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Saturday, October 6, 2012

If You're An Author and Like Readers...Read This.

As my bio states, I am the owner of an independent publishing house, Mojocastle Press LLC. I have been in the ebook/ publishing industry for more than ten years, in various incarnations.

In order to run my business, there are two groups of people I am required to keep happy: Authors and Readers. The authors need to be happy to produce; the readers need to be happy to buy.

This is not as simple as you might think, as I learned from a very enlightening conversation I had with one of my Twitter folks recently. It concerned author's responses to bad reviews.

Obviously, authors don't like bad reviews. They worked hard on that book, and having someone say negative things about it is like being told that you have an ugly baby. The authors' reactions can be very strong, ranging from posting angry rebuttals on the review to trashing the reviewer in various social media. Obviously, the reader knew how personal those remarks were to the author, and they're just being mean/obnoxious/jealous because they've never written a book. Right?

Maybe not.

There is a certain faction of folks who post on the internet just to hurt others, but for many readers, they simply aren't aware that the author takes it so personally. With social media breaking down the barriers between businesses and customers, people are very comfortable talking directly to companies and issuing complaints/compliments, even huge conglomerates.

They don't see the books as the profound result of giving artistic birth, but as simply another product they're expressing their opinion on. The ebook format builds on that impression, due to the huge numbers of available books and the instant gratification.

Could they be more sensitive?

Sure. But wouldn't you want the actual, honest opinion? If it's constructive and valid, it's a useful tool to be a better writer. If it's not, and one of those reviews posted by one of the hater minority, then it doesn't require a response; the idiocy of the review tends to invalidate it on its own. In many cases, it has the effect of creating interest in the very title it attempted to slander.

Well, an author can post a gentle, kind rebuttal, right?

Maybe not.

Because of the virulent responses in the past, many readers have a hair trigger response to ANY communication from the author. Even if it's a completely benign post, the reader and their fans may flare back.

So what can the author do?

In most cases, according to the reader I chatted with on Twitter, the best move is to do nothing. For the reasons I mentioned above, it's not really necessary. If it's offensive or severely inflammatory, i.e. a personal attack on the author, or anything else that is grounds for a legal case, it's best to handle it via a lawyer or other source of legal advice, instead of in a useless flame war. Take what's constructive and use it, and ignore what isn't. If they really annoy you, kill them off in your next book. Anything can spark the muse.

Why don't you take the author's side?

I am. It's in the author's best interest to present a professional face to the world, and an approachable personality to the readers. I want to see them succeed. Posting rants on social media doesn't accomplish that. Going into a deep funk over a few lines on Amazon doesn't do it, either.

What it really come down to is that it's a reader's opinion. One may pan a book, while hundreds adore it. It shouldn't ruin your day, month, or writing career. Note it, take away from it what you can, and move on.

The reader already has.


  1. I agree, the best response is no response and in fact, if I'm going to write a negative review, it's easier to point out that it's just my personal opinion and why the book didn't work for me, then I post links to positive reviews because, and all authors should be aware of this, reviews are subjective with many influencing factors... I might be having a bad day, my kids might be bugging me, or maybe the book honestly didn't click with me, but just because it didn't click for me doesn't mean it didn't spur someone else to rave about the story. It depends on the reader and their environment. Now... to the haters who post negative reviews and like doing it, and when you look at the majority of their reviews they're obviously unjustified... ignore them and move on with your life, that review isn't worth the effort to get worked up about.

    Dottie :)

    1. Dottie,

      That's a great idea, to post links to positive reviews. Then the reader to be can have a truly informed opinion. Well done.