Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Author Interaction On Reviews

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down is feature on my blog to promote discussion and the sharing of opinions because I’m curious what other readers/bloggers think about the topics I bring up.  Every other week I will give a topic to be discussed. You can give your vote on whether or not it is a thumbs up or a thumbs down for you and then explain why. The topics will cover anything related to reading, blogging, the book industry, etc. etc. Basically whatever is on my mind! This feature is NOT intended to be a place to bash anybody or start a nasty fight or controversy. It is a platform for a mature discussion and sharing of opinions. It is also NOT a feature in order to TELL you how you should blog or act or think. Just a discussion of ideas.

After observing something that happened recently in the blogging world (an author getting quite nasty on some comments and attacking a blogger who didn’t like the book) I started thinking about author interactions and how social media has really changed the dynamic in which authors and readers interact. Before blogs and Twitter it seems as the interactions were less personal (maybe at a signing or an event or by email) and there was this space that wasn’t breached where readers and authors just didn’t converse (about their books and other things) to the extent that they do now. If you didn’t like a book, you might have thrown a hissy fit and vented about what a pile of doody it was to a friend or sat down over coffee with a fellow reader and discussed the merits of the book and what you didn’t like about. Either way, you didn’t have to worry about the author walking up, mid rant, tapping you on the shoulder and trying to debate your opinion of their book with you. Conversely, social media has made authors and readers come together in a positive way where authors can become our friends and we can get excited with them about their books and share feedback. 

What I want to know: That being said– what I want to talk about is how you feel about authors commenting on your review of their book (or Goodreads/LibraryThing review). Do you feel comfortable with this? Do you enjoy when an author gives feedback about your review (good or bad) or do you think an author should just email you privately to talk about it? What experiences have you had with authors interacting with your review? As an additional question, what do you think about interaction with authors in general? Do you feel pressure if you become friends with an author and then review their book? Authors–do you like interacting on reviews of your books? Publishers– do you encourage your authors to interact or stay away? Let’s discuss!

So..take it to a vote!


My Opinion:

I’ve only really had one or two experiences with an author interacting and they have been all positive. I do interact with quite a few authors and sometimes I do feel the pressure when I review their book. I’m honest. I have to be because I don’t want to falsely advertise something just because I didn’t want an author to yell at me. I think that social media CAN make these situations sticky because it makes everything so accessible and feelings can get hurt. These situations get sticky when authors get overly emotional about it and decide to fight back and these types seem to be few and far between (the same goes for bloggers who write really nasty reviews making fun of authors and petty stuff..not a lot of them around). But I’m going to say thumbs up for this–despite the complications. I’ve seen so many instances where authors and readers can have a really great dialogue even if a reader didn’t LOVE their book. I think most authors understand that a book can’t be everything to all people. I think the positive has far outweighed the good, in my experience, as I love when I get a nice comment from an author about a book I truly enjoyed, but I think authors do need to walk away from a negative reviews if it’s going to be disrespectful of a blogger’s opinion when they took the time to engage with the text and form the opinion.

* For past Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down click here.

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 28 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating gelato, listening to music with oversized headphones and teaching her niece how to be as awesome as she is.

Comments

  1. I have had several times an author has come to me after a so-so review and explained to me what they were thinking and I am so totally okay with that. They did it in the comments, I approved it and it is there for the world to see and have their side too. It wasn't mean spirited. Syrie James did this on my review of Dracula, My Love and I loved her explanations.

  2. That's awesome! That is the type of interaction that I think should (and CAN!) exist. These situations that keep happening where bloggers are attacked do NOT need to happen. I think it's great if an author can start a dialogue like that. I would definitely appreciate that if an author did that on a review of a book that was just meh for me.

  3. I've had mostly positive experiences with authors commenting on my reviews so I say thumbs up. I was just talking to my parents about this the other day and I actually really enjoy it when the author is involved. It makes me feel like they actual appreciate what we do as bloggers and they are looking to improve their work based on what others say. I see Pam mentioned Syrie James and she is really great about that.

  4. I don't mind author interaction. Authors are my rock stars, so having an author express interest in my site and reviews is great.

    I have no problems with authors commenting on my reviews, although it is a little… awkward when the review is less than favorable. But as long as authors are classy when they comment, I think it's great!

    The only time I have a problem with author interaction is when they take it the way the author that started this mess did. She was petty and mean, and came across as a petulant child. I could imagine her stamping her foot and saying "But that's not FAIR!"

    That is not an okay response, but I think I'm okay with almost any other author response. And, I think it's really neat when I'm reading the comments on the blog and I see a (good/polite) comment from the author.

