BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Friday, April 20, 2012

Authors, Reviews, and Commenting


First off, thanks to Nat at Reading Romances for hosting this multi-blog discussion on what is a very hot topic these days in the online book world. At the bottom of the post, you will find a list with links for all of the participating blogs.

When I first started reviewing and blogging, I would get so very, very excited when an author commented. I haven't actually had a lot of authors comment on my reviews, whether here, on goodreads or Amazon (though admittedly, I rarely look at my Amazon reviews so maybe someone has). Most have been a simple thank you, a few times the author offered clarification on something I questioned in the review (which, by the way, I appreciate and don't mind, though an email might be the best way to do that). The times that happened, the authors were polite and cordial. I've had some authors who didn't reply on the review itself but said "thank you" or "nice review" on twitter. One or two have emailed me thank yous, which was nice.

These days, I'm less green and also, the blogging atmosphere seems a bit sticky and at times it feels like a group of young toddlers screaming and tantruming cuz another child took their toy away. Unfortunately, we can't put authors or bloggers in a time out. It feels as if every week, or even every day, there's another kerfuffle concerning a review that an author made an inappropriate comment on. I still get excited when an author comments but I'm also more aware of the potential for disaster. So, do I want an author to comment? Is it appropriate?

I don't think we'll get agreement on the appropriateness of it, but maybe we can agree on how an author comments, if they choose to do so. I know many authors who choose not to, for one reason or another. Honestly, for the author's sake, I think that's the safest course. Now matter how carefully the reply is worded, someone, somewhere, will find a way to take offense. And if the author makes any kind of criticism, however mild, someone, somewhere, even if it's not the person who wrote the review, will take offense. Then you have the authors, I'm sure you can think of some, who go ballistic and get insulting, even send emails deriding or harassing the reviewer. In those instances, that author should erase the comment or email as soon as they hit publish, or better yet, don't say anything at all, and go find a trusted peer or friend upon whom they can rant and rave at, IN PRIVATE.Taking their displeasure public rarely works out well.

If an author chooses to comment, then I think a simple "thank you" is good. Some say "Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book." I think that's fine too. They are acknowledging the time and effort that the reviewer has put into the review, regardless of their personal opinion on the review. They may be crushed or furious but ideally, they will rein in those feelings, decline to comment, or maybe leave a polite thank you, and then go off to deal, appropriately, with their feelings, in private. Authors work hard on their writing, some feel as if the books are their babies; it's normal and understandable that they would be hurt by a less than glowing review. The trick is in how they handle it.

Some writers don't read their reviews at all, some read them and think seriously about what the reviewer said and even use that information when writing their next book or story. Authors, if you choose to read your reviews, and you choose to comment, please tread carefully when commenting. Many potential and existing readers have been lost by an author's inappropriate comment on a review.

So, do I want authors to comment on my reviews? Yes, please. I enjoy it and sometimes we have good discussions or even just banter. Even if it's a simple thank you, I'm happy. Did I get a fact (fact! not opinion or perception) wrong in my review? Email me and I'll fix it. Hate my review? (You can disagree with my review, that can be interesting, and as long as you 're polite, it's all good.) Think I'm the worst reviewer EVER? Want to tell the world what a bitch I am? Sorry, those comments and emails will be deleted.

In addition to visiting the other blogs in this hop, take a few minutes to check out some other good posts: Author Linda Poitevin has a writer's guide to book blogger etiquette and blogger Natasha at Wicked Little Pixie tackles the topic of proper book blogger etiquette.

Thanks for stopping by. Please take a minute and share your thoughts and feelings in the comment section. Politely, of course. :)

OK, when I preview the post, I don't see the linky list so here's a link to Reading Romance's page with the linky list. Sorry for the inconvenience.


ETA: I finally got the linky to work! *happy dance*

29 comments:

  1. Hi!

    Stopping in from the hop.

    I enjoyed reading your piece and I especially love this part:
    "I don't think we'll get agreement on the appropriateness of it, but maybe we can agree on how an author comments, if they choose to do so."

    Throughout your piece, you emphasize the benefits of private communication through email rather than posting publicly in comments section, etc -- like you, I think this is a good/appropriate compromise. ^_^

    Thank you also for linking the 2 pages on blogging etiquette -- have opened them on my tabs and will read them in a bit. ^_^

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    1. The timing of those blogging etiquette posts was perfect, I had to include them. I think they should be required reading for authors and bloggers.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  2. I'm an author, and I commented on my first few reviews, but then I worried my "presence" might squelch discussion on book blogs, so I stopped. After that, I started hearing about all the scary dust-ups, which are actually pretty uncommon when you consider how many authors and reviewers there are.

    Now, I have a policy of not commenting, but I do answer all emails and tweets.

    That's my choice, but I completely support other authors' decisions to do whatever they feel is right for them.

    It can be so difficult to refrain from trying to get the last word if, say, someone has a very different interpretation. So I just stay away from the reviews entirely. That way I don't have to smack my hands away from the keyboard! And it leaves me more time to write my next book for some people to love and some people to throw across the room in disgust.* (*From what I hear.)

