Fifteen Things NOT to Say in Response to a Book Review

This is not a hate post, or at least it’s not solely a hate post. 😉

Just for myself, I really don’t believe an author has any business saying anything to a reviewer in public. Let’s be clear: Readers do not review books on behalf of writers. The function of a review is not to service an author’s ego. Reviews are a way for someone who has read a book to tell people who are thinking of reading it whether or not they would recommend doing so. That’s pretty much it. It is a reader-to-reader equation which, I personally think, the writer of the book in question should keep out of altogether.

However, that does *not* mean I am not sorely to tempted to weigh in on some of my own reviews. I definitely am, but I don’t do it. This may be why there are claw marks on my armrests and teeth marks atop my monitor, but that’s the price I pay for adhering to my plan to just let stuff roll off my back. As it generally does after an hour or so of dark, murderous grumbling. Also, I am not saying I haven’t found really helpful things to consider in reviews of my own work – I certainly have, from having typos pointed out even well after original publication, to observations that really made me think about my own characters’ motivations. “Bad” reviews can be extremely useful to writers as aids to improving their writing. But that is not their prime purpose.

With all that in mind, I have compiled the following commentary volunteered by writers expressing their sentiments. Saying what they would say in response to reviews they have received, if it was acceptable to do so. Which – just to repeat – it is not. Still, sometimes we all just have to vent somewhere. 😉

While the following statements are all from writers (including me), I have withheld any names to protect the ornery, and done a bit of editing. The editing includes replacing some terms that might be objectionable with a place-holder:  [panda]


Fifteen Things that no writer should ever actually say, in public, in response to a book review:

15.) “Do you understand the meaning of the word SPOILER? Obviously [panda] not.”

14.) “In order to rectify your issues with my timeline, dear reader, I would be happy to send you a copy of the Excel spreadsheet. Or optionally, you could learn to count above the fingers on both hands, you soft-headed [panda].”

13.) “The reason we authors put “novella” in the description or subtitle is because the book is shorter than a novel. Complaining in the review that the novella is, in fact, a novella just makes you look like a [panda].”

12.) “If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief for zombies and other monsters, be willing to believe a woman has [panda] enough to lead a group of survivors through the apocalypse.”

11.) “If you dislike a particular genre, you might consider not accepting the book for review. I mean … what are the odds?”

10.) “If the description says “For mature audiences only” assume there will be [panda] LANGUAGE in the book that might get your [panda] [panda] in a bunch!”

9.) “For those reviewers who are addicted to using the word “tropes” in every other sentence, as in “more of the same old tropes…” There’s a reason. We have to pay the bills. Write a book that ignores the genre conventions and get rewarded with low sales and poor reviews.”

8.) [panda] [panda] [panda]. [panda]. [panda] [panda].

7.) “Thanks for the great review of my book. Sorry you lost your banjo at Walmart during a half-price leopard skin sale. My apologies for including strong women as characters in my book. I realize how offensive and confrontational that can be for someone who still thinks it’s 1954. I’m also sorry that 90% of my jokes went over your head because they referenced literature instead of Reality TV. Thirdly, I’m profoundly apologetic that there were no vampires or shirtless werewolves included in my fantasy novel. I was blissfully unaware that all fantasy books now require them. As for the romance aspect, the girl had to die. I really had no choice in the matter. Please address your complaints to the estate of William [panda] Shakespeare.”

6.) “I’m sorry you don’t like my character. I’m sorry she’s immature and shallow. I’m sorry she’s not a beautiful kickass with a compassionate streak a mile wide. She has to grow up, and so do you.”

5.) “Just because you’ve watched The Tudors and read Phillipa Gregory doesn’t mean you know anything about medieval history. Of the two of us, guess which one has the Ph.D.?”

4.) “If you want a happily-ever-after, read romance! This is HORROR for [panda] sake.”

3.) “Excuse me, but you seem to have projected your neurotic tendencies and emotional insecurities onto my main character and got it all wrong. [panda].”

2.) “It’s not historically accurate? It’s a [panda] FANTASY.”

1.) “Where’s YOUR [panda] novel, you [panda] [panda]?”

Author: M. Edward McNally

Epic fantasy author M. Edward McNally is a North Carolinian of Irish/Mexican extraction. He has a Masters in English Lit from ISU and Russian/East European History from ASU. He grew up mostly in the Midwest along I-35 northbound (KS, IA, MN), and now resides in the scrub brush surrounding Phoenix AZ, where the scorpions and javelinas play. Learn more about Ed at his blog, and his Amazon author page.

