1. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
2. The publishing world is small, and when you attack a writer you may be hurting your own publishing chances, because not only are you ragging on the writer, but on every person in the industry that championed the writer's work.
I'd like to respond, and in doing so, I intend to denounce a trend I've both read about and witnessed on writers' blogs.
First, some of the criticism is out-of-bounds. Myra uses Stephenie Meyer as an example. Full disclosure: I read the first three Twilight books and didn't especially care for them. It's not that I have a problem with vampire books. I could even overlook the often purplish prose and the overuse of certain adjectives (smoldering). I didn't care for the main character, Bella. I was hoping one of the Cullens might enjoy her with some fava beans. For me, that did it, but I'm a picky reader.
I think the above is fair criticism. I think far more critical criticism is also fair. What is not fair is to personally insult the woman who wrote the book. Ripping on Ms. Meyer for being a Mormon or for being a stay-at-home mom before she hit it big or for what she chooses to wear to the tabernacle is below the belt and just looks petty. That said, when you write something as popular as the Twilight series, you're going to bring out the crazies on both sides.
What bothers me are the bloggers/wannabe authors who take Myra's advice too far and never, I mean flat-out refuse, to write anything critical of any book ever. A lot of these folks claim to be book reviewers.
Roger Ebert did not only review movies he liked. John Green does not have the luxury of reviewing only those books he enjoys.* If you're going to claim to be a reviewer, you have an obligation to share both those books you think are excellent and those you think blow a big one. Otherwise, you risk losing all credibility and end up like my Uncle Dell,** who has never seen a movie he didn't love. When Uncle Dell talks movies, I smile politely and think about something else. (How much bread we have left, for instance.)
To not review a book because you're worried about hurting your own chances in the publishing industry strikes me as particularly weaselly. It also doesn't say much about your opinion of those in the publishing industry. Writers, both published and unpublished, regularly soothe their own egos by telling themselves that this is a "subjective business." Agents tell writers the same: "Don't take it personally; it's very subjective." Yet we assume that if writers (or agents or publishers) read a bad review they're going to forget all that subjectivity crap, add the reviewer's name to their enemies list, and make damn sure that little punk never gets published. Come on. Writers (and agents and publishers) are grown-ups. They can take a little fair criticism. And if they can't, maybe they're playing in the wrong game.
Agent Michael Stearns says it better than I can when he explains why he hates not ranking books he "loathes" on Goodreads:
But I hate doing that. Feels monstrously cowardly to me. Part of what Goodreads is about—the part of it that I love—is that it is a dialogue about books and how well they work (or, if they don’t work very well, why they don’t). It is not a bleacher full of cheerleaders. It’s a giant book club, and my friends and I, we’re there to discuss what we read. I may not love your novel, but who cares? I am just one person. (And have you met me? I’m a tin-eared crank, “nothing but a young curmudgeon” according to one old lady who shook her cane at me after the Rutger’s One-on-One a few years back. Who cares if I like your published novel?) But politeness suggests I need to play nice with others and never say a word against anything by anyone who may later be a position to help one of my clients. So I censor myself.
It seems that of all the people who should not be censoring themselves, those who ardently defend the First Amendent and become righteously indignant when a book is banned should be at the front of the line.
And they should bring their bad reviews with them.
*In this link, John apologizes for a bad review he wrote of Lauren Myracle's ttyl. It's a good post, but my favorite thing is that Lauren Myracle responds in the comments. Her view is in line with mine: Sure, bad reviews stink, but writers have to deal with them. As Ms. Myracle says, "Only whiner babies make a stink."
**I don't have an Uncle Dell, but I do know someone who thinks all movies are great. I've used "Uncle Dell" to protect the guilty.