As part of the Nothing Personal Blog Tour, I have Ms. Rosalind James guest posting on the blog today. A post about reader reviews. After that…check the information on her new release, Nothing Personal, and go buy it 🙂
Why I Don’t Respond to Reader Reviews
You wouldn’t think that “should I respond to a reader review?” would be a topic for discussion anymore, but it still comes up all the time on writers’ forums. There seems to be a movement now among some authors to go ahead and respond to readers’ comments on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., whether positively (“Thanks for the awesome review!”) or negatively (“If you don’t like books with sex in them, maybe you should choose your books more carefully.”) (OK, that last one I’ve thought about saying.)
Here’s why I don’t respond:
1. From a marketing standpoint. My author persona is my brand. I write feel-good books about decent people, books that women read as an escape. I can’t imagine that most readers would enjoy getting embroiled in, or even hearing about, my petty wars. Have I done it? Yes. (Facebook post, I mean.) Do I do it now? NO. Everyone makes mistakes. But I try not to keep making the same ones over and over.
Can (and do) some authors get away with it? Sure! Some of the biggest names out there have done it, and taken flak for it. These blips might create a little ding in their reputations with some readers, but it’s pretty hard to damage them significantly.
But I’ve been at this one year. I’ve been lucky enough to have been discovered by a few readers who are very active in the romance-reading community, and who talk about my books on various forums and provide that invaluable commodity, word of mouth. Those people tend to have book blogs and belong to lots of groups. And they also tend to be pretty passionate about what they see as badly behaving authors. If, instead of promoting me, they were slamming me? Well, it sure wouldn’t help me. And if I were at Ground Zero in terms of getting myself known? I wouldn’t want the first thing potential readers saw about me to be a negative interaction with somebody else, no matter how merited.
And yes, in my opinion responding is simply unprofessional. It makes you look like someone who spends her time checking reviews instead of writing books. I would like to project the image (even if it’s aspirational!) of somebody who is secure in her success and isn’t anxiously looking at what everyone said about her today.
On the other hand, interacting on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, via email, etc.? You bet! Those readers have literally signed up to interact with me, whereas a reviewer is giving her opinion to other readers. If I choose to take something from that as well–or not–that’s up to me.
2. From a logical standpoint. My negative reviews, while I disagree with them, aren’t truly abusive. If they were, I’d report them. But no. Sadly, they’re just responses from people who don’t like the way I write, at all, or didn’t like this book, at all, and want to tell other people so. They have a right to that opinion. And, much as I cringe at them, a few one-star reviews can legitimize your 5-stars, or let people know that there’s some controversy about a character, or “too much sex,” or whatever–things that can actually help sell your book.
3. From a personal standpoint. Some people enjoy combat, find it stimulating. I don’t. It hurts. And while I can use negative feelings in my work (I wrote a killer tearjerker scene the other night after a very unpleasant online encounter), I find that my supply of painful life experiences is pretty much fully adequate to fuel anything I’ll ever write. So for a sensitive plant like me, yes, the negative reviews hurt more and make me want to engage even more than for people with a thicker skin who can shrug off criticism. But engaging just prolongs the agony. Better for me to feel the pain of it, then let it go.
The goal for Year Two of my publishing career? Look at reviews once a week! My success rate so far? Umm . . . improving.
Rosalind James – Nothing Personal – Virtual Book Tour