Why I Will Be Tagging Authors in my Reviews

A frequent admonition is circulated around Twitter: Don’t tag authors in Tweets linking to negative reviews.  I have boosted the signal for that message myself, and on more than one occasion.  But you know what?  That’s bullshit.  I’m through giving writers a vote whether I tag them in a “negative” review.

Why?  Read on.

First things first: I do not write my reviews for writers.  My blog does not exist to service them.  I write for the benefit of readers (unlike writers, a scarce resource these days).  Tagging writers points potential readers toward the writers themselves.  Providing some service, however small, to readers is more important than maybe pissing off a writer.

There is a certain basic courtesy to not subtweeting someone.  My review is out there.  Any writer with google will easily be able to find it.  I just saved them a step.  They are still perfectly free to leave my review unread and ignored.

But most importantly of all, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A WRITER IS GOING TO CONSIDER A NEGATIVE REVIEW.  A 3-star review means the book was good.  Not very good, certainly not great.  But I didn’t waste my time reading it.  It isn’t unpublishable rubbish.  Tell that to the writers who bitch about 3-star reviews.  (Don’t like it?  GIT GUD.)  I have had writers complain about a quibble in a very positive review.  At length.  At greater length than my actual review.  I have had writers whine that I didn’t understand their book.  Sorry I gave you the benefit of the doubt, bro.  What you actually intended makes for a worse story.  It is a good thing your powers of communication are limited.

So I’m through trying to divine what a writer will or will not think is a negative review.  I don’t care what they think.  And it isn’t worth the time it takes to consider the question.  Nor do I feel compelled to.

I have to sit and watch writers spew forth their nonsense on Twitter all day (well, I don’t have to, but we are on Twitter: we’ve all made bad life choices).  Fine, say what you want.  (What’s that?  You aren’t writing for me?  Then you won’t care what I write, because, well.)  It’s a free country.  We have a transactional relationship.  All I want from you is reading material.  But you are the last people I am going to give any sort of veto to.

This isn’t feelingsball.  If you are overly sensitive, you are in the wrong business mate.

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction). https://everydayshouldbetuesday.wordpress.com/ https://hillbillyhighways.wordpress.com/
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27 Responses to Why I Will Be Tagging Authors in my Reviews

  1. My question is: what do you want to accomplish by tagging the author? A lot of the “tagging” has to do with including the author’s twitter handle when you do a review, bringing the author’s attention to the review (and maayyyybe inviting people to try and engage the writer based on your review). Are you hoping to influence the writer’s future output? Given the subjective nature of reviews, does a writer have an obligation to listen, especially on a book already published or a story sold?

    You linking to the author’s web page or amazon page is a bit different than linking to their twitter profile. Anyway, one of the basic rules that also gets forgotten by writers is a) don’t read the reviews (as you say, reviews are meant for readers, not the writers), and b) don’t respond to reviews. Treat them like rejection letters and DO NOT ENGAGE.

    As for writers on twitter: you can always mute/unfollow/etc if you don’t want to listen to them. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you (near as I can tell).

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      I tag them because it may be useful to me (because they signal boost the review) or may be useful to readers (helping them find the writer). I’m just not that worried about the writer. I was more open to calibrating my tagging based on the review before I realized that I can’t guess how the writer will respond. If they want to ignore it, they are welcome to. They certainly don’t owe me anything either.


      • You can do a similar thing right in the review itself (for readers) by providing a link to their website or twitter profile without tagging them into the review though. Part of the issue is if you tag the writer, and a conversation starts up over the review that they don’t want to be part of, there is no good way for them to bow out of the conversation. If they don’t respond, do they come across as rude or is it because they don’t want to engage with the review? if they ask to be untagged from the conversation is it because they are “think-skinned” or just disagree with the review and don’t want to get into it?
        And as you state, often the writer can find the review by googling and might choose to signal boost (or not).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    I want to see critical reviews. If something I’m doing isn’t working I’m not going to be able to fix it unless I’m aware of the problem.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. bormgans says:

    Back when I started reviewing I didn’t, but now that I’m confident enough, I always tag the writer. Information is information, not?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bookstooge says:

    Now, for a non-twitter review, IE, a REAL REVIEW, what is this tagging of authors thing? I see the hashtag/s that some bloggers put in the title or as the first paragraph. Is that what you are talking about? And how is that different from say, adding a “tag” on WordPress with the authors name? Or does it all come down to the same thing?

