Why I Don’t Respond to Reviews…

February 4, 2012 at 12:19 am (writing)

A review is an opinion, and everyone who has read something is entitled to their own personal viewpoint. Every writer should be willing to acknowledge that there will be people out there who won’t enjoy their work, or who will take issue with their style or approach to a certain topic. When someone writes a review, they aren’t speaking for everyone, just for themselves and they will base their decisions on their own tastes, experiences and interpretations. This is one reason why it is advised that writers should never respond to a review, especially a negative one. You and others may not agree with what is said, but you can’t tell the person that they are wrong. The review is based on their individual reaction and only they can say exactly how that work made them feel.

Being a reviewer as well as a writer really does give you the flip-side of the situation and a broader perspective. I would advise all writers to get a taste of what it is like to serve as reviewer. Some writers will take great offense if you don’t rate them 5 stars and tell them that they are perfect. They’ll see anything negative as a personal attack, even if you liked most of the book, and say so, but a couple of things rubbed you the wrong way. Some readers will also take you to task if you say something they don’t like about a particular book, series or writer that they happen to like. I tell them the same thing that I’m saying now. You have no right to tell me what I should think or feel about something I have read. If I like it, or even love it, I will say so, and I make an effort to point out exactly why I feel that way. If I didn’t like it, I will speak my mind there as well, but once again, I will explain my point of view to the best of my ability. I don’t just say “I love it” or “I dislike it” without foundation. You are welcome to disagree with me, and say you feel otherwise, but don’t tell me I’m wrong – that is my reaction even if it isn’t yours. You have your opinion, and I have mine, and they don’t have to coincide.

We all have our sore points as a writer too – those sensitive areas that, when they are targeted negatively in a review, really will put us into a funk. I pride myself on my characterization, so when a reviewer picks on that specifically, it hurts. I’ll be glum for days. Description, word choice, adverbs, dialogue tags, pacing, general style, none of that bothers me if that’s what’s being criticized, but not so with my characters. That being said, I can’t contest someone’s opinion if they didn’t like my characters. If they didn’t connect, they didn’t connect. That *was* their experience. They aren’t wrong, just because many other people feel otherwise.

If you choose to respond to a review, whether you are the writer or a reader, please keep all of this in mind. If you have strong feelings about a book, then as a reader, write your own review, rather than protesting what some other reviewer has said with comments objecting to their point of view. Critique of a review should not be based on the reviewer’s opinion but on how much thought and effort went into the review. If you want to judge a review, then that should be the deciding factor, not whether or not the reviewer feels the same way that you do.

But then again, that’s just my opinion…

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