Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review Etiquette

Okay, so I've discovered Goodreads. Not as a reader, which would be awesome, but as a writer, which is ... terrifying. 

The psychology of the writer is weird -- well, mine is. We spend ages creating these words and people in this caffeine-and-sleep-deprivation-fuelled vacuum. Then we come out of our caves, blinking in the light, and tentatively show a few people: a beta reader, an editor, a publisher... 

Then the WHOLE WORLD can read our book. And they do. And then they go on Goodreads and talk about it. And then they review it. And sometimes it's horrible. 



You know the golden rule, right? DON'T RESPOND TO REVIEWS. Not even the good ones, seriously. And I'll tell you why: it's actually none of your business. I mean that. It's counter-intuitive, but it's true: what someone thinks about the book you wrote is none of your business. They bought the right to broadcast their opinion when they bought your book. 

DON'T RESPOND TO REVIEWS. 

If you respond to good reviews, you'll look like you're toadying. And, more importantly, you weren't invited to comment. If a reviewer is enough of a fan to email you, that's different. That's AWESOME when that happens, but it's in a different forum. Review sites are for readers, not writers. 

And if you respond to bad reviews...oh god, just don't. Please, just don't. Because we've all seen how that works out. You will come across as crazy, egotistical, crazy, rude, and did I mention batshit crazy? And do you know who will remember just how crazy you are when your next book comes out? Those same  reviewers on Goodreads. And they will not be rushing out to buy your new release, that's for sure. 

Just remember: for every one star review you get, you will also get a five star. Your neurotic writer brain will fixate on the one star, of course: OMG, why doesn't someone I've never met IRL detest my story so much? WHYYYY????  

Please note I said "detest my story". If that one star review actually attacks you personally -- and it happens -- then report it to a moderator. But DON'T RESPOND TO THE REVIEW. 

If someone asks you a direct question about a plot point or a character's motivation, feel free to answer them. But if they say in their review that your plot was crap and your character's were all over the place, they're not talking to you. DON'T RESPOND TO THE REVIEW. 

We clear on this?

12 comments:

  1. What about posting links to reviews? I see authors doing that lots, pro authors too, and that seems to be okay. Generally they don't comment on the review, it's usually, "hey check out this review of (book title) here: (link)"

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    Replies
    1. That's a great point!

      I'll link to the five star reviews from my blog, but I won't comment on the review. It's all about the forum. On my professional blog I'll talk up my books like there's no tomorrow, and that includes highlighting the great reviews. But Goodreads is not the place for that.

      The second I see an author has responded to a review (usually a bad one, usually with "You obviously didn't understand what I was trying to write blah blah...") I just cringe. And take cover from the ensuing shit-fight.

      Delete
    2. Good to hear - it's getting to be more common for writers to do reviews on their sites to bring traffic to their blogs and offer useful content, tricksy emerging authors that they are. Being an author doing that myself, I've had the authors of reviews I've written link to my blog several times. And I think that's great - gets the author attention, and gets me attention when people stay and click around a bit.

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    3. Absolutely! Reviewing books on your blog is a great way to get linked!

      Delete
  2. Gosh, I can only imagine. It would be hard not to take it personally. However, a writer needs to develop a tough skin I suppose. Good post, I'll keep this advice in mind when I decide to step out from under my cave into the real world ;)

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    Replies
    1. It's totally surreal to be reading a review about something that a few months ago was only a file on your computer, but you have to force yourself to take the bad with the good and try not to take it personally. I've been lucky - most of my reviews have been great, on Goodreads and on professional review sites, but here's the kicker: those are not the ones that burrow into your brain. Those aren't the ones you rehash at three in the morning when you can't sleep.

      So yeah, still working on developing that thick skin, but I'm getting there!

      Delete
  3. So when I’m up in the middle of the night, my keyboard rattling with a blistering reply that will blast the entire Goodreads site into a scarred and pitted, smoldering hole on the web, you’ll be there to talk me down from the crazy tree, right?

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    Replies
    1. Let's sling a hammock between both our crazy trees, and take turns in it. It will be like a cycle of zen-like calmness.

      With alcohol.

      Delete
  4. Excellent point about the reviews being for the readers and not the writer/author.

    When we offer something up for 'public' viewing, we must be prepared for the good, sometimes the bad and occasionally, the ugly commenters. This is a side effect of public site reviews.

    We give bad reviews validity when we respond.

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    1. So true about giving the bad reviews validity by responding. No good will ever come of it.

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  5. You're on Goodreads!? When did this happen? Please send me a link, I must read your work AND review it :)

    Fantastic stuff though, I'd never have the courage to put my work on there - not hat I've finished anything in order to do so.

    Btw - any idea what's happened to Claudia Del Balso's blog? I can't find it any more?

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  6. Hi Mark! My pseudonym is on Goodreads, not me, and we're 2 entirely different people, right? Hell, I'm sure someone will out me one day soon, but I can't make it too easy for them!

    I don't know what happened to Claudia's blog either.

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