  5. thebookwurrm says:

    I'll be honest. When I read a book, I am entirely focused on the book and forget that there is a person behind the book. So when I review a book, it's the book I'm commenting on and not the author themselves. If, however, there is a question or observation in the review that they want to clarify or answer, then I'm cool with it. But if it's just to say that my opinion is stupid because it's negative, then I'm sorry, it's not going to work.

    I sort of don't like being too friendly with authors simply because if I have to write a bad review, I will feel guilty and I hate that feeling. Haha. But I have friends I had creative writing classes with and when you workshop your works together, I have no problem telling them that some of their stuff sucks just like they tell me about mine. I guess, what I'm trying to say is… I think I can't generalize. It depends on the author I am being friendly with.

  6. Jennifer (An Abundance of Books) says:

    The way I see it, the author put their book out there, I can talk about it be it over coffee or on my blog. I put my thoughts out there for the world to see, the author has every right to comment on my review. Should either of us be nasty, no. We're all entitled to our opinion and I think it would be really cool to have a book discussion with other bloggers and readers as well as authors.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  7. I am honestly baffled about the certain events that unraveled this week. As someone who studying English in college and as someone who took writing workshops, I learned that I needed to develop thick skin fast! I guess I just assumed writers in general had done the same.

    If a writer can remain objective and respectful about a less than positive review, then I think author interaction should be encouraged. No doubt it makes the blogger feel great since they may look up to said author.

    If the author isn't able to remain objective, then it's probably in their best interest to just leave the subject alone. They can't expect to please everyone when the reception of writing/art is so subjective!

  8. As a relatively new book blogger, I haven't actually had any interaction with authors as yet. Actually, a number of the books I've reviewed are by people who are no longer alive… so if they were to somehow comment on my reviews from beyond the grave, I would be really freaked out!

    Actually, like thebookwurrm, I feel that I wouldn't want to get too close to authors, because otherwise I would definitely feel horrible if I had to give a negative review. As it is, I give my honest opinion on books I review – as I think pretty much every book blogger does!

  9. Foodie Fictionista says:

    As an author, it's very humbling to see the tough reviews. I keep in mind, however, that each reader is different. In the end, a well critiqued review might save another reader w/ similar taste the money/time of deciding NOT to read my book and therefore, saving me another critical review. That being said, I often read the Amazon Discussion boards and have seen authors react horribly to bad reviews. You would think it's not in the author's best interest, however, after reading this lengthy author/reviewer conversation, I was surprised to see the public argument actually led to more sales for the author!
    Here's the link – if you like reality TV, it's quite entertaining!
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R323EFRY8ACVKV/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R323EFRY8ACVKV

  10. I am all about author – reviewer interaction. Overall, I think that talking with an author is just cool, and you both can learn something.

    I've had a good and a bad experience. Once on Goodreads I posted a review about a memoir written by 3 women, and one of the women kind of rubbed me the wrong way in the book. And I said in my review that I enjoyed her parts the least and gave reasons why. The woman I was talking about saw my review and left kind of a snarky comment on it. I just shrugged it off – I don't take it personal. But it definitely didn't change my mind, it only confirmed my original feelings – that she was melodramatic.

    The good experience I've had was when I posted a review on my blog about another memoir (written by three Lost Boys from Sudan). Their co-author, a woman who helped them when they came to the US, sent me an email thanking me for reviewing the book and recommending another book about Sudan to further my interest – before she even read the review. She just got a Google alert about it and thanked me before she even went to read it.

    Personally, I wish authors would keep any interaction between reviewers private – that way they don't seem tacky to the whole world if they're rude or complain. Either way though, I'm honest in my reviews – I'll clearly state what I did and didn't like about the book. If an author privately emails or messages me and they are super polite (like the Sudan book author), I might mention online how cool they are and encourage their work. If an author privately messages me and complains or is kind of rude, I'll ignore it – I won't give them bad publicity if they keep it between us. But an author complaining to the whole world about a bad review is just sad.

    That author that started this all is infuriating. Not only did she complain about getting a bad review and criticize the person who reviewed it, she also criticized ALL book bloggers. You can be damn certain I'll never buy, read, or in any way support her work. And of course I'll tell any one who will listen about how childish she is. Ugh. Disgusting.

    ANYWAYS, so I vote thumbs up for author / reviewer interaction, as long as both sides remember their manners and basic respect. It's sad that because of all the non-personal ways of communicating these days (twitter, email, etc.) that people feel it's okay to forget decency and politeness.

  11. I interact with authors on Twitter and Goodreads but have not had any respond to a review I have done of their book. I think if both sides remain respectful and courteous it can benefit both the blogger and the author.

