Recently an author commented on a review I wrote on a book this author had written. It wasn’t mean or anything, but I found it a little unprofessional. The author wanted to clean up some misconceptions I had, ones that were based on my own experiences with what happened in this particular book, so they weren’t exactly misconceptions. The author simply had a different experience from me, but my experience was more common, not just with me, but among a variety of other people, so I wouldn’t exactly say I was misconstruing anything. I know I’m being vague, but this is to hide the identity of the author and the work. Even so, the author appreciated the review and thought it was the best one. And I, of course, replied, taking the author’s own experiences into account. But it was still unprofessional, considering the author’s experiences were rarer than this author was led to believe. Doesn’t make them any less legitimate, but when I comment on something in a book that seems inaccurate in terms of realism, I often go by the average experience, not the exceptional.
In any case, I do comment on reviews, but it’s simply a thank you if it was given as an ARC. It is never to correct things I feel they didn’t get, or even correct things they might have gotten completely wrong. Reviews are for readers, not writers, and because there is this ability to comment on reviews, let the readers do that. Let the readers clear up misconceptions, or agree or disagree with the review.
That’s the great thing about Goodreads. It opens up a discussion on these books, a practical forum, and I like that, so hopefully When Stars Die will get to the point where readers do want to open up with discussions on these reviews. I won’t be reading them, of course, but it will just be a neat idea to think that readers want to talk about the book in some way, be it negative or positive.
Now I’m going to admit that I take 3 star reviews and use these reviews as my invisible harshest critics to help shape the sequel of a book I’m doing in a series. Yeah, beta readers and crit partners are great, but most of them look at the manuscript as a writer, not a reader, and I want to think about readers when writing. To be frank, I wasn’t thinking a whole lot about readers when doing revisions for When Stars Die, besides the edits given from AEC. I wasn’t thinking, ‘What would they like? What would they want to see? How would they react?’ It’s still creating my story, but I also believe thinking about readers ultimately creates a book that you’d love even more. So I hardcore think about readers during revisions, which is what I did with The Stars Are Infinite and am now doing with All Shattered Ones, which isn’t in The Stars Trilogy. It’s a standalone contemporary fantasy. So, if anything, 3 star reviews have taught me to really, really think about readers.
In any case, I posed this question about authors commenting on their own reviews, and here are some answers:
Tanya Gaunt: “Reviews are what readers do authors get feedback.”
Nazarea Andrews: Unless it’s a ‘thank you!’ I don’t. Even from friends, I stay away.
Maria E. Wilson (My PA Extraordinaire): “Unless it’s to say “Thank you for taking the time to review my novel.” I don’t think authors should comment. If a reader wants to talk to you about your book, they will contact you. The reviews are not there for the authors, but for other readers.”
Nazarea Andrews (again): Fwiw I don’t use reviews as a crit for how to go into my next book. That’s what CPs and Betas are for. IMO.
Glenn Harris: “Other than a simple thank you, an absolute no-no. If it’s a bad review, you sound defensive and if it’s a good one you sound self-congratulatory.”
Rashad Freeman: “It’s a lose lose.”
Megan Moffat: “It’s awkward and I hate it. I had an author comment on a review before when I gave their book one star. They weren’t very happy to say the least and basically tore me down, saying I didn’t know anything, didn’t understand their work, demanded more answers as to why I gave it the rating I did, etc. I have never replied and don’t intend to. I found the author’s comment rude and intrusive.”
Sebastian Starcevic: “Even saying “thank you” lets all the reviewers know that you’re there watching, assessing what they post. Just stay away. You seem obsessive otherwise.”
Joey Paul: “I agree with other people saying that it’s not something you should do as an author. Read the reviews, sure, smile when you get a 5 star and frown when you get a 1 star, but do not, under any circumstances, comment. It will only end badly.”
Barry Koonstachin: “Under any circumstance, an author should never comment on the reviews of his/her book.”
Wendi Starusnak: “I don’t think they should… it seems unprofessional in my opinion.”
Kimberlee Fisher Sams: “Fine, as long as they’re either basically saying “thanks for the review” or “glad you enjoyed the book”, or correcting blatantly wrong information (ie “You must be thinking of a different book. My book, “blah blah title”, does not contain a single swear word. My editor and I are meticulous about this.”
DeAnna Chapmann Kinney: “I’ve done it, but only if it was a great one and I just had to thank them for it.”
Gregory Lamb: “It can be a slippery slope with lots of unintended consequences. Letting the readers have a dialog without interference is the strategy I go by.”
Cheer Stephenson Papworth: “Just be very careful! Stay classy!”
Hopefully I spelled all these names right. Let me know if I haven’t. Some were a little difficult.
What do all of you think about authors commenting on their own reviews?
Next post will be an interview I did with Jenny Torres Sanchez, author of The Downside of Being Charlie and Death, Dickenson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.
