There is a common misconception among authors, particularly self-published authors, that reviews of their books ‘belong’ to them. When Amazon recently began to remove reviews which violated its Terms of Service, it was common to read authors complaining about ‘their’ reviews being removed, or even ‘stolen’.They weren’t talking about reviews they had written, but reviews of their books by other people.
The point is, reviews are not for authors. They are for other readers. This point has been made by authors, readers, publishers, and editors, over and over. Authors should not interfere with readers’ rights to review, and should never, ever harass any reader over their opinion.
Stacia Kane: This particular self-published author (and I point out that she’s self-published simply because not only does it make her outlook a bit different, perhaps, but because of the impossibility of a commercially published author following one of her more offensive “rules”) believes that not only is it not bad for authors to respond to negative reviews, but it’s actually–wait for it–“Good Customer Service” to do so. Let’s start with the first problem, which is actually the smallest part of my many issues with this particular opinion/advice–because it is presented as advice, as a “You’re a dumbass if you don’t do this” sort of thing.The first problem, of course, is that reviews are for readers, not authors. The problem is that authors need to stay the fuck out of it and leave readers the hell alone.
Jody Casella: Apparently some writers are responding to negative reviews on that site. I wish I could’ve seen from behind the pole because I have no idea which author said what. I think it was Aprilynne Pike, though, who pointed out that book reviews really aren’t meant for authors. By the time a book’s out; it’s out, and there isn’t anything a writer can do to change it.
Bogna Maslanka: I couldn’t give a damn if you are J.K Rowling or Stephen King, you do not act like this. A kindergartener could tell you that. This is the most unprofessional behavior I have seen by an author in a long time. To me, this is worse than plagiarism. Reviews are not for you, Ms Author. Reviews are for readers.
Rachel Russel in YA Stands: As you can guess by the web comic, my stance on replying to negative reviews is–you guessed it–don’t do it. Seriously. Save yourself the trouble. Again, while I’m not going to link to any of the related drama, it’s pretty easy to just google up a myriad of examples of authors responding to a negative review, and things spiraling out of control from there. It’s a bee hive best left undisturbed.
Natalie in Radish Reviews: So if reviews aren’t promotional tools intended to move large volumes of books from seller to consumer and thereby help to fuel the capitalist engine that is our economy, then what good are they? The answer is actually very simple.
Reviews are for readers. Reviews are not for authors, they are not for publishers. Reviews can be used as promotion, but ultimately, a review is written to let the reader know if a book is worth their money and, more importantly, their time.
Fauzan in Wild Heart Book Reviews: It sickens me how much you authors bash on people who gave your books a bad review. They only hate your book. They don’t hate you. But you bashing on them and calling them names and such? That’s you making them hate you, too. It’s a childish thing to do, and you should know that it doesn’t help at all. It will make your fans lose respect for you and it will also make people not want to read your books.
Bianca Sommerland at I’m No Angel: Why would any author beyond the most green even consider clicking on a review? And worse, what kind of masochist would click on a one or two star review? That’s like asking someone to attach a ‘Kick Me’ sign to your back. With several staples.
Kimberley Nee: So really, while a glowing review (especially an honest glowing review) can be a massive ego-stroke for an author, it’s really not about the author at all. They are for the people who are considering which book to buy. The reader.
Justine Larbestier: Reviews are for other readers. A review is about a particular reader’s relationship with a particular book. And if you happen to trust that particular reviewer’s taste they’re a great way to find books you want to read or books you should avoid.
Anna Frost: Reviews are not FOR authors, they’re for other readers. Reviewers are not responsible for authors’ hurt feelings. A climate where readers stay quiet for fear their honesty will bring down the author’s wrath down on them is not good for anyone. It destroys the worth of the review system.
Ann Somerville: Books are like toasters. And customers are customers. They walk into a book store, and they see hundreds of your books, or hundreds of books very like yours, and though to you, it’s like they’re staring into your soul and judging you, in fact, they’re seeing a bunch of toasters. Consumer products, to be consumed, evaluated, sometimes reviewed for other consumers, but the act of consumption is all about them and their need for toast/porn/romance/a new diet based on chocolate. Consumers comment about everything they buy, expect the right to complain if the product doesn’t meet their needs, and will even ask for their money back if the product downright sucks.
