Friday, April 24, 2009

On Authors Commenting on their Reviews

Peter V. Brett had an interesting post the other day which is reverberating around the blogosphere, so I thought I'd chime in. A few weeks ago, he jumped into a discussion about his book, The Warded Man, over at The Book Smugglers. He also blogged about it at about the same time. Just the other day, he blogged again on the topic in response to a topic over at Racy Book Reviews about authors having a "chilling effect" on blog discussions. Racy Book Reviews gets into a lot of interesting scenarios, such as negative and positive book reviews and what may happen if an author chimes in. It's worth reading.

My own experience with authors chiming in has been very positive. Most often, the author will not respond on the actual post, but will respond on their own blog, with a link back. The link back is usually how I find the response. However, sometimes, the author will pop in here. And other times, the author will write me an email of thanks. I received wonderful emails from Alex Bledsoe, David Anthony Durham and James Dashner.

No matter how they respond, I love it, and as far as I'm concerned, they can respond all they want, both here and elsewhere. Of course so far, no one has had anything nasty to say . . .

On the post before this one, Lisa Shearin popped in, and it seemed to have no impact on the number of comments. Of course, that review was fairly positive. My otherwise-positive review of The Warded Man was a bit blunt in places, and Peter Brett popped in to offer a very mild response. One other person posted  after he did.

But my question to you is, what do you think? Are you reluctant to jump into a review discussion if the author has popped in?


Kimber Li said...

In my experience at Enduring Romance, readers enjoy it when an author pops in to comment and answer questions. I think this is because both readers and authors know we like to keep it positive at our blog. We're looking for books we love, not books we hate. And we don't like to be around people who believe it's ever okay to ridicule or insult anyone for any reason ever.

It's okay to say, "Well, I didn't get this part," but it's never, ever okay to say, "That author is an idiot! Did you see how many stupid 'ly' adverbs she used?"

'Discussion is encouraged, but must be polite.' That's the rule at Enduring Romance and I've only had to delete or not publish a tiny handful of commments for it.

Otherwise, I've seen author comment as hugely beneficial to both authors and readers alike. I think of myself as a matchmaker, bringing to sets of lovebirds together, people who love to tell stories and people who love to hear them.

Todd Newton said...

I think there's an intimidation factor to it, particularly if you are a writer yourself, you know? I mean, this person has "made it" and you are criticizing them! Ack!

Now, of course, a lot of us have critique groups and whatnot and we are just used to it (plus, some of us are too humble to ever imagine that we intimidate people). I think that yes, maybe an author's response can discourage further commenting (mostly the negative ones, as I've seen people gush over Abercrombie the second he stops by the SFFworld forums) but it's not a hard fast rule. I think maybe it's just a "star struck" thing.

Personally, I'm with Kimber An in that discussion is welcome so long as its actually useful. Constructive criticism I can do something with, while straight up bashing is just confusing.

SparklingBlue said...

As a budding author myself, I see it important to respond to the fans' questions--it shows them that you are listening.

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm torn about this. I think it's cool when an author pops in to a discussion to answer questions and thank the reviewer. On the other hand, if I see the author is around I wouldn't feel comfortable saying anything negative about the book (or if I did, I'd work hard to make it seem like a minor problem, even if it wasn't). I talk a lot about books I've read on my blog although I don't really do formal reviews; if the author drops by before I've read the book (say if I just mention I'm about to read it) and it turns out I don't like the book, I won't review it. In one case, I gave a negative review to a book, the author dropped by and said he was sorry I didn't like it, and I immediately felt horrible and essentially backpedaled in the comments. Then I felt like an idiot.

I have twice posted very negative reviews of books that I found extremely poorly written, and I don't know what I'd do if those authors showed up on my blog. I'd certainly have questions for them.

Neth said...

I'd say it's a double-edged sword. At least at my blog, it's pretty rare for there to be much discussion about the book, so I'm not sure authors impact it much. However, there are a couple of cases where authors have gotten the discussion really moving (in both good and bad directions).

My own opinion is that authors are probably better off not commenting on reviews (unless to correct or inform). Commentary on their own sites can be tricky as well, though many have found a good balance. But when authors do respond to reviews and it gets out of hand for whatever reason, the result is typically makes the author look bad.

Tia Nevitt said...

I did have one discussion that got out of hand in a comments thread, but I thought it was unseemly and I deleted most of the comments in that thread.

The author in question has to be much more careful that the reviewer. A tarnished reputation is much more difficult to polish than one that never got tarnished to begin with.

Todd Newton said...

