No Authors (or Elephants) Allowed!!!

A recent post on Dear Author sparked a discussion in my blogging network about whether authors should thank reviewers. According to the post, even a simple Thank You in the Comments of the review will kill discussion among readers.

I can see that happening if the review, or the ongoing discussion, is negative. Most people are uncomfortable saying unflattering things about a person’s work if they know that person is listening in. Especially if the phrasing is less than tactful. But if the discussion and review are positive, why would the readers abandon the conversation?


Now, in my Rethinking Reviews post, I stated that the best advice I’d ever seen for responding to reviews was simply DON’T. But, like everything else about writing, that approach doesn’t work for every author. Some feel compelled to acknowledge the roughly twelve hours the reviewer put in to read and review their book. In that case, a strictly professional Thank You comment or email seems to be the answer. Saying “Thank you for taking the time to review my book. I’m sorry it wasn’t right for you,” in response to a scathing review can be an effective method of taking the high road, and refusing to stoop to that level. For some readers, it gives the impression of class and professionalism.

No, see, what I really meant was…

One of the dangers of responding to reviews is giving in to the temptation to explain what we really meant when the reviewer obviously misunderstood. As much as we want readers to see exactly what we think we’re showing in the book, explaining can look like making excuses. We don’t want readers to think our writing is so poor that we’re unable to express what we mean, and thus have to provide explanations after the fact. Note – If we’re asked in an interview to explain something about our book, it’s a different situation. We’re expanding on, rather than making excuses for it.

What’s your motive?

Most of us write because we love it, and have a passion for writing. Like anyone else, we like to talk about what we love. So, are authors welcome to join in readers’ discussions of other authors’ books? Like the rest of it, we have to be careful of the impressions we give. If we didn’t care for the book, some people will assume it’s sour grapes, that we’re jealous of that author for whatever reason. And, if we loved the book, some will decide we’re simply promoting our friend’s book, hoping to boost her sales.

Squeee! Fangirl moment

Before I joined online writing communities and became acquainted with several of my favorite authors through the online conversations I’ve had with them, I would have been thrilled if an author deigned to discuss her book with me. These days, I’m ecstatic if an author talks with me about her book. There’s just something about talking with someone who created something that you enjoy.


How do you feel about authors joining in book discussions? If an author discusses books, hers or anyone else’s, do you doubt her sincerity and motivation?


21 responses to “No Authors (or Elephants) Allowed!!!

  1. This is such an important topic. I say DON’T. Authors should REFRAIN from commenting in discussions in ANY way because of exactly what you pointed out. A private email would, to me, be a fine way to thank a reviewer of any kind.

  2. I personally never, ever comment on Amazon. I will thank a reviewer on Twitter or Facebook if they post a review (I’ll RT it with a thank you directly to them), or a quick thanks on their blog during a blog tour.

    I never interact directly regarding a reviewer, however, as in joining in a conversation. This can get ugly, particularly when it’s with a reader (not technically a “reviewer”). If someone approaches me privately and wants to discuss a certain point, fine. This happens frequently in interviews or on my own Twitter, blog or Facebook. I’m thrilled to discuss anything at all with a reader or reviewer — even a neighbor’s dog if it’s interested!

    I just feel like everyone has a right to their opinion and who am I to disagree? Even if they’re totally off the mark and wrong haha.

    • Hi Rachel,

      I don’t think I would ever comment on an Amazon review either. There, even a thanks for a good review can bring out the haters, with disastrous results.

      I like the idea of just saying thanks with an RT or Facebook share, etc. Keeps it short and friendly, but with a little more distance than a comment to the review. Then if the reviewer wants to engage, they can initiate more. Definitely a good tip! Thanks!


  3. I think that even a bad review deserves a “thank you.” Reviewers do so for free and time is the one thing no one can give back to you.

    I have yet to receive a negative review, but I know it will happen. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    But like Mom said – if you don’t have anything nice to say… blah blah blah. I think an author looks like an ass if they issue a rebuttal. Just move on, keep trying to improve and keep writing.

    • Hi Kimberly.

      I agree that all reviews deserve a thank you. The reviewers invest a lot of time and energy into reviewing, and even bad reviews can drive sales. But sometimes a public thanks is just asking for trouble, especially with bad reviews. Some readers will consider it classy and professional, and others will take a dim view of it.

      Rachel’s suggestion above, to RT and thanks on Twitter, or on Facebook, seems like a really good idea. Still courteous acknowledgment with a little more distance than a direct comment to the review.


  4. As a blogger I’d like to receive a few more comments on the reviews. Not that I want authors to spark a debate if I haven’t liked the book or even gush over a great review but I do sometimes feel like they’re my best friend when they contact me and then I never hear from them again.

    A simple thank you shouldn’t halt the discussion and at the very least, if authors feel uncomfortable sharing a Tweet or Facebook share is an easy thing to do.

    • Hi Donna. I really like when readers leave comments on my reviews. At GraveTells, most of my reviews get a few comments, as people say they’re adding the book to their TBR list, etc. And the authors often leave a thank you comment.

