Why I Don’t Respond to Reviews (and you shouldn’t either)

A friend of mine recently suggested I post my positive reviews to social media for more engagement and better advertising for my books. While that thought crossed my mind when I started down the author’s path over a year ago, I quickly learned that this is not a very wise thing to do. But why? If they’re positive reviews, why not use them? Well, after perusing blogs and watching booktube, I noticed one major theme they all shared: they don’t want to know if authors read or watch their reviews. This is the case for several reasons, and they’ll start to make more sense as I explain them.

It could make a reviewer uncomfortable

There is a line dividing the reader and the author, and while it is good to engage when people reach out with questions or even to tell you they enjoyed your work, interacting with reviews, both positively or negatively can have awkward repercussions. Even if the reviewer you are quoting or responding to is a close friend or family member, the interaction could deter others from leaving reviews. Very few people leave book reviews expecting the author to respond directly, and fewer still expect their reviews to be blasted by the author to social media.

Remember when I mentioned that leaving book reviews helps the author, and that readers should do it whenever they can? Yeah, that may be true, but book reviews are first and foremost for other readers. They give a subjective opinion for others about what they loved or hated about a book. Unless the book is a complete dumpster fire, one person’s one-star review could be another person’s five. Even negative reviews might persuade a reader to buy and read the book if that reviewer mentions elements or tropes that another reader actually enjoys.

When an author directly responds to a review, it becomes personal when it was never meant to. That reviewer did not leave the review for the author, and they may be apprehensive about leaving more reviews on your books in the future, even if they enjoyed them. Keeping this space between author and reviewer sacred and sterile means more people will feel comfortable leaving reviews for you without worrying about either backlash or unwanted attention. Not only that, there’s something kind of… cringe about having an author use an unpaid review for promotional purposes, or even worse, to publicly shame a reader who left a negative review. Some authors will disagree, but read around. I’m not wrong here.

Just don’t do it.

It could backfire on the author

Even the most well-intentioned reply from an author could evoke a backlash from the book community. You may be tempted to explain your book to someone who may not have gotten the intended meaning. I’ve seen indie authors do this, and it rarely ends well. It also gives that author a very unprofessional appearance. If you have to explain your book’s meaning to someone, it tells other would-be readers that you weren’t skilled enough to convey the meaning you intended in the text itself, whether true or not. These replies have the unintentional (or sometimes intentional) consequence of making the reader feel stupid.

Do not EVER insult your readers, whether they loved your book or hated it. Even if you think you’re saving face by properly explaining something that was torn apart in the review, you aren’t. You’re making yourself look like an ass, and you’ll likely end up as the subject of a viral ‘authors behaving badly’ video on a booktube channel. That’s not the kind of publicity you want (especially as an indie author); in fact, it could lead to people who haven’t even read your book review bombing you.

It could hurt the reviewer

You might be thinking: “Good. They deserve to be hurt for giving me a one-star review,” but think about this as a fellow human being. Have you ever left a bad review for a product you used or a place you visited? Maybe you were so disgusted by how you were treated, you named the manager outright in your scathing review of the place. You wouldn’t want to be attacked for giving your honest opinion, would you? While books may not be the Golden Corral on the corner of Main Street next to the homeless tents, they are still a product people buy with money, and with that people tend to be a bit less forgiving with their reviews.

There’s a risk when a reader buys a book that the author should understand. Yeah, ebooks may be cheap, but the cost of the book is not where the reader usually pays. It’s the time it takes to read it. Time is worth more than your book, and I know many of you don’t want to hear that. If the reader feels like they wasted time reading a story, they’ll blast it in the reviews.

So how does this hurt the reviewer?

Depending on an author’s popularity, if an author decides to post the review publicly, he or she may be intentionally siccing a rabid fanbase on reviewers. I’ve heard horror stories of indie authors stocking reviewers, even killing them. Or having hoards of accounts harassing said reviewer online. If readers no longer feel safe giving books reviews, they’ll stop doing it.

And as I mentioned many times before, books die without reviews. Also, if a book has fifty five-star reviews out of fifty reviews, I’m gonna get pretty suspicious, as would anyone. You need a mix of reviews to assure people that actual PEOPLE are reading your books, and it’s not just friends and family, or sock puppet accounts from the author. Getting a bad review is not the end of the world.

Paid reviews are not the same

If you paid a reviewer to honestly review your book, you have the right to use that review as part of your marketing if it’s good. If it’s bad, usually the person you paid will let you know they gave you a bad review and will give you a choice whether you want it posted or not. This is not a typical author/reviewer interaction, because now the reviews have shifted from being more reader-centric to a service for the author. These are not the same as random reviews people leave for free on Goodreads or wherever they bought the book. This is also not the same if a reader reviews your book for their channel or blog for free. Your book is out there for people to freely buy, and if someone rips apart on a youtube channel or blog, they are well within their rights to do that.

I would highly recommend that if you are an author and had your work reviewed in such a way to not even read or watch it. It will then not tempt you to engage in any way.

