Thoughts on Thursday: Etiquette When Responding to Authors

2015-Discussion-Challenge3

Etiquette When Responding to Authors

Yes, yes, we always rave and slightly fangirl out when responding to authors whose books have a little niche in our bookworm hearts, but I’m not talking about those authors.

I’m talking about the rude, condescending, criticizing authors.

What is the proper book blogger etiquette when responding to these less-than-desirable authors?

This thought came to me after receiving an email from an author I’d previously reviewed, and it set the wheel in motion for me to start thinking of this. I have two serious cases that I’m going to use as examples where this has happened and it’s left me in a confused conundrum as to how to respond appropriately. (Let me tell you, I know how I really want to respond!)


 

Case #1

Right when I really started getting into blogging (as in, I was like, “Book blogging! YEEEAAAH! I’m doing this!” … not  as in, “I know what I’m doing!”), I was super excited to work with an author…whose agent totally flopped on me just days before. Completely flopped. I had no interview, no guest post, no content the night before a series of posts and the review.

I found the author on Facebook and contacted him. I hadn’t received responses from his agent in over about two weeks trying to contact her. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to be a mess-up.

He sent back a reply that he’d get in touch with his agent, but he was very condescending and snarky. The impression that my little piddly review and promotion of his book did not matter one iota to him wafted from the patronizing and disdainful sentences right out of the screen of the computer and hit me like a slap in the face.

When I received the response from this author, I felt diminished. I felt that my efforts and contributions didn’t mean diddly squat. I didn’t feel very good about myself, at all. As a person or a blogger. ESPECIALLY a baby blogger.

It left a very bad taste in my mouth, and I was very tempted to scratch the entire thing – three days’ worth of content – but I’d already promoted it quite a bit.

How do you respond to that? Do you maintain politeness? Should I have fully stated I was not obligated to go through with the review or any other content? Would that have made me a jerk?  

I am of the opinion that as book bloggers, or really any type of constructive blogger, we are doing someone else a favor…whether it’s an author, a product or company, the stay-at-home mom who needs more fun activities to do with the kids, the men who are DIY’ing their way to master craftsman or honey-doing it around the house, or the hair and make-up challenged girls like me. (Not that I have any time to read all those awesome and illustrated how-to’s. Seriously, can we have more time, please?)

I don’t even know if I did respond to this author. I don’t have a record of it, probably because I was so angry I deleted it.


 

Case #2

I reviewed a couple books for an author, and when my reviews published the author emailed me. Several times, in fact.

He wanted me to change my review, in a multitude of ways: extremely dissected and analyzed revisions of my paragraphs and, as he stated, to fix the information regarding a character relationship because I must have not understood that.

I was astounded. And the emails just kept coming. It’s like the man had absolutely nothing better to do than read and re-read my reviews day after day and find every single nuance of a flaw. Not to mention the criticism of my reviews!

Yes, I corrected the typos, for which I was grateful that he pointed out to me…just not in the way or manner that he did so. It was not kind or gracious in the least. THE ENTIRE REVIEW, DISSECTED PARAGRAPH BY PARAGRAPH. TIMES TWO!

There are some of us who are say-la-vie about typos, and some of us who are mortally embarrassed by typos. There are some of us who don’t proofread before posting, and those of us who do proofread. I am the proofreading, mortally embarrassed kind of blogger, but after hours at a computer everything starts to blend together. No matter which of these we are, our works that we publish are not meant to be subjected to an overzealous editor.

When it came to changing content of my review, particularly the character relationship, I stood firm and did not change it (and I did not say anything to him about it at all). I gave a very glazed and glossed description of this particular relationship between the two characters in order to maintain the integrity of the story and the enjoyability of the readers. I did so because otherwise it would have been a major spoiler and definitely ruined it for everyone. I’m not really into that. At all.

I thanked the author for his edits, but I eventually ignored his continuing emails and stopped responding. Shortly after, when another book released, he emailed again and asked if I’d review it. I never responded.

Was this the right thing to do? Should I have been more polite and given a “thank you, but please desist” kind of response? Should I have been more forceful in protecting the integrity of my blog and my review?

Recently he emailed me again and asked for me to review a new book. I declined to review his book because of my very strenuously available time, my recent and questionable health issues, but mostly because he was so utterly rude in the past. 


 

How should I have responded to these authors? Is it OK to ignore and not respond? Is it better to stick up for myself? What is the appropriate medium? 

Have you had a similar incident with an author or agent? How did you handle it? 

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13 thoughts on “Thoughts on Thursday: Etiquette When Responding to Authors

  1. Wow! Those are some tough interactions and I think you did right in your response (or non-response). To both my primary thought is “what a jerk!” I’ve been lucky in that my author interaction has been pleasant but I know that one day there will be an email or tweet that makes me want to hide under my desk. I’m not sure what the proper etiquette is especially when they’re not using proper etiquette towards us!

