Should Authors Respond to Reviewers

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This week has been really rough. I spent most of my time in the woods, attempting to sleep on a thin mattress with a lawnmower worthy snorer on both sides of the room. Then, I return to the city to discover that my old apartment complex is working diligently to bend me over and shove various objects in my rectum (metaphorically speaking that is).

Now, I check my book stats and discover new reviews.

But before we get into those, let me tell you about a gentleman I met this weekend. He would describe himself as “a stereotypical white Jew that grew up privileged.” Out of context, that seems horrible, but he said this to explain why he wanted to help those that didn’t have the opportunities that he has/had.

This guy was pretty amazing. He is a screenwriter that wants to become a teacher. He’s worked on popular shows, like Frasier and other things I can’t remember. We got to talking and he discovered that I wrote novels. You know what happens when two writers meet next to a campfire?

20130504_204124“Oh really? You write novels? Like full length?”

“Yes.”

“And you publish them?”

“Yes.”

“Self-publish or publicists?”

“Self.”

“Oh really? How does that work?”

“You hop on Amazon and do things short of magic. Try to get reviews to strengthen your internet presence. You know, anything short of prostitution to sell.”

“Reviews? How are yours?”

“Good…Nah. Mixed. When you sell your novel for free, you get–”

“Twelve year old idiots that can say whatever they want without proof?”

“Precisely.”

Our conversations went something like that. It was great. But what he wanted to know was if I can respond to the people that rip on my novel. You know, the ones that say things like, “This writer sucks. I wasted my time reading his crap.” To that, I told my fellow writer, you cannot respond to them. That’s the unwritten rule.

However, I got to thinking. If I try responding to the people that leave positive remarks, why not address the ones that are short of saying something smart? They think they wasted their time reading, but I write 200+ pages only to have them leave half-hearted responses that take no longer than five minutes to construct. In other words, the months I spend writing and editing get glanced over in a day or two and suddenly my critics are worthy of condemning me.

No more. Now, everyone gets a response.

Just today, I read this (please note that I’ve bolded the hilariously significant parts):

I hate authors who have you invest time and emotion into a character and then decide that they don’t care enough about the reader and send them in to shock. OK we are fore-warned in the opening chapter but not sufficiently that it doesn’t come as a shock and leaves you despising the author for doing this. At the end of this book the author asks a number of questions that are meant to entice you to read the next book but frankly why would you want to undergo more torture? I won’t be reading the sequel

Sounds like a good review. There’s only one problem. This reviewer is implying that there were no warnings about the “shock ending.” To that, I’d like to ask, how quickly did you glance through this novel? There are plenty of warnings. But, I can’t tell him that as an author, right? Yes I can. And I did:

Actually, as an author it’s impossible to discover how readers will react. I’m sure you’re aware of this given your previous reviews, not to mention the responses listed for my novel range from shocked to excited. Additionally, I’ve attempted to buffer your surprise by dropping several hints in the context including a dream that mirrors the ending, the blatant forewarning you mention, and foreshadowed events (e.g. Spencer and Leonardo’s interaction on the roof). Whether you noticed these literary devices or not is uncontrollable from my position. But thank you for reading. All reviews are appreciated.

Just in case you’re wondering, not only did I spend more time writing my novel than it took this reviewer to give me a “meh” review. I also spent a considerable amount of time constructing a response. This isn’t an attack. I’ve simply listed facts that exist within the novel.

I’d like to mention that I’m grateful to the reviewer for spending time with my novel, but just because you read all the free novels in the Kindle store doesn’t make you an expert. And sure, my novel has flaws, but please point out the ones that exist.

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Ever hear the joke about the Jew and the Black guy in the woods?

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