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Is there room on the internet for authorial interaction?



For many years, we’ve preached that review are for readers and they are. Oftentimes, when authors react to reviews, it results in an unfortunate dustup with authors saying things they wished they hadn’t and readers throwing out threats of a ban list. The comment threads to a review can be contentious whether it is here at Dear Author or at places like Goodreads and Amazon.

But there are times when authorial interaction might actually produce interesting discussion. After I reviewed “Lord of the Abyss,” I wrote a note to Nalini Singh and Singh wrote me back* and said that she wanted to share with me why she turned Liliana beautiful at the end, an ending that I complained about:

I did consider not having that fairytale makeover, because like you said, Micah didn’t care. The thing was, I couldn’t do it to Liliana, herself because it hurt her so much when people were cruel to her, or said nasty things like in the village. The thought of her living her entire life having to bear those slights (and the reality is, people still would’ve said them and they still would’ve hurt, even if only a tiny bit each time since she would’ve had Micah’s unwavering love in contrast) – yeah, I just couldn’t. And since it was a fairytale, I did get to play fairy godmother.

I responded:

You know, your comment is one that I think would be interesting to readers, if you would be willing to post it. I’m not sure how I feel. It’s true that I wouldn’t want Liliana to be hurt constantly by the shunning of others, but I loved the idea of a truly ugly heroine. It’s amazing how none of that really matters when you are in the meat of the story.

Nalini’s response:

As for the Liliana comment, I don’t know. I always wonder if author intention should have any place in a reader’s experience. I’ve always liked the idea that each reader reads a different book, dependent on what personal ideas/life experiences they bring into the story. It’s an interesting thing to think about, especially now, with authors so accessible via the web.

This got me thinking. Jeannie Lin’s response about the ending of her book was posted on her website. I thought her explanation of the Eastern philosophy that drove her story was interesting. It didn’t change how I felt about the book but I enjoyed reading it and contemplating her perspective.

Both the Singh and the Lin comments were ones I would have liked to have discussed with other readers. These might be appropriately questions at the end of the book that could be asked for a reader group (those are sometimes included in trade paperback books).

I emailed Caitlin Crews to see if she would like to write up some thoughts about Shame and Heroines in romance and mentioned that I found that Jake, the hero in “Heiress Behind the Headlines,” hadn’t suffered enough for all the horrible things he said to Larissa, the heroine.  She gave me a really interesting response:

I’m really interested in your take on Jack. I was worried that many readers would not find Larissa at all sympathetic (and indeed many do not) and so in some ways I suppose I saw Jack as a kind of mouthpiece for what I anticipated those readers might feel about her. I also thought that his public acceptance of her at the end would be more meaningful to *her* than any sort of extended grovel might be, as I imagined she wouldn’t necessarily believe that. My understanding from some of the feedback I’ve gotten so far is that some readers just hated her as I worried they might, and those readers seem to think Jack could have done much better. I guess I was trying to strike a balance between those two takes on the story; it’s always so fascinating to hear how/if that kind of thing worked!

But author interaction can result in two things, no matter the intention of the author, both which are detrimental to reader conversation. First, an authorial inerjection can reduce reader commentary. Meljean Brook shared:

I think there’s room for author interaction in the comments of a review, but it’s very limited room. In general — unless the reviewer has notified the author directly about the presence of a review and invites a reply — I think that it’s best not to comment at all. We all know that many authors are online, seeking reviews of their work and looking in on discussions; there’s no need to tap the readers on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m here,” because it’s likely to have a chilling effect…and for good or bad, the best thing for an author is for readers to talk about her book. Why shut that down?

The other thing that can occur is for readers to mistake the intention of the author or interpret the author’s intention exactly right and either results in a kerfluffle. Another author emailed me this response:

Explaining a book in the comment section may invite discussion, but it seems argumentative to me. A reader has the right to their opinion of the book, no matter what that opinion is. If an author thinks their book is A and the reader thinks it’s B, no matter how much the author argues the point, it’s very rare the reader is going to change their mind–they’re always going to think it’s B. It’s the reader’s experience that matters. That’s their takeaway and no amount of explaining on the author’s part is going to change that. The only additional takeaway the reader will receive is a bad view of the author, which is never a good thing, in my opinion.

Another author shared that it was frustrating to read in a review what the author’s intention was when writing. It’s one thing for a reader to say that it came off as if an author meant it X, Y, or Z and another for a reader to speak as if she is an authority on the author’s intent:

I’ll be honest, it really pisses me off when readers speak with “authority” on what my intent as an author is. They can think what they want. They can speculate to their hearts content. But don’t go around saying that Author thought this or Author did that… And any time a reader claims to KNOW what an author meant or what she was “really” doing, they just make themselves look like an ignorant.

Almost universally, the authors I emailed on this topic felt that comments to reviews are simply not a place for authors to interject their opinions. I know that at DA, if an author comes in during a discussion and I sense that it might reduce reader discussion, I’ll make a comment to try to encourage readers to discuss the book, as if the author is not there.

One author said that the only time she felt is was appropriate to comment publicly with readers is when the author is invited, such as to a Book Chat. Most authors echoed this

“In my experience, when readers really want to hear from an author, they’ll e-mail her.”

I admit that I rarely email authors at all mostly because I feel, maybe wrongly, that most authors really don’t want to hear from anyone with in the email address.  I don’t know whom I’ve offended with strongly worded reviews and I don’t want any one to feel like they need to be nice or gracious to me if I’ve hurt their feelings.  To that end, there are often questions that arise from a book for which I have no answer.

I’m curious what readers and authors would like to see.  Do they want more authorial interaction?  Do they like that the conversation is primarily between readers of the book or potential readers of the book?  Are they interested in hearing the author’s perspective?

*All emails reproduced with the consent of the sender.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. JL Merrow
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 04:22:16

    Speaking with my reader hat on, I’m always interested to hear from the author about her story. I’m the kind of person who always reads the wordy introductions in Penguin Classics – I guess I just like delving deeper into what made the story what it was.

    Speaking as an author, though, I firmly believe that a story should stand on its own. It shouldn’t need any explanation, and once it’s out there in the public eye, the reader is free to make of it what she will. If she fails to see in the story what I’d intended to be shown, well, that’s my failing as an author.

  2. library addict
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 05:56:00

    I 100% agree @JL Merrow: that books should stand on their own. Whatever reaction a reader has to a book they do not ever read it “wrong” and authors should never try to claim otherwise.

    I love to discuss books both with other readers and authors. So I think there’s definitely room for author interaction, I don’t email or seek out the author every time I read a book. But I have sent emails to authors in the past to ask questions about a book and have always appreciated it when they respond. As a reader, I enjoy blog posts where authors talk about where they got the idea for a particular book or share insights into their writing process.

    In some ways perhaps it’s better if said interaction takes places on the author’s own website/blog/board. Nora Roberts and Christine Feehan both have fairly active author boards where they share info on works in progress and answer readers’ questions. The boards are also a place for readers to discuss their books. Nora certainly doesn’t seem to mind when members don’t like one of her books or something a character did, etc. There have been some interesting discussions there about her books, plots, characters, etc.

    I don’t really disagree with the sentiment that authors are more often than not better off not commenting on reviews unless it’s a simple thank you for reading my book regardless of the grade. But I felt Nora’s responses here about Jane’s Creation in Death review contributed to the reader discussion rather than kept people from commenting. Granted, that was a somewhat unique situation given the Eve’s controversial decision in that book.

    Authors such as Nora Roberts, Christine Feehan, Cindy Gerard, Jayne Ann Krentz, Merline Lovelace, Meg Benjamin, and Shannon Stacey seem to have a pretty healthy attitude about negative criticism. They simply say “Sorry the book didn’t work for you” and realize not every reader will love every one of their books. Sadly, the same cannot be said for every author.

    There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to necessarily know stuff about an author as I fear that may interfere with my enjoyment of their books. Thankfully, I only have only ever experienced one time where a former autobuy author had a meltdown online. It was a doozy though. I have not read any of her books since and I donated all of her books I had previously purchased to the used bookstore. That situation made me leery of seeking out interaction with other authors. Hasn’t stopped me all together, but I’m grateful the interaction I’ve had with other authors has been a more positive experience.

    A good example is the book club discussions at SBTB. They are always fun and interesting when the author also participates in the discussion.

  3. Dani Alexander
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 06:04:36

    Speaking as a future author – not there yet =), I would love to interact with readers. There’s something so satisfying about having a reader connect to your stories/characters or to explain what didn’t work and why. Either way you have a good place to move forward as an author. I also think that the discussion shouldn’t take place in a forum like the comment section of a review.

    Emails, their website or an author discussion is the perfect venue for author/reader interaction. But I think readers need to feel comfortable saying what they feel. I’ve seen authors reply to comments (even fantastic replies such as the haiku we had on dear author) and still been mildly uncomfortable with the author being there.

    It’s to both author and reader’s benefit to keep reviews and the comments that follow as open a forum as possible. That’s my 2 penny opinion.

  4. Ros
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 06:04:41

    I do love author interaction but I don’t think a review is the right place for it. If there are questions for an author, a chat or an interview is a good place to do it. And some books do raise lots of questions that I’d love to hear an author’s opinion on. But unless an author is especially gracious (and some of them are), it’s hard for their interaction with a review not to descend into a row.

  5. Kaetrin
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 06:32:33

    I agree with Ros. I like to be able to hear from authors but it’s difficult to have full and frank discussions about what worked and what didn’t if one is worried that it will offend an author. Well, it is for me anyway. I think this is more problematic with the online interation many authors have too, eg, Twitter/Facebook. There are some authors who I think are really nice on social media but certain of their books have not worked for me. The more I interact with them, the harder it is to say that. I still do, but sometimes I wonder if I’m too gentle with my criticism if I kind-of know the author? It’s certainly easier if an author isn’t commenting on a review in the comments section. If it’s a positive review and I know the author’s Twitter name (if they have one) I will tweet a link to them and it’s nice, but not necessary, to get a “thx for the review” but that’s really all I’d want. If I wanted to get into a discussion, the author’s website or via (a less public) email would be better way to go.

  6. Maria Zannini
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 06:44:26

    I have to agree with JL and Library Addict. The book has to stand on its own.

    That said, you cannot always make people understand something that is wrought from deeply cultural or personal experience. Some people will get it, but others won’t, and you have to accept that.

    As an author, I’d rather not respond to reviews or interact with readers on a public forum unless it’s to discuss aspects of the book–which is better done within the confines of a book club rather than a review site.

    I’m one of those OCD authors who never writes something unless there’s a deeply rooted reason behind it. Sometimes it’s the tip of the iceberg, with more information forthcoming in later books. And sometimes it’s an Easter egg that only long time readers would understand.

    If people really want to know why I did what I did, they can (and have) written to me privately. It’s the greatest compliment any reader can give an author.

  7. JenniferRNN
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 07:06:49

    I love author interaction whether it be in a review or in some other forum. I absolutely get that many readers and/or reviewers feel that author comments on a review might stifle discussion. However, I have been WAY more offended and stifled by readers comments that are of the “I hate this book and I think way less of anyone who liked it” variety (or “I love this book and there is something wrong with those who don’t agree with me”). I believe that everyone should be able to have their say without impugning others and have their opinion respected.

    I don’t really want to have discussions with authors on their spaces (websites or forums) because they often tend to be author-centric and happen mostly among fans (which is totally appropriate).

    Ultimately, I’m definitely interested in hearing what author’s have to say. I think it is critical to discussions of their works.

  8. farmwifetwo
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 07:07:39

    I have made a point of deleting authors from my “friends” list. I think the fact they go around wanting to be “friends” to be rude to begin with. I don’t “fan” and have little patience for those that do. I had been on the Suz Brockmann bb for years before it disintgrated and that distaste is still something years later that I remember. I still cannot read her books. Plus, I don’t write actual reviews but opinionate pro’s and con’s to the book if it’s pushed any buttons or I thought it was well written. Usually a mediocre book will simply get rated.

    I don’t think an author has any reason to push her/his way into reviews unless invited by the reviewer to do so. You wrote something, it’s out there, good or bad depending on who reads it. If you can’t handle the bad then maybe you need to be in another business.

    I do like a well written author site. For ex the Nalini Singh book you mentioned above. The book came out, reviews are written, she notices reviews like yours and posts a “note” on her site about why she wrote it like that. She may “flag” your blog so you know it’s there to read it but doesn’t make any comment. That IMO is tasteful and informative and gives a reader who requires more context somewhere to look without feeling nagged.

  9. Mireya
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 07:22:52

    In my days as a very active reviewer, I was more comfortable with either the author emailing me or me emailing the author about a particular review. What usually ensued was a good private discussion that (a) helped me gain perspective on a book though I could not change the review once it was published, and (b) helped the author understand how readers could view her work in a different way, not necessarily the way she intended the story to be understood/interpreted. Of course I had my share of authors emailing me how much I sucked, but that is par the course if you don’t review like HK.