What ratings mean:

This might not be related to the topic at hand, but I think it’s important. The rating system is nebulous at best, because the stars mean different things to different people. Personally, I don’t think the worth of a book should be limited to five stars, and there are some sites that will allow readers to rate a book in many different categories (such a plot, characters, theme, etc… with an overall rating) Some reviewers are more apt to give a story a 5 star if they enjoyed it but weren’t all that enamored by it, while others who felt the same way may give the same story 3 stars. Below is generally how most people rate books (and this is also how I rate them as well)

1 Star

These people probably hated your book, many times not even finishing or DNFing your story. This could either be very strong personal preference, or there could be something fundamentally wrong with your book. If you get more of these than three, four and five stars, then you have a big problem and probably should have put more work into your story than you did.

2 Stars

These are people who greatly disliked your book, but found it finishable. They may have had a lot of problems getting through the book or maybe the story kept losing their interest. I find that two-star reviews are more often than not subjective and not because the story is particularly bad. Again, if you’re getting more one and two-star reviews than higher ratings, your book may be the problem.

3 Stars

These are people who thought your book was… okay. Nothing special, but entertaining. It may have had quite a few problems the reader couldn’t overlook that knocked off stars. This is the most common review, and believe it or not, usually the most helpful and critical. Three star reviews seem more real to would-be readers, and they are more likely to read these reviews while also reading your book. Don’t write a three-star review off as the reader hating your book. On the contrary, a three star usually means the reader liked it, it just wasn’t spectacular to them, but likely will be someone’s five-star. I tend to rate books 3 star more often than not, and it’s also why I’m not particularly upset when I get them.

4 Stars

These are people who thought your book was great, but had a few minor problems. These are the bread and butter reviews, and like with the three stars, people who leave four-star reviews are likely to leave long, descriptions about how the book made them feel, both good and bad. Just because a reader didn’t find your book perfect, getting a four-star review is a wonderful complement, so take it as such.

5 Stars

This is the most coveted review an author can get, obviously. It means the reader absolutely fawned over your story, and if there were any problems they had, it was greatly overlooked by how the story affected them emotionally. No book is technically perfect, and just because a reader gives you five stars doesn’t mean they found absolutely nothing wrong with it, it just means they were able to overlook those problems because they genuinely loved the story. Every book has flaws. As a reader I have NEVER given a book five stars. Some books have gotten close, but they didn’t send me over the moon. I’m a very picky reader, and a lot of readers are like me.

In conclusion

This article was mainly for authors or would-be authors, but it’s also helpful to reviewers and hobby writers as well. We’re all human and sometimes we let our emotions dictate our actions.


Just because a reviewer has a right to say what they want about a story, this does not give that person license to personally attack an author. If you do this, you will get backlash from your own community, and it will be greatly deserved. If you post a negative review, keep it focused on the story, NOT the author. If you make homophobic, sexist, hateful or violent remarks, you will be dealt with by both the community, the author and the platform you are reviewing on. The whole ‘free speech’ argument does not apply here.

Also, it is proper etiquette to NEVER tag an author in your reviews, it doesn’t matter what social media platform it is. The respect goes both ways. I don’t care if you’re a reader or someone who saw a review of your favorite author that you didn’t agree with. Do NOT tag that author in these reviews. Period. Keep the reviews for the readers. It is tacky and disrespectful and will rightfully get you blocked.


You are not entitled to good reviews. Hell, you’re not even entitled to reviews (I know, it’s something I’ve had to come to terms with myself). It’s a struggle to separate personal from professional when it comes to something we’ve spent a lot of time and money on. I’m not immune to any of this, and these are lessons I’ve had to learn myself as well. If you’re a debut author, you need to realize that you’re likely not going to get a lot of sales at first (or sometimes ever). Just because you publish something doesn’t mean the readers will come. Even traditionally published authors need proper marketing to gain an audience. No one will know who you are, nor will they care. That’s the harsh reality of being an unknown author, and it takes a lot of work to not only write good stories but also build up an organic following. You may think you wrote the next Song of Ice and Fire, but the reality is, you’re likely not even close to the skill level required to write a best-selling fantasy book. (Romance… perhaps. If you’re lucky, have a large social media following, and hit the right tropes marketable to… a certain audience, skill level won’t really matter that much as has been proven in the YA market. That’s a hot take for sure, but I’m unfortunately not wrong here. Trad publishing in the YA market is an absolute dumpster fire. Everyone knows it, but it’s not often talked about).

It’s not impossible, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. You may be struggling with bad sales, and then to top off the shit sundae, you get that one-star review. You’ll be tempted to blow up at the reviewer, but that’s when you take a step back and reflect. Responding to any review could end your career before it even starts. So, with that in mind, do not engage.

Writers in general:

Not responding to reviews as a published author is not the same as responding to critiques from beta readers, or those random people on Royal Road, Wattpad or Reddit. These are places where writer/reader interaction are most important, and where most of the learning happens. If you get negative critiques of your writing, unless that person is attacking you personally, don’t take it as such. In general, the writing community, as harsh as it may be at times, is there to help.

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