I read a very intriguing post from Steven Lewis over at Taleist today about commenting on reviews. It really got me to thinking. It has been drilled in to me so much lately that reviews are like mother’s milk for us indie writers. But what happens when the reviews go off the rails? I don’t mean that somebody gives you a bad review in that they didn’t like your work, that’s a reality we’ll all have to deal with at one point or another. But what if the reviews contain factual inaccuracies about your or your work, particularly the ones that could (negatively) influence a review reader?
It’s not fair, right? That’s the dichotomy of the social media and the internet in general. It enables anyone, anywhere there is a connected computer and a small semblance of gray matter, to develop a platform from which to communicate and spout their own brand of wisdom for the masses. And believe me, I am not knocking the web in general or online reviews. I am firm believer in the value of social media. But as writers we definitely need to be wary of the potential downsides as we navigate through the process.
Case in point for me – in ON TENTERHOOKS, there is a scene in which an American has to communicate with a native Mexican, during an emergency. The Yank’s spanish is somewhat broken while the native Mexican’s is, of course, flawless. I had several experts review the excerpt to verify that the Mexican’s spanish was pristine and that the Yank’s broken spanish was believable, based on the way spanish verb tenses literally translate to english. One of my early reviewers commented that I really needed to polish up my Spanish and maybe “send it to someone who was a native.” I was incensed! I could handle it much better if she had said she didn’t like the character or my setting wasn’t believable (which she did, actually). But don’t mess with my facts, lady! And what if that comment had been in an online review? And what if somebody read that review and passed the book over because they thought I wasn’t realistic? I’d be pretty miffed, wouldn’t you?
Which brings me back to my original question. Interestingly enough, sales went up on Steven’s book after he got the negative (and factually-inaccurate review). “Any press is good press” or was it just coincidence? So what do you think? If you got a review and it contained factual inaccuracies, would you comment and correct the false information? Do you think you could pull it off without it looking like sour grapes? Or maybe a better idea is to ask someone in your peer group to speak up for you. That might be a nice middle ground, eh? I’ll watch your back if you watch mine…who’s with me?