Well, Excuse Me!

by | July 13, 2023 | General | 1 comment

I read a post on a reviewer’s website that made me rethink online courtesy. This woman went on a rant about authors who aren’t considerate enough to say “thank you” when she reviews their books, often at their request. She held the opinion that after she spent “hours reading and reviewing” a book, the least the author could do was “take a few minutes” to send a follow-up e-mail, especially if it was a good write-up.

Wow – I thought we were all on the same page! I used to write book reviews for a romance site and I didn’t expect flowers when I favorably critiqued someone’s book. That isn’t why I did it and I can count on one hand the times an author reached out to thank me or question my parentage. If they did drop a line, I appreciated it, but it wasn’t what I lived for. I know a lot of authors who don’t communicate with reviewers because they don’t want it to look like they’re sucking up or influencing the outcome. If I hold a contest and offer a book as a prize, I always ask the winner to let me know what they thought of it. I don’t ask them to post a review, but just share their opinion so I’ll know if I’m reaching my audience. This is something else I don’t count on because people say they will, but usually don’t. It’s all part of the game and no, I don’t take it personally.

I make it a point to follow up with bloggers who have interviewed me or featured my books, because it’s common courtesy, and often results in a return invitation. I was raised by a generation that believed in sending “thank you” notes, and it’s a habit. The one time I received a terrible review on a blog, I actually left a comment for the reviewer, thanking them for their honest opinion. I didn’t like what they said about me or my book, but I chose to take the high road and show them that I wasn’t bothered by their negative comments. In other words, “Screw you and your ill-informed opinion!”

A friend once asked me to review one of his books when I was contributing to that online review site. We had appeared at the same author events, and supported each other’s literary endeavors. The problem? I wasn’t into the genre he writes and I didn’t think I’d appreciate his story. I tried to explain this but before I knew it, a package arrived in the mail containing his book. Autographed, of course.

I read it, found it to be better than I expected and wrote a four-star review. Actually, that was generous because he had self-published and there were numerous problems, which I didn’t mention in the write-up. I sent him a separate email summarizing my observations in a constructive way. Apparently, he expected a rave review because he didn’t communicate with me for a year after I posted it. I looked up some of his reviews on Goodreads and discovered that many were less flattering than what I wrote. In fact, a couple of them were downright nasty. Beats me why he wasn’t happy with four stars.

One of my Lodge brothers liked my books and asked if I would critique a few draft chapters of his first endeavor. He was a retired Fire Department Chief and wrote a fictionalized story based on his career. It sounded like an interesting concept, but had we not been friends, I would’ve told him I was too busy. As it turns out, I should have. My comments were constructive and designed to help him produce a better manuscript, but he didn’t see it that way. When I suggested that he might want to “dumb down” some of the technical jargon and insider references because readers might not understand them, he took an attitude with me, claiming “Everyone knows what those are!”

Apparently not everyone, because I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Ever since then, I’ve been “too busy”—unless someone hires me to edit their work.

The remarks I mentioned earlier gave me cause for pause. The person referenced “hours spent reading and reviewing” books, but I wonder if she has any idea how much time and effort an author invests in getting that book ready for her to read. We agonize over every word, comma, revision and rewrite. We worry that the cover might not convey what the story is about. We sweat out a release date then become sleep deprived from promotional activity once it’s released. We anxiously await feedback and when we get it…we’re chastised because we didn’t say “thank you”?

As I said, it’s all part of the game and there is no right or wrong approach. Some people express themselves beautifully through the mouths of their characters but fumble when it comes to speaking from the heart. I fall into that trap myself at times. I suppose that’s why we choose to write, to express our feelings and opinions, and that’s a great skill.

For what it’s worth, I don’t expect a “thank you” note for this post, either. Just buy one of my books. And a nice review wouldn’t hurt!

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is an award-winning bestselling author. His books range from romantic mystery/thriller to contemporary erotic romance. He is also a freelance photographer. When he isn't pursuing those two careers he can often be found in The Florida Keys, indulging his passion for parasailing between research and seeking out the perfect Pina Colada.

1 Comment

  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Tim,

    Reviewing or beta-reading the books of friends, or professional acquaintances, can be a real mine field. It’s really difficult sometimes to balance honesty and courtesy – or compassion.

    I do think that “thank you” is never out of place. Even when a review is not glowing, it does take effort — and maybe courage — to write one. However, I don’t **expect** a thank you, nor do I feel slighted if I don’t receive one.

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