      Don’t you hate when people are all friendly and sweet as long as they want something from you, then when they get it, they drop off the face of the earth? And it isn’t just authors seeking reviews, either. People do that all the time and never even think twice about it.


      • They certainly do! I’m trying to make it my focus in 2012 to keep the kind comments and the friendly nods in mind, rather than the shuns. It’s not easy but I figure it leads to a better frame of mind!

        All the best for 2012!

        • I used to have a hard time with it, and would whine to Hubby about when someone who’d been nice suddenly dropped away. He must have gotten tired of it finally, a couple of years ago. He said something to the effect of “What’s it matter? If they choose not to be friends, or even casual acquaintances, it’s their loss. You don’t need any more users in your life.” When I looked at it that way, I was finally able to let it go, instead of trying to figure out what I did wrong.

          Thanks! Hope your 2012 is fantastic!

  5. I never even thought of thanking positive reviews by email; but that’s a great idea. Like Rachel, I do @ Thanks on Twitter when anyone says anything about my book. I think the best way to deal with negative reviews is with beer and pictures of cute baby animals.

    • Hi Kelly.

      Love your idea for dealing with negative reviews, LOL. My mom always says “Have a good cry, then put on your big girl panties, and get on with it.” Pretty effective, LOL.


  6. Touchy subject and a couple of these have blown up on GoodReads and Twitter in the past week or so. If the review is positive, I think a simple, public thank you would be appropriate. If it’s less than positive, a private thank you, with no explanations, apologies, etc. is okay.

    One of my very first reviews was a three star from a blogger and I emailed back to thank her for her time and asked politely what she thought could have been better about the book to give it a higher rating. She was very gracious to respond, but I could tell she was uncomfortable. I resolved then and there not to press for more info again. Simply accept the review, whatever it is, and thank them for their time.

    Something else to ponder: I’m pretty sure JK Rowling, Clive Cussler, Stephen King, and their ilk don’t even think about interacting with their reviewers. Maybe we should all take a page from their books.

    • Hi MES.

      I always cringe when things like that blow up. Even exchanges intended to be private become public. It never ends well.

      I’m sure you’re right about the Big Names not interacting with their reviewers. That’s a different kind of situation, though. If they do thank anyone, people will be convinced they “paid” for the review, or twisted an arm, or whatever. Then, they’re also at the point in their careers when they no longer need reviews to drive sales. Their name does it for them.


  7. LOL @RachelintheOC, I’m with you with the neighbors dog. Sometimes that’s ALL we have to talk to about our all consuming love affair with writing.

    LOL @KellyHitchcock about beer and cute animals. Good one.

    @motherearthseries, I was thinking, to do a public thank you for the positive reviews and not the negative seems like a public way to show you only thank for the “good reviews” and in that respect, for public appearance, I would think it would be beneficial for the Writer and Reviewer if even the bad reviews got a thank you.

    And, maybe it’s just me, but, I don’t want to ever forget what it’s like NOT being those famous people and always keep the line open to the readers and fans. My guess is, everybody loves to hear from their readers, but the famous ones don’t have the time. I’m trying to be optimistic on that one 🙂

    • @azureboone that’s a very good point. One which makes me lean toward only thanking privately if at all. I can understand the “thread killer” aspect of an author comment in many respects and I have seen that happen. People will clam up if they think the author is watching. Even for a good review.

      Definitely a lot to consider for us fledgling authors!

      • @motherearthseries, I should’ve specified. When I said thank publicly, I meant like by @ means on twitter, but not on a reviewer’s blog I’m thinking cause of the clam up issue like you were saying. But that’s just me, other’s might have valid reasons to do different. Like the rules of writing, nothing’s hard and fast and there will always be situations where a different tactic may be called for. I’m gonna try to keep in mind that when people do something in a way that seems “wrong” that maybe there’s more there than meets the eye and they handled it the best way for their situation. And If not, mistakes are AWESOME learning tools!

    • Hey there, Girl!

      Excellent point about thanking good reviews publicly, but not bad ones. It can even give the impression that the author used some means to convince the reviewer to give the good review.

      If we’re going to thank anyone, I think we should everyone – apply the policy equally across the board. If we choose to thank by email, or by RTing or just an @reply, or Facebook share, we need to do the same for everyone.

      That said, though, I agree with Rachel wholeheartedly that commenting on Amazon reviews, or even acknowledging them, cannot end well.


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  9. I don’t comment, ever. If i want to thank the reviewer, I use the contact me information and do it privately. The review isn’t about me. It’s about the reviewer/reader relationship and unless I’m invited into the conversation, I stay out of it.

    • Hi Patti.

      You raise an excellent point, one I never really considered. I can see where, for some readers, the reviewer/reader relationship would be as sacrosanct as the reader/author relationship, and that the author’s intrusion on that relationship could be unappreciated, at best. Definitely food for thought. Thank you.


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