April 20, 2012

Authors On Reviews: To Comment Or Not To Comment?

Authors On Reviews: To Comment Or Not To Comment 

A Reading Romances Event

There has been quite a scandal concerning this topic in 2012! With debut authors lashing out at the reviewing community over negative or neutral reviews, it's about time book bloggers got together to discuss the issue in depth. For this event, we as reviewers are all answering the question at the heart of the matter with our honest opinions and experience. 

 Should authors comment on reviews? Why or why not?

In beginning to answer this question, I think it is important to make a distinction between professional behavior and immaturity. Of course I am not going to say authors shouldn't be commenting on reviews of their books! They have every right to reach out to their readers and reviewers. The problem comes when an author is commenting on a negative review and cannot refrain from making childish and unprofessional statements. I can only come to the conclusion that it is better for an author to avoid commenting on a negative review or else risk coming across as petty. I think the first thing you need to be aware of when you put your work out there is that not everyone is going to enjoy it! If a reviewer did not enjoy your book and gives valid reasons for why ti didn't work for them, then you should be able to take that in stride. Many negative reviews can easily be used as constructive criticism to improve your writing for better future works.

I recently found myself to be the target of an author's bruised ego. While perusing my Facebook feed I noticed a post from "the author who will not be named" and after closer inspection realized she was talking about me! Her post stated,
"QUESTION for the GROUP: What do you think of reviewers who offer a scathing review of your work while admitting they didn't finish it? Personally, I think those who DNF a book shouldn't offer an opinion on it. What do you think?"
 Ok, so this is a pretty legitimate question, however the review in question wasn't actually a review. It was a few short sentences on Goodreads describing why I didn't finish. This was mostly a note to myself as I often look back and wonder why I put a book down. I was kinda shocked she described it as scathing when all I said was I couldn't get past the poor quality of writing and I hoped I would enjoy her next book more. I can understand reading "poor quality of writing" and being a bit hurt. What I don't understand is why an author who is trying to break into the biz would then proceed to bash someone like me in the comments section of her post along with one of her buddies. I think we can all  agree that sometimes you just need to vent with a friend to get over something that is eating at you, however I think we can also agree that this is something you do PRIVATELY. An author's fanpage on Facebook is not in any way private. It is unprofessional, immature behavior like this that really gets to me and makes me believe it is better for an author not to comment. 

Behavior like this not only looks bad, but also sets a tone in the reviewing community for the kind of person the author is. The saying, "No publicity is bad publicity," does not apply here.  At the beginning of this year, a reviewer friend of mine on Goodreads wrote a negative review about The Selection which she received an ARC copy of.  Within 24 hours of the review being up, the author's publicity agent got on Twitter and publicly called said reviewer a "bitch" and suggested the author and herself get a group of friends together and like all the positive reviews in order to push the negative ones down. The author agreed. What these two ladies didn't realize was that this particular reviewer is quite beloved in the Goodreads community and thus all hell broke loose. Her review has received hundreds of likes and close to two thousand comments, many vowing to boycott The Selection because of the bad behavior of the publicity agent and author together. Months before the book had even been released, this author had lost many, many possible fans. It just goes to show you this kind of behavior only hurts the author's reputation and sales.

I recently spoke to an author friend of mine about this subject, privately of course. She expressed to me that most authors have a DNR or Do Not Respond policy when it comes to negative reviews. This is to ensure that emotions don't take over. It is better to take what you can get out of it and then move on. 

As book bloggers, we are not considered professionals and we do not get paid for what we do. Often times, we invest quite a bit of our own money in order to keep our blogs up and running with choice content and giveaways. This means we are consumers as well. Consumers of a product have every right to voice their opinions and let others know if it is a worthwhile investment. Books are no different, in fact, they are quite expensive these days! I personally don't want to spend $15 - $20 on a brand new book when I have no idea if I'm going to like it or not. As reviewers, we offer insight on this matter and contrary to popular belief, negative reviews sell books too. There have been quite a few times I've read a negative review and thought, 'Wow, intriguing! I'm interested to see what all the fuss is about!" One element a reviewer didn't like in a book may appeal to another person, and get them to pick up a copy. Negative reviews are not an attack on the author, but an expression of what did and didn't work for that reviewer. Some bloggers chose not to do negative reviews at all, but there are those of us who feel that we need to follow a review request through to the end. It is for this very reason I have laid out my reviewing policies so specifically here and insist authors read these before requesting. If you can't handle the possibility I might not like your book, then this isn't the right blog for you.

I guess what I'm trying to express here is, play nice. You have a right to your personal feelings, and there is no harm in letting a reviewer know you have read their review, but if you don't think you can be an adult about it, then you are better off not saying anything at all. 

To wrap this post up, I would like to say thank you to all the authors I've had the privilege to work with thus far. You have all given me the opportunity to be exposed to your works and expand my blog. I have been very lucky in that I have only had the one bad experience. Christiana Miller, Kristen White, Rhys Astason, Joel T. McGrath, Darcy Town, Lorin Barber, and anyone else I may be forgetting here, thank you all for being so courteous. It has been and still is such a pleasure.

Please feel free to leave your own opinions on this subject in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you.



Tin said...


Stopping in from the hop and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the topic.

I agree with you when you said: "Negative reviews are not an attack on the author, but an expression of what did and didn't work for that reviewer."

I think authors (and reviewers also) have to remember this -- and consider negative reviews as constructive.

Jenn of Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger said...

Okay so I totally missed all that drama and can't believe a publicity agent actually did something like that. (Not saying as in I don't believe you, saying I'm shocked.) That's almost as bad as the author last summer who basically compared adult readers of YA to pedophiles. Although I'll admit to being more offended by being compared to a pedophile than I would be if someone called me a bitch.

I didn't know about all of that because I took eight months off blogging and even now I'm back I'm barely touching anything as far as networking and social media aspects are concerned. I have plans and goals for my blog as far as content and appearance goes and I'm focused on meeting them and being away from blogging I realized that until I can make my blog into what I want it to be in appearance and content there's no point in trying to join the follower hunt. But hearing this I get why blogs and advising authors not to comment.

I like comments personally though I don't expect them but then again I didn't know about all the stuff you just mentioned because I'm not really doing the social media thing at the moment. Interesting and informative post that I definitely enjoyed reading.

Vanessa theJeepDiva said...

WOW! Many awesome points there. I think the childish/unprofessional comments from either reviewer or author just need to never be seen by anyone.

Reading said...

You can never go wrong by being nice! I believe having a detailed review policy is very interesting not to have any kind os misunderstandings with people who requested reviews.

Thanks for sharing your opinion as part of my blog hop!