Commenting on Reviews: Revisited

This is a follow up to a prior post where I discussed a burning question: to comment on reviews, or not to comment on reviews.

At the end of my article I concluded that I thought it was okay to comment on reviews, provided the author was professional and polite.

But a few days after that I ran across a post on an Amazon reader forum. Normally these forums are full of self-published authors shamelessly promoting themselves and readers who literally hate all self-published writers and their work. Honestly it’s a pretty nasty environment over there and I never get involved in any other capacity than casual observer.

Most often the discussion just digresses into fighting, so I tend to move on and devote my time to writing. Occasionally a nugget of useful information is gleaned. This nugget came in the form of a forum topic that caught my attention, specifically concerning authors who insist on commenting on negative reviews, usually attacking the reviewers for not liking their work.

Some on the thread agreed with my earlier conclusions. Others did  not. One opinion was that reviews are strictly there for readers, not authors, and that an author’s presence there could skew the review.

This got me thinking that he might be right.

Reviews are definitely for potential readers. And a reviewer must feel that he or she can post an honest review. If the reviewer is afraid of offending the author then the review might not be honest. I’ve noticed that even if the reviewer posts a positive review with some criticism they often feel they have to justify their criticism when the author responds.

So where I thought I might be making myself available by commenting, I think might be affecting the integrity of the review.

I’ve never solicited a review; all the reviews I’ve received have occurred naturally. I place a lot of confidence in the review system, both as a reader and a writer. So the possibility that I might be influencing a review one way or another concerns me.

I think I might have changed my opinion now.

I can think of two reasons why a response might be required. First, if someone posts something false that needs to be corrected. Not opinionated, but actually false. The second would be if the reader directly asks me for a response in the review (and they’re not baiting me).

If a reader wants to contact me they have many ways in which to do so. They can e-mail me via my website, they can start a discussion on my author page, or they can contact me via Twitter and Facebook.

And if they don’t contact me via those methods? Well then maybe they don’t want to hear from me.

So I think now I’m going to abstain from commenting on reviews, with the exceptions listed above. As much as I want to stay accessible to readers I think it’s important not to unduly influence anyone’s opinion. I’ll leave the old comments on existing reviews, but going forward I’ll allow new reviews to live on their own, without my feedback.

Will I change my mind again? Maybe. But I reserve the right to do so if new information become available. Until then, this is the way I’m gonna play it.

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3 thoughts on “Commenting on Reviews: Revisited

  1. Pete Denton April 9, 2012 / 2:14 pm

    I can see that a review is mainly for the reader: Are you recommending reading this book? But like you say if something is factually incorrect then it must be incredibly tempting to respond.

    I remember reading one author responding on a blog to a reviewer and it got heated and went viral thousands of hits and the author didn’t come out of that one in a positive light.

    I wouldn’t write a review if I thought it was that bad. If you have issues then I agree about privately contacting the author to let them know. It should be done in a helpful way not confrontational.

    • Brian April 9, 2012 / 2:27 pm

      I’ve flip-flopped on this one for a while now. I’m not sure there’s a “right” answer, but maybe one that’s more or less pragmatic.

      Engaging in an argument with a reviewer will almost always earn the author a bad reputation. Is it really worth alienating potentially hundreds of readers to prove to just one reader you’re right? I think that question answers itself.

      Not responding at all seems the best way to avoid any potentially negative stigma. Besides, readers have all sorts of ways to contact us, should they decide to do so. The review probably isn’t the best place to “reach out”.

      In the end it’s really a judgement call.

      • Pete Denton April 9, 2012 / 3:43 pm

        I agree. It is a shame that some people feel the need to be so negative in the first place.

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