So apparently I opened a can of worms the other day with my comment on the (spoiler review alert!) review of The Painted Man by Ana from The Book Smugglers. Not because of what I said or how I said it, but because of the very fact that I, wearing my author hat, said anything at all.
Jessica at Racy Book Reviews wrote an interesting post this morning where she posits that authors posting comments on reviews of their work, even (or perhaps especially) on blogs, has a chilling effect on comments, causing other comments to censor themselves, get starstruck, or simply choose not to comment, killing what might otherwise have continued to be a vibrant discussion thread.
She cites my example as the primary reason why she wrote the post, and there is some circumstantial evidence to support her. Once I left my comment, the conversation effectively ended.
I think she makes a fairly good point. I don’t think it’s good form for authors to respond to reviews too often. I have read literally hundreds of reviews of The Painted/Warded Man, and I think I’ve left a total of 4 comments. Less than one percent.
Wow, you must be thinking. These must have been VERY bad reviews!
Actually, no. One was spreading misinformation that the content of The Painted Man was significantly different from that of The Warded Man. Because of the problems inherent to having the book have two separate titles in the US and UK markets, I am very vigilant for things like that, and felt I needed to stomp the rumour out as a bud. I don’t want people buying the same book twice thinking there would ne more or less story or whatever.
The other three are due to the reviewers interpreting a certain scene in the book in a way that I think casts a negative aspersion on my character, even though the reviews in question were not necessarily negative overall. In all those situations, I did my best to keep it short, polite, informative, and to stick to the one topic that I wanted to give my thoughts on, rather than addressing the review as a whole.
Did I need to comment? No, of course not. But no one needs to comment on things. That’s the whole point of enabled comments on blogs. Everyone has the option to say something if they have something to say. It is the power of the internet in it’s purest form, laid bare in all its ugly beauty. Everyone gets to be heard, and no one does.
The comments on the post have been nonstop all day, I think there have been about 40, with authors and readers alike chiming in (myself included). It’s an interesting thread; well worth reading. I don’t think it’s going to change anything, though, or even that it necessarily should. Authors are still going to read any reviews of their work posted in public forum, and some of them, including me, are going to comment when they have something to say. It’s one of those things, like friends posting unflattering pictures of us on facebook and illegal file-sharing, that we’re all just going to have to get used to.
If you’re a New Yorker, pick up a copy of the New York Daily News tomorrow (Wednesday, April 22), and look for the article about yours truly!