Be nice, or be quiet: 7 tips for responding to blogger reviews

This is a post by Donna Brown

Phew, getting reviews isn't always easy, is it? Imagine if you spent ten hours searching for and querying bloggers. Then one person agrees to review your book but then you find out that they read it and wrote a review but didn't post it anywhere. That'd be pretty annoying, right?

Okay, now imagine you're a reviewer. You spent 8 hours reading a book, an hour writing and formatting a post, another hour posting to Amazon and Goodreads, tweeting etc. You sent your link to the author. They read it, filed it and if it had been down to them no one else would ever have seen it.

These situations are comparable and both very irksome – it’s easy to forget the hours that go into the ‘behind the scenes’ work. If you are a blogger, reviewing simply for your love of books, a quick ‘nod’ from the author goes a long way. Guess what? These days it’s okay to respond to a blogger and here are some guidelines to make it plain sailing all the way:

1. Thank your reviewer

The old adage that you never comment on reviews has little place in the modern world. With traditional publishers increasingly looking to bloggers, your personal touch as an indie/self-published author is more important than ever. Charm, don't isolate. Remember that you're thanking them for their TIME rather than the score they gave you. It doesn’t have to be an essay but stopping by to say ‘Thanks’ or dropping a quick email, tweet or Facebook message goes a long way.

2. Share the post

Bloggers put epic amounts of work into building traffic. Share the posts and help them along. Not only does it help you by spreading the word about your book, but maybe the next time you need them you'll even find they have even more reach!

3. Explain but don't over-explain!

If a blogger comments on something and you feel offering an explanation may help, that’s okay. However! Do it because you have information you genuinely believe they didn’t have and not because you think they just couldn’t see the book in the right way.

  • Okay: “You know what, you’re so right! I’ve decided to do xyz in Book Two for just that reason…”
  • Not okay: “Well, if you’d read the book properly you’d know that xyz happens because…”

4. Be VERY careful with down voting on Amazon

Amazon allows you to vote on whether or not a review is helpful. It can be a good nod to a blogger who has done a great review to vote ‘yes’. And by great, I mean well written, not just that it’s five stars. As an author, is a ‘This was MEGA, 5/5’ really more helpful to you than a 3/5 that goes into detail about the highlights and lowlights of the book? Maybe to your short term sales but probably not to your long term writing development.

Be even more wary of requesting mass voting from friends and family. In fact, avoid it completely. Both are poor practices but mass down voting is particularly damaging. The reviewer world is smaller than it seems and word gets around quickly about reviews that are suddenly mass down voted. It’s unfair to the reviewer for one thing, but it also suggests that you can’t take any feedback, and that’s off-putting to many reviewers. And if you think this only happens to nasty, 1-star, backbiting reviews, think again. I’ve seen it happen (very recently!) to a very well-written three star review that the blogger had spent a great deal of time on.

5. If you can't say anything nice…

Yep, you know this one. If you really can't bring yourself to just say ‘Thank you for your time

– sorry it wasn’t for you but I appreciate your feedback‘, then say nothing! Sarcastic remarks – however well veiled – can ruin someone's week and make you look bad. Remember, the Internet never forgets, and something said in the heat of the moment can haunt you for a very long time.

6. Be personable

You have no idea if their review will sell one copy or fifty, but you already know that you'll make more money from it than they will – and remember that affiliate revenue often barely covers a blogger’s costs. Pay a little back with the time taken to leave your comment. Use their name. And use it properly. When I receive emails to “Donna Brown of Book Bags and Cat Naps” it makes me feel more like R2D2 than a human being! Do you go to your butcher and say “David Johnson of Johnson Meat and Produce, give me a pound of bacon”? Try and imagine the greeting you’d like to receive if you were getting that email or that comment on your blog.

7. Remember that review comments can encourage discussion

Readers like to connect with authors. Seeing that you as an author have commented on a review shows them that you are approachable and ‘human’ and also offers readers the chance to open a conversation with you. Give them the opportunity to ask you questions by showing that you’re not above stopping by a blog and having a metaphorical cup of a tea and a chinwag!

Most of all, remember that authors and bloggers are just people and are all in this for the same reason – a love of books/words. Spread a little kindness in the book blogger world, and you never know how far it may get you!
About this post's author:

Donna Brown works as a self-employed consultant and freelance editor. She also runs a book blog (Book Bags and Cat Naps) and The Indie Exchange, designed to connect authors and readers.