    As a commenter, when I express that a book didn’t really hit the mark for me in a comment, I don’t tend to go too much in detail because I always think that even if the author is not “visible” she may be reading the comments, or in other words “lurking” and if the comment is in a thread pertaining to a less than glowing review, I don’t want to add to the “pain” the author may be feeling. I’ve made some exceptions, of course, but that’s as far as my comfort zone goes. If I go back to reviewing, it’s bound to change though.

    All that being said, I think it all depends on the author. Some authors do seem to be able to “interact” in a way in which they don’t come across as trollish and get their point across gracefully. Those authors should offer seminars to other authors, jmho.

  10. Renda
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 07:35:06

    Just adding my hear hear to the feeling that there is a place and a time and the place is not the review and the time is not as soon as the author reads it and emotions are high.

    IF there is a review/statement that an author feels strongly about, IF a hot discussion ensues upon a review, then I would like a comment from the author in the form of an interview on the same site where the reviews/comments were made.

    I do not follow authors on social media other than FB and half the time I hide them, bringing them up only when I wonder if they have something going on. I would never see anything they posted about their books on their blogs because most author blogs that I have visited are not ones I care to return to.

    I read for enjoyment. I have enough drama in my job/life where I don’t need to have drama inserted in my down time.

  11. Las
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 07:56:11

    Intent doesn’t matter to me under most circumstances IRL, since at the end of the day the final result is what matters. When it comes to books, while I’m sometimes interested in the author’s reasoning I can imagine very few situations that will make a difference in my feelings about the book, especially if it’s something that’s become a cliche in romance (like making the ugly character beautiful or giving an infertile woman a miracle baby)–then I really don’t want to hear it. What more can be said about taking the road most traveled, you know? It makes more sense to explain something unconventional.

    I’m also not a fan of authors being all over what’s supposed to be readers’ spaces online. I think responding to reviews on their own blogs and interacting with readers there is fine. A blogger interviewing or inviting an author to post about their intentions–in a separate post–is also appropriate and can lead to good discussions. But I don’t want to seem the responding to reviews in the comments, even to post something as simple as “Glad you liked it,” or “Sorry it didn’t work for you.”

  12. Donna
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 07:57:42

    The minute I see an author’s comment appear below a review, no matter how gracious or insightful, it has a chilling effect. It changes the nature of the discussion. I suddenly feel called upon to put politeness before honesty, and I either refrain from commenting, or refrain from commenting honestly.

  13. Mandi
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:00:18

    I’m not necessarily against author interaction in certain circumstances, but overall I don’t think their comments on reviews helps the discussion.

    When I get into discussions about books on Twitter, I realize that the author of the book I’m talking about can read my discussion, but I don’t really like it if they pop-up into it. And I really don’t like it if I’m discussing a book and someone else feels the need to @ the author to include them in the conversation. I’m not saying I never talk with authors. I do every day – sometimes I have a question about a book that I email or tweet the author about. If I really love their book I often drop them a note. There are so many factors that play into online interaction, I don’t have a conclusive answer, but I do lean towards less involvement from authors.

  14. Lada
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:02:13

    I agree with the comments about the book standing on its own. While I might appreciate knowing more about an author’s intention (like Jane did with Singh’s story), I will seek it out myself if it’s that important. I think an author’s website is a great place to include that information (although I avoid the boards because of the fangirldom which I have no patience with). That’s why I like it when authors have “more about this book” where they can include all kinds of additional information.

    Are we missing out on some great discussion if we leave the author out? Perhaps…but I’ll bet for every reader that feels one way about a book, another will feel exactly the opposite and a great discussion will happen anyway.

    I know I’ve felt stifled by author presence at this site. I had recently read the first book in a series I had heard great things about here and wanted to like more than I did. I was going to ask readers about what they thought in the “recently read” thread but saw that the author herself had been posting and felt it would have been unkind to talk about what frustrated me about her book, especially since it mostly had to do with writing style. I’m certainly not one of those readers that feel authors need their feelings protected but that felt too in-your-face when she had every right to be posting with her reader hat on.

  15. Lisa J
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:06:04

    Totally agree with JL Merrow and Library Addict. It is interesting to hear about the writer’s perspective and it can add to the discussion, but the book needs to stand on its own.

  16. Teddypig
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:18:01

    I think authors really do not use their blogs very well in this regard.

    If they thought of a subject or some piece of insider info from reading any review or feel they need to explain the intentions of a story they wrote then I am sure an elaborated blog post for their fans explaining just that would be enjoyed.

    More than them going on and on about their whirlwind tours or whatever promotional gig they are doing.

    Comments are too limiting in scope and ephemeral all around.

    NOT focusing on the review good or bad of course (Online feuds while entertaining are ultimately damaging) just what the author thought needed to be said about the story in general… you know.

    I think authors should always speak from authority about their own work and the best place to do that is on their own blog. I still say stay well away from interacting on book reviews good or bad where there is the distinct possibility of things getting personal or being taken the wrong way.

  17. coribo25
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:24:05

    HI Jane, If the reviews are for readers, what’s the rationale behind the author salutation at the start? Is that not an invitation to interact? I’ve always wondered about that. And why not call the blog, Dear Readers?

  18. Mireya
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:24:19

    I have to add something to my previous comment. I knew I was forgetting something: As a reviewer, whenever an author came slamming with the “you didn’t understand my story at all” usually in the tone of “you are stupid” my usual response was along the lines that, as a writer, maybe he/she should have put more thought to what she had been writing. I never resorted to reply in kind, I always kept my tone neutral, as I am a firm believer that if you lose your cool, then you have already lost the argument. To me, as a reader, I put the responsibility on the author as to what does he/she is intending to convey in her story. If he/she fails, it is not my problem, as a reader, as all I have to go by are the author’s own words, I don’t always have the time to go around “researching” a book that I may have picked to read for entertainment. I only did that in college, when I was actually analyzing literature, definitely not in real life, when my time is at a premium due to actual obligations like a family and a job. Ultimately, I hold the author responsible. Why am I bringing this up? Because I have seen that sort of argument many times over, not only in private emails, but also in forums and blogs. It has been the argument used in many author “interactions” online. For me, it is an argument that does not fly. At all.

  19. Patricia Rice
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:26:12

    Speaking as a reader, I really don’t care what the author’s intent was. If I enjoyed the book, I’ll let the author know. And the reason I write books is because I figured I could create more satisfying endings on my own. I never told the authors that.

    Speaking as an author, I love hearing from readers. I love discussing books, my own or someone else’s, as long as the discussion is rational. Too often, comments left in places like Amazon are not useful discussion tools (she uses too many adjectives!). I don’t generally read reviews unless someone sends one to me. But I do blog all over the internet when a book comes out and invite people to email or stop by my blog, facebook, etc, if they have something to say.

    From some of the comments above, I’d say what we have here is readers saying they’d rather hunt authors then vice versa, and I think I agree with that. But I’m of the old, pre-internet school, and YMMV.

  20. Estara
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:26:47

    I always like reading essays by the author of a favourite book AFTER I’ve read the book itself. To see if I saw all that was supposed to be conveyed. Or additional viewpoints and such – like Sherwood Smith has in the Crown Duel ebook – which previously were on her LJ for certain key scenes.

    When I was the first to review one of her books on GoodReads she mailed me with a reaction to a certain part of my review (which I found very flattering even though I’ve been commenting on her LJ for years now) – I could follow what she explained but – as a previous commenter here said – it didn’t change MY impression of the book.

    Her life experience simply lets her see certain things differently, and that’s just fine ^^. If I wanted to read only about my own experiences in fictional form, I’d write an autobiography, heh.

  21. Dani Alexander
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:29:52

    @coribo25: I think that was answered in the faq or another comment somewhere. IIRC it was because was taken? I hope I’m recalling that. That and a combination of a review that started out as dear author. I’m reaching here (back into my memory) and that’s what came up. Take it with tablespoon of salt because last week I reached into my memory and attributed a friend’s comment to her when it was actually a movie quote. oO

  22. Mandi
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:32:05

    @Teddypig: That’s a good point. If authors address things on their own site, readers can seek out that information and discuss with the author, if they choose to do it. And it would not hamper discussion on the actual review.

  23. Dani Alexander
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:32:51

    @Mireya: Here’s the thing about writer’s who blame readers for not understanding their intent: It wasn’t written well if the majority of your readers don’t get it!

    It’s as simple as that. That’s why I have three beta readers and an editor. If three beta readers tell me they don’t get such and such, arguing with them over what they should have got is ridiculous. If it’s not clear, that’s poor writing on my part and rather than complain about the readers, I should go fix it.

    Dec 20, 2011 @ 08:33:36

    As an author, I try to look at both sides of the coin. I welcome any honest review. I accept that not all will enjoy my work equally but that is the price one pays if you decide to share your work with the world. Opportunities can be made from negative reviews, take it as a challenge to convert the reader into a devoted reader by suggesting a different title or to spark an interesting discussion. But never, in my opinion, berate the reader or make the reader feel as if their opinion is not valid.

  25. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:30:20

    @Estara: Right, I have no problem reading and enjoying author’s perspective/intent about certain plot turns, characters, etc, after I have written the review. Now do I want to hear it as part of reaction to my review? Um, really not sure about that. As many said I definitely would not want to see it as a comment on the review (although obviously I cant tell anybody what to do or not to do), but even as a private email, I really do not want to hear it phrased “you did not get what I was trying to say”. I am firmly convinced that unless you are writing the book for the audience with specialized knowledge, the book should stand on its own and if your intent does not come through on page – you failed to convey it for this reader (me), period. As somebody said upthread, maybe you should think about how your writing was. I mean, of course I can miss stuff in the review, but again, if it is hidden that deeply, maybe you should have tried to convey it better. I am not sure if I mentioned this example in the similar discussions, because I remember touching on Tigana in another recent thread, but here it goes anyway. Possible SPOILER to follow:

    After Allexan enslaves Erlein for his oh so good and noble purposes *nothing* could save him for me as a leader of good guys. He firmly crossed over the line which for me divides good/grey characters to evil ones. Now would anybody have such visceral reaction as I did? Of course not, I am sure plenty of readers would even cheer Alexan on – ends justify the means and all that. But of course I was curious whether I was reading against author’s intent or not and in the foreword to ten year anniversary edition of Tigana (yes, I felt a need to buy it :)) Kay claimed that he wanted the debate between Alexan and Erlein to be equal debate. For me he failed miserably in portraying that – there could be no equal debate between somebody who enslaved the person and that person, because they are not in equal positions of power in my view. So did I need to read Kay’s explanation of what he intended? As I said I was curious, but did it change my views on the characters? Absolutely not, only made me think that author failed his task for this reader, so maybe if I have not read it, I would have thought that it was the intent to show Alexan being an ass. I am trying to say that maybe sometimes it is better to stay completely quiet? I dont know.

  26. Amy
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:30:52

    I don’t even understand why an author would go in search of a review. The book has been written and released to the public–it’s too late to benefit from feedback from random strangers. Either they’re looking to get their egos stroked, or they’re looking to get their feelings hurt. Either way, they could benefit from a little less time spent googling themselves.

    I dislike it when any business/product/brand pops up in a conversation on Twitter just because its name was mentioned. You had your chance to make an impression at the time of service. Now it’s my turn to share my experience, be it good or bad. I suggest putting a little less effort into damage control and a little more into doing a good job in the first place.

  27. joanne
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:32:14

    @Patricia Rice: I’d say what we have here is readers saying they’d rather hunt authors then vice versa Yes, this! Write the book and then if it’s good – or damn close – readers will find you and pass the word. Nora didn’t become la Nora after her first (god-awful) romance novel. She wrote and wrote and wrote and readers found her.

    Also authors being visible is not the same as authors trolling sites to get their names in the game. And authors commenting on their favorite sites is not the same as authors appearing on EVERY site. (by the way, when do those authors actually write?)

    I just love the dickens out of Meljean and Nalini! Such intelligent women make romancelandia a wonderful place.

  28. dick
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:33:46

    As a reader, I’m interested only in what resulted from the creative act. Authors, like deities, ought to be known only by their works.

  29. Charlotte Stein
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:37:57

    I will always thank a reviewer if they took the time to read my book – whether their response was good or bad. I want them to know that I appreciate them choosing and assessing my book. I also enjoy interacting with readers on Twitter and in email – if they want to interact with me, or maybe if they’ve made a nice comment and I want to thank them.

    However – I definitely don’t agree with stomping all over reviews with the old “you just didn’t understand”. Always a mistake, and not just because it’s rude. It’ll invariably get you into an argument, and no matter how polite you’ve been, or how wrong the reviewer may or may not have been, you’ll come off looking worse. All authors should learn that lesson and learn it fast, because it can ruin reputations. No one likes a petty Betty (even if the intention was the opposite of that).

