I was inspired to write on this subject by a post on the Carina Press blog and by a post on a reviewers blog. That latter one unfortunately turned into kind of a train wreck and I think has been taken down now.
Should an author thank someone who has reviewed their book?
One of the first things new authors get told is “Don’t reply to negative reviews! It will never end well.” We’ve all seen enough cases where it hasn’t ended well to know this is true. But what about positive reviews? What about long, thoughtful and well written reviews on book blogs? The protocol is, you don’t respond to them either. Don’t respond to any reviews!
This can feel very difficult. If someone tells you that you look nice today, you say thank you. If they say “good job” about something you did at work, you say thank you. If someone compliments your backhand, or putting, or cooking, or whatever, you say thank you. It’s only polite. And yet we see someone saying how great they thought our book was and we have to sit on our hands and say nothing.
Coming from a fandom background it’s even more frustrating. It’s the norm to reply to readers and reviewers there. They often expect a response and the writer and reader can end up having great interaction, discussing the story. I made a whole load of great online friends that way! So it’s a shock to the system to no longer be able to get into those discussions or engage at all.
I can understand why though. Somewhere like Goodreads is a reader’s space. Writers can forget that and swan around there gracing readers with their presence as if they should be grateful for it. But readers may instead feel it’s an intrusion into a place that’s for them. Reviews are for the readers, not the writer – another fact we writers can forget! In fact it’s rather arrogant to make the assumption that the reviewer wants a thank you from the writer. They may not seek the authorial stamp of approval of their review. They may even dislike it. May think it damages their credibility as a reviewer. If the “thanks” is in public, other readers may think it means the reviewer and the author are friends, and take the review less seriously.
Some writers may think, “as long as I don’t reply at all to the negative reviews, then it’s surely okay to say thanks for the good ones!” But is it? Isn’t that showing favouritism? A negative review might be as equally thoughtful and well-written as a positive review. But that person doesn’t deserve a thanks for the time they took? Only the reviewer who’s nice to you deserves the pat on the head?
I have said thanks to reviewer in the past, but I think now I’d say the only time I’d say thanks for a review is if I’ve personally requested it. And then it would only be by email, not publically on the site, and I wouldn’t mention anything about the content of the review. Of course, it may be that it’s a negative review. In which case I’d just have to grit my teeth when typing the emailed thanks. But is that so hard? Is it any harder than politely thanking someone for a disappointing birthday gift. I’m a grown up, I can manage that!
Otherwise, silence is golden.
Though let me give a blanket thanks to anyone who’s reviewed my books, or will review them in the future. Thanks! Thanks wiv knobs on!