Her hands, My Hands: But let’s pretend for a moment that no author or professional reviewer in the last decade has ever stooped so low as to mock the object of their analysis (be this the work or its author). That would still be irrelevant to the underlying truth: reviews are not for authors–and they are definitely not for publishers. What you describe and call ‘review’ above is more like a generic blurb-like summary, useful for the publisher to push the book at retailers’ buyers.
Susan A in Mistress of the Dark: The biggest thing you need to remember is when asking for reviews not everyone is going to like your work. No one likes every single book they read (not even you). This is human nature. Yet now you are going to ask total strangers to read your novel and provide their opinion about it in a review. This could be a rewarding and/or frustrating step in promoting your work.
Pam at Bookalicio.us: If I ever publish a book, the first thing I will do is ask my friends and family to STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD. I want reviews that actually mean something and if that means I have a big pile of 1 star reviews, I know that I have more to learn for the next time. If I don’t deserve to be worthy of people’s entertainment cash then so be it.
Dani Alexander: Look, it sucks to get attacked. It sucks to have your book attacked. I doubt most of the reasonable people on GR would disagree, but this gets hammered home a million times: Reviews are not for authors. Even the “mean girl” reviews aren’t intended for the author. They are for the audience of readers. I believe at least a few reviewers wouldn’t even want the author reading their review. So yeah, that review hurts the author, but hey why are you reading it? Quit running into the pitchforks.
Saundra Mitchell: That’s Not to Say That you owe anyone a good review- because it’s important for everyone to remember that reviews are NOT for authors. They’re for readers. Sure, I dread getting a bad one-but it’s that truth that makes your reviews valuable. When you consistently, honestly offer your opinion on books, that matters. People rely on you- the people buying books, and the people selling them. Because nothing in the world is better than a good review that we earned.
Adam Roberts at Kamvision: Bad reviews sting, of course they do; but whether an author likes or dislikes a review of her/his work is not the point. Reviews are not ‘for’ authors; they’re for readers. And a healthy climate of reviewing is one in which people are unabashed about airing their judgments, in which readers get a proper range of positions.
Jane Litte at Dear Author: I don’t know that I want authors to engage in a critical debate of a review that I wrote. I welcome that if that is what an author would like to do, but again, I think that presumes that the review is written for the author and I believe that reviews are not for authors. Not in anyway at all. They are for readers to help them talk about the book that they’ve read, to help make a decision as to whether this book might be for them, and yes, to even entertain them.
Cleolinda: I never wrote with the intention of Stephenie Meyer (or Suzanne Collins, or Ally Condie, or whoever) reading what I wrote. (This is why “snarkbaiting” confused me.) I wrote it with the understanding that anything you post on the internet can be seen–by anyone. Which is one of the reasons I have asked commenters here not to bag on a writer’s looks, personal life, religion, etc. Because we are here to discuss the writing, and I think that’s fair. But I never wrote to these authors. I was talking to you. Do you see the difference? A review is one reader speaking to another, regarding a book they have read and the other might want to. That’s why “omg you can’t critique me if you’re not published, you don’t understaaaand” is such horseshit. You don’t have to run a farm to know if the milk’s gone bad.
Robin Reader at Dear Author: But perhaps even more importantly, why would we want to stifle the precise thing that makes reading so powerful to so many of us – the enduring promise of that alchemical magic – for the sake of formalities? If books are special, if they are to be regarded as “art,” and if genre fiction in general is legitimate, then it will survive bad grammar, bad language, and even bad reviews.
The Page Boy: Reviewers and critics – me included – are not here to tell you if a particular book, movie or artwork is any good but rather to tell you what our experience of it was, with some measure of our own critical faculties and standards thrown in. This shouldn’t invalidate anyone else’s opinion but should instead be a catalyst for your own critical and intellectual engagement.
S M Boyce: A review is a reader’s opinion. They should feel safe and able to be honest. A writer doesn’t have to hit the like button on negative reviews or anything, but it is important to remember that not everyone will like your work. That’s the beauty of people—we’re all so different and have such unique tastes.
Brigid Kemmerer: My book is not my child. And that’s such a bad comparison, because it’s so easy to dismiss. How about this: it’s like baking something for a party, something you really worked hard on, maybe something you spent hours making, and you were proud of it. Then, later, you overhear someone saying, “This tastes like crap.”And what’re you going to do? Yell at the person for having an opinion? Or have a friend yell at them? They’re allowed to have an opinion!