    One last thing: if I get an email from you or Dear Author, Jane, I’m always psyched. Positive or negative (or terrified by my my human centipede joke), it’s always lovely to get something from a site like this one.

  30. Keishon
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:38:56

    As for author interaction: I only care about insight into the story or characters that is being discussed in relation to the review. I don’t care to hear about “intent” or what they were trying to do, etc. I agree that each reader brings their own worldview and experiences and beliefs to what they read – rightly or wrongly. Thinking about it some more, reviews are not the best place for author/reader discussions. I agree with someone upthread, have the writer do a post on behind the scenes of the book and provide insight, intent, etc and allow readers to respond in that way. That’s all.

  31. Darlynne
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:40:49

    Author comments in a reader review, imo, get along like a house on fire: as Terry Pratchett said, there may be no survivors.

    Inviting an author to an on-line discussion or reprinting a private discussion with permission is entirely different and welcome. The ground rules are, for the most part, set and everyone usually behaves well. Those are the only circumstances under which I am comfortable when the discussion involves the review of a book. For everything else, I’ll go to the author’s website.

  32. Jeannie
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:45:03

    I think it’s a fine line for the author to walk, whether or not to comment on reviews, and if they do choose to comment then it had better be respectful and to the point. I’ve seen several authors post comments on reviews of their work, both here on DA, and over at SBTB. A nice “thank you for taking the time to review my book” is sufficient if they feel the absolute need to comment. Where you light a firestorm is when you feel the need to defend your work, i.e. Tymber Dalton.

    As an author I can sort of sympathize with the need to defend (doesn’t mean I’m going to act on it). Your books are like your babies and you don’t want them to be bullied or picked on on the playground. You’ve poured your heart and soul and time into it, so how can you not feel some sort of emotional attachment? At least for me anyway. But at the same time, if you choose to defend, you’d better be prepared for the backlash ’cause it’s a comin’. Just like I have the right to put my words on paper, whoever reads those words has the right to their opinion of them.

    I agree with @Teddypig. Your own blog or website is the place to do the “explaining”. If readers want to find out more or seek out information from the author, what better place to do so than the author’s domain.

  33. Courtney Milan
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 09:54:12

    As a general rule, once I put a book out there, what the book means, and what it means to readers, is sort of open territory. It’s not mine any longer. It’s yours.

    I love when books of mine provoke discussions, and I would hate to see discussion curtailed by my stepping in.

    But this last book gave me hives, because there was interaction between my lawyer and author hats. I worried about whether or how much anyone might read in to the book about what I was trying to say about cases that I have been involved with. There are some confidences that I am ethically obligated to keep. So I worried that if someone pontificated on my behalf a little too far, I’d be required to step in and say, “No, I didn’t mean that, I wasn’t talking about that.”

    But this has never happened–the speculation would have to be pretty specific to cross that line (something like, “Courtney was involved in X case; she is saying Y was lying!”)–and I’ve realized all my nights of worrying on that score were pointless.

  34. Courtney Milan
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:04:32


    Uh, there are other reasons to read reviews besides the two you mention.

    1. As a promotional matter, authors use positive reviews of books: to sell their books to the public, and to sell future books to editors.

    2. To see if there are general, fixable, complaints. It’s not like I write one book and that’s it. I’ve had people call me out on stuff in earlier books that I looked at and said, “Huh, I do that a lot. I hadn’t noticed.”

    3. To see how people react to things that I worry about when writing the book. There are some things that I thought I really couldn’t–shouldn’t–do in a romance novel, that I have never had anyone mention in a review–ever. If I didn’t read reviews, ever, I wouldn’t know how much of a nonissue all my worrying was. Reading reviews has allowed me to be braver as an author than I would have been if I solely relied on author scuttlebutt about what can and can’t be done.

    4. To see how people are taking the books. Are people taking things as I intended? If not, I am failing to get my intent across–so why is that? Where did I go wrong? What can I do to improve? How do I get better in subsequent books?

    I add:

    5. Now that I’m in control of the file that’s uploaded, if someone mentions a typographical error in a review, I can fix it.

  35. JenniferRNN
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:04:32

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the use of the word fail in this discussion. If I don’t get what an author means to convey, I don’t think the author failed (in any way). Neither do I think I failed because I read something differently than the author hoped or differently than other readers. This line of argument tends to suggest that there is only one right way to read and interpret a book. I find that the best discussions happen when there are many divergent reactions, opinions, and/or views.

    This was why I hated reading “literature” in high school (and still hate it) – and probably why I turned to reading romance novels instead. I never got what the teachers told me I was supposed to from books. I might have enjoyed the books more if I was allowed to process them the way I needed to.

  36. tripoli
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:08:15

    What irks me is when reviewers go off on a book and blame both the author and editor for not custom tailoring the book to their personal expectations. Rather than saying “this didn’t work for me,” or “this particular aspect didn’t appeal to me,” they go off on the “bad editing” or the author “dropping the ball,” even though other readers and reviewers might have had no problem with or even liked that aspect of the story. There is way too much Monday-morning authoring/editing going on out there that is presented as authority rather than as subjective opinion.

  37. Sarah Morgan
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:12:49

    @Mireya your point about authors saying ‘you didn’t understand my story at all’ really resonates with me because I remember discussing an early draft with my editor right at the beginning of my career and saying ‘but I meant this’ and she responded ‘well it’s in your head, but it’s not on the page’ and I’ve never forgotten that. And that is the skill of writing, and the responsibility of the author, to take that image that is so clear in your head and get it down on the page so that it is equally clear to readers.

    But still it is true that readers bring part of themselves to every book, which is why reading is such an individual experience and why an author will never universally please everyone, however much they would wish to. As a reader I’m always interested in the thought behind the story, but I don’t think that’s true of all readers, nor do I believe that understanding the author’s intention alters the reading experience. If a book doesn’t work for a reader it probably still won’t work even after discussion.

    I love talking about books, both my own and others, but I’ve largely stopped commenting on reviews because most readers don’t seem to like it and I do believe that the reader has a right to chat freely without the author hovering like a mosquito. Having said that I’m always happy to discuss any aspect of a book, regardless of whether the reader/reviewer opinion is positive or negative, and have done so frequently in response to emails. I think the author’s job is to write the best book they can. If the reader wants to discuss it further then they will usually make contact.

  38. Tamara Hogan
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:16:50

    I think there’s more downside than upside for everyone concerned when an author injects themselves into a review discussion. Yeah, it can be absolutely maddening when a reviewer claims to “know” my intent, or states their opinion as fact, but… their opinion is their opinion., and they’re entitled to it.

  39. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:17:06

    @JenniferRNN: Sorry, when I use the word “failed”, I mean that author did not convey her intent to me, to this one reader, obviously author may have conveyed her intent to many many other readers. Of course there are many ways to interpret the book and each reader may offer a different one and there is no right or wrong one, but while I applaud and appreciate the authors who want to see those different interpretations, surely when they wrote the book they have something specific in mind? So when I did not get that from their books, that was the meaning of the word “fail” I used, thats all. Sorry esl speaker here :)

    For example, sometime ago in one of the reviews on Wave’s site reviewer commented that one of the characters came off as distant to her and she wished to know the character better (paraphrase) If I remember correctly this was not an entirely positive comment about the said character. Author chose to interject and explain that character meant to be distant because of his upbringing, etc, etc. I am paraphrasing here, I think I am summarizing exchange correctly though. Was author being rude? Not in the slightest, but for me it was a great example of reviewer getting one thing from the characterization and author meaning a different one. Would I say that author failed to convey his intent? Yes, I would say he did for this specific reviewer. It is not a bad thing, but thats how I used the word. Another thing, while author brought some additional stuff which book was based on, simply because readers may not have known it, it still felt to me that he was trying (probably unintentionally) to justify how the character was written and I could do without such justification.

  40. Sunita
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:17:27

    As a reviewer I have no problem with authors commenting on my reviews of their books. When asked, I always say I’m happy to have them join the conversation. I reviewed a book by Jo Beverley and she corrected a mistake I’d made in the review. I appreciated that, but it sounds as if most readers would prefer that authors not comment, so I should make that clearer when authors ask.

    What I really don’t like is fellow authors coming in to “defend” the author when she’s received a critical or negative review. I like it when authors comment from a reader perspective, because then we’ve essentially got a debate among readers, some of whom happen to be authors as well. But when they’re providing rebuttals and clarification from an author viewpoint? No thanks.

    Books aren’t authors’ babies. Yeah, they take months or years to gestate and the process of bringing them into the world can be traumatic. But the analogy stops there. Babies need care, feeding, and socialization until they’re long past babyhood and can manage for themselves. Books are out of the authors’ hands once they’re printed and sold.

    Reading is an interactive process. How could any reader’s interpretation be illegitimate as long as it’s sincere? Even if the interpretation is unequivocally wrong, e.g., Wuthering Heights is really a coded message to the Knights Templar, the reader still has the right to assert it.

  41. Jane
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:19:50

    @Tamara Hogan I think that the reviewer claiming to know the intent is the result of truncated writing. I was taught to eliminate all “I think” and “I believe” from my writing. In order to be persuasive, everything is stated as fact. The author did x and conveyed y. The implication is that the writer believes that the author did x and conveyed y, but the “I believe” isn’t written in because that isn’t how you write persuasively. I have had to consciously include “I think” or “to me” phrases in reviews but it is actually against how I’ve been trained to write.

  42. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:24:16

    @tripoli: Of course there are no objective reviews and every review is just a one person’s opinion, but for me to say that the book did not meet their expectations is one thing, and to say that the author dropped the ball, point out bad editing is a different one. Obviously I do not like when reviewer criticizes the book , because the different book should have been written in her head and was not, but while your opinions and mine may differ on what bad editing was, I will definitely say so if I think the book was badly edited, and that will be my opinion. If the reviewer says for example that “Hunger games” trilogy did not end the way they wanted to – Katniss did not picked a right boy, or it was just too sad and depressing for them and they expected more cheerful ending, I will roll my eyes and discard such reviews. If the reviewer is not happy with the third book because she thinks that characters acted out of character in comparison with the first two books, that storylines were dropped and/or not tied up by the end of the book, I will respect such review much more, but of course the second review is also subjective and many people will disagree with it, I just do not find it problematic. IMO of course.

  43. Sunita
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:25:28

    @Jane: I was just thinking about this. I have to take out the “I think” and “for me” phrases because my writing is always too wishy-washy in my early drafts.

    When I refer to an author’s intention (and I try not to do that in book reviews because I know the authors is likely to be reading and it may come across in a way I didn’t mean), it’s basically an inference. In academic writing when you talk about the author’s intention what you’re understood to be doing is inferring from the words on the page what the author meant to assert/argue/hypothesize/etc. It doesn’t mean you’re in the author’s head or think you know everything. It’s just shorthand for “this is what I got from the words I read.”

  44. JenniferRNN
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:26:00

    @Sirius: I completely understand. The word fail appears in several comments, and I’m trying to figure out if people really think authors, reviewers or readers can really fail when they are being sincere in their reactions.

  45. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:27:38

    @Sunita: Yep, I do prefer that authors would not comment on my reviews which are positive or negative, absolutely. I had some nice exchanges with some authors in private after positive reviews, but I would never seek them out , you know? I will of course thank them if they thank me on the review, but I would rather not.

    Although, with one qualifier, if I made a factual mistake, I want and urge the author to correct me, I will apologize and try to correct it asap.

  46. Jane
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:29:19

    @Sirius Thank yous have always made me feel uncomfortable because I didn’t write a positive review for the author, but because I loved the book. Thanking me implies I did the author some kind of favor.

  47. Dani Alexander
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:30:14

    @Sunita: I completely agree with you Sunita and may I also add a ditto to @Courtney Milan: All reviews would be an opportunity to improve my writing. When reviewers say something positive, I know I’ve struck a chord and I’ll want to expand and continue along that note. Likewise if a fair amount of reviewers find something negative, it’s a brilliant opportunity to review my own work and improve it.

    I would be amazed if there is an author who reads reviews for ego stroking. I can’t imagine them doing so. Even if one hundred reviewers love your story, there’s always a percentage of readers who hated it and will rip it to shreds. And those negative reviews really resonate. Trust me. Whoa do they resonate.

  48. erinf1
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:35:33

    Very thought provoking post!

    I agree with almost all the other comments. This is a slippery slope and I’ve seen flamewars started over tone and even less by authors and their supporters. So… I’m very hesitant to say that it would be good to include authors in comments about reviews of their books.

