One-Minute Book Reviews

December 18, 2013

Bad Literary Manners Erupt on Twitter

Filed under: News,Writing — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:16 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Few of us would be so gauche as to walk up to an author we hadn’t met at a party and say in front of other guests: “Hey, I just reviewed your book! Let me tell you how much I hated it.” But the digital equivalent occurs on Twitter whenever people tweet links of negative reviews to the authors of the books they’ve panned. David Duhr, the books editor of the Texas Observer, asked six critics, of whom I was one, to comment on the practice. You can see our answers in his post on Publishing Perspectives.


  1. Ah, the rudeness that can come with the cover of anonymity! I don’t expect everyone to like my book, but it seems there should be less-rude ways to write a review.

    Comment by rachaelhanel — December 19, 2013 @ 5:51 pm | Reply

    • Yes, it can come with the cover of anonymity. But not everyone keeps up a front. Some reviewers use their own names (and I don’t know whether that makes the practice better or worse).

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 19, 2013 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  2. Rudeness implies transgressions of social norms. Last time I checked, cyberspace was still the Wild West where outlaws roam free and the rules are blurry. The best we get are fuzzy guidelines like, “Think before you click,” “Treat others the way you’d want to be treated,” and “Don’t be a jerk” (paraphrased). Since we don’t have a cyber Moses offering edicts chiseled into stone (“Thou shalt not tweet links to thy book reviews @authors”), conversations like these help us find the boundaries in a shifting landscape.

    I’ve written a handful of book reviews on my blog and Goodreads. Last year, I did contact one author on Twitter with a positive review of her book. I’d written it more as a fan than as a reviewer, and my motive was straightforward (not at all shady as David Duhr suggests in his post). I’d seen it as a way of spreading some love–even “treating others the way I’d want to be treated” (if I were a published author). I thought putting @author and #title into a tweet would be a favour to the writer, and it might direct a little traffic to my fledgling blog. An SEO win-win. It hardly seemed like being a jerk–or being rude.

    However, the ethical implications you cite and the awkwardness (“ick”) mentioned by David Duhr have made me see another side to this practice. Professional distance, a hallmark of a pro, can’t be maintained if the reviewer is chumming up with the author on Twitter. Rather than spreading love, contacting writers backs them into a corner (to respond or not), which isn’t fair.

    Thanks for raising the matter. I set a goal this year to write more book reviews and to aim for a professional standard. This will help.

    Comment by Ali Stegert — February 22, 2014 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Al. A bit of context on the issue: Some authors on Twitter have spoken out strongly about reviewers who tweet negative links at them. And the reviewers seem not to have expected that reaction at all. At the same time, many editors of book sections and sites are grappling with the issue of how to handle a new type of digital relationship. And, as you say, the guidelines in a lot of areas remain fuzzy. So I appreciate Dave’s exploration of the issues. Hope we’ll see more posts like his.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 22, 2014 @ 10:57 pm | Reply

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