Writing this post makes me sad, but I feel like I need to publicly say why I'm stepping back from interacting with reviewers, or I'll feel like a snooty snoot.
I had read a post by the fabulous Roni Loren where she talked about a public discussion and how reviewers and readers said how they don't like when authors comment on reviews. Some gave very good reasons, but because of my naivety I was a little shocked. I usually don't comment on reviews of Tangled Tides on Goodreads (I may click "Like" but I rarely comment because I don't want to look like a stalker), but I do try to say thank you when a reviewer posts on their blog.
Have I been making reviewers mad? Or uncomfortable? I swear, that was never my intention. I'm the type of person who says hello, how are you, and thank you A LOT. At the grocery store, walking down the street, wherever. For over a decade I have wished I'd been born a few decades earlier. I would have fit in better during the era of slower times: when people knew their neighbors, when families sat down together at dinner and actually TALKED to each other, when relationships consisted of quality time together and people had real conversations instead of texting or emailing each other other 600 times a day.
I didn't realize I might be displaying bad etiquette by clicking the "Like" button on Goodreads, or leaving a sincere thank you comment on blogs. I assumed I was interacting with my readers, and I assumed it was a good thing. I was just being me. I read the good and bad comments about my book because I WANT to know what people liked and disliked. I want to be a better writer. I want to become better as I grow. Reviews help me with that. Have I commented on negative reviews of my book? No. And not because I don't appreciate that readers time, or their criticism. Believe it or not, I DO appreciate EVERY review--good or bad. I just knew I'd be treading on delicate ground if I said ANYTHING. Even if I clicked the "Like" button, I worried it would be interpreted the wrong way. That much I knew.
But Roni's post opened my eyes.
Many reviewers said they didn't want authors commenting AT ALL.
And then, oh my goodness, last night I read the two recent threads on Goodreads that erupted into so much anger and hurt between authors and readers. It broke my heart. It was painful to read. It was eye opening.
I read every comment carefully.
I put myself in the reviewers' shoes and the authors' shoes.
I sympathized with all parties, and understood all sides.
I wanted to scream "Can't we all just get along?!" but I stayed quiet because, well, it didn't involve me. Why add my insignificant ripple to the raging waters?
Somewhere in the midst of it all, a reviewer (maybe a couple of them) mentioned how their reviews are for readers, not authors.
That stung. Because as an author, I am first and foremost a reader. I read stories for MANY years before I attempted to write one. BUT, I also understood the other side of the argument. And, okay, I get it.
I can see how it would make readers uncomfortable to honestly discuss or comment about a book or review if they suspected the author was watching the thread. I understand that readers go to Goodreads to read honest opinions about books. I understand because I am also a reader, and I use Goodreads for that purpose too.
An author friend put it in a simplified way that made a lot of sense. I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like: once a book has been published, it's no longer the author's. It belongs to the world and the readers. They can comment and discuss it, but the author shouldn't.
Again, part of me was very saddened by that philosophy, but the other part of me understood. I agree wholeheartedly that authors should always handle themselves professionally. Reviewers should never be attacked or bullied. Ever. And I totally get why authors should not comment on negative reviews.
I didn't know we also shouldn't comment on positive reviews.
So, I have come to this conclusion--for now.
I will no longer comment publicly on reviews of my books on blogs or Goodreads.
*heart cracks a little*
I want readers and reviewers to feel free to be honest and say whatever they want about my book without worrying about me lurking in the shadows.
However, I will NEVER stop interacting with readers. Mainly, because I consider every single reader a treasure. (Whether they read my book or not, and even those who didn't like my book.) I am still here on my blog. I am still available for email. I am still on Goodreads, but with limited interaction. I am still on Twitter and I try to respond to EVERY person who tweets me. (I'm sorry if I miss someone now and then.)
Here are my biggest reasons why I refuse to stop interacting with readers... because I am STILL a reader. I am STILL a writer who is trying to learn, grow, and become better. I always will be.
My love for books and writing is not only for my own work. Part of me would die inside if I couldn't discuss this stuff with other book lovers and writers. I don't care if a person is just starting out as a writer, if they have an agent or not, if they are self-published, if they received a major book deal from a big 6, if they are an editor, or if they only read books but have never written a word.
We are all in this together.
We all have something to say, teach, learn, or contribute.
We all love stories, or storytelling in one way or another.
THAT should be what bonds us. THAT should be reason enough to befriend anyone in this infinitely big-yet-so-small world of publishing/writing/books. THAT love for books should unite us, not segregate us into different cliques and ranks with rules about who can and can't interact with each other.
Once upon a time, we all lived happily ever after.
What a wonderful world that must have been.
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