    :-)

    Keep on doin' whatcha love doin'!

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    1. Dalya, you have a good point about the ratio of dust ups to the peaceful non-events. Unfortunately, it's the dust ups that get the attention. Human nature is to graviate towards the drama; some people manage not to but for many people (myself included), it's a challenge.

      I for one appreciate all of the authors who behave appropriatley in public and mind their manners. You're right, that is the vast majority of authors and they deserve to be recognized for it. I see a new opinion piece coming to the blog!

      Thanks for visiting.

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  3. I'm an author. I do read reviews when I come across them, but I don't usually seek them out. When I do come across them, no matter what I think of the review (unless it's just plain horrible and abusive - which fortunately I haven't come across yet) I'll leave a polite 'thank you' because honestly, even a three star review I got on one novel, was very fair. She was expecting more paranormal romance and I wrote urban fantasy. Know what was really cool? One of the commenters thought they might read it themselves. She certainly deserved a thanks, even if it wasn't her cup of tea. I believe my response to that one was along the lines of thank you so much for your time and fair review. You're correct, I'm not a romance author.

    If the review is abusive, I'm just gonna stay away from it. I feel that if I, or an author, can't say something nice, don't say anything. You always hear about the dust ups, you don't hear about the polite responses. In these days of internet, opinions can be swayed so easily and you aren't going to change anyone's mind by starting a fight. Readers are smart. They'll be able to tell if a review is fair or not.

    I agree with Bea in that if there is some sort of mistake, a polite email is easy enough to send but keeping it private is good, just in case the blogger isn't inclined to fix things.

    Great blog topic.

    Julie

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    1. "I feel that if I, or an author, can't say something nice, don't say anything."

      Exactly! It's just good manners.

      Thanks Julie!

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  4. I'd definitely prefer to receive my screw-ups in my review via email. But I do like comments from authors. Though I very seldom get any sort of author comment I like it when they do comment, but I don't expect them to when I write the review.

    I enjoyed reading your well thought out opinions and to be honest I don't really understand why people get so upset about the opinions of others. I mean I knew it was a general policy among authors not to comment out of professionalism, but I didn't realize so many people were fighting about reviews and comments. I guess in some ways it makes me appreciate how little time I spend on social media sites now because even though my lack of presence hurts my following at least it keeps me out of the drama.

    Anyway great post and interesting comments on it as well. I'll be sure to check out those links as soon as I make it through the rest of the hop.

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    1. Social media is often a wonderful thing but there's no question it can take an honest mistake or a small problem and blow it up to hell and back.

      Being able to miss out on all of the dramas is not a bad thing; there are times when ignorance actually is bliss. I spend a lot of time on twitter so I tend to hear about most of them. Generally, I stay out of them, but I did want to offer my opinion on this one topic. It's general enough, no one is singled out, that maybe we can do some good and help calm things down a tiny bit.

      I'm glad you stopped by. :)

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  5. People often mistake private x public when taking action, we need to think twice! And nice posts you have linked to!

    Thanks for partcipating =)

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    1. Thank you, and thanks for doing this! I'm glad I participated.

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  6. LOVE the two etiquette posts you pointed out! There are so many thoughtful responses & options I have seen with this hop. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Hi Bea! Cool post! I love "kerfuffle"! :)

    I have to agree with you that it is usually better to say nothing than something. As sad as that is. I love when authors comment or thank me because I feel validated in what I am doing. But I also understand that it only takes one person to make a stink. Maybe the author thanked me and not another blogger and someone gets their feather ruffled. I also agree that every blogger and author should read an etiquette book. Unfortunately that is not going to be an attainable goal. I am still in my first year of blogging and I have learned a lot by watching. I try not to say much because the same holds true for me. One comment and I am in hot water. But I also look for blogs to comment on where opinion is generally welcome.

    So the best course is to keep message private. I have not yet been picked apart by an author, but I know that eventually it will happen. My reviews are not going to please every author. But authors need to understand that their books are likewise not to going to please every reader. It is just the way it is. I wish I could love every book I read, but realistically, it is just not going to happen. I don't make a judgement before reading a book, but I am honest in my reviews. Also in my reviews I make an effort to remain respectful. If I don't like a book I say why. I also try to point out something that I did like. I have had comments about a review about a book I disliked and one of my followers commented that they would like it because of something I pointed out. So it works both ways As reviewer I may get readers for an author even when I dislike a book so long as I explain my reasoning.

    I did have a bit of a boost when I started blogging because I have very good friends who are published and a friend who is a well-known editor. So I talked to them in length prior to starting my blog. I was also told a few do's and don'ts. Now while I believe that a lot of the do's and don'ts fall under the category of common sense, it is not always a given that everyone will understand and when something strong like emotion runs high, rules be damned. My best advice would be to sit on any commenting while you are emotionally charged and come back to it later. I think that many times, after calming down, the comment may alter quite a bit.