    And I say spread the Truth, far and wide. If a writer can’t handle it, maybe the world will be a better place if they start digging ditches instead of wasting our time with their puerile and grammatically incorrect spew 😉

    I also think way too many people think about the author first instead of the poor reviewer who just wasted precious, unrecoverable time from their life. I think that authors should lose a finger for every time they waste a fans time. 😀

    Yeah, I’m in a pretty blood thirsty mood at the moment. But hey, most of my interaction with writers has been bad so I’m all for flushing them down the toilet, literally or metaphorically.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      If you include a person’s Twitter handle in a Tweet, they will get a notification and it will show up in their Mentions section. So you are basically alerting the writer to your Tweet. (They would still need to pull it up and click on the link to see the actual review.) Anyone else who sees the Tweet can also click on the writer’s username and navigate to their Twitter profile. Tagging a writer also means that they will get notifications for any replies to the original Tweet, but, as I mentioned above, they can always mute the conversation.

      To be fair, the bulk of my interactions with writers have been good. But there is no good reason to give them a vote in the process.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d rather prefer a critical review that is fair than one praising me falsely. At the end of the day, you want readers to want more of your writing which is good for long-term career success, and that means continuing to work on improving your writing. Not flatter your ego for a moment which has no value.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. H.P. says:

    Reblogged this on Hillbilly Highways and commented:

    I have been writing reviews for a long time and this has been percolating for a while. I changed my policy on tagging writers in Tweets promoting my reviews. Bottom line: at this blog and my other blog, I write for the benefit of readers, not writers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tammy says:

    I would never tweet an author if I wrote a negative review of their book. It’s like saying “na na na your book sucked, come read my negative review!” I think that’s pretty mean. On the other hand, if I write a positive review (like 4 stars and up) and I have criticisms, that doesn’t stop me from tagging them. You say you’re writing your reviews for readers, but by tagging the author you’re now writing your reviews for them and inviting them into the conversation. Just my two cents:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      But how do you know THEY don’t think that 4-star review is negative? I don’t consider 3-star reviews as negative, even if I lay out my criticisms at length, but many writers would disagree. How am I to tell? Why should I have to guess?


      • Amazon considers 3-star reviews negative, so that’s probably what authors are talking about. If you click on certain areas of a book’s page at Amazon, it will separate reviews into positive (4-5 star) and negative (1-3 star). Also, 3 star reviews hurt authors’ chances to get on certain display algorithms, utilize certain promotion services, etc..

        Liked by 1 person

        • H.P. says:

          Which is really a gift by Amazon to writers. Somebody clicks on “negative” reviews and the first thing they see…is probably a positive 3-star review.


  8. Cambias says:

    There’s an old adage in marketing: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Even a negative review is better than no review.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. fletchav says:

    I only tag writers whose only presence is Twitter, otherwise, I link to their blogs. I’ve done that since day one of reviews seven or so years ago. You make a very good point and I should probably start tagging them all. Whatever, like you, my reviews are primarily for readers. Sometimes, particularly with the monthly story reviews, I’m hoping to encourage some writer to get better.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. J.J. Adamson says:

    As for “signal boosting” I have had authors retweet my reviews when I didn’t tag them. I think a lot use search notifications with the titles of their books and so on.

    For me it’s a little different, since as a writer I consider writers colleagues: I wrote a really negative review the other day and did not post it to Twitter as I usually do. Basically I thought the book was a piece of crap by a good author who is a very supportive guy in the field. I considered this little piece of concealment just being polite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      I don’t blame writers for being polite to other writers, but that politeness is why the Twitter feeds of trad pubbed writers are largely worthless from a bookish perspective. Someone has to pick up the slack.


      • J.J. Adamson says:

        I do get tired of people refusing to name names, especially when they are accusing people of outdated stereotypes and (the most popular things these days) racism and homophobia. They’ll say “this happens all the time” and then refuse to cite any examples. That’s going too far with politeness. If you’re going to make accusations, you should back them up, especially when the accusation runs counter to most peoples’ experiences of the book market.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. OghmaSpeaks says:

    Well, fuck em if they can’t take it. I’d want to know, and putting art in the spectrum of view of the world invites critique. Even critique that isn’t praising.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. kaijubushi says:

    savage world

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jurgita says:

    I woke up to authors crying “don’t tag me..” on twitter and it led me to your blog post.
    I completely understand what you mean and I agree. For some reason authors (again 🙄) think it’s all about them. If a reviewer wants to link to author’s profile purely for info purposes for other readers, what’s the big deal? If an author reads a 1-star review, how is this reciewer’s fault? They could’ve chosen not to, but they saw it was a 1-star and did anyway, then went on twitter to cry that their feelings got hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

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