Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Author/Reviewer Relationship

At one time book reviews could only be found in newspapers and a few magazines, but the Internet has provided a platform for avid readers to share their opinions on books with the world. Online reviews have become key promotional tools for authors, but, unfortunately, some writers have heaped much embarrassment on their heads by lashing out after unfavorable reviews.

I cringe every time I read a story about “Authors Acting Badly.” Don’t get me wrong, I understand their pain. Reading harsh words about your work is not easy, but it comes with the territory. Making it in this business requires a layer of really thick skin.

Some authors refrain from responding to reviews all together, but personally, I don’t see the harm. If my book is reviewed on a blog that allows for comments, I usually drop in and thank the reviewer for taking the time out to read and review my book. Yes, even if the review is a bit unflattering. The Author/Reviewer relationship doesn’t have to be contentious; it just has to be civil.

What are your thoughts? Should authors just ignore reviews, or do you think it’s okay for a writer to engage in discussions about their books?


G said...

I think it all depends.

If its a good review or a bad review that isn't a hatchet job, then by all means engage the reviewer in a meaningful discussion.

If the review is just a major hatchet job that does nothing but rip you and your book to shreds, then the prudent course of action would be ignore it.

But ignore with at least one eye open, because if you ignore it completely, there is that remote chance that the person or persons can spread their vitriol around until the damage is almost irrepairable.

I speak from personal experience in regards to that last paragraph.

Liane Spicer said...

If the review is on a blog I'm familiar with and I know the ethos of the blog, I thank the reviewer. I've also messaged a couple people who wrote particularly flattering reviews and thanked them off-page. But my default position is: do not engage reviewers.

Farrah Rochon said...

G, I have had a couple of those hatchet job reviews, and I have ignored those. Sometimes people just don't get your book. I hope to never have to deal with whatever it is you went through. Sounds messy.

Liane, I've also emailed reviewers off-page. It's the least I can do to thank someone for taking the time out to write up an entire, often intelligent and well-thought out review, whether it's positive or negative toward the book.

Jeannie Lin said...

It's such a hard call with Twitter and social media when everyone "feels" more connected. I resolved not to comment, but then if I only thanked and posted good reviews, then that's sort of like endorsing some and not others. I took a page from Joanna Bourne and listed everyone--good and bad. Which means I thank everyone, good and bad, but just on Twitter and not on their blog--unless they ask for it which some reviewers do. I figured I don't want to intrude on their doorstep uninvited.

Charles Gramlich said...

I typically thank bloggers for reviewing my work, even it the review is unflattering. I say I appreciate their time in looking at the work. I don't ever try to "explain" the work to those who don't like it, however, and I don't ever get personal about the reviewer, whether the review was good or not. I think these days a lot of blogger/reviewers would expect that their words would come or certainly could come to the attention of the writer. It doesn't hurt to acknowledge that. Or at least I don't think so. Maybe I should ask some of those who have reviewed my work if they minded my comments. When I'm published online and there is a blog component I definitely do respond to comments left in taht fashion. Sometimes there are questions, for example, but I always want readers to know that I take their opinions and thoughts seriously.

Ellen G said...

I think authors and reviewers having a conversation is a good thing. That kind of back and forth can only shed more light on the author's writing process and what the reviewer was reacting to. I think it's good for readers to be able to experence that as well.

JohnD said...

I think it's a bad idea for an author to comment on a review. No matter what the author says, he/she will come out bad. If the author thanks the review for the praise, a third party might think they are in cahoots and would thereby damage the credibility of the review, and if the author tries to defend a criticism, then that author will look like he/she is on the defensive, and that can quickly make the author come off as petty.

Best to stay away from the reviews, I think.

Sunita said...

I saw this linked on twitter. I've had authors I've "known" through email ask me if it was appropriate to comment on a review, and my answer has always been that while I don't speak for everyone at Dear Author, I'm happy to have authors comment on mine. I've had authors correct something I've said in the review, which I thought was great.

I really appreciated your comment on my review of Huddle. It wasn't a great grade, but there were aspects of the book I really liked and I tried to make that clear, and you were really gracious in your comments. From the reviewer/reader side, I can tell you that when an author engages in a thoughtful way, readers are much more likely to go and buy the next book. FWIW, I'll Catch You is now in my TBR.

Farrah Rochon said...

Jeannie, that's sage advice. I try to acknowledge all reviews, also. Admittedly, I don't see all of them because I don't go looking, but if someone points it out, I acknowledge it.

Dr. Gramlich, it never occurred to me that I should possibly ask the reviewer if they mind my coming to their blog to respond. I figure if it's in an open forum then I have the right to respond just as any reader would.

Ellen, those were my thoughts, as well. For the most part, my attitude leans toward the "what's the big deal" end of the spectrum, so I never understood why some frown upon just a simple thank you from an author.

Of course, John makes a good point. It can be a double-edged sword for writers. Even if a writer doesn't know the reviewer from Adam, it doesn't mean readers will believe their claim. Gosh, you all are really making me think. I wasn't up for too much thinking today. :)

Sunita, I'm happy you ran across the post. It was your review--and the feedback I received from a few people after responding to it--that prompted me to write this blog post. I was thrilled to learn that my book had been reviewed at Dear Author, despite the less than stellar grade. It wasn't snarky, or purposely cutting. I thought it was a very well-thought out review, and I didn't see the harm in responding. And I appreciate you buying the next book. :)