Is Susan Dennard Right? Should Bloggers Not Tag Authors In Reviews?

At the beginning of this month Susan Dennard, author of Truthwitch, Windwitch, and other books posted this tweet:

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for a while, but I am the QUEEN of procrastination, so here it is a couple weeks later. I saw this and tweeted a thread, which starts with this tweet below:

I stand by everything I said, and I just wondered how everyone else feels. Right after I Tweeted my thread, I got a bunch of author replies, mostly positive that authors *love* hearing from readers! They love seeing reviews. Which cheered me up because Susan’s initial thread disappointed me greatly, for many reasons and it had my questioning whether I should stop tagging authors in reviews.

First, let’s talk about what benefits I get from sharing my review with an author:

  • The author sees my review. That’s entirely vanity, and I’m fine with that. I want my review to be seen, and enjoyed, and I absolutely love when an author interacts with me afterwards.
  • It helps me get more views. I said this in my Tweet thread, but if my tweet about my review gets RTed or Liked by the author, whoever follows the author gets to see my link and might take a look. I get more exposure, more clicks hopefully, a new reader maybe even. In a time when everyone seems to have a blog, it’s hard to stand out in a crowd and having authors RT you helps immensely.
  • It could help me interact with more bloggers myself, when I see someone else’s review, and find someone else with similar tastes who has a blog I can start following.
  • It starts a conversation. I still think of authors as this mythical thing you can’t touch or interact with, so to have an author actually reply to you, to get a conversation going, which can lead to interviewing them, one Tweet can be the ice-breaker you need. To remember authors are humans just like us, and like to hear our praise.

Now I also see Susan’s point and, apparently, the tweet that started all this debate was due to people tagging her in negative reviews on Instagram. Now this goes without saying but:

DO NOT TAG AUTHORS OR PUBLISHERS OR ANYBODY AT ALL, EVER, IN YOUR NEGATIVE REVIEW.

Write whatever you want about a book – I’ve written PLENTY or sarky reviews, or bad reviews, where I’ve just pointed out all kinds of flaws (which I am allowed to do – I know some don’t believe in negative reviews and I roll my eyes at that because not everyone loves everything and if I am going to pay £7.99 or more for a book and it offends me, I will say so) BUT DO NOT TAG THE AUTHOR. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? You do not do that. Ever. At all.

So I can understand Susan’s point completely and I understand, too, that even with the positive ones, even one tiny negative can probably give an author anxiety over what comes in further books. So I get it. And I respect Susan’s wishes and I will not tag her in any reviews, now or in the future.

I do, however, feel like Susan could have got her point across better than a passive-aggressive Tweet with full stops after every word. That is probably what I had issue with most of all because there’s no need. Write a blog post. Explain yourself. Don’t use 140 characters to alienate your readers. One blogger told me she wasn’t going to read Susan’s books, which isn’t the answer, but when you read Susan’s tweet, I could very easily have said that, too, because it makes you feel ignored. Like authors don’t actually care what readers think. Twitter is great for many things, but for getting a point like that across? It is not. Susan could have explained herself so much better in a blog post or a Facebook post or just anything other than the 140 characters Twitter allows because it can lead people to make the wrong conclusions.

I’m curious how other, “bigger” authors feel about being tagged. A lot of authors I heard from weren’t like Sophie Kinsella big (although they all made me feel better and they all made their ways up my TBR quick fast, because I like appreciative authors!). I’ve had authors I’ve tagged in reviews who merely give me a like. Which is nice, but honestly? I don’t like it. A like doesn’t always show up on the author’s Twitter feed, and it kinda feels like a brush off. So authors, if you’re reading this, a RT is always preferred. I tag you because a) I want you to see it and b) it helps me build my viewership. Even if you don’t read it, because you don’t have to read it, just give me a quick RT and I will be on my way. A thank you is also fangirled over… But if you don’t like all of that, I get it.

I do wonder how I would react if I were an author. I like to think I would read every single review, and I probably would, bad ones, good ones, ones that make no sense, or are complaints about price (why Amazon allows these reviews still baffles me) and in the bad ones, if the criticism was constructive, I would fix it for my next book. I like to think I would be a zen-author. But I’m not entirely sure if that’s not just a fantasy…

Now, one last thing before I go:

DO NOT TAG AUTHORS IN BAD REVIEWS. DO NOT TAG AUTHORS IN BAD REVIEWS. DO NOT TAG AUTHORS IN BAD REVIEWS. DO NOT TAG AUTHORS IN BAD REVIEWS. DO NOT TAG AUTHORS IN BAD REVIEWS.