    As a reader, and only a reader, I don’t necessarily need a technical explanation of the writing/technique/tone/editing, but I do enjoy reviews that thoughtfully and thoroughly delve into a book. I don’t always agree and I don’t base my buying on these reviews, but it does prompt me to at least go and look at the book if I hadn’t before. On the flip side, as a reader, I’m also greedy for more info about books I like. However, in that respect, I go looking for the info, and I think that is key. Appropriate time/place/venue. Review sites really aren’t appropriate unless it’s an invited/planned interview. I love reading comments and I think they would suffer if we knew that the author could chime in at any time. Intrinsically people don’t want to hurt someone elses’ feelings and I think that that alone would curb a lot of the honest opinions we find in the comments.

  49. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:41:52

    @Jane: Thats exactly it Jane, I could not quite figure out why positive thanks make me uncomfortable, you nailed it – it feels as if I did writer’s a favor and it really was not my intention.

  50. asha
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:44:05

    As a side effect of authors making themselves at home in “reader” places, once it appears that Author X is a Friend O’ The Site, the integrity of the site becomes questionable. You can say “We’re for readers!” all you want, but when 3/4 of the comments are by authors openly using the site as a vehicle for self-promotion, it doesn’t ring true.

  51. erinf1
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:49:01

    @asha — exactly. Not that I think that reviews are completely biase free, but I do want to know that I’m reading a “review” and not just a cheerleading, pat on the back for a friend. That is a waste of my time and to me is useless. I also believe that there is still a level of professionalism that still needs to be maintained and unfortunately, some blogs don’t always promote this.

  52. Jeannie
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:52:54

    @Sunita Sorry if you didn’t like my analogy but as long as it has my words in it and my name on the cover, there will always be an attachment to it. I realize it may be out of my hands once it’s published but who do you think reader’s are going to take issue with if they don’t like something inside it? The publisher? The editor? Um, no. Same goes if they like what I wrote. I want to hear from them. I’ll be happy to discuss, albeit through my website, not a comment thread beneath a review.

  53. anon
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:00:01

    I tend to agree with Courtney regarding author interaction about reviews. I’d rather watch and listen and learn.

    Every author, just like every reader, takes reviews in a different way. Most of us get both good and bad, and we handle them in different ways. The best review I ever had was only three stars and the reviewer basically said it was a nice, harmless book that will never win any awards, but he enjoyed reading it. And this was exactly what I had intended readers to get from the book. We all don’t set out to write for the National Book Award. Some of us just want to entertain people with quiet, simple books, so that we can have the ability to write more quiet, simple books. And nothing feels better than when a reviewer “gets” what we did…even if it’s not a five star review.

  54. P. Kirby
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:04:34

    I think Jane’s interactions with Singh and Lin worked because, A) the authors’ responses were NOT defensive or argumentative and B), because they were part of a (polite) conversation between two people. Unfortunately, tone is a difficult thing, and it’s very easy for an author to come off as defensive. I imagine this tendency would be exacerbated if the discussion were to take place in a public forum.

    So, in general, I don’t think authors should interject themselves into a review discussion.

  55. Thea Harrison
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:08:27

    I’ve read this post and the comments with great interest. My return to writing this year and introduction to working and interacting in social media has meant that I’ve made a few stumbles.

    I did comment on the first one or two reviews to say thank you, but then I read a thoughtful piece from someone who said how that kind of thing can stifle reader reaction. Once I’d read it the point seemed obvious, and now I definitely think reviews should be off limits for authors. Now the only blogs I comment on are those where I have a guest piece or an interview that has been posted, and then I post a public thank you.

    Mandi brings up another excellent point. I have also tried to comment to those who @ me on Twitter, because I’ve seen it as an invitation to join in a conversation, and for me the point of Twitter is to be social and interact with readers. However not everybody in a Twitter conversation may have agreed with the @ or be comfortable with the interaction. Thanks, Mandi.

    I like interacting with readers and enjoy answering reader emails and questions. I also respond to postings on my Facebook page, and I was invited to and participated in my first Goodreads chat earlier this month. On an expanded website that I hope to have up and running soon, I will also have a blog page. These specific places seem to be the the appropriate venues for authors to interact with readers.

  56. anon
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:18:07

    “I don’t know whom I’ve offended with strongly worded reviews and I don’t want any one to feel like they need to be nice or gracious to me if I’ve hurt their feelings.”

    Most authors don’t feel this way. (Well, maybe new authors might.) But seasoned authors have been through it all before, they know they will go through it all again eventually, and they move on. Besides, bad reviews can help as much as they can than hurt. Readers often balance the good reviews with the bad while shopping for books, especially nowadays with e-book prices varying so widely. The only reviews that really hurt are mediocre. As a reader, there’s nothing I shy away from more than a book with a long list of two and three star reviews. As an author, I’ve had books like this and they never sell.

  57. Lada
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:19:38

    @tripoli: I disagree. There are times when bad writing/editing get in the way of my enjoyment of a story. I may be able to appreciate the character and plot development but I’m ultimately not going to like the book if something about the writing/editing bothered me enough to pull me out of the story. I think that is valid information for reviewers to include in their reviews.

    And the whole point of a review is to share what worked and didn’t for the reviewer. If a review is thorough and well presented, I will be able to tell whether the same things may bother me or not.

  58. tripoli
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:32:34

    Yes, that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about – like when a book doesn’t end the way you’d hoped it would, NOT typos or continuity errors, etc. And of course it’s the job of the reviewer to point out things that didn’t work for them, but it’s when the reviewer (or reader) might say, as per your example, the book should have ended in such-and-such a way period or it was a failure that it bothers me — even when I might secretly agree. But oh well – I guess that’s what makes reviews interesting to read. And the funny thing is, I freely admit I’m much more likely to read a bad review than I am a good one! So what does that say about me? lol – Maybe it’s true what they say, that there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

  59. jayhjay
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:37:59

    I actually don’t mind author interaction under some circumstances. I recently wrote a review where I brought up a point I didn’t really understand and the author added a comment explaining it. I don’t think that necessarily changes my opinion of a book, but I did like having the issue explained. And as a blog host I think readers sometimes like to “chat” with the authors in the comments.

    But I think there is a way it can be done right and ways it can be done wrong. The author I mentioned wasn’t argumentative or adversarial in any way. She just told me what she had intended and it helped me understand the conflict and resolution a bit better. Had she (or any author) come in guns blazing complaining about the review or suggesting my lack of understanding was my fault or whatever, that have been a different story.

  60. Kim
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:40:11

    I don’t mind it when an author comments on a review. However, when they do, I think readers are probably a little more diplomatic in their opinions. I’ve often wondered if authors mind getting an email question about their book. Is the question itself taken as implied criticism?

  61. DS
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:44:10

    This is the third time I’ve tried to post this since 8:30 am. Things just keep happening that require my attention. If many other people have covered these comments my apologies.

    A historical prospective: for (what at least seemed like) ages there were few public online places where readers could meet and discuss books without authors peering over their shoulders– and it wasn’t just romance. There were some notable author meltdowns on one mystery listserve I belonged to. Not to mention constant promo from authors and hoards of attacking fan girls. Much like later with J. R. Ward there were authors who were rarely mentioned because the discussion would be flooded with posters looking to defend the author from the least little criticism.

    One thing I loved about DA and SBTB was the definition that this was, except when otherwise designated, a reader’s space. I think it’s important to have a space where readers feel ok to discuss their own ideas about a book and maybe those ideas are totally off the wall, but I don’t think that the writer’s intention is nearly as important as the reader’s perception of the work. .

  62. Kelly L.
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:44:37

    @Tripoli, there really is such a thing as bad editing in a non-subjective sense, such as glaring spelling and grammar errors or continuity issues. A little more subjectively but still mechanical, there was a book I read that just came off as weirdly chopped up; a couple of really important occurrences were mentioned only after the fact, and I think there had originally been scenes for those but that they’d been cut. If I say “bad editing,” it’s usually mechanical rather than a personal taste issue.

  63. Charlotte Stein
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:48:29


    I don’t think I’ve ever said thank you for a review because I feel I’ve been done a favour. Or at least, I hope not! Mainly I appreciate someone taking the time to read and review, but I also see it a bit like saying thank you if someone says your dress is nice or something along those lines…it’s just politeness, I guess.

  64. anon
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:56:00


    But you and Jane and other reviewers do a great favor, from a writer’s point of view. Do you know how incredibly difficult it is to get any kind of attention for your work (especially the longer-lasting attention provided by a review?) Readers have so many choices in fiction; we’re all but drowning in it. So when you choose a certain writer’s work to read and review, it DOES often feel like a favor, because you’ve made the struggle to be noticed just a little bit easier. How can we not thank you for that?

  65. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:56:49

    @Charlotte Stein: I am not Jane, and of course cannot speak for her, but when I feel that way, it is totally my issue, regardless of what author intended with the public thank you. I have spoken with few authors in private, who come out as very kind, very sweet people and I could not sense a slightest attempt of influence the possible future reviews or anything like that.

    And I still will be uncomfortable with public thanks even from those few authors, because thats my issue, not theirs.

  66. JL
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 12:02:12

    Hmm, such an interesting debate!
    I can’t say I’ve ever felt weird about seeing an author stop by to say ‘thanks for the review’, whether positive or negative. Usually because it ends there. And sometimes it doesn’t end there but results in hilarity (see or that actually ends up getting me to read a book.

    As for debate in a review, that’s a no-no, of course. But I don’t mind author blogs where they give insight into their books, or authors who also see themselves as readers and comment respectfully elsewhere. With all the authors behaving badly in the world, I appreciate when I see authors behaving well. In fact, I’ve bought books by authors (Jill Sorenson, Jennifer Estep, to name a few) simply because I’ve really liked their on-line personalities and thought, hey, I’ll give them a shot.

    I guess what it comes down to is that if an author means well in their on-line interactions, even if they stumble along the way, they’ll be perceived positively by the majority. It’s a complex minefield out there, I’m willing to give someone slack for overstepping if they aren’t being a douche about it.

  67. Praxidike
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 12:21:57

    I’m always interested to see what authors think about reviews of their books and how they respond to criticism. I am a lawyer, and I write all the time and I frequently get feedback/criticism on my writing. It only ever improves my writing, and even though it can sometimes sting, it is invariably helpful. That seems to be what Courtney Milan and other authors are saying above, and I can believe that it’s true.

    I’m curious why having an author on a site would chill commentary on a book. For example, I read Nalini Singh’s books and I know she reads here (and I think she also comments). I’ve never been bashful about mentioning that I think some of her writing style is offputting to me. Just because you’re saying something negative about a book and the author might see and respond doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to your opinion or thoughts about the book. If Nalini Singh wanted to engage in a dialogue with me about why she does that certain thing I dislike, I would happily have that discussion.

    Ultimately, I can see why authors are reluctant to get involved or discuss reviews of their books. I would much rather see their commentary than not, but that is because I do enjoy knowing the intent behind the story. Maybe I’m thinking too much like a lawyer here, but if legislative intent is important to the interpretation of a statute (and it is, trust me), then authorial intent (while not at all dispositive) can be instructive in the interpretation of a book. Authorial intent probably won’t change my opinion about a book, mind you. But knowing it and understanding it can be very helpful.

    ETA: And yes, “I think”, “In my mind”, and any other language like that is essentially useless. As my legal writing professor once told me – and as I tell my current students – no one cares what you think.

  68. Mary G
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 12:32:11

    I agree with Teddypig too but would love if it could be in the review comments myself if it wasn’t used as a selling tool or a defence. I find it so fascinating and such a pleasure as opposed to our high school years with English teachers marking us wrong if we didn’t get what some long dead poet or writer meant in his work.
    I also think it suits more for something generally not understood about the work, not things understood but readers disagreed with.

  69. Mireya
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 12:54:01

    @tripoli: when I was still reviewing, at one point I was also reading every single review coming out from the review team for editing. I was never the sort to just edit typos or awkward sentence construction. Many times over I did return reviews to have them rewritten or reworded, because the reviewer was basically telling the author how she should have written the book under the guise of “bad editing”. I am not an author, but even as just a reader, that is a line that should not be crossed. Ever. Sadly, this is something that I continue seeing in different venues online.

  70. Ridley
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:09:13

    @tripoli: When an author info dumps, too obviously sequel baits or includes extraneous plot lines that go nowhere, I’m going to call that out in my review as poor editing. If an author builds a character up one way, say over a number of earlier books, then suddenly writes them in a completely different, inconsistent way, I’m going to say she “dropped the ball.”

    That these things didn’t bother other readers is none of my concern. I’m writing from my perspective, not theirs.

  71. DS
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:22:44

    @Ridley: As a reader these are things I want to know about a book before I invest my time and money in it. And frankly I begrudge the time more than the money these days

  72. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:46:35

    @Ridley: agreed, it is not like if I will say that the author dropped the ball, I am a final authority on that and anybody is obligated to agree with me, but it definitely will be my honest opinion that she did indeed dropped the ball. Honestly, I think it is all in the wording in the review to be able to write it as your honest subjective opinion about the book which was written, versus castigating the author for the book she did not write and should have written in your opinion (as I said, when I perceive that this is what the reviewer does, I roll eyes and move on).

