Author versus Reader Debate

I usually avoid controversial topics on my blog because I’m Canadian and I prefer to hide in an igloo, sipping maple syrup flavoured hot chocolate. But (and not the kind that has grown exponentially since you finished that box of Quality Street), I can’t help it this time.

There is a debate going on amongst fiction authors and readers about reviews. Should authors read their reviews? Should they comment on them? Should they comment on their friend’s reviews? I think my opinion on this is somewhat different than others because I work in an area of publishing where a) secrecy is not tolerated, and b) dialogue between authors and readers is not just encouraged but expected. In fact, it is generally believed that this dialogue leads to better publications and thus is good for everyone. So, for example, if an author publishes a paper on A and a reviewer comments on it to say it is wrong, the author would be encouraged to publicly respond to that reviewer’s criticism and the reviewer would expect them to do so.

Because of my background, I honestly think authors should be able to read and respond to their reviews as long as, a) they are doing so under their own names and not some anonymous cover, and b) they are being professional. Obviously, I’m not advocating that authors should have to read or respond to reviews. Some don’t have time and some aren’t comfortable with criticism. That’s fine. ButĀ if you tell authors that they should hide in the corner and just let people bash them or their works, you’re advocating a kind of censorship that almost encourages reviewers to be harsh because they know the author will be too scared to respond. And you know what? That’s wrong. Authors are people too and, at least where I come from, they have the same rights to free speech as everyone else.

Category: On Publishing