I originally wrote this post linking to two examples of SPECTACULAR author tantrums prompted by negative reviews. It’s bad enough to respond in a moment of passion, but these were ongoing crusades fueled by delusion, entitlement, and paranoia. Some even involved threats, and organizing others against the reader/reviewer who dared to say something negative. (Often, it’s not even nasty reviews that inspire this; in at least one case, it was three stars and thoughtful disappointment that incited the brouhaha.)
At the last minute, I deleted the links and details, in the hope that the authors involved have come to understand their errors. I’m glad I haven’t yet humiliated myself on the internet. If it had been around for more of my life, I might well have; and, despite my supposed maturity, I may yet humiliate myself in the future. If I do, I hope it to eventually sink into the depths of google and not be quoted. If you’re really curious, google for “authors behaving badly” and variations (perhaps throwing in “amazon” or “bad review”). You will find many examples.
As I will soon be facing online reviews myself, I’ve been wondering if to respond in any circumstance. Of course I’ll not correct or chastise a bad review, or comment on Amazon reader reviews. But is it appropriate to show up in the comment trail of a positive or neutral blog review? Is it appropriate to say “thank you”?
In my own experience as a reader, I’ve enjoyed comment trails that become a back-and-forth discussion between readers. When the author shows up late in the game, with a good attitude, and maybe answers specific questions from the discussion, that’s all to the good.
What doesn’t work for me is when the author comments first or close to it. (Google Alerts, anyone?) There’s something about the author “being there” that puts a damper on reader discussion. It makes it a whole different atmosphere, a more formal one. So my thought is: Yes to leaving a positive, friendly comment, but only well after reader responses to the review have had their turn.
What do you think? Is that sensible? Or would you recommend another way?
FYI: I have JUST started a new blog, Emily Winslow Talks to Strangers, about the experience of crossing the line between unpublished and published. The first entries are all about different aspects of book promotion, what I think might be helpful, and links to all kinds of resources. Over time, I hope to see the opinions and experiences of others (readers and writers) added in the comments. I would love to hear what you have to say.