    Additionally, I read a post a while back about how an author's presence on a review discourages comments on the blog. Perhaps you have people willing to comment, but once you see that the author was there and will likely see your comments, you decide not to comment at all. That is unfortunate, but I can see how it would be true. Now this does not apply to giveaways and such that welcome comment because the commenter is expecting the author to chime in and respond. But as far as reviews go, it is just better for an author not to say anything on the blog and keep the comments private.

    Bea, I would like to add another possible future topic. When you have an "virtual relationship" with an author. I believe there is etiquette to follow in this case as well. Because in the end, you may know an author, but you really don't "KNOW" the author. Does that make sense?

    ~K

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    1. Kendra, your point about an author participating in a review discussion is a good one and I think an earlier commenter brought it up also. I can completely understand people being reluctant to comment if they believe, or know, that the author will see it and may respond. I am ok with authors commenting, as I said, but if it seemed that it was preventing people from responding, I'd have to reconsider.

      Great reply Kendra, thanks! I like the idea of a post on author & blogger friendships and the potential pitfalls. *madly scribbles notes*

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  8. Bea! This should be sent to every author by their editor/publicist/agent. I read reviews, and while I am grateful for them taking the time read, review and post, I don't comment, not even to say thank you because I believe this is a forum for discussion for the readers/reviewers- authors should be silent partners.

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  9. Aww, thanks! I've seen some really good posts on this topic for the hop. I completely understand not commenting, but I'm glad you stopped by and commented on this.

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  10. You summarise the pro's and cons of author replies nicely Bea. An interesting discussion in the comments here to. A well written and helpful post...

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  11. I used to comment on all my reviews, but I just can't anymore. I have a lot of titles going, so I often even miss lots of them. If a reviewer contacts me via email to say they've reviewed, I thank them - before even reading the review. After all, that's how I guarantee that I've been polite ;)

    I spend a lot of time on Twitter, so many reviewers mention me there when promoting a review they've done of my work. In that case, I try facebooking and retweeting links to their blog with the review. After all, I figure that's the least I can do for them taking the time to review my work.

    And, if I can send 50 new reviews to a blog, I think that's my own way of saying "thanks" :)

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    1. Yeah, the sheer practicality of trying to keep up with all reviews everywhere could be a full-time job. I totally understand when an author doesn't comment on a review.

      Krista, you are awfully good at sharing links to reviews on twitter and facebook and I for one greatly appreciate that. Thank you.

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  12. Tricky stuff! I love tweeting with authors, but I think anything other than a thank you or a retweet of a review would make me uncomfortable because even my favorite authors very seldom get five-star reviews. I just don't think it's appropriate to rebut people's opinions about the books. They can write blogs or tweet in general, but not on my blog or directly to me, that's just too uncomfortable. And it really risks starting a confrontation that no one wants to see, it's so hard to control tone and feelings in writing. I say just avoid it. Great posts by Linda and WLP too, thanks to all of you.

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    1. Yeah, I give very few 4 or 5 star reviews and that can be uncomfortable at times. Most authors, I think, are realistic enough to realize that not everyone will LOVE their book. They want everyone to love it but understand that won't happen.

      I agree that it's very hard to effectively communicate tone and feelings in writing, especially online. It's a challenge for sure and one I struggle with. Even authors are not immune.

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  13. I think author presence does hinder comments/conversations. I mean it's one thing to state your opinion on something, quite another to do it to someones 'face'. jmo. Just thank the blogger directly for their time, even a bad review meant someone read it and took the time to say so. In fact the nastier the reviewer the more I'd wish to thank them kindly. Kill them with kindess has its merits. Do I ever want people to publicly say that they hate my work? No. Duh. hehe. Do I want them to feel free to say that they do? Sadly yes. :P lol Honesty is always good to hear.
    TamC

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    1. Tams, I love you. I agree, killing with kindness can be a most excellent way to go.

      Author presence *can* inhibit discussion unfortunately. I enjoy a lively, friendly discussion but there have been times I was inhibited by the author. Other times though I haven't been. For me, it depends on the conversation.

      That was helpful, wasn't it? LOL

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  14. Almost always, an writer should not respond directly to a review. The only time he or she should send a private email to the reviewer would be if there was a factual error,in the review.

    I think that even saying thanks for the review could be misinterpreted and should be avoided.

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  15. Argh! sorry I can't correct the errors in the above reply.

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  16. LOL No worries Diane. Blogger, sadly, doesn't allow comment editing.

    Yours is a view I've bumped into elsewhere. Another view I've encountered is one that says an author NOT commenting is rude. I admit, that one stumps me. I don't get it.

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  17. A well-thought-out post. As an author, I definitely like to thank the reader for taking the time to write a review. Reviews are very special to me. But I don't want to squelch reader dialogue by sticking my nose in. Like you said, there's no one right answer here, but this discussion helps me proceed more cautiously.

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  18. I used to comment on reviews, but my publisher told me to quit. But every blogger I've talked to tells me they love it when (sane) authors participate on their blogs, so I think I'm going to start again.

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  19. Yes, 'sane' helps for sure. I understand why your publisher doesn't want you to comment but a lot of bloggers do love it. It is a tricky balance, I don't envy authors trying to navigate Reviews and blogs.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Let;s talk!