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Why Authors Should ALWAYS Respond To Negative Reviews | Digital Book World

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

At Digital Book World, Elle Lothlorien lays the foundation for her argument that authors should respond to bad reviews as other businesses do, in an attempt to rectify a bad customer experience. This is a very interesting blog post for a number of reasons, and you may find the comment thread even more compelling. You may even find it disturbing. The post appeals to my affinity for the contrarian viewpoint, but it was the comment thread that had me thinking, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Slow down! Save this level of vitriol and nuclear response for really serious problems, like family reunions!”

This is just Part 1 of her argument and that’s where the disturbing subtext emerges in the comment thread. Some commenters rise up, prematurely, I think, to condemn Lothlorien’s advice before she’s given a chance to lay out her strategy. They attribute motivations and actions to the author and reviewers before she’s had a chance to show what steps she takes and recommends. Condemnation before full presentation sounds like a trait you don’t want in a book reviewer.

Since the reaction in some cases (in the comment thread) is very defensive so far, I’ll be very interested to see how Lothlorien defuses her critics, one of whom goes so far as to threaten her with a bad review now that the author has dared to express an opinion. Wow. It’s ironic that Lothlorien is accused of intimidating reviewers to bump up the stars in her reviews in the same thread. Are we so cynical we can’t imagine that a listening ear and being nice might actually change a reviewer’s perspective? Are all opinions set in granite? Some objectors to the article assume their initial reaction is the best and purest one. Maybe not.

I don’t respond to negative reviews because I have accepted dogma (yes, I’m saying I haven’t really thought about it past “Don’t do it!”) and I’ve seen where it goes awry. As soon as I read the headline, I thought of The Greek Seaman debacle, which Lothlorien even mentions as an example of how not to do what she’s recommending. I have to concede that Lothlorien makes some good points.

“Anecdotal evidence!” someone cried. Well, what other evidence might there be? No one is studying this problem wearing a lab coat and clicking on a calculator. That said, I’m not (yet?) convinced responding to bad reviews is ever a good idea. I am willing to hear her out and in the meantime, I’ll reserve judgment until the follow-up installments.

Even if by some miracle of business pschology she manages to convince me otherwise, I’m sure it’s something I’ll never want to do. No one wants to be on the wrong end of the 1-800 line dealing with complaints, though as Lothlorien would point out, that is what businesses do.

There’s a fundamental question about ourselves that bubbles up through the cracks in the subtext: Do we have to get so angry about this stuff? We can change, can’t we? Flexibility in mind doesn’t necessarily equate to flip flopping. Mental agility means intelligence. I’m scared Lothlorien might be right and I hope she’s not. If I end up thinking she’s right, though, I won’t be mad at her. Click the link below for the article and read on.

See on www.digitalbookworld.com


Today’s podcast, The Unintended Consequences Edition, covers this issue, as well, in case your prefer your commentary in audio.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. […] see the original article I’m talking about in the show and for more commentary, go here. For the books by Elle Lothlorien, get them on Amazon […]

  2. Interesting post, important points are made, thanks Chazz. And it’s always a very difficult issue with so many variations and innuendos. This is a hard one! And I think most of us (myself included) simply tend to shy away and try to forget about it…

  3. Chazz says:

    Agreed. As I said, even if the author convinces me she’s right, I doubt I’d ever respond to a negative review unless there was something in there that was objectively inaccurate. I’d rather just spend the energy on writing the next book and not let the energy vampires get me. What bothered me so about this was how negative and over the top the reaction was. We give criminals a fair hearing so why not allow an opinion? The anonymity of the Internet and its remove allows us to say things we’d never say in person. In person, we could expect a bloody nose. To her credit, the author dealt with objectors quite well and sweetly (better than I would have) before the site had to shut down the comment thread for the vile and violent rhetoric. How could it matter that much that it would come to that? I assume when trolls encounter a real life and death issue their heads explode.

    • I am Muga2 says:

      I find your comment here interesting in that the one time I wrote a review of one of your books that you asked for reviews on I got a response from you. You responded to my review with something akin to, I guess you just don’t like how I write.

      • Chazz says:

        Hi John. I replied to you because that was an email correspondence between us (as opposed to a public book review) after I did a giveaway and invited email correspondents to review Corrective Measures. It feels rude to me *not* to respond to personal email when I can, so, yes, I did reply to you personally (and I thought you wanted a reply.) Though it would have felt rude not to reply, it seems I’ve come off rude or inconsistent anyway. You sound annoyed, but I think I can explain.

        I don’t recall the details of our exchange, but you weren’t very negative as I remember it (since I remember the negative so well it’s pathological) but wished I’d taken it to a longer work and gone in another direction. Also, I think you differed on how easy the resolution appeared. I didn’t try to convince you otherwise.

        My intent in my email reply to you was not meant to defend the work but to acknowledge your email and to thank you for taking the time to read, review and email. When I said something like, “it sounds like this story wasn’t for you” my intent was to say something innocuous that acknowledged that, yes, it sounded like you didn’t particularly care for it and I heard you and considered your points. For that giveaway, I replied, with my thanks, to all correspondents who offered feedback because they were already email correspondents. Maybe I should have just said, “Thanks for your reply,” and left it at that, but even now that seems too quick and dismissive. In any case, without going back and looking it up, I’m sure I thanked you. I surely wouldn’t have only said, “I guess you don’t like how I write.” I’m not negating anybody but I do stick true to my own visions.

        For public reviews, I haven’t changed my policy because I still haven’t been convinced it helps for an author to try to defend their work after the fact. Also, I think it takes too much time and energy away from more productive tasks. My reply wasn’t meant to chastise or, more importantly with regard to this particular post, I wasn’t out to change your mind. I don’t see any inconsistency, but if I hurt your feelings, I am sorry about that. Peace.

  4. I’ve had one stars where the reader was so invested in my “creation” that I found it very complimentary. But when they start a book and find it not to their liking and say stuff showing they didn’t actually read it, it ticks me off. I responded to a thoughtful negative review once and she rattled off a list of more dislikes. Too much dialogue when the blurb says dialogue driven? Trying to be the duck with it running off my back. Focus on the positive and write the next one.

  5. Reena Jacobs says:

    I’ve responded to a handful of negative reviews. I try to keep it professional and not try to invalidate the opinions. Reviews are subjective, a piece which works for one person may not work for another. If that’s the way the reviewer feels, that’s the way the reviewer feels. And if I requested the review, the least I can do is stop by and say thanks or even look at it from their perspective.

    I believe there’s only been one review I’ve countered because the reviewer flat out lied about the subject matter of my work. I questioned if the reviewer even read the book and perhaps was offended just by the blurb, so decided to smack a 1 star on it. I didn’t debate the 1-star rating, because like I said, reviews are subjective. I did comment on the inaccuracies in the review though. If I’m going to receive a negative review, it should at least be about my writing, not some random item which doesn’t pertain to my book.

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