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Random thoughts on our impending doom and everyday life, courtesy of a Romance Writer who occasionally feels the need to talk like a Sailor.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

When is a writer allowed to respond to a review?



The alien sex bot's skin was cobalt, not azure! OMFG!!!

A. Only when the reviewer gets something factually wrong. So wrong, that it causes your head to explode and your heart to wither inside your chest. Yes, so incredibly horribly wrong is this fact that the very wrongness of it threatens the fabric of the known universe (wherein the very fabric of the known universe = your book).

B. Only when the review takes on the overtones of a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum due to being interrupted midway through their stunning rendition of Honey Boo Boo’s greatest hits.

C. Only when they accidentally mistake your book for something that sucks and therefore obviously need to be corrected. So it would be educational...really. FFS, you’re only trying to help! Sort of.

D. Only when your Mother eventually reads it, figures out the kind of smut you’re writing and outs you to everyone, including your fourth grade English teacher who always knew you’d come to no good. Damn you, Mother!

E. Never. 

Answer: E.

P.S. Though I guess that also depends on what kind of relationship you have with your mother.


Yes, it’s the truth. Or what I perceive to be the truth and since this is my blog, there you have it. If the reviewer is a review site/book blogger you might like to send them a polite note thanking them for taking the time to read and review your work, but that is it. Because they are providing a service and it’s nice that they picked up your book and gave it the time of day in the first place. And because manners. Though if they compared it to a pile of rotting remains, saying nothing is fine too.

A review is someone’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not the final word on your literary masterpiece extolling the thrilling adventures of Marvin the Masochist Hedgehog. It is just one person's word. A lot of people might listen to that one person and judge MtMH accordingly, but there is nothing you can do about that. Suck it up. That’s the joy of being a writer (wherein joy = debilitating pain). Once you fling your baby book out into the world, it is out of your hands. Do your blog visits, promo your little heart out, but accept that you cannot control the audience’s reaction. Unless technology has come so far that tiny mind control robots are real; in which case I’d like to order a box, please.

So even when the review takes issue with Marvin's relationship with Bob, and there is NO DAMN BOB IN THE ENTIRE DAMN BOOK, it's best not to comment. It might seem unfair, but that's the way it is. The social norm or expectation that has evolved is that writers shouldn't respond. Because the fact is, sites like Shelfari and Goodreads are not there for authors. They're there for readers. Once you publish, for better or worse, you do now belong to the other camp. Sucky, because you probably started writing due to your overwhelming love of reading. I know.

Had a review that hurt you bad? God gave us vodka to deal with just such situations. Use it wisely. I quite enjoy a few rounds of the shoot-em-up Overkill: House of the Dead when things get me down.Or you could go for a walk. Get out of your dingy little office and away from your computer for a while. Cleanse your aura. Consider not looking at reviews at all. Or at least, not until a friend has cast an eye over it to give due warning.

Anyway, to sum up: you're never going to please everyone. Embrace this fact and hold it dear to your heart. Live by it. There's much that can be learnt from feedback, sure. But don't let it crush you. And most important of all, get busy writing your next book.

22 comments:

  1. Never has truer words been written. It may suck but it's best to be professional. Nice post Kylie!

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    1. Thank you, Debra. Though at times the suckage is overwhelming, we shall persevere. :)

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  2. You are very wise and wonderful, Kylie. Also, you show awesomeness and good manners.

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    1. Thanks, Sandra! That's really kind of you. I think Rhian Cahill actually told me about sending the nice note. I should have mentioned that. Those Diva girls are true professionals. Love them.

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  3. I had a reviewer refer to my hero with a wrong name all through the review. My fingers itched but I pulled myself together. It was a close call but would have led to more pain.

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    1. Oh yeah. That would drive you nutty. Well done, Keziah.

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  4. You know, some of those sucky review comments are great anecdotes to use (ID withheld, of course) during writing workshops, author talks or retreats, to belabor the "thick skin" advice to newer authors...good for a gasp and a laugh...just saying... ;-)

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    1. You betcha, Kylie. And you do just have to laugh sometimes. It can all seem so off the wall. :)

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  5. Great post and for me very timely with my first release coming out soon. I am scared to death about the reviews, but you're absolutely right when you say let it go and roll with the punches. I'll be sure to stock up on the vodka too! Thanks Kylie. :)

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    1. You're very welcome, Georgie, and congratulations again on your imminent release! Exciting times.

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  6. Excellent piece and advice I've given to many of my fellow authors over the years.

    Sad to say that there are trolls out there who like nothing better than trying to snare a touchy author and often, the bait they use is a badly written review, usually containing deliberate errors or personal abuse designed primarily to get under the skin of the poor author. Take a chomp and they have you!

    A thick skin or a sense of humour are the best weapons although occasionally, Vodka is a decent substitute.

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    1. Thanks, Dougie! Very sad but true about the trolls. A thick skin is a must in this game, isn't it? You get your kick start with critiques but then reviews really test you.

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  7. As a reviewer and reader. I. Love you.

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    1. Thank you, Midnyte. I love you too. :)

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    1. Hey thanks, Paula. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  9. I just put you on my author who "gets it" list. Thanks for voicing what many of us are thinking.

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    1. I made a list? That is cool. :) Thank you very much, and I love your puppy pic.

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  10. Absolutely agree.

    Never respond. Never ever. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever.

    The only only only only ONLY exception is when the reviewer specifically and explicitly invites the author to respond, and even then it should be private and not in any way in a public venue. And if there's any hint that responding could lead to confrontation, DON'T DO IT.

    No matter how bad the review, no matter how stupid the reviewer, the book is still yours to do with as you want. The review doesn't take it away from you, and a bad review won't hurt the sales of a good book. Good reviews, on the other hand, won't help the sales of a bad book. If it's bad, it's bad. Go back and write a better one.

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    1. YES. Thanks for commenting, Linda. Sorry it took me so freaking long to respond.

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  11. Great post and EXCELLENT advice!!

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