What I find fascinating about the entire concept of disappearing negative reviews is that some, if not most, of the negative reviews, as I understand it, were written by members of a book club, an online group that exists and was founded based on a complete and utter adoration of all things Evanovich and Plum. According to one of the group’s founders, they are by invitation only, and they read all kinds of books, but a special amount of anticipation and attention is paid to the Plum series. They discuss the books before they come out, and if they get an ARC they pass it around to each member so they can all read and enjoy it. They love the series, they love the characters, and they love reading.
I can relate to that. I also got into a nice healthy “Nuh UH” debate with one of them about Morelli vs. Ranger. I can attest from my own interaction – these fans are some hard core lovers of this series.
So it’s all the more disappointing for them, not only that they didn’t like Fearless Fourteen but that their reviews which stated their opinions were removed from BN.com without explanation. It’s not like these are drive-by reviewers who flipped open the cover, maybe read the dust jacket, put it back and wrote a review, or even people who haven’t read the series who feel the need to trash the genre. Sure, that happens, but these folks, these are fans. Big fans. Huge fans. I bet the potential thread of Morelli v. Ranger goes on for hundreds and hundreds of comments.
So who better to discuss why and how they were disappointed? And whose opinions, for that matter, might carry a bit more weight than, “Omg I am SO ExCITeD?!!?11”? And thus, whose opinions are going to be deleted if, as they allege, their comments dropped the sales figures of the book for a time, only to have that elusive sales rank restored to a higher number once the negatives were removed?
Laurie Likes Books wrote back in 1997 her description of how a disappointing book makes her feel, and in her description quotes Jo Beverly. It’s marvelously apt, and a feeling I’ve totally had:
Sometimes I get frustrated when a book turns out to be a dud, and other times I feel morose. When the author is new to me, the feeling is usually frustration. When the author is a favorite, I either experience anger if I felt she wrote the book in her sleep, or sadness if she veered off in a direction I couldn’t follow. I’ve felt the anger with recent releases by Johanna Lindsey and Arnette Lamb. I’ve felt the sadness with Kimberley Cates. Some of you who wrote me experienced similar feelings. Author Jo Beverley wrote that my comments struck a chord with her.
“As a reader, I find really wonderful books rare, particularly since I became an author. We just get picky. So the ones that do work are particularly precious.
“When I have no high expectation of a book, or when one starts out okay and continues that way, I’m fine. I have a pleasant read (or not, and put it aside) and don’t suffer. But when it’s a book by a favorite author, and it just doesn’t work for me, or when it starts brilliantly and then peters out, I grieve. I grieve for the book that might have been, the one I almost had in my grasp, and the incredible reading pleasure I was looking forward to. It’s a loss of something almost real.
“I know the author has done her best, and no one can be brilliant all the time, but it hurts.”
Oh, that is so true. I have taken it very personally when a book series I’ve adored steered directly down the express lane to What The FucksVille. I imagine Anita Blake and Stephanie Plum holding hands and skipping down the frontage road as trucks labeled “Vampire Romance” and “Sweet Valley High” whiz by.
So here’s the part that I just shake my head over: to whomever took down the reviews, and to whomever decided to ask that they be removed: what the crap were you thinking? Do you honestly think that removing the opinions of fans who love the series and were seriously let down by the quality of the latest installment is going to get you anywhere in the long run? Lemme introduce you to the internet. There’s a lot of us out here, and we have opinions. We like to share them. And we will keep doing so.
The decision to remove negative reviews strikes me as so very, very shortsighted. For one thing, Evanovich is going to sell no matter what the reviews are, in my opinion, simply because there are enough auto-buys that will ignore the reviews or not even consider reading them and instead head directly to the bookstore. The series is popular enough that in the big, big picture, I honestly don’t think the reviews would have made much of a dent in the total sales. If anything, it might help. Consider it a corollary to the “Ben’s Wildflower Trainwreck Principle.” Some folks will buy it because they really, really wanna read it, and don’t care what the general consensus is. And some folks will buy it because they heard it was awful and wanna see for themselves. Hell, by the time #15 comes out, those same people will head to the bookstore, some because they hope for writing that restores what they consider the quality of the series, and some because they wouldn’t think of missing one, no matter how bad #14 was.
But nothing makes a fan more pissed than bad quality + rapid decline and shitsvilling of a series + being told her opinion doesn’t count or would be better kept to herself. It makes people want to start hot pink weblogs about romance, you know?