News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (www.NobleDead.org); author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

The Wednesday Writer’s Corner: Responding to Reviews


Now some of you are already published, and many of you who keep on trying will eventually be published.  So, this week’s advice applies to your situation after you’ve been published.  For published writers, this may be one of the most essential pieces of survival advice you’ll ever receive. 

Are you ready?  Here goes:

Negative Reviews

Never . . . never ever . . . ever ever, publicly respond to a negative reader review.  Never ever email someone who’s given you a negative reader review.  For God’s sake don’t read a negative review on Amazon and then click on “comment” and tell the reviewer (in public) what a complete idiot he/she must be to give your book a bad review.

Yikes!


Although to many you, my above advice may seem obvious, you’d be amazed how many “professional” writers have either flamed or publicly called attention to a negative review—and therefore the reviewer.

This problem has become so prevalent on Good Reads that the folks who run the site have actually installed a “think twice” notification if the writer attempts to comment on a review.  Although the notification is polite, the basic gist is, “Do you really want to make an ass out yourself by responding here to a review?”

I have a few friends who I consider professional writers (because they are) who link negative reviews on their blogs and then make non-inflammatory but sort of generic comments such, “Clearly, the person didn’t like my book."

Again . . . yikes!  Whether this is intentional or not, a writer who does this is both “calling out” and attempting to publicly embarrass the reviewer.  This is the equivalent of saying to the reviewer, “Hey, I’m the writer, and I not only saw that you hated my book, but I’m showing everyone here what you said about my work.”

This is unprofessional.  Don’t do it.

Once a review has been sent out to the ether of the Internet, leave it alone.  Trust me.  I’ve had books praised to the skies, and I’ve had books slammed to an astonishing degree.  Those reviews express the reviewer’s honest opinions, and that’s that.

Whatever you do, don’t start doing searches for the reviewer’s email address so you can send the person an enraged email about their obvious stupidity either.  Your email may end up published in twelve different places on the Internet.  Writers from Anne Rice to Alice Hoffman have gotten themselves in trouble by throwing a tantrum over a bad review and attacking the reviewers personally.  Don’t do it.

Positive Non-Professional Reviews

Okay, this is a little trickier.  Should you respond to a positive review?

No.

Same problem here with making the reviewer feel stalked.  The person may have liked your current novel/story, but this reviewer does not want to be made to feel influenced in any way—that you are reading his/her reviews and responding.  The reviewer should be allowed to feel completely objective about the work in question.

The only exception to the “No” above is when the reviewer is a personal (and I do mean personal) friend of yours.  I have two close friends who occasionally review my books, and in private, I have thanked them.  I’ve reviewed a book or two written by a close friend, and they’ve thanked me in private.  As long as you know the person very well and the exchange is private, I think you’re okay.

But DO NOT ever respond in any fashion to any review on the open Internet or send an email that may wind up on the Internet. 

Positive Professional Reviews

Okay, these are different—in some ways.  If Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly or Booklist or Romantic Times (or even a well-known blogger), etc, gives your new book a glowing review, it’s fine to mention this and list the link on your website or blog.  This is part of marketing a book.  JC and I do list professional reviews on our websites.  Again, I wouldn’t respond to the reviewer personally, but it’s fine to list the link to a positive professional review--and this can help with marketing.