One of my Goodreads friends is currently suffering the slings and arrows of a Badly Behaving Author, so I angry-typed this long polemic about why authors should never respond to reviews, and how reviews are a sacred space meant for readers, and negative reviews rarely hurt sales and may even increase them and blah, blah, blah…but it all boiled down to one thing, and that one thing is so fucking important, it’s the only thing I want to talk about at all.
Reading is an act of faith.
A reader opens their brain and lets a stranger’s words cavort inside their mental theater for a few hours or a few days. That takes a huge amount of trust: they’re letting someone dictate the contents of their brain for a given chunk of time. It’s a premise for a sci-fi horror film. Reading is a benign form of mind-control.
It’s easy to sympathize with the author who receives a harsh review: they spent X years writing the book, pouring blood/sweat/tears/booze/etc. into their labor of love, only for Joe Reviewer to 1-star it.
But readers are giving of themselves, too. They’re letting an author into the most private region of themselves: their thoughts. That’s an amazing act of faith, and it should humble any author, even if it results in a terse 1-star review. If nothing else, respect the awesomeness of that trust. Beyond the money spent, or the time and energy devoted to reading and reviewing, the greatest thing they did was let you sink your creepy phantom author fingers into their brain and press various squishy bits to elicit certain responses.
They had faith in you to not disappoint.
That is some incredible vulnerability. And it’s phenomenally dickish to lash out at someone who made themselves vulnerable to you.
So, my fellow authors: show some damn humility. They’re letting us into their skulls, and most of us are not even qualified neurosurgeons. Respect that trust. Respect the inevitability that you will disappoint some of them, and they will let you know it. Keep your mouth shut. You still have brain goo on your hands.