37 thoughts on “Fifteen Things NOT to Say in Response to a Book Review”

  1. Marvellous post, Ed, well done – now I have to clean the coffee off of my keyboard 🙂

    This line: I really don’t believe an author has any business saying anything to a reviewer in public – is absolutely spot on.

  2. I just finished reading my latest review this morning and had a lot of [panda] thoughts about the [panda]reviewer. Then I found your article and I feel SO much better.

  3. I have always liked starting the day with a good laugh. I love #7. I think I’ll pin that to my desk, and when all seems lost read it once more. Thank you.

  4. Great list, Ed. I am with Yvonne on the ‘panda’ thing…I love pandas. If you are from the south like me, you could use the southern way of saying things like ‘well how nice’ and draw the words out in your very most southern accent.

  5. [Panda]! And I was gonna start using [panda] in all my work! [panda]-[panda]s! You’re all trying to [panda] my career! [panda]-[panda]ing [panda] [panda] Romney [panda] [panda] with a [panda] up the [panda]!

  6. Yep All this should be held back, sadly. #13 needs to be done in skywriting and I loved #7. Oh yeah. Great post. Thanks for the (panda) giggles.

  7. Proof that the readers may read YOUR words but their brains still hear THEIR OWN. And I sent my kids to private school and they came out knowing one adjective…PANDA.

  8. I struggled with whether to respond or not when I saw other writers doing this a year or so ago, and because, at the time, there seemed to many articles trending, saying that we should all absolutely respond to good and bad reviews. So I started thanking readers as if I was a congenial dinner host or something but it really didn’t feel right, and so I stopped.

    I agree, when I see even some bad reviews on some people’s works, even those where the ‘reviewer’ is obviously looking for a fight, and that author haven’t responded, well, it’s kind of admirable. Shows strength. Less is more. The other thing I hate is when other reviewers jump into defence mode on behalf of the author, as I saw many do on one person’s three star review recently; turning it into more of a (panda) CNN comments forum.

  9. Thanks, Ed. After having my writing compared to that of a 14 year old’s (must have a been a German or Chinese 14 year old they were referring to because it couldn’t have been an American 14 year old), I take what most bad reviews say at face value.

    What I WOULD like is the people who actually thought my book was okay to step to the plate and review more instead of some of the [panda] knuckleheads that are so very happy to open up their piehole and spew their sewage all over the internet. However, if Amazon keeps erasing reviews, I can also understand why these same people just wouldn’t bother if they aren’t sure their review will still be up the following day. Thanks for making me laugh this Friday. 😉

  10. Thanks, Ed. I wasn’t aware that any authors were responding to customer reviews. Which by the way were not available until Amazon made it possible. Prior to the that some high mighty news media reviewers were the only source of info we recieved on an author’s work. If authors do respond to customer reviews, shame on them.

  11. From my web site, I have replies to critics that I have never said to any of them:
    I’m sorry. The sound of your mind closing distracted me from your comments.
    I guess we won’t be discussing my book over drinks later then?
    Did you skip seeing your therapist this week?
    Do you have me confused with your ex-wife?
    Your review was witty, biting, and visceral, but was it about my book?
    I like your reviews. You don’t use big words.
    Do you need soap and water to clean your glasses?
    Your prejudices must be such a help! You know what you think of a book before you’ve read it.
    Anybody have any matches to light to clear the air?
    It’s amazing how much you and my ex-wife agree. Are you dating her?
    It’s a good thing you and I are such close friends, otherwise I might be offended.
    Did you forget that book reviews are supposed to be more than ad hominem remarks?
    Your review was so thorough, I canceled my annual proctologist’s exam.
    It’s nice to know that I can count on you when I need a kind word.
    I guess dating your sister is out.
    For your birthday, I’m getting you a new tongue sharpening stone.
    I thought your Tourette syndrome was under control.

  12. What the [panda] is [panda] wrong with people who don’t know a [panda] novella is short? And, for [panda] sake, why would you buy, let alone read and review, a genre you hate? Then there is the [panda] [panda] [panda] that thinks everything in a fictional story has to meet their version of reality. IT’S FICTION, YOU [PANDA]!

    Ugh, somebody get me a [panda] marguerita!

  13. #13 made me giggle. I wrote a novella, marketed it as one, and then had someone review and say it was too short! LOL! I covered all the ground I needed to cover, and it was also a lead-up to another novel. Um, what part of novella didn’t you get? I kept my mouth shut of course.

    #7 was great- I live in that world! The people of WalMart must be photographed in my area.

    #4- yes!

    Great post, enjoyed it.

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