    I think soical media makes it so easy to have this interaction the people forget there is a real live person behind the Twitter handle. I think before you say anything, you have to ask yourself if you would say this to someone's face. If not, then you probably shouldn't say it :)

  12. I gave this a thumbs up. I'm all for author/blogger interaction as long as both parties are civil and professional. You can have differing opinions and that's fine and encouraged, but as long as both sides are polite and express themselves in a manner that does not include name calling, bashing, etc.

  13. Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) says:

    I've had several interactions with authors regarding reviews of their books. The majority of them are positive and usually the author thanking me for a positive review and retweeting it or something. I usually don't bring the negative reviews to the author's/publisher's attention when it auto-posts to Twitter. There was one time where I accepted a self-published book and got a tiny bit of backlash and attitude from the author, telling me that it was a "good… no, GREAT book" and that they were bummed out that I only gave it a three-star rating. I was baffled because I don't think three stars is bad by any means and thought it was actually a pretty generous rating. I thoroughly explained the reason why the book didn't work for me in a constructive and non-insulting way, but that didn't matter, apparently.

    I was pretty upset by this, but these things do happen.. so I'm definitely going to have to give a thumbs up. It's incredible to hear from an author and to hear that your glowing review put a smile on their face. Author interaction is one of the more rewarding aspects of blogging and I'm all for it!

  14. Jasmine (The Reading Housewives) says:

    Since I am still new to the blogging community I haven't had a TON of interaction with authors. I have had some, though, and it has all been positive. I do get nervous when I start to read a book from an author that maybe follows me on Twitter. I know I'll eventually post my review of the book, and I hope that I don't offend them if I didn't like it, and on the other hand I hope I did the book justice if I loved it.

  15. Thumb way up. I've only had positive reactions from authors, but even if they were negative, I think I could handle it. Of course, I don't ATTACK authors if I don't like their books, so I'm not expecting any vicious responses, but I guess you never know…. I'll take it as it comes.

  16. For the most part, any of our authors who have commented on reviews have done so politely, even if it was a less than stellar review. I think a lot of authors make a point of thanking bloggers for good reviews but resolve to just not comment on bad reviews, which I think is totally reasonable.

    We did have one author who basically freaked out over a lukewarm review and left a very nasty comment–but luckily it was so clearly unhinged that the blogger took it in stride.

  17. I've only had the positive reactions from authors. I don't have a traditional review style, but I've had a few authors comment and it's nice to know they appreciate what I have to say about their books.

    I love authors & the great books they write, so its always nice to know that they read what we think about their books.

    THUMBS UP!

  18. Jenni Elyse says:

    As long as the author isn't mean-spirited, then I'm okay with their disagreement of my review in a public forum. I always try to be nice in my book reviews, but I'm going to say what I thought of the book. If I didn't like it, I'll explain why. If I do like it, I'll explain why. I'm not going to like every book I read so some negative reviews are too be expected.

    However, I always love positive reviews from authors. I think it's awesome that they take time out of their schedule to read my review and comment on it.

  19. Jacinda (The Reading Housewives) says:

    So far any author interaction has been positive, one author even commented on my review on my blog (that was a good day!). As long as it is positive interaction and not negative I love it. Talking and interacting with them usually can be great.

  20. I think author/blogger interaction is a good thing, provided everyone keeps their tempers and are courteous. I really wish I had read that post everyone is talking about—I don't know what happened except for the basics!

    I haven't really had any interaction after reviewing a book, but I've talked to authors beforehand or on Twitter. I really enjoy it.

  21. TNBBC Super Mod says:

    Jamie, great post, and so many questions to answer!

    I have been hooked on author interaction ever since David Maine reached out to me on Goodreads quite a few years ago to thank me for reviewing his novel. He was headed out to NYC for a reading shortly after that, and I had emailed him to let him know I was coming. Turns out there was a mix up in dates and location, but David showed up anyway, and spent an entire hour with little ole me – discussing his novels, his influences, his teaching gigs… It was awesome!!!

    Since then, I have built lots of wonderful relationships with authors. I don't let my personal interactions twist my reviews of their novels or color the way I view their work.

    I've had my share of authors who didn't care for my reviews of their work, and that have contacted me to discuss things, but always in a polite, informative way.

    I think it amazing how social media sites allow such easy access to bloggers and authors and publishers alike! It's really a great time to be doing what we do.

    We shouldn't let one or two "bad eggs" put a sour taste in our mouths. Be true to what you review. Own your feelings, and give it to your readers straight. If it's going to be a less than favorable review, do the right thing and offer constructive examples of what didn't work.. Give the author something to take away from it!

