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Should an author respond to a review? 

L.A. (Author): 

I don’t think any response is necessary on sites like Amazon or GoodReads and can even take on a creepy stalker vibe if the author responds to every comment, but a requested review posted on a website or blog requires a thank-you. Yup, even if it’s bad. You don’t have to agree. The review is a service done for you and deserves acknowledgement. A simple ‘I appreciate your time’ to the blog or website owner is enough. The words may stick in your throat. It’s hard to read a bad review. After pouring your life’s blood into a work, the natural response is to lash back. (Actually, my natural response is to bite the reviewer.)





A defensive rejoinder especially to an anonymous review on a site like Amazon gets the author nothing except coming across as a thin-skinned jerk. Reviews like this are especially hard to ignore if the comments are insulting and you can tell the person didn’t read the book. The unanimous agreement among the writers I know is don't respond.  There is no telling what went through this reviewer’s head. You don’t want to get into a spitting contest with a nutcase.  Doing anonymous hurtful things gives them a feeling of power. Don’t offer any more by letting them know you’re wounded or you’ll set yourself up for being bullied and harassed.

The problem is more widespread than most people think. A current petition on Change.org requests Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, protect authors from bullying and harassment. The proposal requires identity verification for reviewing and forum participation. The gift of anonymity allows expression of views without fear of punishment, but the power has a dark side. It also allows a person to spew venom to the detriment of a writer’s livelihood.  Anonymity enables people to write horrible things they would never do if forced to admit to them.

I agree with the petition. If you don’t like a book, say why without the insults and put your name on the review.  What exactly are you afraid of? Veronica Roth will TP your house if you hated Divergent? Trust me, she’s got better things to do. If you balk at signing a review then maybe the problem isn’t with the book after all, but some internal demon of your own.

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Jessi (Reviewer):

I have much of the same feelings as L.A. so I will not go into great detail about where I come from on this issue. I will reiterate a point she made about not adding fuel to the fire because,  "There is no telling what went through this reviewer’s head."



I've read 5 stars and given them 2 stars. I've read 2 stars and thought they knocked the ball out of the park. It's all perspective and a writer cannot fill everyone's emotional want and need. Hating a book is not personal disrespect to the author, typically. And if a review is aimed more at the author than the book, then those are issues that the author cannot solve and should not engage it. Just leave that person be in their own miserable world.

The one thing I hate as a reviewer - and will result in many fans losing respect for an author - is when a well thought out and written review is provided, albeit bad, and the author or their press henchmen respond with "You couldn't have read the book! If you did, then (insert required gain here). You'd realize (--), and think (--), and feel (--)." This has personally happened a few times and I just let the person dig their own hole. There's something to be said about a person that is too defensive...




That's not to say that I don't enjoy discussion. I've had great comment-section discussions with authors over misinterpreted plot lines and "flaws" and in the end we both agree to disagree or find merit in the other's thoughts. That's actually what I hope for with every review that I write. I'd love for the author to creatively challenge a point or ask more about why my thoughts went a certain way. It's thought provoking as a reviewer and it's constructive critiquing for the author. Win win. 

I also love a simple thank-you, as mentioned by L.A. Not saying that I expect one, but just knowing that the author is sincerely interested enough in a review to read it and leave a small note saying they stopped by your site is pretty cool. 

Summing it up, there's nothing wrong with authors commenting on reviews of their books. Just pick your battles and realize that sometimes saying nothing is the best response of all.



Authors, readers, reviewers - what are you're thoughts and experiences with this?


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