Should You Comment on Factually-Inaccurate Reviews?

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?

6 comments on “Should You Comment on Factually-Inaccurate Reviews?

  1. Steven Lewis

    Hi Greever,

    I’m glad you found the post interesting, it’s certainly attracted some different points of view.

    I wish I knew whether the uptick in sales was due to the review, which called me “pathologically self-regarding”. It’s a little like TripAdvisor: sometimes I know I want to stay in the hotel *because* of the negative reviews from people I could tell don’t see the world the way I do. I’d be curious to see, for instance, what “pathologically self-regarding” looked like and might buy the book. On the other hand, it could be just a coincidence, as you say.

    If only Amazon shared more data with us; we’d know so much more!

    • Greever Post author

      Wow. Those are some harsh words he used. Somebody out there didn’t care for you! But as you suggest, that could be a good thing. Somewhere, with somebody, you struck a nerve. And in some ways, that’s why we do what we do, right? : ) Thank you very much for stopping by for my take on it. I am definitely conflicted about it. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comments you get and any follow-up action you decide to take (if any). Good luck with it and thank you again for such a thought-provoking post!

  2. Angel

    I think you have to leave it alone and let your other reviews speak for the book. There will always be someone who has problem with something, and honestly, if you hear the same thing more than once you may have a problem that needs to be addressed in the book itself.

    It has been my experience that you just have to suck it up and let it go. (and then go write vague blog rants/tweets about it until you feel better.)

    • Greever Post author

      Thanks for the feedback Angel! There is definitely a certain dignity to remaining silent too, I suppose. Ironic that the solution to being frustrated about people writing vague comments is to go write them yourself too! : ) But online catharsis is still catharsis, right? Thank you very much for your input!

  3. D.S Taylor

    I’m inclined to say best leave it be, nothing worse than appearing as an insecure author jumping to fend off bad reviews. even if the review is not bad persay and just innacurate its still dodgy territory in my humble opinion.

    • Greever Post author

      It definitely seems to be the majority opinion at this point to leave it be! Thank you for commenting!


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