As an author, you want them: reviews of your book. Reviews help other readers discover your book, and quotes from those reviews can be excellent additions to your marketing materials. But when you stumble across a review of your book, should you respond to it?
If there’s one practice everyone can agree on, it’s that you should never respond to bad reviews. It never ends well. If the reviewer feels you’ve done something wrong by responding (which they almost always will), your response will go viral—and not in a good way. All you have to do is Google “authors behaving badly” to see what we mean.
And just a little PS on bad reviews: they can sell books. Shocking, right? But what doesn’t work for one reviewer may work for another. And bad reviews also mean that your book has reached people outside your inner circle. In some ways, a bad review means you’ve made it.
The Two Camps of Responding to Positive Reviews
When it comes to authors responding to positive reviews, readers fall into two camps:
1. Readers love when authors respond to reviews.
2. Readers don’t like when authors respond to reviews.
It’s a big discrepancy, right? You can please one camp, but not the other. That’s why it’s important to understand why readers feel either way, and make your own decision about how you’re going to respond to reviews. Because it’s ultimately up to you to decide how you cultivate your relationship with readers.
Readers Love Having Authors Respond to Reviews
For many readers, authors are their rockstars. When an author they’ve read (and loved) responds to their review, it can make their entire day. They’ve taken their time to read and review a book, and they like when an author recognizes that and extends a thank you.
Readers Dislike Having Authors Respond to Reviews
For other readers, having an author respond to their review can shut down conversation and, in some cases, makes the reader feel the author is desperate for reviews. When these readers review books, they review for other readers and believe the author doesn’t belong in that space.
An exception to this would be if the author asked the reader to review the book. If you’ve secured a review and sent a review copy, you should thank the reader through email for his or her time.
Before you decide whether you should respond to reviews or not, let’s discuss the varying levels of how you can respond to reviews.
Ways You Can Respond to Reviews
First, it must be repeated: never ever respond to a bad review of your book. Never. Under no circumstances. Vent to your spouse or a trusted friend if you must say something. Once you publish your book, you can’t control what people say about it. That’s a tough mindset change to make, but it’s necessary when you publish.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk how to respond to reviews. This won’t be what to say to reviewers—that you’ll have to figure out on your own because it has to be authentic and come from you—this is the different ways you can interact with reviews.
Reviews can appear in a number of places: Goodreads, Amazon, BN.com, personal blogs.
With Amazon and BN.com, there’s not really a way to respond to reviews, but many people post their reviews other places, such as Goodreads or their personal blogs. With Goodreads, you can like a review, similar to liking a post on Facebook. On Goodreads and blogs, you can comment on reviews.
Liking a review shows you’ve seen it and appreciate it without taking the extra step of commenting. If you want to acknowledge a review without commenting—a sort of middle ground to responding to reviews—a like is a good way to do it. You might also send them a thank you privately, through email or a social media site’s private messaging system, but unless you’ve established a relationship with the reviewer, this may be awkward for the reader (and you never want to make readers feel awkward).
Sometimes readers will share their review on social media and tag or mention you as the author. In this case, it’s definitely okay (encouraged, even) to respond. By mentioning you, they’ve made the first contact—even if your policy is to not respond to reviews, you should acknowledge the social media update, which you can do by liking the status, retweeting the tweet, or just saying “Thanks!”
Another way of responding to a review (without really responding) is to share the review on your social media accounts. This shows you’ve seen the review and you’re thankful for it—but you give the reader the benefit of additional exposure for their review. Sharing their review demonstrates your appreciation for it—it shows rather than tells, which is more than just writing advice.
Will you respond to reviews?
The choice ultimately belongs to you, but be sure to understand both sides of the issue before you create your respond-to-reviews policy. And yes, it should be a policy you have! Ideally, your policy should be in place before you publish and begin receiving reviews of your book.
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