Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Should Authors Respond to Reviews of Their Books?

I was conversing today with writer friend Nicholas Rossis regarding book reviews and whether or not an author should reply to a reviewer.

Raymond Chandler had three rules: 

1. Never show or discuss a WiP, 

2. Never take advice, and 

3. Never answer a critic. So that's his take on it. 

I know a RomCom author named Elle Lothlorien whom I've interviewed on this blog and she is adamant about interacting with people on Amazon because in her mind it is simply good customer service. She views her writing as a publishing business and she wants to make certain her customers are happy. If a restaurant patron has a poor experience, the manager usually wants to hear about it in order to comp the meal or offer free desserts or something that enables the customers to come away feeling happy. Same with retailers. They want the opportunity to provide good customer service. 

Personally, I have never answered a reviewer on Amazon. I wrote a reply once, but then deleted it. If someone has a problem with a book's format or something goes awry with their purchase, that's one thing. If it's sloppy and full of typos, that's my problem. But if the story simply isn't to their taste, that's their problem. If I go to the movies with Taliya and the movie sucks the big one, we have no right to a refund. But if the projector takes a crap half way through or the sound cuts out and the presentation of the film sucks the big one, then we absolutely have a right to a refund or complimentary movie tickets, etc, because the theater didn't provide the service we paid for.

I've read a lot about this kind of thing, including the thoughts and reactions of those people who write reviews who then have the author reply. Some reviewers are very upset by the author defending their work. In their eyes, they are not a beta reader or an editor, etc. That time has passed. They are the end user and they are providing their feedback on the product in the hopes of helping others. They usually don't like it when the author butts in. This often makes them uncomfortable because now all of a sudden they're self conscious because the author is reading their reviews and waiting to argue. That's no good. The whole point of reviews is honesty. 

I have read some of Elle's experiences in which she responded in a kind and respectful manner and turned a critic into a huge fan. So that is one possibility if you do it correctly. That way you don't have someone out there running around bad-mouthing you and your books. Instead, you have someone out there running around telling all their friends how they conversed with you via Amazon and you were SUPER nice and sent them a free book and now they're your number-one fan a la Annie Wilkes, so don't go driving your old Mustang on a slippery snow-covered road in the mountains.

Finally, it's important to remember that negative reviews are a good thing. They legitimize the positive reviews. If a book has a couple hundred reviews and they're ALL 4- and 5-star reviews, something is rotten in Denmark, amigo. I saw a book like that just a few days ago. It was weird. Either it's an incredibly-good book, or something is up. No way can a book have, say, 150 reviews, and nothing below 4 stars. Out of ALL those people, somebody had to think it had SOMETHING wrong with it. Plus, when you read the 1- and 2-star reviews, you can determine quite easily if the person writing the review has any friggin' brains whatsoever. When I read reviews, both good and bad, the 1-stars often reference an ideology they felt the author was pushing, for example. In once case, the reviewer complained that it was somehow a weird mixture of environmentalism and right-wing politics. Those don't typically go together. So who knows. You can't please everyone. Nor should you try. My mantra is. "Write for yourself first." I write for myself and for Taliya. If we like the story, I figure others will like it, too. If not, oh well.

And like Joe Konrath says (and I'm paraphrasing), "Do NOT read your reviews. There is no point to doing so. Besides, you should be far, far too busy writing to have time to read your own reviews."

So, for your writers, do you respond to those who post reviews of your books?

And for you readers, how do you feel when an author responds or leaves a comment on your review?

I want to hear from you guys.

Okay, back to the new novel.



  1. Wonderful stuff, I'm glad you turned our conversation into a blog post, as it was just great! :)

  2. Thanks, Nicholas. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for providing the idea for the post.

  3. Since I already wrote a 4-part series on this for Digital Book World (which was later named as one of the "Top 10 Digital Publishing Stories of 2012"), I'm not sure I have much to add to this. Some authors ignore reviews; some make it an integral part of their business plan. I think the latter works best, not just from a customer service perspective, but because it's a sure way to create repeat-customers. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/top-ten-stories-of-2012/

  4. Thanks, Elle. That was indeed the article to which I was referring.