One of the best things, in my humble opinion, about the explosion of indie/self-publishing is that the authors seem to be much more reachable and approachable. Instead of sending off a fan letter to Famous Author c/o Their Big Publishing House, now we can interact (as in, the author replies to you!) via Goodreads, blogs, Twitter, Facebook…the list goes on.
With such immediate contact, both sides can benefit…the reader gets a thrill when the author (even a famous one!) replies to their Tweeted question, the author gets validation that you like me you really like me (and hopefully gets motivated to write some more)! As long as one side doesn’t get all cray-cray, this is a great relationship that is mutually beneficial.
So when is interaction a bad thing? In my opinion, the #1 no-no is responding/reacting to reviews. I personally feel that authors should turn a completely blind eye to reviews and pretend they don’t exist, unless there’s a really exceptional one that you’d like to use as a quote (and even then, it should be screened through a hard-ass friend) or one pointing out an egregious error that needs to be quietly fixed. We’ve all seen Goodreads and Amazon comments turn to the dark side when a lurking author takes exception to something a reader says, the gloves come off, and it gets ugly. But who comes out looking like a jerk 99% of the time? The author.
Our books are our babies. We create them, we nurture them, we relentlessly pimp the hell out of them…and no one wants to hear that their baby is ugly. But someone much more eloquent than I (and I failed to note the source, please feel free to provide it in the comments so I can give due credit) pointed out quite bluntly that the reviews belong to the book, and as long as they don’t skip over into abusive territory, a reviewer can write whatever they damn well please. Maybe your novel did come off as pretentious and out of touch to the reader…you can’t control that. Kind of like how we can’t control how others act, we can only control our response to it.
There is one author I have personally un-followed on all forms of social media and do my best to avoid altogether due to their (keeping it gender neutral here) proclivity for passive-aggressively hounding readers about their reviews. It wasn’t outright verbal-bashing, but bordered on it, and it soured me on the author and their works completely. When writing a review, I pretend the author will never see it, because otherwise I would never write an honest review. Hard to do when an author frets publicly about readers who just “don’t get” their genius.
In the same vein, another place I firmly believe authors should steer clear of is any online discussion of their books, e.g. Amazon forums (unless the author was specifically invited to take part, like a chat session). There will be people who will want to say not-entirely-positive things about your book, and although it’s easier to say them over the internet rather than face-to-face, the author’s presence is awkward and everyone will probably be wishing you would just leave.
(Plus, even unsolicited concrit stings, even though we pretend it doesn’t.)
What do you think? Where do you think the lines should be drawn between reader/author interaction? Is there a gray area (e.g. a Twitter discussion about the book and someone happens to @ the author)? And should reviews be sacred, or is there a time when the author should speak up? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!