All writers dread their reviews, keeping their fingers crossed that they will be raves. But now there’s a new kind of review and a new kind of reviewer. They don’t read the book and they review not the book but the writer and his/her politics. Their victims are left-liberal writers, many of whom Juggernaut are proud to publish – Sagarika Ghose, Swati Chaturvedi, Kanhaiya Kumar. Many other Indian writers have faced their wrath – Barkha Dutt, Rana Ayyub and most recently Arundhati Roy are some other well-known examples. [Read: Trolls attempt to manipulate ratings of books authored by Sagarika Ghose and Arundhati Roy]
You won’t find these reviewers talking about the characters, writing style, the author’s intent, plotting. Instead they say things like:
‘Waste of paper’, ‘Anti-nationalist’, ‘Boot-licker of the Gandhis’ – giving one-star reviews on Amazon. Many of these reviews are posted even before the book is available for sale. Most of them are by unverified purchasers.
Words aren’t just words. The downgraded stars do have an impact. Amazon now accounts for nearly 50% of trade book sales in the country. The ratings determine whether Amazon picks books for its monthly promotions – which help boost the sales of a book. I am sure a more naïve customer also gets affected by the ratings and reviews as they are meant to.
The trolls follow the authors on social media as well – especially Twitter. In the last week we have been posting a lot of stories around Sagarika Ghose’s wonderful biography of Indira Gandhi as it’s her publication week. Everytime we do so, a swarm of trolls attack us as well. And while we shrug it off, the ugliness does leave its mark.
Imagine you’re an author – you have worked long and hard on your book, and now you’re nervous. The publication week is especially exciting and tense. For a writer it’s almost like giving birth, a thing they have grown and nourished and which they are now tentatively setting out in the world. And then you’re met with a barrage of filth and lies which follows you like an ugly stain.
Ultimately these reviews are also problematic for a larger reason. They are the opposite of thoughtfulness, good and clear thinking, factualness – instead they peddle lies and aggression. And everytime a book is trolled, they dent our world of ideas and thoughts and stories just a little bit.
At Juggernaut we’ve had enough. We’re saying don’t judge a book by its cover. Read before you review.