Vanessa

Great post 🙂

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Vanessa!

Lauren Clark

Very Nice Donna! Crucial advice and I couldn’t agree more. xx Lauren Clark

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Lauren – I already know from experience that you follow this advice to the letter!

Sabrynne McLain

Hi Donna,

A very informative post. I would not have thought to say thank you on their blog. I would think it was not done or something. It also didn’t dawn on me that bloggers also post their reviews on Amazon et al. Makes sense, though.

Thanks.

Sabrynne

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Sabrynne – it’s such an easy way to say thank you but also another way to get yourself seen and easily engage with readers. Everybody wins!

D. Robert Pease

I always try to leave little thank you notes on at least one instance of any review I get. Even a very grumpy reviewer that gave me one star on Amazon just got a nice “Thanks for the review. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea.” The funny thing is, I didn’t have to defend myself against him, a whole bunch of other people did. I’m sure that one star review gets more reads than any other review on my book (I always read the one stars.) and many people comment what a poorly written review it was. Still makes me sad that it drags down my overall rating, but I do think it adds legitimacy.

    Donna Brown

    Exactly – what a great way to look at it!

Pavarti K Tyler

Nicely put. I don’t always feel like leaving a comment on the blog is Kosher, depending on the site. But I ALWAYS send an email or tweet and try to pimp the post. Book bloggers put so much time and self into these reviews. Sometimes I think we get stuck in the “I got 100 reviews!” instead of “I got 20 well written reviews and made some new friends!” Personally, I’d rather have the 20.

    Donna Brown

    That’s a great take on it, Pav!

Karen Pokras Toz

Great advice Donna … thank you!

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Karen!

Coranne

As a blogger I wanted to say thank you! I agreed with all of these points!

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Coranne!

Brian Holers

thanks Donna, this is good. Same thing my mother used to tell me. I have had some mixed reviews and sometimes it just means a reader is thorough. They’re happy to hear appreciation from the writer for a job that is iften thankless.

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Brian – you’re absolutely right!

Julie Elizabeth Powell (pen)

I would agree that to thank people for their time is important. I even thank the ones who hate my work and have posted a horrible review because at least they took the time to read it.

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Julie – time does need to be valued above score. Unless a reviewer is needlessly nasty or cruel, you’re getting what you asked for: an opinion. I think your way forward is a great one!

Laura Ritchie

All good points to keep in mind. Thanks!

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Laura!

Sarah J. McNEAL

You brought up some very good points in this post. So often authors forget to thank a reviewer for all their time. I don’t think snarky reviewers intent on crippling a writer’s desire to write are helpful in any way. I don’t think it’s smart to snark. I do, however, think poor reviews are good learning tools if the reviewer is sincere and points out the weak points in a story along with the strong. Most of us are striving to improve our writing, not just looking for positive strokes.
Great post.

    Donna Brown

    Thanks Sarah – that’s a rock solid point! Some authors have to decide if they are asking for opinions or for validation – big difference!

Dee

A timely reminder that it behooves authors and reviewers to operate with integrity and common courtesy.

Deborah E

Oh my, Donna! That was so helpful. I am used to the world of reviews as far as music, being a musician, but I have just recently written my first novel (in the editing phase). I am also a blogger interested in doing reviews, so your article was “spot on” for both perspectives. Wow – I need to bookmark and read again! thanks, Deborah

Jane George

There have been times when I stopped by and said, ‘Hi and thanks,’ on a blog discussing my book, and my presence stopped the conversation dead like mom had shown up. Now, if I leave a comment to say thanks, it’s at least a week later.

But I always tweet and FB the link etc.

Katie Ganshert

This is SUPER helpful!!! I haven’t been commenting on review blogs for my book, because I thought it was taboo. But I’d love to say a simple thank you.

So thank you for this insight. It’s nice to get inside the head of a reviewer.

Michelle

Oh thank you for this. The only author who has stopped by, read my review and commented is Firoozeh Dumas. I hope that other authors will be inspired to encourage those of us who try to get the word out about their works.

The blog post she commented on https://bloomingatcolumbinegardens.blogspot.com/2008/08/three-books-that-are-making-me-think.html (my old blog)

Tracy L. Darity

Hi Donna,

Very nice blog.

Tracy

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