(And if you do, I will give you 1,000,000 lines)

I’m intrigued how other bloggers feel – do you tag authors in your reviews? Was Susan right with her Tweet? Will it put you off tagging an author in the future? TALK TO ME.

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5 Comments

  1. June 19, 2017 / 1:12 pm

    DO NOT TAG AUTHORS IN BAD REVIEWS!

    That’s my only rule, otherwise I love to share what I thought with the author – praise and constructive criticism is good to share, personal preference of ‘I hate your life’s work’ is too cruel to tag them in.

    You owe it to your readers to be honest, but you don’t need to rub the author’s nose in it.

    Some of my favourite Twitter friendships have been borne of good reviews!

  2. June 19, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    I saw that whole thread and it did give me pause for thought. i mean, no one wants to upset their favourite authors do they? We love authors, because they are the ones that produce the books that are our very reason for living (or blogging at least).

    I think it was unfair of her to speak on behalf of all authors. She could have just asked that she not be tagged in book reviews, if that is her preference, she is perfectly entitled to do that and I am sure everyone would respect her wishes. but she doesn’t speak on behalf of all authors. i received a lovely thank you from Freya North just this morning after I tagged her in my latest review of one of her books, then she re-tweeted my review with this comment:

    “Praps the most affirming review I’ve had. Was feeling blue – now my zest for my work is reinvigorated! Huge thanks.”

    Now, maybe it’s just my interpretation, but it sounds like Freya was happy this morning that i tagged her and she saw my review.

    Authors don’t have to read our reviews if they don’t want to, no one makes them click the link, but at least they know someone is reading their work and has taken enough time and care to see what they think about it.

    I agree with your point about bad reviews – who would do that? We have to write about the books we read honestly and I truly believe that if you post only glowing reviews of books, and maybe leave out the less than great ones, people must start to question your credibility as a reviewer, because no one truly thinks everything is great or, if they do, they can’t have a critical eye. However, I have a question for you, Leah? How bad does a review need to be before you don’t tag the author? Is it anything less than 5 stars? I don’t use star ratings on my blog, personally, so I guess I just need to review my text objectively and try and decide how I would receive it as an author.

    Interesting topic.

  3. June 19, 2017 / 6:49 pm

    This is so interesting, and honestly, as a book bloggers, all it’s really made me feel is that it’s unlikely I’d ever read a Susan Dennard book..ever. The tone is so alienating, and I don’t know that I’d be able to shake it if I ever picked up her books. I know you addressed this because you said you heard it from another blogger, but I totally understand how that other blogger feels. It certainly doesn’t build good karma or good relationships. And ultimately, the relationship between the reader and the author and the book is what matters most.

    My favourite thing about book blogging and reviewing books are the connections I’ve been able to build with authors.

    (I’d never tag anyone in a negative review, and try my best to never really even post them. I’ll bitch about books I don’t like to my friends for sure, but I generally try and keep that stuff from my blog.)

    I tag as much as I can with authors and publishers because it is nice to give people a quick way to find out more about an author. Also, I feel like although the author isn’t the intended reader of the review, the more they engage and share positive reviews about their own works, the readers who follow them will see all of that and just be even more encouraged about their writing and their new books.

    Such a fascinating conversation overall. Thanks for sharing!

  4. June 19, 2017 / 7:44 pm

    I agree with you 100%! I always tag (mostly indie authors) in my reviews, I think they love it! It helps them gain exposure and they can repost it if they want! Thanks for this awesome post, I had no clue about the other side of this argument!

  5. June 20, 2017 / 12:28 pm

    I’ll admit I didn’t see the tweet, I unfollowed her a while back as unlike some authors she’s not particularly active, and that’s fine, but it’s a follow for the sake of it. I ALWAYS tag authors in my reviews, but usually only once, I don’t continue to do so when promoting my posts, that becomes spammy.

    I think the issue comes when a convo then starts and authors are naturally linked in the retweet, I’ve seen a few ask to be removed in those instances.

    I have a confession though, I do tag authors in my not so great reviews. (please don’t give me lines!!) Not AWFUL ones, but my “Meh” ones where I like some parts but not others.

    I really don’t see the issue though, it’s like modern day fanmail, do they not want that either? You have to nurture a fan base at the end of the day.

    PS, love the blog BTW 😛

    Hannah @ The Northern Writes | http://www.thenorthernwrites.co.uk

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