Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Advice for Published Authors on Reviews

Somewhere along the line as would-be-authors, writers learn that not everyone is going to like our work. Mostly, it has nothing to do with the work itself: though they're grouped together, some people who like sci-fi don't care much for fantasy and vice versa; sci-fi/fantasy readers often don't care for romance, none of the above are known to like literary fiction. Sometimes it feels more personal than that.

Alice Hoffman made the New York Times Books section when she responded to such a review by tweeting that "Reberta Silman in The Boston Globe is a moron." Reading the article, first in my mind was, Good thing Anne Rice didn't have Twitter back in the day. Five years later and that is what makes me think of Anne Rice.

Dear authors, don't make this short list (granted, there are a few others) longer.

There's an old show biz adage that states 'All publicity is good publicity.' A children's book publisher (blast it, I didn't bookmark the link to share) recently explained how even bad reviews end up being good reviews. Shoppers in real world stores tend to remember the book being mentioned, but not exactly what was said; they'll buy the book and decide for themselves whether they like it or not.

So is the author supposed to keep quiet no matter what a reviewer says? Well, no. Showing appreciation for a positive review might make sure that future books get featured by the reviewer, though granted that's more likely to work with blogs than newspapers. And with fangirls like me giving our opinions on books along with professional reviewers, no one could fault you if someone went a little overboard and you made a correction (just note: "The pacing was slow" is not overboard, "She clearly knows nothing about the subject" is).

Take a deep breath before you respond to a negative review. Then take a few more. Maybe call up a friend to vent instead of doing on the internet where it can last forever. F.O.R.E.V.E.R. Screen shots, my friends. You can't necessarily delete even the things that allow you to delete. Let it go. Or offer it up--appropriately--to fans who won't let it go. Whereas Alice Hoffman tweeted name calling and the number of her reviewer (inappropriate, though Silman's e-mail is at the end of her reviews so giving that isn't bad), spec. fic. romance author Anne Aquirre tweeted a negative Amazon review without blasting the critic or telling her fans to do so. A few gave their own comments, creating a short discussion. We'll never know if anyone buys the book as a result, but at least it's not a situation that leaves readers talking about the high strung author rather than her books.

And that's the thing. We may or may not take what reviewers write to heart, but any personal opinion the reader forms about the writer isn't going away quickly or easily. Don't show your crazy or over-the-top side in public unless you want to own it.

ETA: In 2006 a Swedish reviewer slammed a book that was never written. That, dear authors, you could respond to freely!


Jess said...

Very interesting post. I had heard about the Alice Hoffman twitter fiasco, and I think I even remember the Anne Rice issue. Poor practice indeed.

They're just more reminders that if you are a public figure, you have to watch yourself a little more closely. I was actually just having this conversation the other day (though talking about Peewee Herman!)

And thanks for the link to Anne Aquirre's response. Truthful without being harsh. (Plus, I added the novel to my Amazon TBR list!)

An Again said...

Yay for the add! If you remember, come back and let me know what you think about the book.

I think we can learn from what other people do, so my plan for when I get published (thinking positively!) is to complain out loud if something effects me enough to comment. That way, my husband or my best friends hear it and there's nothing in print that I'll regret the next day.