Battling over Book Reviews, Should it happen?

I want to start out by thanking those who have questions for using the SPAL question form to ask those questions. You guys have some really good questions and I have fun looking up the answers for the questions I don’t know and sharing the information I do know and don’t think to share because I take it for granted. It also makes it so much easier for us to tailor our posts to your guys needs.

While on vacation I received a question in my inbox and was going to write this big long post about it. Then I looked at the 200+ emails sitting in my inbox that I have left to go through and answer, plus a few book cover designs that I need to do and finish for clients, some websites I need to update and complete the construction of, a story to finish, a 60 Day Writing Challenge that starts Monday, a sick kid to cuddle with, and a house that is starting to looking like a poster child for Hoaders and realized that I really don’t have the time.

So rather than try to write the post, I’m going to cheat and post the question:

I’ve seen authors and reviewers fighting over book reviews. Is there a time when the author should reply to a review?

Joleene asked people to weigh in on the topic and some of you did.

My answer to the question is: No.

Battling over a book review is stupid and childish. I’d put my kids on time out for such behavior. Readers will put you on the do not read list. Even some of the loyal ones. Replying to book reviews is equally suicidal.

I don’t care if the review is good. Don’t thank them. Most reviewers don’t appreciate it and most readers find a lurking writer creepy.

I don’t care if the review is bad. Write a scathing letter you never plan to send. Rant to your best friend about the unfairness of it all. Cry over a few shots of Whiskey or a half-gallon of ice cream. Just don’t respond to them. If you want to wait until after you calm down to complain on your blog about your greatness and how mean the reviewer was, just remember they have Google Alerts and followers too.

They only review you should ever respond to is the one you ask for. Good or bad, thank the reviewer for taking the time to review it for you.

I can hear the “But Stephannie” right now. No, buts.

Writing is a Business, unless you are doing it for a hobby. If writing is your hobby and you have no intentions of making it a business, by all means reply to the reviews. Just don’t expect people to be happy about it. People will attack you for it. If this is your business, then playing by the rules is a must. This doesn’t mean allowing people to walk over you, but pick your battles and reviews are not a battle you can win.

  1. Reviews are people’s opinions and reading is tastes are subjective. What one person loves, another may not. I also don’t see the point of picking a fight with someone over their opinion. It’s pointless and it’s not going to change anyone’s mind. Trying makes you look like a crazed, maniac author that will find themselves talked about on Facebook and Twitter while they may watch their books sail off the shelves for a time, others are disgusted by the display and potential readers are lost.
  2. Good reviews can sometimes look like a bad review. An objective reviewer will balance the good and the bad. They will show the author their weaknesses and their strengths. They aren’t looking to be a smart ass or a megalomaniac. They are writing the review for the reader. As writers, all we see is the negative and want to scream “You didn’t understand my vision!”
  3. People are mean and reviews can sometimes be ugly. As a reader, these types of reviews from set my teeth on edge. I discount them for the heartless, cruelty of a reviewer with a personal vendetta against the writer. They are no better than the school bully that uses the geek kid as a punching bag only to have the teacher ignore it because she didn’t see it happen. They are the ones that take great lengths to publicly flog the author, rake their flaws through the coals, have little to nothing nice to say, and attack the author personally.

My best advice is to never look at your reviews. Don’t read them and don’t let people tell you about them. You’ll be happier for it. Why? Because there is too many negative critics who aren’t helpful in their reviews. There are too many hookey reviewers that make me wonder what they got for writing the review. There are too many gushy reviewers that go on and on about the greatness of the author to the point that I start to think “stalker.” And then there is the reviewer that write a review that attacks the writing and writer in a way that screams “personal vendetta.” You don’t want to get mixed up in that scene. It will kill your career.

Now that I wrote a post about 700 words longer than I planned, what do you think? Should the battle of book reviewer and author be happening? What do you think when you hear about such things? Should writer’s reply to reviews?

15 thoughts on “Battling over Book Reviews, Should it happen?

  1. Joleene Naylor September 12, 2012 / 7:14 am

    I have replied to only one review and that took over a year t do, because the reviewer claimed that my work was posted on a third party site asking for reviews – which I did not nor do, nor did I ask anyone else to do – so I finally replied and asked if he could tell me where it was so I could check it out and have it removed. The site he gave me doesn’t exist anymore, so I’ll never know whether they had my book on there or not, but in all other instances the best thing to do is just walk away.

    • Stephannie Beman September 13, 2012 / 4:05 pm

      I agree that walking away is the best. But like you I would be wanting the link removed.

  2. Satin Sheet Diva September 12, 2012 / 11:23 am

    If I begin to get reviews (sigh, lol) then I will be sure not to read them ;-).

    Seriously, I’ve not seen a review yet where the author responded other than to say thank you for taking the time to post the review. Do some readers want acknowledgement for that time spent logging into a site, posting the review; they want to know if the author read it or not?

    Sometimes, I think good manners dictates a “thank you for your time”, and even then it must be tempered with common sense, but beyond that, authors are better off being seen and not heard when it comes to reviews.

    • Stephannie Beman September 13, 2012 / 4:20 pm

      Courtesy would dictate thanking them for the time to write the review in most businesses. Publication is not one of them. Readers find it creep and unwanted. Some will even say that you are pressuring them into giving a good review even though you’re not doing any such thing. The best policy is to say nothing unless you sent a request to a book reviewer and they reviewed your book. Then thank them regardless of what the review said.

      • Satin Sheet Diva September 13, 2012 / 6:01 pm

        Wow. I will stop that immediately then, lol. Had no idea even a thanks for taking the time could be over the top. Good thing I’ve only gotten the one review ;-).

