I’m a reviewer. I hang out on message boards frequented by other reviewers. One popular topic on these message boards is that of authors who comment on reviews of their books.
Almost all reviewers agree that authors shouldn’t ever do it, and when it happens, someone often links to the site where it’s going down, so we can all go over and see how badly everyone behaved.
It’s kind of a lame spectator sport, and it’s really not funny because these authors are more often than not doing terrible damage to their reputations—and their sales—sometimes permanently.
It happens again and again, especially on Amazon. And, it seems to happen most often with first-time authors and self-published authors, probably because they just don’t know not to. Some of these conversations started off okay, but then very often quickly become defensive and unpleasant. More often than not, other readers/reviewers jump into the conversation and it really spirals out of control. What the author has done is drawn more attention to the review.
When an author has commented on a review, I’ve sometimes seen others comment that they’ve “added the author to their never-read list.” Don’t let this happen to you. For everyone who leaves such a comment, there are many others who feel the same way. They will write you off as someone whose work they won’t ever support.
Reviews are certainly important; without them books are unlikely to sell well. Given the huge number of people who read them, there’s a very large potential readership that you have the ability to alienate, all in just a few keystrokes. Some Amazon.com reviews are propagated to Amazon’s international sites as well. So, it’s better to just let your creative work speak for itself.
If you choose to reply to a review, just understand that you will do it at your own peril.
Here’s what you must understand about reviews:
While authors can certainly learn from reviews, reviews aren’t primarily meant to be a conversation between an author and a reviewer, but between a reviewer (reader) and other readers.
If you disrupt that little ecosystem some people will react very poorly to it. And the reviewer who said whatever it is that you don’t like won’t pay the price – you will.
If someone says something false or negative, just let it roll off you, rise above it. You can’t please everyone. There will be other reviews, which will be positive, and factually correct. Enjoy those and just ignore the others.
A writer’s job is to write, not to try to manage readers’ reactions.
Negative reviews may not even hurt your sales.
Many people are going to look at your book page and the book’s reviews.
One – or even a number of negative reviews – won’t sink a book’s sales! (But an author behaving poorly will.) What bothers one reviewer might be just what another reviewer will like about the book.
Potential buyers also want to look at a range of reviews. People will naturally have a variety of opinions (and even what they believe to be fact). That’s what you want; when everyone posts the same, super-positive, perfect-5-star reviews it can seem fishy. Readers expect – and respect – some dissent.
Remember, even beloved authors like Shakespeare, JK Rowling, and Dr. Seuss have critical reviews. And, think of all the times you read a critical movie review – but bought a ticket anyway, to see for yourself.
Readers will also usually pay little mind to reviews which are obviously inappropriate, abusive, are badly written, or seem poorly considered.
Don’t even leave a positive comment.
If someone leaves a good review, don’t comment then, either. Reviewers don’t like to think that an author is, in effect, hovering over them and passing judgment on their reviews either way. If your readers think you’re going to scrutinize and critique what they write, they are going to be less likely to leave a review. And that can’t benefit you at all.
If you like the review, there are things you can do.
Tweet it. Share it on your Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, and other social sites. Quote it on your website. These are all great.
And, of course if someone leaves a nice comment on your website, feel free to thank them, briefly. (But it’s still best to ignore any negative comments – just let those go.)
Do you have experience with this issue?
If so we’d be glad to hear about it – just leave a comment below.
(And, be sure to check out our article with tips on where to find reviewers for your book.)