The problem with that is that that Ms. Milan’s premise is not historically inaccurate. She posted an insightful, thoughtful response on her blog explaining how and why she came up with her story. After reading it, it’s hard to deny that she has her facts straight.
Yesterday, I ran across a thread on a message board in which an author was upset that a blogger had accused her of ripping off a successful series. The problem with that is the author has never read a book in that series and her book is in a different romance subgenre.
But what really inspired this post is something I stumbled across last night on Amazon. Maureen Smith’s book, Whatever You Like, which I discussed last week, is in the top 20 romances on Amazon. Yay for her! For some reason, I decided to click on her reviews to see what other readers thought. I generally avoid reviews because I don’t like to be influenced before I have a chance to make up my own mind. After I read a book though, occasionally I’ll check out reviews to see if my thoughts lined up with other people’s.
The good news is that the majority of her reviews are positive. The bad news is that someone pissed me off. According to one reviewer, the people on the cover are white. Except they aren’t. They’re black. If the reviewer had said, “Because of their light skin tones, I assumed they were white,” I’d be less angry. But she didn’t. She expressly says the cover shows two white people.
Granted, the reviewer did buy the book for her Kindle. I am aware that computer screens often distort color, but her review has me angry for one reason. She’s essentially accusing the publisher and author of deceiving the public because books about black people don’t sell. How insulting to readers, the author and to the publisher, Kimani Press, which, by the way, only publishes romances starring African-American characters (with the rare exception of a non-black hero).
If the reviewer had gone and found a larger image of the cover on Amazon or the author’s website before posting the review, she would see that she was wrong. But she didn’t before she ran and posted her review.
In review, we have three reviews with incorrect information. From a professional reviewer, a blogger, and a reader. All reviews had unpardonable sins, as far as I’m concerned. They presented things as facts that weren’t true. It is one thing to post your opinion on a book. To say, “I liked this, this, this, but this didn’t work for me because…” is perfectly expected and okay.
What isn’t expected or okay is accusing authors of things when you have little, if anything, to base that accusation on. I’ve found in life, in general, that people have trouble distinguishing between fact and opinion. If they don’t like something or someone, then it must be true that the object or person they dislike is horrible, no doubt about it.
Except that’s not always the case. To present your opinion as fact means that it is inarguable. In the three instances I sited, this is not the case. Two plus two equals four is a fact. To say Author A ripped off Author B when you know absolutely nothing about Author A is not a fact.
It is up to reviewers to recognize when they are crossing the line between opinion and fact. They must make sure they’ve done the proper research to back up the information they are presenting as fact. If they can’t, they should rethink what they are writing or, at the very least, how they phrase it.
I don’t think that is an unfair expectation.
Do you agree?