Authors & Commenting On Reviews

Speculative Horizons has an interesting debate on whether or not authors should comment on reviews of their books.

The article cites the example of Peter V. Brett, who recently commented on a review of his novel The Painted Man over at The Book Smugglers as he felt the need to explain the reasoning behind a particular sexual scene in the book. After Peter left the comment, the conversation died a bit of a death – something he admits on his blog.

Now, maybe this was because the conversation had run its course. But maybe it was because readers felt reluctant to get involved once the author had posted a comment of his own. So, do authors kill debate by getting involved in online discussion, or does it depend on the nature of their contribution?

My opinion? It’s a question of etiquette really. Authors have never had the opportunity to really comment on reviews prior to the interwebs. It is important, I think, to correct any factual errors – there is no excuse for a reviewer being shoddy with the details, but in terms of offering opinions, I find myself reluctant in supporting that. Not out of a logic of whether something is good or bad; merely, that online, we must remember Godwin’s Law being the end result of many of online debates, and that’s an undignified situation for an author to be in. Besides, if a review is bad, and an author gets embroiled in an online battle, it only serves to draw attention to such negativity… Perhaps a stiff upper lip is required, because no single book can be liked by everyone.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

4 replies on “Authors & Commenting On Reviews”

Nicely flagged Mark, just spent a happy hour or so reading up on all the controversy.
I personally feel that a reviewer or blogger is commentting on someone’s work. If the author responds, it should be to do with the ‘work’ of that reviewer, ie the review itself and the professionalism thereof, and not resort to personal attacks or putting in explanations.
If it needs explaining post-read, you haven’t written it well enough.
However, Paul Kearney’s comments about not writing something classed as a ‘review’ without actually finishing the book seem to me to be justified. It’s a professional comment.
Of course, he did phrase it badly, silly man…
Just my two cents. Almost finished your book by the way 🙂

Hi Brian,

Yes, I’m in agreement with that responding – but would prefer if it is on the author’s site, rather than in the comments section. Seems a more formal response then.

Hope you’re enjoying the book! Of course, I couldn’t possibly comment on your views of it, given this discussion… 🙂

I fall into the “books are like children” camp. Once they go out on their own, you can’t control how they and the world interact, nor should you try.

I’m good with correcting specific factual errors, but other than that, I think it unwise and usually counter-productive for authors to respond directly to reviews.

However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in thanking someone for a thoughtful or nice review if it seems an appropriate venue to do so.

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