Friday, April 20, 2012
Authors On Reviews: To Comment or Not to Comment?
To Comment or Not To Comment? That is the question that is being asked over at Reading Romances today, and as both a blogger and a (future) author, I could not resist giving my opinion. If you would like to find out more about the hop, please click here.
So, should authors leave comments on reviews?
Yes... and no. I don't think there is a wrong or right answer here, because the question is too general. Like many things in life, author comments in and of themselves are not a bad thing. It's how they are used, when they are used, and why they are used that must be considered. Think of all the things this applies to... Fire can cook our food, but it can also burn down a house. Medicine can be used by a doctor to treat an illness, but certain types and prescriptions can also be used as drugs, which in turn could lead to an argument over money where someone winds up shot.
There is a lot of talk about there being six degrees between people. They are far fewer degrees separating how "good" or "bad" most things in our world are. It is how we choose to use them that matters. Comments, be they on reviews, message boards, in a classroom or anywhere else are not exempt from this.
As a blogger, I love receiving comments from authors. They totally make my day! I will not lie, though. There are times when I have reviewed something in a way that might not be what they wanted, seen their name attached to an e-mail message or comment, and paused a moment before I read it. However, I have been fortunate. I do not tend to get "hate" mail for my reviews. Then again, I have done everything in my power to build my reputation as a blogger on giving reviews that are honest and fair.
I *hope* the readers who visit my blog feel secure that my opinions are really that -- my opinions; and that the authors who approach me about reviews feel more comfortable knowing that while I do not love every book I read, I have the utmost respect for anyone who has the guts to place butt in chair and bare their soul on the page. I'm down there in the trenches, I know what it's like, and I believe that writing a novel is no small feat. Nor does my solitary little opinion have the power to decree that a book was "garbage". Because even if I think a book is "ZOMG teh most a-MAZ-ing thing evah! 111" (You have no idea how long that took to type...) one of my readers could sit down to read the same book, even after my review, and hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.
Here's what I think authors should NOT do: Make Fools of Themselves. Running around and calling bloggers (or anyone) idiots or unenlightened for "not getting" the book. Or (God forbid!) trying to "explain" (read: argue with the reviewer) the book to the person who didn't like it. If two readers discussing a book get into this (civilly) it can make a great debate and be interesting. When an author does it -- especially on the internet where everything is basically written in electronic blood -- it's just a really, really, bad idea.
But for an author to come along and give feedback on my review such as "Wow, you really got (insert part)."? That can be really cool, as can being thanked for my time, having something random or funny posted to me regarding a character I liked, being asked an interesting questions, or pretty much anything else. As long as the author isn't telling me (1) I was wrong not to like their book, or (2) How I should interpret or feel about things in their book, we'll get on fine. Because both of those things are out of an author's hands the moment a reader picks up a book and starts to read.
Why Do I Feel This Way?
All during the writing and editing process, a book is like making a sculpture. You can chisel stuff away, or you can wet what you are using to mold the piece and reshape it. But when you publish a book and it is in the hands of a reader or a reviewer, it's like that piece has gone through the fire and been hardened. It is what it is, and just like a piece of art, it is open to being seen differently by everyone. So, what's an author to do? Get better during the shaping, accept that there will always be those who will see the finished piece differently then you do, and have the courage to go and work on another piece.
As long as you have the courage to keep writing, there is no need to be afraid that some people won't like what you have written. Since it is impossible to please everyone, the only person a fear of the inevitable is going to hurt is you. This goes for authors writing the books we read, and reviewers who seem to be constantly more afraid of backlash for reviewing them.
To read we need books. To write we need readers. Let's not forget this, people!