This past weekend I came across a blog at a review site that got me thinking (again) about the issue of authors commenting on reviews. Mary at Mary’s Naughty Whispers (ETA: Mary has removed her original post and the comments but you can still read some of her thoughts there) presented a different perspective on the issue. In her opinion, it is courteous for authors to thank the reviewer for reading and reviewing their book. She said: “My main problem is when some author contact me, ask me to review their story and once my review is published on my blog, never feel bond to even acknowledge the time I spent to give a review.”
Some authors responded in the comments at Mary’s blog, trying to explain their point of view. There was reference to a recent post at Dear Author “Is there room on the internet for authorial interaction?”. That post and the ensuing comments talked about different kinds of interaction—more than just saying “thank you” they also talked about authors who try to explain points of their story to the reviewer, or defend their story, or even authors who defend each other. The general consensus was that authors should not do that by commenting on a review, but should use a different platform such as their own blog to explain their perspective. The post included a comment from Meljean Brook: “I think there’s room for author interaction in the comments of a review, but it’s very limited room. In general — unless the reviewer has notified the author directly about the presence of a review and invites a reply — I think that it’s best not to comment at all. We all know that many authors are online, seeking reviews of their work and looking in on discussions; there’s no need to tap the readers on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m here,” because it’s likely to have a chilling effect…and for good or bad, the best thing for an author is for readers to talk about her book. Why shut that down?”
Comments on the post came from readers, authors and other reviewers. Las said “But I don’t want to seem the responding to reviews in the comments, even to post something as simple as “Glad you liked it,” or “Sorry it didn’t work for you.””
Jane from Dear Author, who is of course a reviewer, commented on her own post to someone else: “Thank yous have always made me feel uncomfortable because I didn’t write a positive review for the author, but because I loved the book. Thanking me implies I did the author some kind of favor.”
Commenters at Mary’s Naughty Whispers pointed out that thanking a reviewer for a positive review can be seen as sucking up to the reviewer, which is the point Jane makes above.
Although I’ve been a published author for a few years, I feel like I’m still learning my way in this business. When I first got reviews, I was careful to thank every reviewer who reviewed my books. I said, “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book.” I was not thanking them for a good review; in fact there were times where I wasn’t all that thrilled with the review and still sent that message. If the review was really positive, I would sometimes add “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” In a couple of cases where the review wasn’t so great, I added, “I’m sorry the story didn’t work for you.”
Looking back at that, I cringe a little that I did that, but in one case it turned out to be a positive thing. The reviewer appreciated my comment and because of it chose to read another of my books which she very much enjoyed.
After reading the Dear Author post and comments noted above, I had to rethink whether it was appropriate to thank reviewers for taking the time to read and review my books. I still think it is. But I have stopped doing it on the actual blog post and rather usually email the reviewer privately.
Mary likes to see thank you comments from authors on her blog whereas others do not. Mary says: “I am very humble when an author decide to leave a comment when the review was not requested by her. I find it very (VERY) nice and it is appreciated as it should be without double meaning.”
Mary also says: “I must be in the rare portion of reviewer thinking that without an author, I would not fulfill my reading passion.” She thinks there is a mutual gain to be had when a reviewer posts a review and an author comments on it or quotes it on their blog, website or newsletter, or re-Tweets it. And I agree—there is benefit for both of us. While Jane at Dear Author doesn’t like the implication that she has done an author some kind of favor by reviewing their book, the truth is…she has (positive or negative review).
Here’s my message to reviewers:
Even if I don’t comment on your blog or email you to thank you for the review, please know that I do appreciate you taking the time to read my books and the time it takes to write and post a review. Every review of my book brings attention to it in a way I can’t do myself. There are so many books out there, when a reviewer reads one of mine, I am very grateful. Authors need reviewers to help spread the word about our books. Of course we always hope it’s going to be positive, but we know it’s not always going to be. Even so, it is appreciated.
It’s a fine line to walk for authors. Do you comment and risk making the reviewer uncomfortable because they feel like you’re sucking up to them? Do you not comment and risk offending the reviewer for not appreciating the time they spent reading and writing the review? Will posting even a simple thank you prevent other readers from commenting about the book because they know the author is present there? What do you think?