    For example, I think one of the trickiest arguments to support would be the claim that the characters are acting of character in the last (or whatever part) of the series as contrasting to how they acted earlier. I mean, characters often grow and change, character who consistently exhibited the certain behavioral traits in previous books may have changed, had an epihany, just simply grew up. If author always meant to take the character to the certain places, even though it is different from previous books, to me that does not mean acting out of character. Like I would never agree for example that Katniss acted out of character in the last book of Hunger Games, or that Harry Potter acted out of character in the last book of the series. But if you can support the argument that there is no way that characters would act the certain way, sure I think it is just as valid argument to raise as any. IMO of course.

  73. Angie
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:53:31

    I agree that it’s generally best for a writer to stay out of readers’ discussions. I don’t even comment anymore on good reviews; I used to post a thank you or something, but I’ve stopped because I don’t want my presence in the thread to make someone change their mind about posting a later comment that might’ve been critical.

    There are some authors who’ll pop up like a jack-in-the-box whenever someone mentions their work, all gushing thank-yous and squeals. Which is nice so far as it goes, but I’ve seen discussions shift after the author appears. Some people who have issues with a book will sharpen their claws and dive right in, but many readers just don’t want to engage with an author if they have critical comments. If the author shows up to take a bow in a discussion thread, and particularly if they keep popping up over and over and over to thank each individual person who posted praise, people who had critical comments to make will often drift away, or at least shift to lurker mode. I’ve seen some previously interesting discussions devolve into just a series of rah-rah from the most enthused fans, and “Oh thank you so much!” from the author, until it sounds like an infomercial.

    I’d rather readers feel free to discuss my stories openly. If someone has an issue, I want to hear about it. I might not end up agreeing, but it’s all data and I’m interested in seeing all of it.

    And I love getting e-mail. :)


  74. Ridley
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:54:12

    @Sirius: You know what? It’s the author’s job to sell a personality change to me. It’s as valid a bone to pick at as any other when reviewing.

    What some call “Monday morning quarterbacking” I consider “pointing out inconsistencies/uneven writing.” Like books themselves, not every review style works for everyone.

  75. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:58:46

    @Ridley: Eh I was agreeing with you. I was giving an example of what argument would be hard for me to advance, but I will argue it if I feel that I can prove it. I dont get what are you arguing with. Yes, not every review style works for everybody, most definitely.

  76. Sirius
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 14:07:05

    @Ridley: Oh and thanks for teaching me new idiom, never heard of this expression before, went to look it up and now I do.

  77. nearhere
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 14:21:52

    Funny that this discussion came up today. This morning I read a review for a book that I have been greatly looking forward to. The reviewer gave the book a very low score and raised some very specific points about what she disliked. I hope that the author does respond to this review, not to defend her choices, but to explain what she thinks of the reviewer’s criticisms. I think I might even email the author to see what she thinks because I really would like to know how she responds!

    I think the problem with author interaction is when they get defensive rather about their books instead of engaging in an interesting dialogue.

  78. Lynn Raye Harris
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 14:58:36

    I rarely comment on reviews, though when I was first published I loved to thank readers for trying my books. I don’t do that anymore because I realize that my presence in the thread will stifle the conversation. I am still thankful, but I keep it to myself.

    I actually love to talk about books, and even about my books, but there isn’t much opportunity to do so as the author.

    I was an English major before I was an author, so being able to discuss elements of a book abstractly, even mine, is not foreign to me. Whatever I meant or didn’t mean by what I wrote, it’s not my place to decide what the reader took from it.

    In fact, I just had a fascinating (and wonderful) exchange with a professor of history at Purdue. She used my Harlequin Presents novella, “Kept For the Sheikh’s Pleasure” in one of her classes on perceptions of the Middle East. She got permission from a student to forward that student’s paper to me — and boy did my portrayal of the modern ME get torn to shreds. But I was *thrilled*. It was humbling and awesome to see a student do to my work what I used to do to the authors I read when I was still in school.

    It wasn’t that I’d written anything blatantly wrong. It was the words, the symbols, the picture I drew which reinforced certain beliefs. And I thought I was being progressive and portraying my sheikh as a human being and his country as just another place.

    I don’t agree with everything that paper said, but I sure do see where the student was coming from. It was her perception and she backed it up really well with my own words. Those are the kinds of discussions I would love to have with readers, if they wanted to talk to me about my work. It was *awesome*. (Not that anyone has to find reasons in the text, the way she did. Reader response was always one of my favorite critical theories.)

    I would love to interact with readers, but will only do so when asked. I’m a reader too, and I know that author input is not required for my experience to be authentic. But yeah, I’m here if you want to ask me about my books. And if you don’t, I’ll sit quietly.

  79. Julie James
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 16:17:10

    Like several other authors above have said, I used to comment when bloggers reviewed my book simply to say thank you. I appreciated that the reviewer took the time to read and review my book and wanted to express that appreciation. But I, too, have stopped doing this because I’ve realized that my dropping by the blog could possibly curtail discussion among readers.

    I do, however, think that the idea of a separate post in which an author is invited to discuss certain issues regarding the book is a good one. Sort of a behind-the-scenes look for those who are interested–like the “extras” on a DVD.

  80. Maili
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 16:18:15

    I’m torn between ‘It depends on each review blog; don’t do it if one doesn’t welcome author interaction and feel free to try if one does’ and ‘Author interaction? No thanks!’

    I think the latter stems from – as @DS mentions above – having to deal with authors and their hordes of fans stomping on readers and reviewers who dared to say anything than “This is the best I ever read!”

    I came to resent authors’ seemingly innocuous thank-you notes because it was generally understood that all those were a subtle warning: “I’m here and watching, so play nice”. That was some authors’ favourite method of controlling reader space back then.

    I don’t view authors’ presence that way nowadays, though, because most authors are generally different now, thank god. In spite of this, I still find a polite thank-you note more off-putting than an unsolicited clarification. That’s more to do with its association with unpleasant memories than author’s intention, though. I do wonder if that’s the reason why a discussion dies when author’s thank-you note comes through?

    Regardless, it depends on each review blog or forum, doesn’t it? In short: lurk to get the feel of a place before making a response.

  81. Jennie
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 16:22:56

    When I address authorial intent in reviews, it’s generally because I’m confused or bothered by something in a book. I don’t ever pretend to *know* an author’s intent, but sometimes I have ideas about what I *think* the author was going for. For instance, in the latest Joanna Bourne, I felt like the author made choices that deliberately made the heroine weaker than the hero (though no one seems to agree with me on that, which is fine). As is often the case, I chalked it up to romance genres conventions – the hero is favored a bit (by the author and presumably the reader) over the heroine, and the hero is expected to assert some mastery over the heroine. So I am assuming that the story is written a certain way to please the average reader.

    Is it wrong for me to assume I know the author’s intent? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m not just doing it to be an asshole – I’m addressing something that bothers me, and furthermore why it bothers me (my belief that romance still tends to be rather conventionally sexist in a lot of ways). I think I need to acknowledge my assumptions about the author’s intent to give context to why I feel what I feel.

    Other times I am genuinely unsure and trying to work through in a review why the author made certain choices. In my review of “Forbidden”, earlier this year, I couldn’t reconcile the grim, depressing depiction of a couple of incestuous siblings with the romantic, unrealistic cast that the characters themselves (it was told in the first person) placed on their relationship. First person narratives can give me fits because if the narrator is unreliable, I do need some sort of clue that the author means the narrator’s POV to be unreliable. I didn’t get that in “Forbidden” – the characters’ romanticized view of their dysfunction was presented in such a straightforward manner, it seemed impossible to me that they were not meant to be not just sympathetic, but RIGHT – right in their views of the world and their choices. Which was unacceptable to me, not because I am so morally outraged by incest, but because the brother and sister seemed so clearly (to me) to be not just incredibly damaged but incredibly delusional. Authorial intent ended up playing a big part in my decision to give the book an F. I don’t see how I could have justified the grade without addressing it.

  82. Kate Hewitt
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 16:39:02

    A fascinating discussion, and I agree with many of the authors and readers who have posted. Like others, I used to post a thank you for a review, not because it was a favor to me, but because I appreciate an honest opinion. However, I’ve stopped doing that for the same reason as others cited, that it stifles reader discussion. I wish I could respond more as a reader on certain sites, but it’s difficult when people see you as author first, reader second. And I have to agree with Courtney Milan who gave her many reasons for reading reviews of her books. I’ve learned a lot about my own writing style and how people perceive my books through reading reviews, even the over-the-top rants. A thoughtful, negative review is a great learning tool.

  83. Kate Pearce
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 19:07:33

    I try not to comment on reviews of my books anymore. If I have a burning need to explain why I wrote something the way I did, I write a blog, stick it on my website and if readers are interested they might come across it and find it interesting or not.
    My problem as a writer is that I just love to communicate LOL I just want to sit down with every single person who reads one of my books and share the experience with them, good or bad. (I know crazy)
    But if readers email me with specific questions, I will always happily answer them. I’ve just learned there is a time and a place to do it.

  84. Author on Vacation
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 21:29:54

    I write books, I am published, and I am a devout bookworm and reviewer.

    I will never understand the unofficial gag order on authors responding to reviews. I’ve written many less than complimentary reviews and no author has ever voiced a grievance. I suspect the reason is they feel I was fair to their work.

    It’s really that simple, folks. If you read the book, understood the book, and articulate clearly what didn’t work for you and why, an objective author won’t resent you for it. Not saying there aren’t authors lacking objectivity, but I often find the reviewers screaming the loudest about author harrassment have little, if any, actual substance to their complaints.

    Like many authors, I no longer respond to reviews publicly or privately. For me, that was part of the fun of being epublished, it seemed epublished authors enjoyed much closer, less formal interaction with their audiences.

  85. Andrea
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 21:39:40

    Readers come to my blog/twitter/FB page if they want to talk to me. I know that some readers even find an author clicking “Like” on a Goodreads review a little uncomfortable. The only easy exception is a prior relationship with the reviewer.

    I _might_ comment on a review if it had a big factual error (ie. review says book contains X when there is no X in book), but even then I’d probably let it pass unless there was a compelling reason to clear that up.

  86. Michelle Hughes
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 21:46:46

    I actually love discussing why I made certain decisions in my books concerning characters. Truth be told I just love to talk period so that might make a difference. My characters have been in my dreams for 25 years so I’m not going to be influenced by others opinions when it comes to how they should react to certain situations, that being said I definitely don’t mind explaining why they do the things they do.

    I respond to negative reviews because I don’t want to leave a reader with a bad impression. It’s okay if you don’t like my book. My books aren’t for everyone they have a specific theme and certain characteristics that just don’t let certain readers go to their happy place. I have gone as far as to recommend another series to a reader once I discover what it was they didn’t enjoy about my book. I’ve read books that just didn’t do it for me and it has nothing to do with the authors skill. So I actually understand that mindset and don’t get upset if someone wants to throw my book under the nearest moving train.

    On the flip side I love the readers who enjoy what I do. I think they are the coolest people in the world and I go out of my way to get to know them better. If you are into my books then we probably have a lot in common and that’s always a great feeling. Shutting up now because like I said earlier I love to talk.

  87. Kristie (J)
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 22:19:13

    I love interaction with authors but NOT when it comes to reviews, particularly reviews on their own books. The trouble as I see it, is we aren’t sitting next to the author as they are typing away. Therefore it’s very easy to misjudge what they are trying to say. They could be saying something they consider very tongue in cheek, but it might not come across that way and then other posters get all defensive, lines are drawn, misunderstanding ensue and all hell can break loose – all because we can’t see the intent of the original authors comment on a review.

    On the other hand, for authors to post on an entirely different topic, well I love it when that happens.

  88. Marc
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 22:57:03

    I am normally a lurker but I felt compelled to chime in.

    Being an author is a job, it might also be a passion, but it is a job. Jobs require reviews. Not all reviews are positive, regardless of whether they are for your job or your book, but they stimulate growth if taken in the proper context. Feedback, of all kinds, is vital. All sun or all rain will kill the plant, there needs to be balance for the plant to flourish. I think authors should be aware of what is being said about their works but when deciding whether to comment or not they should keep in mind that their target audience is watching how they present themselves and that can make or break them in the end. I think the tone of the author response determines quality of the discussion that will follow and it can go either way. As a reviewer I often feel bad for writing a review that is less than glowing, because you know someone has put a lot of effort into it, but it is a disservice to not say how you really feel both to the author and to other readers.

  89. Courtney Milan
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 22:58:08

    Can I admit that the hardest thing for me is not sitting on my hands about my reviews, but not saying anything about my good friends?