  22. Jennifer Lane says:

    This is a wonderful discussion! I'm an author and I sometimes feel uncomfortable commenting on reviews–it feels a little bit like crashing the party. Sure, it stings to get a negative review, but in the end I'm really interested in an honest opinion of my work, and I don't want to exert any unintentional influence on the process. Sometimes I do comment because I'm often thankful for folks taking the time to read and review my novel.

    We're talking about authors commenting on reviews, but how do bloggers feel about authors joining in on a discussion like this one? I know I love to receive comments on my blog so I'm hoping it's okay to weigh in here.

  23. In general I think it's cool to have author interaction but at times, esp. when I don't care for a book, I start to feel bad. I have had one specific author who left a nasty comment and one author & publicist combo who caused issues "behind-the-scenes". I think that's the exception though and that most author involvement is awesome.

  24. Jennifer – I know I personally love when authors get involved in discussions!

  25. Jennifer– I love it when authors get involved in conversations like this. That was my hope that it would be a good dialogue between bloggers and authors!

  26. Mentioning again my above comment I really have had at least five times where I have been a tad bit critical but over all liked the book and the author leave a comment saying Pam you kinda just didn't get that part, here is what I meant. I really love that explanation, then the readers of the review see it too. I have often thought about taking it and putting it in the post. I have also had my good reviews commented on and quotes taken and put places on the web and blurbed and I have had emails bad bad emails but over all I have had a good experience :D

  27. Pam — I think that is totally awesome where an author is willing to constructively take what you said but also explain what they intended and dialogue with you about it..NOT try to fight with you and change your mind. I wish some of these authors who attack reviewers would take note and see how wonderful the blogger/author relationship could be. Attacking is never the way to go.

  28. Jenna Blum says:

    Hi! I think it's a moot point by now: because social media has made our lives more permeable, authors & readers *can* interact and *do* interact. What I love in this discussion is people's insistence that this be done civilly. Yes, when you write a book and send it out into the world, you then step up onto a platform and put your head & hands in the stocks. Readers can throw all sorts of things at your book and you're really not allowed, via good manners & the rules of the game, to say anything about it. That's the way it goes. Authors have to have a skin like the rind of a grapefruit!

    But one thing I've seen with the rise of internet commentary is this: it's so easy to give an opinion that people sometimes *do* get carried away and say nasty things just because they can. What's going to happen, your laptop screen's going to rise up and smite you? I'm not talking well-thought-out reviews here; I'm talking direct attacks on the author, her point of view, her "stupid" story, etc.

    In these instances–and ONLY in these instances–I do sometimes feel justified in stepping in and commenting on my reviews. If a reader doesn't like my books, that's a reader's right. But if a reader says "Blum's style is straight out of grad school; she should stop showing off all the 20 dollar words she learned in her MFA program already," I will tell that reader: hey, Iw as using obnoxious $20 words when I was four–and I do so now as a craftsperson when the $20 word expresses a nuance most concisely than an equally valuable 5-cent word. Or if a reader says, "It's clear Blum did not do her research for this novel," I gently correct that assumption.

    I do this to remind everyone, readers and writers alike–and I am a reader, a voracious, violently opinionated one!–that behind the curtain of profile picture & words, there are PEOPLE. It's an increasingly important lesson to learn and remember in an increasingly pixilated world, and we should all remember, when providing commentary, that somebody's heart and soul went into what you're reading. Be thoughtful & respectful accordingly.

    ~ Jenna Blum, author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS

  29. Lisa Yarde says:

    I wear both hats, as a reviewer and writer. I like interacting with other writers and have built a great rapport, even with ones I didn't review too favorably. When my own work is reviewed, I try to thank the reviewer for their time spent, even if they didn't like my book. Reviewers should feel at liberty to give theur honest opinion; it's all subjective and there is no right or wrong view. It's where reviewers get nasty that authors get testy in return. Doesn't mean we should stoop to flaming someone over an unfavorable review. Sometimes, it's better to just ignore it.

  30. I think that author interaction definitely has the opportunity to be great. Reviewers and author have to be aware though that not everyone is going to like what you say/write. True, feelings can get hurt, but I think that's a risk that we all take when we put our personal opinions out there. And it can be easy to be misunderstood in print so why shouldn't authors get the opportunity to defend their work after an especially brutal bash? I know I would want that opportunity.

  31. Avid Reader says:

    So far I've only had good author interactions and I think that's a valuable part of the social media aspect of publishing. I think that as long as the author and the reviewer are both being respectful that it's wonderful. It can open up new discussions and can benefit both parties. I do think that some reviewers can forget how personal a book is for an author (especially a new one) and that authors can forget that the book isn't necessarily personal for the reviewer. It can be tricky, but still I give it a thumbs up.

  32. In short, I like seeing the comments crop up so much more. That's what gets me all warm and fuzzy inside.divorce papers

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