  3. M T McGuire September 12, 2012 / 12:42 pm

    I’ve replied once. Somebody gave my short story two stars. He liked the actual writing but he was upset about the way I’d categorised it – he explained why but I didn’t quite understand his reasoning. He flagged up some other, excellent points about the way I’d listed it and the information I had given – and omitted – which hadn’t occurred to me.

    When I’d added the information he suggested to the listing I replied to his review thanking him for the feedback,and asking if he could clarify the point about the categorisation a little. Which he did.

    It’s not something I’d usually do but he was honest, talking sense and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to smooth out my listing.



    • Stephannie Beman September 13, 2012 / 4:25 pm

      Sounds like a sound reason for responding. Clarification of something they suggest you do.

      I’ve responded to two reviews to tell the reviewers that I corrected the editing errors they pointed out. Sometimes I wish I didn’t though because I don’t want them to think I was lurking. However I won’t delete on the off chance someone thinks I said something mean or attacked them. LOL

  4. Lauralynn Elliott September 12, 2012 / 1:14 pm

    Never, ever engage with a reviewer. As a newbie, I responded to a bad review on the second novel I had published. Bad idea. The reviewer responded back. I cringe to think of the stupidity of what I had done, but I didn’t know any better at the time. So this is very good advice for authors just starting out. Because you WILL get bad reviews. Everybody does. I later deleted my response to the review, but since the rest of the conversation was still there, people will know I responded. What goes on the internet, stays on the internet. Always remember that when you’re tempted to respond. 🙂

    I did respond one other time, and I still don’t know if I should have or not. This reviewer accused me of stealing a character out of another book because the name was the same (I took the name from two people I knew, not from another book!) and suggested everyone read the other book instead of mine. She admitted to the fact she hadn’t even READ my book, just the sample and saw the name. I responded saying I would never do such a thing, etc. But what I SHOULD have done is ask Amazon to take down the review since it was a personal attack and the reviewer hadn’t read the book. So I finally did that. And Amazon quickly took the review down. So if you ever have a review that’s a personal attack and not a real review, Amazon can take it down. The best rule of thumb is to NEVER respond.

    Sorry for rambling on, It’s just that I’ve been publishing for several years and I’ve seen just about everything. LOL

    • Stephannie Beman September 13, 2012 / 4:41 pm

      Thanks for the sage advice Lauralynn. I’m in agreement with you. Responding to reviewers and reviews are bad, whether it is on your book or anyone’s book. It leads to petty fighting and backlashes that aren’t good. My rule of thumb is to not look, then you aren’t even tempted to respond. 😀

  5. Rose Gordon September 12, 2012 / 1:34 pm

    I’ll admit that I’ve responded to two, not to argue with the review, but actually more for the benefit of others who might be confused by the review. One said something about haywire formatting/typos. I opened the file and realized I’d uploaded *gulp* the unedited version. So I just wrote underneath a thank you and the file had been updated. This was more for the benefit of anyone else who might be scared away from the book because of this. It wasn’t in hopes she’d remove her review or to argue anything.

    The other one was a good review where the lady was confused about who someone was and couldn’t understand why my story didn’t line up with a book of mine she hadn’t read yet. Once again, I just wanted to clear up any confusion for someone who hadn’t read it yet and just told her who the person was.

    Honestly, I don’t know if I really should have done either of these as people might think I lurk around my reviews and be scared to review a book because of it, but since neither the review, nor my reply was necessarily good or bad–more neutral, I don’t think it hurt anything. However, I do have a few where something in the book was taken out of context, embellished, completely misunderstood or not even in my book and though I cringed when I saw it and had the urge to defend myself or explain, I refrained. The fact is, even if the author is right, they always look like the wrong party when they engage in a war with reviewers. It’s best to just let it go.

    • Stephannie Beman September 13, 2012 / 4:45 pm

      I’ve had the same thing happen where a reviewer claimed I didn’t explain something that was explained in three different places, one part building on the other as more information was given. I wanted to respond and tell them they were wrong. But I didn’t.

      I agree about “even if the author is right, they always look like the wrong party when they engage in a war with reviewers. It’s best to just let it go.” It is best to let it go.

  6. Ruth Ann Nordin September 12, 2012 / 1:39 pm

    Back in 2008, I reviewed a book, and the author left a comment. It was nice, but it creeped me out. She had also commented on a blog post I wrote where I mentioned reading her book. The creeped me out even more. I haven’t read anymore of her books since. So my policy is to never respond to either a review or blog post. Now, if I was interviewed on a blog, then yes, I respond.

    As for arguing over reviews, that’s pointless. I think some people just like to argue for the sake of arguing. I’d rather take a nap, go for a walk, write, or read. There are better uses for my time.

    • Stephannie Beman September 13, 2012 / 4:48 pm

      That is kinda stalker-ish to be following you around after you reviewed her book. Then again it could have been something simple and innocent. Regardless, you illustrated a great point. Some reviewers don’t want to hear from authors.

  7. Gaston Cavalleri September 17, 2012 / 4:31 pm

    LIke you mentioned: I think the only time you should reply is when you’ve asked for the review and you’re going to thank the reviewer. In this case the reviewer deserves a thank you regardless of what their review was.

    It’s expected that some negative reviews will appear from time to time. I don’t always see these as a problem unless they outweigh the positive reviews. I personally don’t write to make friends; I write for a particular audience. If somebody doesn’t like my book it just means they were not part of my target audience.

    Just take the negative reviews on the chin. Look at the positives; it was nice of the reviewer to even consider the book in the first place.

    Never reply to negative reviews! Do five minutes of meditation and move onto your next book.

    • williamkendall1 September 18, 2012 / 11:37 pm

      Excellent post. When the time comes, I’m inclined to avoid my reviews.

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