novel Love, Nina: My #bookgroup really not loving #lovenina. Voted it 1.3 (out of 10). Our lowest EVER score in 5 years and 60 books. Sorry @ninastibbe.
Aside from the score how on earth did they reach that .3? the sorry makes it sound like Stibbe was on tenterhooks for her feedback. She wasnt. But she did retweet the comment, much to the amusement of fellow writers who then shared their experiences of similar reader over-shares. The Latte Years author Philippa Moores experience was typical. I was tagged in an I won this book, didnt like it, gave it to my mum Instagram post once, she said. I was like WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW THAT?
A while ago, I posted a tweet congratulating JoJo Moyes on the success of the film adaptation of Me Before You. Within minutes I was in middle of a heated attack on Moyes by campaigners angry at Hollywoods treatment of disability. Each angry tweet tagged Moyes, even though she was the writer not the producer. Like being raged at by a belligerent drunk at a wedding, it was neither the time nor the place.
Every author I know has been tagged by readers like this. Usually the reader announces they have reviewed the authors latest novel. Only its a vicious review, awarding two stars (one for arriving on time). Why would they announce that to the author?
Crime writer Alex Marwood says snippy comments directed at her come through her Facebook page, which is meant to be for fans. One reader kindly told her she was a craptastic author. Another delighted in telling her about a scathing Amazon review (since removed), which Marwood later printed off and framed.
What is telling is that in almost every case including that of Stibbe the reader removes their original comment soon after it has reached its target. Could sudden self-awareness be at work? It is as hard to fathom as it is to know why they tagged the author in the first place.