  2. Wow. Those authors are jerks.

    I’ve spent the last few years working for various university presses, so I’ve had to deal with a few jerky authors. My advice is to always be polite and try to ignore the bullying behavior. If ignoring the behavior means not answering an email, then don’t answer the email.

    People should just learn to be nice to each other. That would solve a lot of problems.

  3. I would freak out on an author who asked me to change my review. IT’S MINE! You asking me to change it is crazy. (Ugh Typos, I hate that crap as I said, an author pointing them out in a review might throw me off my game a bit, so i get it) If you read the book, and btw, no two people experience a book the same way, and he tries to skew your interpretation of the characters, ask him how long he has been a reviewer. I read and then write what I feel about a book. That took some damned nerve. You are much nicer than I am. I would have crucified him on me site and on social media.

  4. Wow! This sounds really horrible! I don’t really think I’ve had any situations like this occur with me, but I think ignoring is probably the best way to handle it. That second author just sounds like a nightmare! The closest thing I can think of that happened to me was on one of my first tours when an author seemed really aggravated that I referred to her book as New Adult (it was urban fantasy, but had a very NA vibe to it, as far as I was concerned). Since I was pretty new to tours, I felt pretty embarrassed and bad about it (I probably wouldn’t now). Like I said, though – I think ignoring it was fine in the situations you described. Rude authors probably won’t be convinced not to be rude if you chastised them anyway.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  5. Wow! So sorry you’ve had to deal with not just one, but two total jerks! Really ruins the fun of blogging.

    I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never been in that situation, but not sure how I would have responded in either one. I’m trying to get over feeling bad about not replying to every review request I receive, but did put it in my review policy that I only respond if I’m interested. Not responding is probably best, as some people are just flat-out nuts and no one has time to deal with that! Better safe than sorry, right?

    Still shaking my head over the thought of an author wanting you to change your review. The nerve! smh

    Terri @ Alexia’s Books and Such…

  6. Wow, I feel so bad for you that you had to go through that! I’ve never been on the receiving end of those types of author responses. All of mine, so far, have been very positive. I did have one author email me after my review went up to correct a couple typos and make a change to a pub date, but that was it. In that situation, I actually really appreciated her for doing that, because I definitely wanted it to go up correctly for her, especially since she had provided me with an ARC. But she was also very sweet and pleasant about it, unlike your experiences above.

    I think you handled both situations very well. You replied back, you were congenial, etc. You upheld your end of the bargain. In the case of the second one, I do not blame you at ALL for refusing to change the actual content of your review. That author should not have expected you to. That was extremely presumptuous and rude. I think you handled it well, however, and if he kept hounding you about it and emailing repeatedly, I probably would have stopped responding as well.

    I’d always try to keep it as cordial and professional as possible to avoid burning bridges, but in a case like that where the won’t let it drop, I don’t you had a choice or you’d have been arguing in email forever about it. It never would have ended until you did what he said. Just my $0.02.

    Shannon @ The Tale Temptress

  7. WOW. These are just… ugh, the ugly side of things I suppose. The good news is, it’s rare? The bad news it, it happened, and it was so wrong of both authors.

    For the record, I think you handled yourself VERY well. I don’t know that I could have bit my tongue (well, maybe as a new blogger, but I doubt now!), and you were quite polite to everyone involved.

    With the first jerk, yeah, he was a jerk, but at least he wasn’t interfering (quite the opposite, of course). I think you really did all you could do in that situation, and it just looks bad for him AND his agent. Plus, if you know of bloggers looking for books/authors to feature, you sure won’t be recommending him!

    But the second one… that crosses a line that should simply never be crossed. How dare he tell you how to edit your review!? First of all, typos don’t reflect on HIM in any way. Does he fancy himself your English teacher? Because otherwise, he needs to shut it. As for changing content… NOPE. So much nope. First of all, if you “misunderstood” the relationship- that is on HIM as the author, not on you. And the review is your OPINION. So, you could say that you didn’t like the relationship because one of them wore socks with sandals, and he should keep his mouth SHUT.

    Though, the fact that he still wanted you to review his next book… that makes me laugh so hard. He hates your first review, and then goes back for more? What a control freak! He likely burned every other bridge, and because you were a decent human being, he figured he’d coerce you again. You did 100% the right thing, in both case. I don’t think there was more you COULD have done, or should have done. (Though I would have misspelled his name on purpose while fixing the typos, because that would probably have given him some sort of stroke 😉 )

  8. I think you handled both situations just fine. I probably would have done the same thing. I don’t think it’s worth trying to argue with someone or point out their inappropriateness because there are too many other things I need to worry about and they aren’t likely to listen anyway.

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