Totally, and a rude author is worse than an unresponsive one... or is it? I mean, it's not like we could be as bad as people view Terry Goodkind (and he even still has fans/readers), surely?

So long as authors stay humble, I'm okay with them responding (unless it's Abercrombie, who can be as grandiose as he likes in the interest of humor because it works).

Unknown said...

I think some folks are apprehensive primarily because there have been some terrible experiences out there in which authors came in and threw a temper tantrum or some such. I can't remember who had this experience not too long ago (someone we know, whose name is escaping me).

In any case, I don't really have a problem if they come in and leave a comment. I just have a problem if they're going to argue with me over my review. You're not going to change my opinion of the piece and you'll probably damage my opinion of you if you sit down and try to make me see things differently. Reviewers have a certain experience when they read because they are readers, and nothing can really change that (with rare exception).

Merc said...

I don't participate in that many review discussions, but I've read good and bad threads where authors have popped in to comment.

Personally I don't think I would have a problem with the author commenting or joining the discussion if it all stayed friendly and polite. ;)

It can be quite fun to chat with the author and have him/her answer questions or comment on things. (Again, if it stays away from tantrums and flame wars.)

I'm not sure I would (if I had a book published) join in review discussions or not. I think I'd prefer open-ended discussions about aspects of the book or whatever in a forum-like setting. Just seems more informal and easier to talk to people that way, you know?

Very thought-poking topic, thanks! :D

Todd Newton said...

Tia, was it the probability of my prolific commenting spilling into tomorrow's Showcase that brought this about? Or do I need to be knocked down a peg or two? :)

Strong coincidence...! Just saying...!

Tia Nevitt said...

Good point about the forums, Merc! But in many ways, blogs have evolved into forum-like places. I comment on way more blogs than forums.

And Todd, please don't think this subject has anything to do with your Discovery Showcase tomorrow! It really did originate with Peter Brett's post, and is starting to proliferate around the blogosphere.

Todd Newton said...

Just me trying to steal the spotlight. I actually just read The Warded Man while I was in Japan last month and it really blew me away. Best book I've read in awhile, and I said so, then PVB linked back to my post on his blog (as if I'm some authority). Anyway, yeah, don't mind me.

Kimber Li said...

I think it was Jacqueline Lichtenberg who said that Marion Zimmer Bradley said, "The story you write is not the same story the reader reads."

What this means, I think, is that no matter what's going on in the author's head when she creates her story, the reader is going to interpret it based on her own experiences, values, and preferences, which the author has no control over. So, you know, if you want to be an author, it's a good idea to learn how to shrug your shoulders, smile, and nod a lot.

ediFanoB said...

I don't mind when an author takes part in a discussion as long as everybody follows the Netiquette.
It has been said here before: Normally we talk about books we like or from reader point of view we want to read. A lot of people who left a comment have their own blog.I think for you it is a bit different than for a reader like me. You are more exposed.

Cindy said...

I haven't had an author participate in a blog comment of my reviews. However they have emailed me.

Just recently David B Coe emailed me back about my review of his book, and was very positive. I think for the most part, authors enjoy the "buzz".

As far as causing me to not respond I don't really notice if they are responding or not. If I have a comment I comment, that's just how I am :)

Tia Nevitt said...

If I'm really fired up to comment on something, I often won't even notice if the author participated. If there's only a handful of comments, I'll notice, but if there's ten or more, I'll only scan them before commenting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the linkage. Just FYI: my blog's name is actually Racy Romance Reviews, because my reviews are limited to the romance genre. Thanks again.

Tia Nevitt said...

Sorry I misread that, Jessica!

Anne said...

Well, I'm joining this late, but it's been that kind of a week. {lop-sided smile}

I've grown up around and known too many authors to be intimidated when one shows up in comments. I will notice if I recognize the name. I'll jump in if I have a comment I feel is worth saying. If it means disagreeing, I'll try to be kind about it, but I'll still disagree. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Anne said...

Clarification: I said I'm not intimidated. That's not true. The personalities involved in a discussion intimidate me easily at times. The topic of discussion may intimidate me, too. The job description of the personalities involved... not so much. {Smile}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Neil Richard said...

Years ago, I would have been gushing kind words to any author to get on their "good side" in an effort to get something out of it. Now, I could care less. Well, that's not quite true. If an author contributes something of value to the discussion, great. If not, be quiet like the rest of us.

Tia Nevitt said...

TK, I think that's part of growing up. People know when people are buttering up to them . . . and people know that people know that. Did that make sense? You're less likely to butter up because you are not easily buttered up to.

At least that's the way I feel.