Thursday, January 5, 2012

For The Love of Stories--and all of the people who love them

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.

*big sigh*

Once upon a time, we all lived happily ever after.

What a wonderful world that must have been.


  1. Reviews can be a hard thing to know what to do with them. Personally as a reader, writer, and reviewer, I see nothing wrong with "thank you" and showing that simple appreciation that someone read a book and took the time to write up a review. I can see why some people think you shouldn't say anything, and you definitely don't comment on bad reviews. I'm totally with you that a love for books should unite people, but you always have that one person who wants to rain on the parade (pardon the cliche; it's too early to think beyond them).

  2. What a moving post, Karen. I'm afraid I missed the brouhaha on Goodreads. However, I can categorically say that I am always delighted when the author of a book I've reviewed stops by my blog to thank me.

    YOu are so right: We are all in this together.

  3. Just for the record, I get all fangirl and excited when authors comment on my reviews or RT my reviews. Generally because they're positive, I admit, so I mostly just feel like they're seeing a huge compliment I gave them, but still. Here's one reader who likes that kind of thing. :)

  4. *applauding*

    Also, I agree with Alexandra! And I think a lot of reviewers would agree. On positive reviews, anyway. It's the negative reviews that I've sworn to myself I'll stay quiet about (publicly, ha) when my books are out in the world.

  5. Well said, Karen. This post was so moving it brought me to tears. IMO, negative reviews are their own little beasties, and as an author I, too, would avoid them.

    However, like the others who commented before me (and as you know very well *grins*), I LOVE it when an author comments on a blog review or re-tweets something I've said about a book. I thought I might DIE when James Dashner commented on my blog. I mean, it's James-freaking-Dashner!!! It provides some kind of validation or adrenaline rush for fans. Maybe that sounds weird, but we've all been there--that moment when we want to squee with joy because an author we LOVE acknowledges and appreciates our praise. And you, Karen, have catapulted into my top tier of favorite authors.

    I think it would be a crime for the buttheads of the world to make authors afraid to comment on or "like" positive reviews. Sometimes, those comments are the highlight of a reader's day. :-)

  6. See! I knew some people felt the same as me. WHY can't we comment if we're being nice and professional? Most of you are expressing exactly how I have thought and felt.

    I'd get so happy when an author I loved commented on praise I gave to their book, or a contest for their book, etc. It's like WHY would that be wrong? But then so many readers and reviewers on the Goodreads thread and Roni's referenced post said differently.

    I'm so confused!

  7. It saddens me to see you make this move, because honestly the issue isn't with you. The reviewers who think that authors aren't reading what they write are ignorant, so saying that comments by authors make them self-conscious is ludicrous. There is absolutely no reason to engage, or worse debate, a negative review, but surely a simple thanks or acknowldegment can't be wrong.

  8. I can totally sense your frustration here. I would think people would be excited to have an author read their review. I guess I'm naive about the whole thing.

    I agree with DL above, a simple thanks or acknowledgement can't be all wrong.

    Hang in there, I'm sure there are some reviewers who appreciate it.

  9. Hi Karen. For what it's worth, I agree with you. I've reviewed lots of books over the years and I'd hate to think I was so thin skinned that I'd react negatively when author stopped by.

  10. I don't mind when others mention or tweet my review if it's positive. In fact usually I like the praise (I'm sure you understood the joy of someone saying good job).

    I gave a mixed review of a book that I overall liked and the author liked the review on goodreads. I can respect that.

    I only really have a problem when author's engage into debates about their books. It makes me uncomfortable. If I don't like a book I usually keep the review only on goodreads not my blog, if it has a mixed review I'll share on blog but not include the author's twitter username in my tweet.

    When I like a book I tweet with the authors name. For me that's an invitation saying "You are welcome to look at this. It's happy." I know not everyone operates this way but its my general policy.

    I think most reviewers okay with general thanks on positive reviews. If we put our reviews on the internet and think authors won't see them then we're just as silly as author's who put their books out and don't expect any negative reviews.

