Taleist has a nice posting asking the question: Should You Comment on Amazon Reviews?
My books’ pages on Amazon aren’t my pages, and readers don’t go there to find me. In my opinion readers should be able to browse a bookshop without bumping into authors fussing and preening next to their books; thanking kind reviewers and gently pointing out errors in less good reviews.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder about my decision in the case of the factual errors. I’d hate to think someone wasn’t reading my book because they read something untrue.
Personally, I’ve come pretty close. I’ve drafted comments on Amazon saying everything I wanted to say in response and then didn’t press publish. It just didn’t sit right. Even if I’m 100% correct, it still feels petty – and it will look defensive no matter what, because a reader has no idea if you’re right or not, he or she can just see that you’re not strong enough to not let things get under your skin. This could have a bad reflection on your writing on the whole.
Certainly there are times when it’s warranted – when it’s a troll out to sabotage your work. Factual inaccuracies are also an issue. But for the everyday review, it might not be the best idea.
But oh how I’ve wanted to. A recent review of my novel said, “The fascination with rape is disturbing.” This makes me seem like an incredible creep. And I had no idea what he was talking about. I actually did a search for the word “rape” in my novel and it’s only mentioned four times. There’s not even a scene where there’s a rape, it’s just used as metaphor for when someone feels violated. It’s arguable if that’s a good metaphor or not, but four times does not make a “fascination.” This seems more one person’s subjective issue than a widespread problem. If it’s mentioned over and over again in different reviews, then that’s something – but one lone review doesn’t tell a prospective buyer that this is indeed an issue with the book.
I wrote a comment more or less addressing what I wrote above, but I didn’t publish it. It just seemed to add a layer to the creepiness. But how I’ve dreamed of another reader writing the comment: what are you talking about??? Perhaps that time will come.
Writing Your Own Review
This leads to another issue: the writer-written review. There’s a controversial post on the Independent Publishing Magazine saying that this is something writers could think about doing.
The easiest way to get reviews for your book is to create fake profiles and then review it yourself. (You’ll be sure to get a 5 star rating!) However, many authors don’t feel right about doing this. The next best way to get reviews for your book is to ask friends and family to read it and to post a review. They’ll be likely to give you a favorable review, but you won’t have to coach them on what to write.
Emily Veinglory responds:
Okay, so posting fake reviews is “best,” and getting your mother to do it is the next best?
I feel like I’ve been naive. I just didn’t think most writers would have the gall to do this. Or it’s being done by writers whose books are so bad that they have no choice but to write their own reviews. But it’s likely a widespread problem. It should go without saying: don’t do this.
Similarly, there may be writers out there who are commenting on bad reviews with a fake non-author account. This basically amounts to the same thing. It’s fraudulent – no matter how tempting it might be.
There are some readers who might like an author getting involved – it depends on the reader. So long as you’re not overly defensive, there is a way to pull it off. Personally, I like to see commenting unfold organically. Even saying “Thanks for the review!” on a good review seems – perhaps – kind of desperate. In the long run, if a bunch of strangers are commenting on reviews, it is far more persuasive than anything an author could say.
About Henry Baum
Author of The American Book of the Dead, which won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." Also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Henry was a finalist along with Alan Moore and Dr Brooke Magnanti for his novel " God's Wife" at for Best Writer at The Erotic Awards London UK in 2013. He lives with his wife Cate Baum in Los Angeles. He is the founder of SPR. Visit henrybaum.com for more information.