15 thoughts on “Authors Commenting on Own Reviews”
As a reader/reviewer, I’m not comfortable with it. I would never judge an author or refuse to read future work because of a “thanks for reviewing,” obviously, but it’s strange to know that they’re watching. I don’t feel as free to say what’s on my mind if I know they’ll respond (even though I know they’re probably reading, anyway).
Obviously rude responses are a no-no, and I don’t like authors trying to clarify points they think I got wrong. I’ve also had them send me messages saying thanks and promoting the next book, which they think has cleared up issues I had with the first one. Again, it’s nice and friendly, but kind of makes me feel the way I do when someone gets too close to talk to me. Just need a little space…
I wouldn’t mind if an author had follow-up questions and asked them in a respectful manner.
Rude responses? Instant never-read-again, even if it’s a response to someone else’s review.
It’s mostly first-time indie authors that do this because we take each review as a piece of gold. Unlike traditional publishers, we tend to not get 50+ reviews a day, so when we do get a review, we can’t help but to look at it. But I have read that once you’re no longer an indie newbie author, you tend to start ignoring these things altogether, including the rankings of your book (which I’ve never looked at in the first place).
I agree with you… I mean I’ve had an author click like on a review I posted and that meant a lot to me… but really getting in trying to basically argue over a book or explain something isn’t good… I mean if you have to explain it then you might not have written it very well and that just makes the author look bad… as a writer I get people to read my books before I publish them so I can have such discussions… make sure things make sense and that the average reader will be able to follow what I’m saying… but once it’s out there you just need to let the chips fall where they may and hope you have a fan base who will discuss and help you out in those situations… but doing it yourself seems a little petty…
I agree. If you have to explain it, you didn’t do it well in the first place. I don’t care if a book was based off your real-life experiences. If I say something is unrealistic based on my own experiences, especially if I’ve had more experiences with this thing, than you, as the author, probably need to re-evaluate my criticism and wonder if you could have been more clear about the points in the book that are based off your experiences.
I think I commented on a comment of a review once when I started to tell someone that I would continue using present tense. I was polite. I rant to friends when a review makes me mad because public confrontation would only make a mess. My question is what about private messages that answer questions posed in a review. Nothing rude, but answering questions and concerns from a reader within a private area.
I don’t know if I would answer the questions. I would let readers do that, and I’ve seen it done on one book. One person didn’t seem to understand the book that well and so wrote a scathing review. A lot of readers went in to fix misinformation and answer the questions this review posed, so I, personally, would leave it up to readers to do that.
Good idea. I think it’s hard for a new indie author to do that at first. I rarely see comments under such reviews for my books. I’m getting better at fighting the temptation though.
I haven’t seen comments yet, either, but then no one has wrote anything scathing, or anything that’s made me angry.
Lucky. I’ve gotten a few nasty ones. I’m thinking they’re rarer than I was led to believe.
A lot of my reviews have come from ARCs though, so I’ve had personal interactions with these people, which is probably why they’re not scathing. The lowest review I have is 2 stars, and it’s just 1, but the reviewer never reviewed it like she said she would. The 3 star ones are just mostly constructive criticism.
I didn’t hear back from a lot of my early and free giveaways. Most of my reviews are from people that I don’t know. I prefer the constructive criticism ones because it’s the best way for authors to learn.
I don’t mind when authors comment on my reviews as long as they aren’t defensive or negative. I’ve had the somewhat unfortunately luck to have been commented on by an author negatively after a rather lack-luster review, and I both felt it was inappropriate, as well as stressful. On the other hand, I’ve gotten full e-mails from some authors (and publishers!) on my reviews, and I appreciated them very much. We had thoughtful conversations about what I did/didn’t like in the book, and subsequently I’ve been invited to read and review every book they’ve written since… no matter my opinion. I do have to agree though, unless you’re going to say “thank you” and be classy about it, commenting on a review is probably a terrible idea.
I did e-mail one of my reviewers concerning pointers for my second book because she had a lot of legitimate questions in her review that could be answered in book two, and I wanted her to further clarify on a lot of those points. So I took a lot of her questions into consideration when revising book two, but I don’t actually comment on it.
Very usefull advice! I must agree that I always considered that discussing with the author via reviews is a bit unprofessional and is certanly among one of the things that I think I will most certanly not do if there is ever a book with my name out.
In your particular case you described is where I find the unprofessionality. I always believed a book cannot have a one-way reading experience and that the best books are the ones which inspire a different experience in each reader. We already know that you will not manage to please every single reader in the world, so trying to dictate the reading experience will just put people off further.
I think the best author responses are just simple Thank you notes of appreciation. If the writer would like to discuss on his book and possible misconceptions, I believe there are different and better places then the reviews the author gets.
I wasn’t the only one who found certain points in the author’s novel unbelievable. The author said some of those points were based off real-life experience, but you can’t expect me to know this, not when the author did not suspend disbelief in those particular scenarios. If you want to make something that actually happened in your life believable, you need to do a good job at building it up and considering just what audience you’re writing for.