    The problem with this week's incidents is they were downright bullying. It disgusted me when I saw what happened. I spend most of my free time reading, growing my blog and writing reviews. I ENJOY reviewing books. But today I found myself asking "Should I really put so much effort into something that isn't appreciated?" I could watch Netflix, watch more TV, spend more time with my dog. But when I prioritize my life I've moved books to the top.

  11. I don't know what the reasons would be for not commenting on a review of your own book, but as a book reviewer, I love it when the author comments on my review and I feel really humbled by it.

  12. Cherie, Michael, Rick, Veela, and Rachel, thanks so much for stopping by and giving your opinion. It's nice to hear opinions on this firsthand from reviewers. Makes me feel safe to say thank you to the positive ones. :)

    And thanks to the rest of you for your comments and support. <3

  13. If an author ever comments on one of my reviews or anything like that I makes my day :) It's such a fine line I feel like and everyone has such a different opinion about the matter.

  14. Erica, Yes, I didn't realize the opinions differed so greatly. But after hearing several reviewers say it's okay with them, or makes their day, etc I think I'll choose to still say thank you on the positive reviews I read. The negative ones I will still not comment on because I think that's just good common sense. lol. Though I want it noted that I do appreciate ANY and ALL reviews. ;)

  15. i only comment if I have had interaction with that person. I requested a review or they emailed me. and that is usually on their blogs not on goodreads.

  16. I agree that it is a rather sad state of affairs. I actually feel pleased when an author acknowledges my review (not that I do a lot of them). But I can understand that some people might feel differently.

  17. I will be teaching a class at the conference in June about author etiquette, and this is right in that vein. It's going to be an interesting class, to say the least. Whenever I think about where I should be as an author, I think about the future when I have like 15 books published and how absolutely 100% impossible it would be to even read all my reviews, let alone interact with all of the people who wrote them. I just don't read reviews, period, and I've said why on my blog, and it's sad when people take that the wrong way. Anyway, you already know all of my thoughts on this. It's important for authors to be available and accessible to readers who want to interact with them, but I think there's a time and place for those interactions, and public reviews aren't that time or place. Just my opinion, of course. :)

  18. I don't get on Goodreads very often (though I do have an account.) However, I do post a lot of reviews on my blog. It absolutely makes my day when an author comes on and posts on the review. It totally thrills me. Even on negative reviews, I've had some authors come on and say simple things like "Thank you... your opinion is important and I will think on that...". So, ok, I don't post very many "strictly" negative reviews, but I have posted a couple of mixed ones.

    I think the trouble comes when an author tries to defend their own book. In my mind, that would make a reviewer feel like the author is trying to change their opinion, or make them feel like they were just plain wrong. Authors debating a reviewer's point of view is probably not a good thing. Authors saying thank you is a good thing... and I would even go so far as to say authors saying thank you to well written and thought out negative reviews is a good thing, because it lets the reviewer know that the author can take criticism well and that they consider the reviewer's point of view important. (Although I would just plain stay away from flaming reviews... those are better left untouched. :P)

    So yeah... I love it when the author comments on my reviews. It makes me feel important and noticed by people I consider important and noticed. It makes me feel like my words are more than just words shoved into my own little corner of the web... like people actually read and CARE about what I say: people who I look up to and admire. There is really something to be said for that feeling. We are all people, after all, one and the same, but there is no harm in encouraging each other, reviewer to author, and author to reviewer. :)

  19. Karen, thanks for the shout out. The info saddened me too. Like you, I'm a person who says thank you for everything. And I want to interact with readers. It's a weird line to walk. I'm taking it on a case by case basis. I'm thanking reviewers who I've interacted with for my blog tour and such. I'm staying quiet on goodreads unless it's a friend who reviewed my book, then I thank them on twitter or something. I agree with you--can't we all just get along? We're all on the same we-love-books team. :)


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