    I do participate in discussions of books where I don’t know the author well, but when it comes to some of my good friends, it can sometimes be hard–really hard–not to respond. I have less objectivity over their work than over my own. There are times I have to shut everything down and walk away because it is really, really hard for me to deal with someone criticizing their work and to not respond–especially if it’s a review that says, “Obviously, Author X put no work into this” and I know how many sleepless nights she had.

    It’s my Achilles heel. Don’t diss my mom. Don’t diss my dog. Don’t diss my friends. That’s the sure-firest way to get me riled up.

    I also know that if I participated in that frame of mind it would shut down discussion entirely, and I would be defensive and explanatory and accusatory everything that an author shouldn’t be. So I *know* that I can’t talk about friends’ books.

    I try to approach discussion like this: Can I think of this book as a reader? If so, I let myself participate. If not, I try to hold back. But I do wonder if my presence on threads about other books serves as a deterrent. People don’t always know who my friends are, and I do wonder if they think they can’t criticize because they might be dissing my friend, and I’m in the thread.

    So here’s a broader question. How safe is it for authors to participate in discussions of books at all? Do people just assume that authors are friends with the author? Does that chill discussion?

  90. Michelle Hughes
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 23:10:19

    Courtney I was just discussing this on twitter. I almost feel guilty these days when I comment on books by other authors. I was a reader long before I was an author and I really love discussing books but I feel these days that there’s always an underlying question of whether I know these people. I do know many authors these days and I honestly can’t give a bad review. I just won’t give one at all if it has to be negative.

  91. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 00:59:44

    @Courtney Milan:

    Can I admit that the hardest thing for me is not sitting on my hands about my reviews, but not saying anything about my good friends?

    I can relate. I think most authors passionate about their craft are their own worst critics. Professional objectivity melts when one views another author’s work being skinned alive. Particularly if it’s a newer, greener author.

    With that said, I believe most authors are fine with any type of review (good or poor) as long as they perceive the book being treated fairly.

    What constitutes fairness? Speaking for myself, reviews “pass muster” for me if the reviewer conveys that s/he read and understood the book and supports his/her opinion in a constructive, articulate manner.

    It’s when a review is so generic and generalized I get the feeling the reviewer did not read the book (or read all of it) or the review contains inaccurate information about the book that my ire is raised. If a reviewer really didn’t get the book or care enough to read it and retain the material well enough to review it clearly and coherently, it seems unreasonable to “roast” the book. in a public venue.

    Reviews are available for public consumption and reviewers should be aware their own work product is not above public challenge or criticism.

  92. KB/KT Grant
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 05:20:25

    This post is timely because yesterday I posted a review and the author decided to leave a comment because she was upset with my honesty about the book and how I didn’t figure out or “get” what she was trying to accomplish.

    Now I am in a difficult place because why should I have to defend my opinion because I failed to figure out what the author was trying to do? I took something else from it, just like another reader will most likely take something else different from me.

    I believe an author shouldn’t ever leave a comment on a review unless to say thanks for the review and leave it at that.

  93. farmwifetwo
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 06:44:00

    @KB/KT Grant: I think the author should have read it, thought about it, asked questions to clarify your issues (if she was truly looking for feedback) and said “thank you” and walked away.

    There was a hqn out last month where the author had a boy with Asperger’s in it. I have no idea what authors are going to do after 2013 when the dx no longer exists. The author hit all the stereotypes and tried to make the Mother look overwhelmed instead of whiny and lazy.

    As a parent with children on either end of the autism spectrum who’s children are doing AMAZING I might add. As a parent that has dealt with these Aspie ‘woe is me’ parents online. I had little to no respect for the authors writing. Either that is her view… which I don’t respect to start with… or she was chumming with the ND crowd and I don’t respect that either.

    I did finish it hoping the author would deal with it… since she didn’t… my comments on goodreads were not glowing.

    We have the right to say so. We have the right to tell authors so. If I’m in full rant you get a full explanation… just like Robyn Carr’s Xmas heroine that managed to make supper for 40 with a newly broken ankle… Yeah, like that’s possible… NOT!!! I wrote that too. Looks down at the 3″ shrapnel scar on her shin….. But don’t write me a note and tell me how I should have read the story. Life isn’t lived in a vaccuum.

    If authors don’t like reader’s using life experience when they read… then I recommend that do a lot of research or simply advoid hot topic issues.

  94. Anonymousssse
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 07:07:26

    @KB/KT Grant: I just read the review you linked above. “A big fail of a historical romance.” “The scene was disgusting.” “Olivia is a heartless bitch.”

    Sorry, but I don’t find a review that consists primarily of negative emotional reactions, so judgmentally stated, to be at all persuasive. Kudos to Ms. James for the respect and restraint she exhibited in her response to your “review.”

    ETA: it strikes me that when authors judge each other’s work in writing contests, we almost go overboard emphasizing that our feedback is subjective, an opinion, one of many possible valid opinions. Reading reviews phrased in such judgmental, absolute terms is quite jarring to say the least.

  95. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 07:39:02

    @KB/KT Grant I haven’t read the EJ comment but I’ll tell you that I was super offended by the depiction of the mentally handicapped character in the James book as well. It was condescending, hurtful, and made me feel terrible and angry while I read it. [kind of a derailment but I felt strongly about that]

  96. Las
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 07:46:50

    @Courtney Milan: So here’s a broader question. How safe is it for authors to participate in discussions of books at all? Do people just assume that authors are friends with the author? Does that chill discussion?

    With positive reviews, I tend to assume–perhaps unfairly–either friendship or some kind of business relationship. For example, I always completely ignore those little quotes on the covers of books by other authors, because I just figure those authors have the same publisher so their “opinions” on that book aren’t worth much to me. That’s just how I tend to view things generally. Even on the bigger blogs and review sites, I’ll take most positive reviews with tablespoons of salt. I usually only read them if I have already read or am planning to read the book. I’m able to read thoughtful negative reviews and determine if it’s a book I might like, but positive reviews just don’t work that way most of the time. I often get the impression of either “friendship” or fangirl-ness.

    That said, I don’t think it’s wrong for an author to comment on another author’s work, but personally, unless I “know” that an author tastes are similar to mine, I won’t take the positive comments that seriously (unless it’s a different genre). The only way an author’s comments can chill a discussion for me is if they’re obviously defending the author’s work instead of just giving their opinion of the book itself. How many sleepless nights an author put in to write a book is pretty irrelevant to me as a reader.

  97. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 07:55:26

    @Anonymousssse Why should a review not be judgmental? I’m not sure why one that is vociferously stated deserves scare quotes.

  98. Keishon
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 07:55:55

    So here’s a broader question. How safe is it for authors to participate in discussions of books at all? Do people just assume that authors are friends with the author? Does that chill discussion?

    I’ll come out and say that when author A comes into the discussion and endorses Author B’s books when the review they received is average, I completely ignore it. Sorry. I do assume some authors are friends and will say anything positive to support them in light of their work being scrutinized by readers.

    Once the book is out there for public consumption, it is no longer yours as they say. The chips will just have to fall where they may. Some readers will get it and some won’t. There’s no such thing as universal appeal in anything. Such is life.

  99. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:00:48

    @Keishon I am like you. I largely disregard an author’s public promotion of another author’s book. I assume that they are friends. If an author makes a private recommendation, I’ll take it under advisement but anything public is too likely to be fake promotion (even when it is not fake promotion). One reason I follow so few authors on Twitter is that I hate that constant round robin of love the authors spread amongst themselves.

  100. JenniferRNN
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:20:52

    @KB/KT Grant: My question is why do you feel as if an author comment means that you now have to defend your reaction? I read your review (and all the comments). It may be harsh, but is passionate and conveys an authentic (and important) reaction. I found Eloisa James’ comments to be perfectly reasonable. It in no way changes your original review. I actually think that author comments add depth to commentary.

    I ask this question with genuine interest (feel the need to express this because of the challenges of tone in the online environment): If I commented on the review disagreeing with you, would you still feel as if you have to defend your reaction? I loved The Duke is Mine and wasn’t bothered by the portrayal of Rupert, but your review has made me think about the book a bit differently – and has indeed colored my perception of the book. This is why I love to read different reviews. Reading does not happen in a bubble and lots of external forces can impact the reading experience.

  101. Junne
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:31:07

    One thing I hate about authors’ reaction to a book review is the reference to personal life to justify something in the book. Like Eloisa James and her “my son lacked oxygen so I couldn’t possibly make fun of Rupert’s disability ” argument. That proves nothing and it’s TMI, plus it kind of makes the reviewer feel guilty and forces you to empathize with the author.

  102. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:44:11


    My question is why do you feel as if an author comment means that you now have to defend your reaction? I read your review (and all the comments). It may be harsh, but is passionate and conveys an authentic (and important) reaction. I found Eloisa James’ comments to be perfectly reasonable. It in no way changes your original review. I actually think that author comments add depth to commentary.

    I think people (reviewers and other commenters alike) respond with justification because the authorial voice has authority. She’s the one who wrote it and thus can speak to her original intent. It carries more weight so the reviewer returns to justify how it read to her.

  103. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:50:04

    @KB/KT Grant:

    Now I am in a difficult place because why should I have to defend my opinion because I failed to figure out what the author was trying to do?

    KB, a more reasonable question is why shouldn’t you be called out to defend your opinion (at least from time to time?) when you elect to publish your opinions in a vehicle open for public consumption and you receive compensation (free books) for preparing and presenting your opinion to the public?

    Is your opinion somehow sacred and above debate? Do you view the authors you review as some sort of social inferior deprived of the same rights of free expression as yourself?

    Finally, why are you afraid to defend your own opinion? I’ve released more than one negative review of books I disliked and I’m unafraid to defend one word of anything I’ve posted about them. In fact, not one author has ever challenged my grasp of what s/he wrote. If s/he did, I would be respectful but frank about why I thought as I did.

    The presence of fear/discomfort among (at least some) reviewers to face the creators of work they criticize is disturbing to me because it suggests something questionnable about the reviewer and his/her grasp of the work reviewed. If the reviewer can’t or won’t support his/her own opinion, how valuable is that opinion?

    If the reviewer feels his/her word should be the “final say” on the book, maybe the reviewer should simply post his/her review and close the review to any comments. However, if comments are accepted, ALL comments should be treated respectfully and professionally.

  104. Las
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:51:07

    @Junne: One thing I hate about authors’ reaction to a book review is the reference to personal life to justify something in the book.

    Same here. It’s emotional manipulation. It’s as bad as “Some of my best friends are…”

    Other than that, I’m fine with the content and tone of James’ post, she just shouldn’t have posted it in the comments of the review. Especially since it results in a fangirl defense, which is always bad for discussion.

  105. Shelly Thacker
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:54:20

    This is such an interesting — and timely — discussion. I’ve always had a policy of not commenting on reviews of my work, for all the reasons already stated here. I don’t want to squelch discussion, I’d hate to start any flame-wars, and I truly feel that every reader is entitled to her opinion. So I keep my lip zipped.

    However, just this week I made a one-time exception to my usual policy, for a reason I haven’t seen mentioned yet: to correct an error of fact. I just published an ebook edition of FOREVER HIS, and I discovered a 2008 Amazon review from a reader who — mistakenly — stated that the hero commits adultery. This reviewer went into extensive detail about how much she hates adultery and hated the hero because of it. But the thing is, the hero does not commit adultery. It never happened.

    I really wrestled with whether to say anything, but in this one case, I did feel that I needed to correct the error. As a reader, I hate adultery — and that review would certainly dissuade me from trying an author I’d never read before. Silence felt like complicity, as if I just didn’t care enough to bother responding. So this one time, I did comment and calmly (I hope) correct the reviewer’s mistake.

    And now my lip is once again zipped. ;)

  106. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 08:59:46


    Once the book review is out there for public consumption, it is no longer yours as they say. The chips will just have to fall where they may. Some readers will get it and some won’t…

  107. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:01:45

    @Author on Vacation

    Some readers will get it and some won’t

    Whether some readers get it depends in large part on the author’s skill in conveying it.

  108. JenniferRNN
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:05:21


    I think people (reviewers and other commenters alike) respond with justification because the authorial voice has authority. She’s the one who wrote it and thus can speak to her original intent. It carries more weight so the reviewer returns to justify how it read to her.

    Wow! This is all so enlightening. For me, the author has no authority in these discussions, just an opinion (which is probably why I’m for authorial interaction on reviews). The authority in a review discussion for me is the author of the review, not the work. I see comments, from authors or readers, as reactions to the original post or review (with reference to the book in question). All comments on a review weigh equally in my mind (except for those that are outright inflammatory which I ignore).

  109. Mandi
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:07:35

    @Junne: Completely agree.

