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.
About Rosalind James
Rosalind James is the author of the Kindle-bestselling “Escape to New Zealand” series (currently five titles strong), as well as the new U.S.-based “Kincaids” series. Her first book,”Just This Once,” has sold tens of thousands of copies in the year since it was published, eventually reaching #85 in the Amazon store. A marketing professional and publishing industry veteran, Rosalind has lived all over the United States and in a number of other countries, traveling with her civil engineer husband. Most recently, she spent several years in Australia and New Zealand, where she fell in love with the people, the landscape, and the culture of both countries. She loves trying new things in her writing, most recently the mystery and suspense in “Nothing Personal.”
By the author of the bestselling Escape to New Zealand series–
When you wish upon a star . . .
Alec Kincaid has never met the obstacle he couldn’t overcome—or the woman who could resist him. And it’s not going to happen now, not with his star shining more brightly than ever in the high-stakes arena of San Francisco’s software industry.
Desiree Harlin doesn’t believe in fairy tales, and she doesn’t waste time wishing. She’s learned the hard way that dreams don’t come true. And with her reputation and hard-won security on the line, succumbing to temptation isn’t an option.
But things aren’t always what they seem. And even stars sometimes fall.