Authors Responding to Reviews? Posted by Maureen Lang

My daughter is an Amazon Vine Reviewer, meaning she’s earned the spot by reading and reviewing a great number of books. Every once in a while she receives a note from an author—usually short and sweet, thanking her for her review. One author recently quoted her favorite line from the review, complimenting her writing.

However, after giving a 2 star review, another author’s response was . . . well, not so complimentary. Though awarding it only 2 stars, my daughter still mentioned several positive qualities about the book and explained why she was disappointed. It was an honest, justified opinion from one reader.

But the author publicly responded, both negatively and defensively. After pointing out that her review didn’t match the other reviews of those who obviously loved his book, he went on to “explain” that not everyone likes a sappy book and that perhaps she ought to look elsewhere for her happiness.

Ouch! I’m sorry, but that response was both personal and unjustified, particularly in view of the fact that she never called his book “sappy.” She said that the cover and title promised a light tone, but the content turned out to be more serious so she wanted to mention this aspect as a tip to future readers.

Okay, I admit being offended on my daughter’s behalf. But everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. No author should expect to please everyone, since we’re all so different. I would also guess if a book has only positive reviews then not enough people are reading and/or reviewing it. The best thing to do with a negative review is to chalk it up to taste, and thank God we’re all different.

But here’s the bottom line. I simply don’t understand why an author would sabotage himself this way. Attacking reviewers—i.e. readers—isn’t exactly the best way to attract more readers. My daughter actually owns another book by this author, which she has now placed in her giveaway pile without reading it. Did I mention she’s a Vine reviewer? That’s one less review he’ll get, and with the negative residue from this experience not only will I not be interested in his books, but neither will others, if they read the author’s public defense and attack. It simply makes no sense for an author to do this.

As an author myself, I rarely read my own reviews. The good ones puff up my head and the bad ones deflate it. That might sound like I’ll walk around balanced, but the truth is I’d rather just go along on an even keel than all that up and down. But if I did read my reviews, this whole experience has convinced me not to respond.

I will say getting a positive note from an author really pleases her, so that might be a good idea… But what about you? If you’re an author, do you respond to reviews? If you’re a reviewer, do you want an author to respond?

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About Maureen Lang

Author of a dozen novels, Maureen Lang has won the Selah Award, a Holt Medallion, FHL's Reader's Choice Award, and been a finalist in such contests as the Christy, the Rita, the Carol, Book Buyer's Best, and others. Before publication she was the recipient of a Golden Heart and a Genesis (then called the Noble Theme). She resides with her husband and kids in the Chicago area. Titles by Maureen Lang All In Good Time Bees In The Butterfly Garden Springtime Of The Spirit Whisper On The Wind Look To The East My Sister Dilly On Sparrow Hill The Oak Leaves Remember Me Pieces Of Silver
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11 Responses to Authors Responding to Reviews? Posted by Maureen Lang

  1. Martha A. says:

    I am a reviewer and I love getting a note from the author. I like the fact that they noticed that I took the time to read and review their work. But, I try to make sure that if I do not enjoy the book, and have to give it a review on the poorer side, I am a little nervous about it. I do not want to hurt the authors feelings, but have learned to put in my reviews content that I did not find appealing, others may enjoy. It helps me to point that out. I have actually, as a reader, personally looked at books to read and go to the negative reviews to read first. If they sound like they have enough to make the book sound interesting and enough people worked up over it, I like to read it to see! As an author, don’t be afraid of poor reviews, sometimes it is what sells the book!

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    • Maureen Lang says:

      That’s so interesting about reading the negative reviews first, Martha! I almost always read reviews of books before purchasing, just as I read reviews of movies before renting one, so I know they’re a powerful tool. After thinking about the whole exchange from this particular author, I’m beginning to wonder if he was intentionally rude just to stir up some notice. I’ve heard famous people say that it doesn’t matter what people say about you, just as long as they’re saying something! Does negative advertising work, outside politics? Maybe so!