  110. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:10:02

    @JenniferRNN I don’t think that the author’s intentions should have more authority. In other words, the text stands on its own. The author’s intention may influence the reader’s view of a book (if she knows of it). Oftentimes the only authorial intention a reader is aware of is in an author’s note and then what she can glean from the text of the book.

    But in the comments to a review, I think the authorial intention can carry authority. If the author comes in and says, “I would never write something that could be read the way you did” or “Author A is ____ not ____ as you describe it” then I think the readers to the comment thread newly scrutinize the work of the reviewer and the reviewer then feels the need to justify or somehow support her original stance.

    I’m not saying that every reviewer feels this way, but offering this as a suggestion to why someone might feel the need to respond/justify.

  111. JenniferRNN
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:17:51

    @Jane: I think your suggestion makes sense and gives me a very different perspective. I have always treated author comments as one of the many, not giving their comments any additional authority than any other (except for the author of the original post).

    For me, it comes down to the tone and the arguments presented. I am turned off by any statement where author tells a reviewer their reaction is wrong. I have no problem with author trying to explain their intent because it doesn’t change how I (or anyone else) read the book and might lead to an interesting conversation.

  112. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:21:26

    @JenniferRNN: I think the problem with James’ comment isn’t that she offered authorial intent but that she was saying KB was wrong and KB was wrong because James herself had a child who lost air at birth. I’m not certain what that means in the context of the book.

    The part of her comment that would have provided useful discussion was that she meant to write the heroine (Olivia?) as unlikeable and then changing. Another thing that would have been helpful from James is textual references. That to me is more interesting than “I have had tragedy and thus I could never be ham fisted in portraying tragedy.”

  113. JenniferRNN
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:42:22

    @Jane: All are extremely valid points about James’ comments & I agree that some of her comments might not come across in the best light. However, I have a bizarre philosophical opposition to calling anyone wrong (a whole convoluted thing where I do not believe in the concepts of right or wrong – just social conventions and norms that that dictate some notion of appropriate behavior).

    Authors choose to comment or not and cannot control how readers will take the comments. The same holds true for reviewers. It makes no difference to my view of a book if an author comments on something I’ve written or not (although some comments/emails from authors have put a smiles on my face). The same holds true for reviews that I read.

    I guess I dislike the thought of authors even thinking they can control reader thoughts or behaviors, but also dislike the thought of the reverse. Let everyone have at it either way.

  114. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 09:48:16

    @JenniferRNN: My first instinct is to agree with you and I do with the latter part of your comment that an author comment does not change the right of the reader to voice her opinion and vice versa.

    But I can’t agree with the “no wrong” concept because sometimes the things in books are wrong, factually and provably. But there are also the way in which reviewers phrase things that give off an allegation of wrongness. I.e., if I say something is degrading, offensive, repugnant, isn’t that saying the work was wrong in some way?

    However, it does seem right to allow authors a right to defend their works just as much as it is the right of readers to criticize them. The problem is that those two rights in the same sphere (such as the comment thread) can be too incendiary.

  115. JenniferRNN
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 10:04:00

    @Jane: I can’t argue about the incendiary possibilities when authors comment on reviews. I just don’t see where the better option for the discussion is. I personally don’t want to have these discussions on author websites bc I think the authorial authority is absolute in those venues. I dislike forums and message boards. Interesting to think about what the best way for such discussions to take place is – so that readers could choose to participate knowing that the author may be present.

    Also, I have found that readers/commenters are way more apt to be incendiary than authors (if only because there are so many more of them).

    I’m laughing because I don’t expect anyone to agree with my whacky world views. I just find the word wrong (and right for that matter) to be fraught with hidden meanings and try to use the word incorrect when referring to factual mistakes.

  116. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 11:52:56

    @Jane: You are absolutely correct and that is exactly what I meant. Thus, if a reviewer lacks sufficient skill in conveying her impressions, surely that is the reviewer’s responsibility.

    Nothing in this world is above criticism. If reviewers choose to put themselves out there, they should be prepared to accept not every person reading their opinion will agree with them.

  117. KB/KT Grant
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 12:27:08

    @Jane: I also felt that Rupert didn’t really bring anything to the story, but then again I didn’t read to the very end, which most may think was wrong of me. But from what I read about Rupert and how the heroine treated him, including his father rubbed me the wrong way. I stated in my review that my feelings were subjective based on my personal experiences, so maybe other readers won’t feel the same way I have.

    Author on Vacation: If I go back and defend my stance, then there’s a good chance the author will come back and defend herself. It becomes a never ending cycle, a debate that won’t stop. I feel my defense on why I didn’t or did like a certain book is stated in my review.

    Jennifer RNN: Like Jane said, it’s different when a reader leaves a comment agreeing or disagreeing versus when the author does. I’m also an author and I’ve had my share of good and bad reviews and refuse to leave a comment on any review posted on a blog unless the reviewer invites me to. Reviews are for the readers, not for the authors and once the book is out there, the author is well aware it will be discussed, both god or bad. Is it the readers responsibility to understand what the author was trying to do? How does the reader know what the author was trying to accomplish unless they ask the author? An author shouldn’t assume a reader will understand what the author was trying to accomplish unless they’re a mind reader.

  118. Las
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 12:31:31

    @Author on Vacation: I don’t see how the author’s opinion of her own work is valid when discussing a review of that work. She can discuss her intentions and her thought process while writing, but it’s not for her to say that she did a good a job and it’s ridiculous for her to debate with a reviewer on anything except verifiable facts.

  119. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 13:10:04


    it’s ridiculous for (an author) to debate with a reviewer on anything except verifiable facts.

    IMHO, it’s ridiculous for anyone to debate with a reviewer on anything except verifiable facts.

    However, it does seem to me at least some reviewers are excessively sensitive to any comments that don’t positively reinforce their reviews. Some reviewers allege authors are “debating” them, I trot over to their handily provided links only to discover there isn’t any debate, merely an author or an “author’s friend” or whatever is offering an alternative analysis concerning what they thought the author put into the book.

    I’m fine with these kinds of exchanges and I’m uncertain why some readers and reviewers are uncomfortable with them. If you only feel free to express your opinion with certain people excluded from discussion, neither your opinion nor your freedom can hold great value.

    I can’t help feeling many of the allegations placed by reviewers they are being abused by authors or authors’ friends is little more than simple attention-mongering. I guess it depends on what a reviewer’s motives are. Are you here to review books and share opinions about what you’ve read and hear others’ opinions? Or are you here for attention and validation from other agreeable participants who support your opinion?

    Let’s be honest, if these folks truly valued privacy and discretion and didn’t want debate or other drama to throw book discussion off track, why all the persecution complex? Why not just civilly thank the author for stopping by and offering her viewpoint (which has as much merit as anybody else’s.) Why act to draw greater attention to the situation unless attention/drama is the desired outcome?

  120. Jane
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 13:13:14

    @Author on Vacation While you may believe that reviewers allegations of authorial misbehavior is attention mongering, long time readers of this blog are very familiar with it.

  121. Annonymous
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 13:23:16

    @Jane: : “I think the problem with James’ comment isn’t that she offered authorial intent but that she was saying KB was wrong and KB was wrong because James herself had a child who lost air at birth.”

    I don’t agree with that at all and don’t think there was anything challenging about Jame’s post at all. She was extremely gracious in her reply when I would imagine it was upsetting to hear how her story came across when it’s wasn’t what she wanted to convey. I think the author’s comment added to the review and the discussion in this instance.

    “I know perfectly well that the fact you tossed the book aside shows that I failed in what I tried to do. I don’t mean this to be hectoring at all: I’m just trying to explain what I attempted.”

    I absolutely believe her last sentence and so that’s how I took her comment on the review.

  122. JenniferRNN
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 14:46:03

    @KB/KT Grant: I appreciate your comments on my questions. Keeping Jane’s suggestion in mind that it is the authority of the author (or the perception therein) that is the issue on reviews, I can understand why people think this way and/or why commenters might feel uncomfortable.

    However, if people want to argue that an author can’t control the reader experience of a book after it is published to the world, how can reviewers argue that they have any control over the reader experience of a review published online? Well, I know how they can argue it, I just don’t think it is an argument a reviewer can win, because we can’t control the actions of the author. Author of the book or not, at this juncture, the author is a reader of the review just like everyone else – albeit with a different agenda and a different perception of the book.

  123. Cecilia Grant
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 14:50:12

    This has been a tremendously eye-opening discussion *for me. I’ve been used to interacting with DA as a reader, and have Twitter-followed other readers whose comments I enjoy without really thinking about whether, now that I’m crossing the Rubicon to the writer side of things, that might be inappropriate.

    Also, I’ve been thinking the past couple days about bad reviews (I’m writing a blog post on the topic), and I have to say *I don’t believe a reviewer owes me even a coherent, reasoned explanation of what she didn’t like about my book. Not even if I personally sent her an ARC. “Hated this book; don’t waste your time” is a response as legitimate as any other, *in my opinion.

    * (Sorry about these qualifiers; it’s a tic I don’t seem able to conquer.)

  124. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 16:49:53


    However, if people want to argue that an author can’t control the reader experience of a book after it is published to the world, how can reviewers argue that they have any control over the reader experience of a review published online?

    Exactly. My impression is that at least some reviewers feel they have the right to express their opinion via a media outlet accessed by the public and that no one should have the right to question them or criticize them in any way.

    Where on earth does this entittlement attitude come from? More importantly, what does it mean? What does it say about a person when the person presumes himself free to criticize a specific entity within the public eye and promotes an attitude that he himself should not have to answer for his own words should another person challenge him?

    @ Jane, regarding your comment # 120, you are absolutely correct that some authors have acted with an astonishing lack of professionalism towards reviewers at times. Cyberbullying and ad hominen attacks are never appropriate. By no means am I defending this kind of behavior from any venue.

  125. Dani Alexander
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 17:18:13

    @Cecilia Grant:

    “I don’t believe a reviewer owes me even a coherent, reasoned explanation of what she didn’t like about my book. Not even if I personally sent her an ARC. “Hated this book; don’t waste your time” is a response as legitimate as any other, *in my opinion.”

    I agree that the author isn’t owed anything, but as a reader, I darn well want the reviewers to say what they did or didn’t like. Esp I want them to detail what they didn’t like. Sara, who reviews M/M stories on this site, wrote a review recently where she said she didn’t like the story because there was too much plotty stuff. The mystery was unimportant to her. Thing was, that got me to buy the book. I LOVE mysteries an plotty books. It was the first book that Sara reviewed that I bought. Her honesty (esp in the books she does like) and the way she explains what worked and didn’t for her, is what attracts me to her reviews.

    I’d say the same of most of the reviewers on this site. It’s why I keep coming back. Write a review that says “meh, don’t pick it up” and you just might as well have not said anything. Your review is meaningless. The point of a review is to tell other readers what you think of the book, isn’t it? Otherwise why rate it/review it at all.

  126. Las
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 19:49:47

    @Author on Vacation: IMHO, it’s ridiculous for anyone to debate with a reviewer on anything except verifiable facts.

    No, because the reader and author are fundamentally different. A review sparks a discussion among readers…what they liked and disliked, and how that differs from the review. There is no way for an author to do that when discussing her own work. She’s essentially trying to convince people to read her book how she wants it to be read, which is fine if she left it at her own space.

  127. Kaetrin
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 20:29:49

    @KB/KT Grant I read that review but didn’t comment on it because a) I read it on my phone and I don’t have tiny tiny fingers and b) I haven’t read the book and am not likely to so I didn’t think my comment would add anything. FWIW, I thought you explained why it didn’t work for you and that it was a hot button and you also said that others may well have a totally different view. I didn’t find anything “wrong” with that review at all.

    I read Ms. James’ response today and, for the most part, I think she was trying to be gracious and understood that her words did not convey the meaning to you that she had intended. Although the first part was a bit of a head scratcher – what having a baby born who lost air had to do with the book lost me I’m afraid.

    I don’t think you have to justify your review or your opinion to anyone – your review actually does that already.

    I DNF’d a book recently that, when I checked on GoodReads, it seemed a lot of people liked. It didn’t work for me. I was honest about why and where I got up to and I pointed out that it had many positive GR ratings so it may well be that I was an outlier but it was my honest reaction. I don’t see why a reader should force her/himself to finish a book he/she is not enjoying merely to be able to provide a detailed review. A DNF review, has as much validity as any other I think. I think (I hope at least) that anyone reading that review would get a picture of whether the things that bothered me would also bother them and not be put off by my review if they had different hot buttons. That’s what your review did of Ms. James book. Regardless, I’m sure there will be some people who will now read it just to see what they think, so your review is likely to bring the author more sales anyway! :)

  128. Author on Vacation
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 20:38:53


    I’m afraid we’ll just have to agree to differ. I don’t believe in ascribing motives to who’s posting what.

