VLog: How To Respond To Reviews

Recently my friend reviewed my book at SFSignal. I never expect anything less than an honest review from reviewers, especially friends. Anything is unhelpful because people tend to see through it anyway and because honest evaluation is the only thing a writer can rightfully expect from anyone. You hope they love the book. It’s hard if they don’t. In this case, the reviewer liked it but had some hard criticisms of a few aspects. Nonethless, I went on the site, said I was sorry it didn’t all work for him, linked to the B&N Year’s Best mention of the book, and thanked him for reviewing it. My friend, instead of taking my thanks as appreciation for his work, thought I was upset with him and it made him very uncomfortable. We’ve now sorted that out but it really got me thinking about how we respond to reviewers as writers and here are some thoughts:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt VLog1: Responding To Book Review from Bryan Schmidt on Vimeo.

To read my interview with book blogger/reviewer Sarah Chorn at sffwrtcht, go here.

3 thoughts on “VLog: How To Respond To Reviews

  1. Bryan, I was always taught that as a professional writer, I shouldn’t respond to a reviewer. Period. I never thought much about this until recently. I just took it for granted that this was the Way Things Were Done. Maybe things are changing. I can certainly understand the desire to thank a reviewer for reading the book and writing a review. But it just feels wrong to me, one of those professional lines that you just don’t cross. (Granted, I write short fiction and have had only half a dozen reviews of my stories so my experience is limited.)

    Thanking the reviewer is one thing. As you said, you also pointed out another review that was positive. While it might not have been intended, I can see this as coming across as a kind of “well, what do you know, this other fellow here gave me a great review.” I think that is why the pros that I know have cautioned me against responding to reviews at all. Even good intentions might run afoul. I suspect (and we could certainly ask them) that reviewers who understand that authors generally appreciate their effort without needing to hear it every time a review appears.

    1. Maybe, Jamie. I was raised to thank people. And I don’t bother with every review, but especially a reviewer I know and respect, I want to thank them for taking the time when they could have reviewed hundreds of other choices. In this case, what I pointed to wasn’t, in essence a review, but an honor the book had been given which might interest people who read the review. It wasn’t mentioned in a bio as usual, so I put it up there. I realize now that he took it the wrong way and hence the video. I’m not sure I’d do the same in the future, but I do think how we respond to reviews is very important and so I shared some thoughts. It’s a privilege to have people read your work. And when they are thoughtfully interacting with it, all the more so. I have heard people say don’t read reviews period. I think there’s value at this point to learn something which can help me improve at this point. I often ask a friend who’s read the review if it’s harsh or not to prepare myself before reading. If they think there’s nothing of value for me, I might stay away. But I think it definitely depends on the author. I wouldn’t get in a argument or flash posting debate over one for sure.

Leave a Reply