How Involved Should an Author Be in the Review Process?

This came up in a group I’m in so I thought, why not blog about it?

Short answer: Not at all. Not one bit. No, no, no, no, no. Leave it alone. I mean it. (Read that in Mom Voice for emphasis, please.)

Aside from requesting that readers please leave a review if they can (really, reviews are so so vital, please leave them – good or bad), an author should not meddle in the words, star ratings, timing, or anything else that has to do with what a reader decides to put in their review.

It is unethical. The author may not have the intention of being unethical by getting involved in the review process, but the result is still the same. Those reviews, whether they are two words or five-hundred, should be the reviewer’s own honest thoughts. They are for potential readers — just like any other item for sale, an author is creating a product and the consumer has every right to leave their honest thoughts on the product that was delivered. Contacting the reviewer to ask for revisions is not cool, harms the process as a whole, and, for some, could discourage them from leaving future reviews or even reading that author’s work again.

Now, if an author wants to just read the reviews of their books to get a feel for what is working and what isn’t, that’s their prerogative. If an author is getting slammed with low ratings and wants to do better, maybe browsing through to see what’s going on would be worthwhile. Sometimes, the issues are as simple as getting a good editor in there to fix some grammar. Criticisms on plot or characters can get a little more tricky to resolve and for those, the author will just have to use their best judgment on. 

Protip: there is no perfect book that every single person will love. It’s never been written and it never will be. Everyone likes different things in their reads, so try not to drive yourself crazy making everyone happy. You’ll lose your voice and that’s the worst place to be as a writer.

Believe me, I know it’s tough to read less-than-stellar commentary on something you’ve poured your heart and soul into. I get it, I really do. The knee-jerk reaction is to feel the need to explain, or justify, or complain. Writing is a very personal kind of profession, it’s natural to feel like a negative comment is a personal attack, but it isn’t.

(Side note: If a reviewer is making actual personal attacks against an author — well, that has nothing to do with the book and the author should disregard it, as other serious readers who browse the reviews will. Engaging that sort of thing just makes everyone look bad.)

In conclusion, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth — leave reviewers alone. Authors are literally begging people to leave commentary on their work, every review is a gift – even if it’s a bad one. I’m an author now, but also a lifelong reader and I can honestly say, I’ve purchased books because of the things said in the negative reviews. You never know what’s going to capture your next biggest fan’s attention. 

Thanks for reading!

❤ Lila

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