    Surely it’s just as easy to accuse a reviewer of posting specific reviews with some kind of ulterior motive beyond sharing impressions with his/her audience. I don’t know any of the reviewers I read regularly in RL. Even if I did know them personally, for all I know they benefit in some way by offering positive or negative reviews of books. Or they may have personal reasons for what they do. Again, I don’t know and I’ll refrain from suggesting anyone is guilting of unethical behavior unless convincing evidence suggests otherwise.

  129. Las
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 20:53:31

    @Author on Vacation: I am not ascribing motives in this case. I really do not understand how an author can comment on her own work as if she’s just offering another opinion. She might think that’s what she’s doing, but it’s just not the case. I’m completely serious…how does that work?

    And I’m not trying to defend reviewers in some author v. reviewer showdown. Hell, I ascribe motives to reviewers all the time and just automatically assume that if a blog is obviously making money then they’re not just “readers” anymore. Author’s posting on the comments sections of reviews of their work doesn’t bother me because of the reviewer’s feelings, it bothers me because it ruins the discussion for me, because it’s not just readers discussing a book anymore, and because it feels like one more example of the line-blurring that I really dislike in Romanceland.

  130. RBrose
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 21:16:52

    I am against authors responding to reviews, however I think the Eloisa James situation is a tricky one. If somebody accused me – in a very strongly-worded review – of the things she was accused of there, well, I’m pretty sure I’d have trouble leaving it be.

    I thought – apart from the baby thing – James’ response was very professional, considering the circumstances. I don’t think she was telling the reviewer they were wrong; she was simply explaining it was not her intention to ridicule a mentally-challenged character, or to write a “bitch”. In this ONE particular case, I believe a response was justified.
    That said, I can’t see myself ever reading that book. Wallpaper HRs with contemporary dialogue are not my thing!

    I have rarely encountered other situations where it would have been appropriate though.

  131. Madison J Edwards
    Dec 21, 2011 @ 22:07:29

    What a fabulous discussion!

    As a fairly new author, I absolutely read my reviews. Good or bad, I accept them all. I use it as a yardstick to see what I can do to improve.

    One review of my work was generally upbeat, but the commentor thought it was too shallow a plot. I remember thinking, ‘really?’, and then realized that next time I had to dig deeper and work a little harder to grab the reader’s attention.

    I have only one complaint, and that is when a review/comment is malicious. You may not like what is written, but to be cruel is not the way to get your point across.

    To reiterate what this post was about, I do respond to comments/reviews (good and bad) with a thank you. This person took the time to read my work, and then give an opinion, and I respect that.

  132. Maili
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 07:25:04

    I strongly agree with @Las that the reader and author are basically different in terms of responding to a review of author’s book. This ought to be applied to those who were at author’s side along the way, too.

    I make an effort not to respond to reviews and comments, positive or negative, about productions I was involved with because I’m irreversibly biased, no matter how hard I try not to be.

    My reason for refusing to respond: my perspective of a product is different from viewers, due to my collaboration with a scriptwriter in development and the others in pre-production. That as in, I’m keenly aware of scriptwriter’s intention and director’s intention of certain scenes, and how much work went in realising those crucial scenes.

    It’s a ‘privilege’ that viewers and reviewers don’t have. Our powers of knowledge are uneven. They earned their knowledge from watching a product and discussions alone while I earned mine from working on and watching that product.

    There was a time where almost everyone slated one scriptwriter of a highly anticipated TV drama production for “phoning it in”. It was incredibly difficult for me to handle because during the development of this script, the scriptwriter lost his wife and their only child to a road accident. His strong work ethic had him turning down our offer to extend the final deadline indefinitely. He was a complete wreck, but he finished it on time. In hindsight, we should have forced an extended deadline on him, but we felt his keen need to operate normally as part of processing the shock and the impact. It was a difficult and highly emotional time for us involved.

    But even so, it’s not about his personal life. It’s about his writing performance, which happens to be sub-par. That’s all the viewers and reviewers see, which is a fair and valid point because they don’t have that privilege of knowing what went on during the process of that creation. They shouldn’t know, anyway.

    I strongly believe it’s wrong for one to impose that kind of privilege on anyone who didn’t ask for it, especially where negative criticisms are concerned. This is why I feel it’s best for one not to make an unsolicited response to reviews and comments, even just to clarify a point or correct a reviewer’s mistake.

  133. Anonymousssse
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 08:13:38

    @Jane: I used the quotes around the word “review” to express a degree of sarcasm. I didn’t feel I was reading a review as much as a screed. While that specific review was a big swing and a miss for me, obviously others found it useful.

    A reviewer puts their words out into the world just like an author does. Much like when authors choose to weigh in on a review, the manner in which a reviewer’s opinions are stated can’t help but impact the reviewer’s reputation, and the reader’s perception of the reviewer’s professionalism.

  134. Karenna Colcroft
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 14:11:18

    I’m one of those authors who does sometimes leave a “thank you” on reviews where comments are allowed; I do it because the reviewer took the time to read the book and write the review, and I appreciate that regardless of their opinion. I’m gathering from what Jane and Sirius said that maybe I shouldn’t do that?

    I’m with Courtney about why I read the reviews of my books. I can’t fix the books that are already out there, but I can use the comments made by the reviewer (and readers, if any readers comment on the review) to improve my future books, especially if they’re commenting about something I do frequently. I confess, it is an ego boost when I get a positive review, but that isn’t my primary reason for reading them. I want to know readers’ opinions so I know what I did wrong with that book and can do better next time around.

    As for commenting on a review about my intent with a story or scene…I’ve only done that once, and that was because the reviewer asked. Otherwise, I limit my response, if any, to “Thanks for your time” and go on my merry way. I don’t understand what authors think they’ll gain by debating or arguing publicly with a reviewer.

  135. Author Comments Yes or No? « Avery Flynn
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 05:07:04

    […] “But author interaction can result in two things, no matter the intention of the author, both which are detrimental to reader conversation. First, an authorial inerjection can reduce reader commentary. … The other thing that can occur is for readers to mistake the intention of the author or interpret the author’s intention exactly right and either results in a kerfluffle.” – Dear Author […]

  136. Julie Rowe
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 12:35:57

    Readers bring their own experiences, emotions and knowledge to every novel they read. I love to read reviews of novels because I get to discover how other people interpreted a story, even the ones I’ve written.

    I can’t impose my interpretation on anyone else, nor should I. Reading is a very personal and unique experience. Each one is as valid as the next.

    Reviews reveal as much about the reviewer as the story itself.

  137. Empi
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 15:15:20

    I agree that an author should stay away from commenting on reviews unless invited to. As a reader, I’ve sometime’s sent an email to an author when I really enjoyed a book – once to find out if there was a sequel planned :-)

    I usually love to hear authors speak, not necessarily to me directly, but during interviews and such. I’ve always liked behind the scenes information, and I find it interesting to know what an author was thinking or aiming for. Or other trivia. However, all of that info is in a sort of controlled environment, which you can’t really have in an open online setting.

  138. Julia Knight
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 05:57:55

    I always used to comment just to say thanks for the review, because…well, it felt rude not to, you know? I’d do it in private (say a private message on Goodreads) if I could, but otherwise a ‘thanks for taking the time’ felt the right, polite thing to do. Even if it’s a less than glowing review – not everyone can like my books after all, and often those reviews show me where I can improve.

    However, I’ve stopped now, for several of the reasons stated here. I’m a member of a certain forum, and there is a monthly book club where we all read along and comment on the story etc. Last month, we read a book and there were a couple of things I had (minor, personal) issues with. However, knowing the author was a member of said forum….It didn’t stop me saying it. But it did make me feel very odd, and I didn’t feel as free as I would have done if he wasn’t a member (Although he stated he wouldn’t look in the comment threads, he started a separate Q&A thread. Still, it felt odd…)

    So yes, I think it can stymie conversation about the book unless you know the author is okay with people having personal preferences etc, and that saying ‘Not for me’ doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. That they can take a bit of criticism. If you don’t know, well, there’s been too many meltdowns over bad reviews/comments.

  139. Josh Lanyon
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 11:04:30

    I think it is best for authors to steer clear of commenting on reviews. It’s in our nature to want to clarify, explain, interpret, teach — and no matter how innocent or well-intentioned this always looks argumentative or like we’re lecturing the masses.

    Even if we’re just happy and enthusiastic about a great review I think it makes readers self-conscious. It stifles the conversation.

    I love — truly love — interacting with my readers, but the web provides many great tools for reader-author interaction: Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon book discussions, author chats, my blogs, etc. Those are the places where I am comfortable chatting one on one with readers, where I don’t feel like I’m debating if I explain my authorial intent, where the footing seems equal.

    One area of confusion though is Twitter. If I am copied into a conversation about my book or a review, then it does feel like I have been invited to comment.

  140. Josh Lanyon
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 11:33:57

    @Sirius: “Although, with one qualifier, if I made a factual mistake, I want and urge the author to correct me, I will apologize and try to correct it asap”

    I don’t think this should be done in public though. Maybe drop a line to the reviewer versus a comment on the review?

  141. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity bells, linkity bells, linkity all the way…
    Dec 27, 2011 @ 21:59:53

    […] Dear Author ponders authorial interaction online. […]

  142. Sirius
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 18:02:41

    @Josh Lanyon: Eh, maybe there are other reviewers who feel that way, or even many reviewers, I have no clue, but for myself I honestly do no care how its done. As long as author does not make the correction to sound as personal attack (not just you got this fact, this date, but you idiot, how could you make such mistake or something to that effect), I honestly do not care whether you contact me privately or make a comment on my review. I will make a correction and say that author contacted me, etc. The way I see it, of course I write my reviews for readers (and for authors wearing their readers’ hat of course), but I also feel and again I am speaking only for myself that I do owe two things to the author of the book – not to write the review as personal attack and not misrepresent the facts of the book. I do not think I owe the author swat besides those two things, but I am trying to hold myself to it, so to speak.

    As to authors’ commenting on the negative reviews, honestly, as much as comments on positive reviews make me a little uncomfortable, I really do not care if author decides to engage into commentary on negative review. Simply because as far as I am concerned I totally agree with you Josh in your comment above – no matter how innocent the comment may be, the huge chance is that it may be taken by readers as a patronizing lecture. So, honestly, if you want at least some readers to see you that way, be my guest. I am not going to engage with you though, if you choose that route.

    To me it is that simple, unless the reviewer is paid for her reviews (no, not in free books, because if you are given the book to review, you are spending your time reading it, dissecting it and writing the review, thats not a free book in my opinion, thats a book that comes with a condition that I do some work with it), author will always be in more self serving position while commenting on the reviews, because author would want to explain to the other readers why reviewer who dislikes the books is wrong and other readers should buy it.

    If reviewer is paid though (consider me naive, but till reading a recent discussion here about paid blog, I never realized that some bloggers are being paid for their reviews), to me picture changes drastically and I would never hold it against the author for commenting on such review, unless author is being rude of course.

    In other words, my only problem with author’s commenting on the negative review is an unequal distribution of power between what author may want to get out of her comment versus what reviewer gets out of her reviews. Yeah, I know I am rambling again, but to get back to my original point, I really do not care which way you choose to let me know that I got the facts wrong. Oh, another thing is that I really do not want to put my email out there, so while it is easy to contact us if you shoot an email to Wave, I would find it totally understandable that some authors would find it too bothersome and find it much faster to leave a comment. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes, so I do not think it will make me a horrible reviewer if I made one either.

    Of course fact is something that to me is not open to interpretation. As a long term Harry Potter fanatic, here is a very good example. If I say in my review that Snape was the Head of Gryffindor house, I would hope that author would contact me either way and smack me (haha). But if I say in my review that Snape is an evil abusive git and you think that he is a noble warrior for the light side, well, needless to say that to me this is not the correction of fact, but starting an argument over the interpretation of the fact, which I will not be debating with the author. Hope I am making sense.

  143. Daisy Harris
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 13:41:49

    I heard about this discussion while on vacation, and I’m so glad I took the time today to read through the comments.

    Personally, I hate publicly thanking reviewers. Yet I have done so on occasion because I was under the impression I was supposed to.

    Believe it or not, there’s a lot of pressure on new authors to run around commenting, joining discussions, friending folks on Facebook, etc. I’ve always wondered where that pressure came from and how this became common practice.

    When I was purely a reader, I never had any interest in meeting, seeing, or hearing from authors. I breezed through a book a day, without ever giving them more thought than “Awesome!” “Meh, okay” or “eh, not gonna finish this one.” I never left reviews; I was too busy getting on to the next book.

    As a writer, I feel pretty much the same way—I want to get on to the next book. If I can cut “comment on blogs, update FB, google self” off my to-do list, then I get more writing time. It’s a win-win scenario for me and my readers.

    Thanks for the great discussion!

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