May 2nd, 2008

A Pocket Full of Murder

Reading/Responding to Reviews

Lately I've been hearing a lot about how writers aren't supposed to ever, ever respond to reviews from readers -- in fact, that it's better not to read any of those reviews in the first place.

I understand why reading harsh critical reviews of a book you've already written and can't do anything about is a bad idea -- why crush your soul and wreck your confidence over something you can't fix? Especially with a debut novel, where the problems critical readers point out may well be unique to that particular story and won't ever happen again. (I do see the merit of paying attention to criticisms that surface again and again over subsequent novels, though.)

I also understand why arguing with critical reviews is unprofessional, pointless, and makes you look like a thin-skinned prima donna, so I'm in favor of staying away from that end of things as well.

What I don't understand is why some people say that you shouldn't respond to any reviews whatsoever, even the glowingly positive ones. faerie_writer has just had a great experience as the result of breaking this rule, and I've always been thrilled when I've made positive comments about another author's work on LJ or forums only to have that author comment back to thank me. It makes me feel, as a reader, that this person is not only a talented writer but a nice human being as well -- and that just makes me want to support them all the more.

So my question is, why shouldn't an author respond to positive reviews? I mean in moderation and using good judgment, of course -- I'm not talking about responding to every single one or even most of them, much less encouraging people whose enthusiasm borders on the stalkerish. Is there a downside to interacting with fans in this way that I'm not seeing?

X-posted to fangs_fur_fey.