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  2. Iola says:

    I think it’s one thing to get a nice ‘thank you’ note from the author – but even then, I don’t think the Amazon or Goodreads comments box is the appropriate place, because that can look needy (also, it kind of obliges the author to comment on all reviews, otherwise they can look like they are playing favourites). An email or a comment on their blog is fine.

    I also agree that sometimes the lower-starred reviews do sell the book, and there is actually research evidence to support this. But a negative response from an author looks unprofessional, and can hurt sales.

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    • Maureen Lang says:

      My daughter didn’t want to engage in an online argument with this author, but she did respond to his initial comment. One of the things she mentioned was that Amazon probably wasn’t the place for an author to launch a defense, if his only goal was to interact with his readers, and perhaps a site geared toward interaction is GoodReads. He responded again by pointing out there was little difference between such online sites, which was another area of contention. Yes, sales may result from discovering an author on GoodReads, but that isn’t solely dedicated to sales the way Amazon is. So after that she gave up on any further discussion, simply remembering his name as an author to avoid. In this case, even if it’s on a small scale, it did hurt his sales because that’s one less book collector/avid reader who will buy his books. (Oh, that’s two if you count me!)

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  3. As a new author, I’ve really struggled with this. On the one hand, I want reviewers to know that I appreciate the time they put into reading and reviewing my book. On the other hand, I don’t always have time for even a quick note to everyone and I feel bad thanking some and not others. Also, there is a part of me that feels like a reviewer should be free to say what they think, so I shouldn’t say anything about about either a good or a bad review, thereby leaving the reviewer’s neutrality in tact because they haven’t had personal contact with me. Does any of that make sense? I really don’t know how to reconcile all of those things yet.

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    • Martha A. says:

      I think if it is a blog post, it is easy to post about a book without writing a sincere review. If you find a review that is about your book and it is sincere, it is so encouraging for a reviewer to know that the author appreciates it. It actually makes me want to remember to buy more of their books. If they are defensive or argumentative, that makes me want to not read more of them. I had to read a book that was based in my home town where I grew up and sadly, the poor author had mixed up some basic facts, that would seem like nothing to an outsider, but to someone who grew up there…it was outrageous! I struggle with thinking about reading any more of his books because I felt like he had not taken the time with his research, but…I make a big note in my review of how others would not think poorly of the book the same way I did for those reasons. But he did not respond at all to the reviews, which made me almost think less of the author in the end, that maybe he didn’t care if his book was poorly researched? I felt like I had no hope to read more as they might just be the same thing!

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  4. Maureen Lang says:

    I share your struggle, Anne! If I hear about a good review on a blog, I might stop in to say thanks, but I have the same mixed feelings—will reviewers skew their reviews if they think the author will check in on it? I’m truly grateful for every reviewer who takes the time and effort to offer a review, because they’re proven to be a powerful marketing tool. But I’ve come to think of them as one of those tools I can’t do much about, except keep trying to produce the best book that I can.

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  5. I’m both an author and a reviewer. I respond to reviews both positive and negative by expressing at minimum an appreciation for the time they took to read and review the book. Because I review books I don’t expect everyone to LOVE my books because I don’t LOVE all the books I read. So I do reply on Amazon.com, goodreads when possible and blogs of people who review my books. As a book reviewer and blogger I appreciate when other authors take the time to comment on my reviews so I make sure to attempt to do the same to other reviewers even if they don’t like my book.

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    • Maureen Lang says:

      Thanks, Shawneda! I love your point about not expecting everyone to love the books we write because as readers ourselves we don’t love all the books we read. So true!

      And I’m definitely with you in the gratitude department, because every review takes time beyond the time it took to read the book. Offering a review must mean it touched that person enough to stay with them beyond just reading the pages – and really, that’s our goal, so I’m thankful for every review, too.

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