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I read a LOT of fanfiction and I also write a bit.

As a reader, I've noticed that not every writer feels a need to respond to their comments. Often, it seems that the 'bigger' the name in fandom, the more likely it is that they don't answer. (And no, this isn't referring to any one particular fandom - I read and comment in many different ones.)

ETA: One of reasons I'm curious about this is that several months ago, I read a post on a 'big' name writer's LJ where he/she stated that posting fiction is a 'gift' to the readers, and responses aren't necessary since you don't say thanks for a thank you. I don't feel this way; I write because I love it. The readers 'gift' me by reading and commenting.

As an author, I love each and every comment I get. I try to answer all of them, even if it's only with a 'thanks for reading.' I know I miss some, but I do try.

Anyway, I'm curious to see how people feel about this, so I created a poll.

As a WRITER, do you feel you "owe" the people who comment an answer, even if it's just a thank you for reading?

Yes, it's only good manners.
96(76.8%)
No, it's not necessary.
5(4.0%)
I only respond to those comments that are more than 'OMG, this is great.'
6(4.8%)
I only respond to those people that I know.
0(0.0%)
Other. (Please explain.)
11(8.8%)

As a READER, do you expect an author to respond to your comments?

Yes, it's nice to know that the author appreciates the comment.
67(45.6%)
No, it's not necessary.
57(38.8%)
I don't comment; I just lurk.
3(2.0%)
Other. (Please explain.)
13(8.8%)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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I can see your point about wanting an author to write more rather than answer comments. There are certain writers that I'm always waiting impatiently for their next update.

However, several months ago, I read an entry in an 'established' author's LJ where she stated that she viewed posting her stories as a 'gift' to the fans, and she didn't see the need to respond to comments. In her opinion, the comments are the readers' 'thanks' for the gift. I just don't feel this way. I write because I love to write; the readers 'gift' me by reading and commenting.
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To me the answer to both is the same, and more complex than the given answers allow.

I think that an author should definitely reply to a comment if it asks a question. Next on the priority list should be to reply to comments that are unusually thoughtful (whether negative or positive) or make suggestions/constructive criticism. Overall, while it's nice to reply to all if possible, sometimes the sheer volume of comments makes that prohibitive -- I'd rather have a good writer writing more fic than spending time replying to every "I loved it!" comment, which seems like a waste of their time and LJ space to me.
You make some excellent points about prioritizing responses. I can see answering the more complex comments individually and then just posting a general 'thanks' for the rest. That wouldn't be a waste of time or space, in my opinion.

Of course, I'm not in any danger of being overwhelmed by comments, so it's not really an issue for me! *grin*
While I think it's nice for an author to respond to a commentary--and I always respond when people comment, but if someone gets too many comments I don't mind a group response in the form of a "thank you" post.

Interesting poll.
You're a wonderful commentor, and I, for one, really appreciate it!

I don't mind a general 'thanks', but a lot of times, there isn't even that. It really doesn't take that much time to write a sentence or two in the beginning of a new post to cover a lot of comments. My mama always told me to say thank you (and lord knows, she made me write enough thank you notes over the years - another lost art!)
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I agree. I didn't notice it until you said it, but if I know an author doesn't reply to his or her feedback, I am less likely to leave any. There is a certain level of interaction that makes leaving feedback worth it, even if it's just "thanks".
I'm hardly a writer, but on the few little things I did write, I tried to answer each comment to show that I read them and appreciated them. (I think here it's sort of moderate, but in other fandoms there's a huge lack of feedback and I don't think that will get better if the few people who do comment think they're ignored.) But it's the same with the icons I post. Even though I feel like a broken record at some point because all I mostly say is 'thank you' and 'glad you like them', I still try to answer each comment. If they took the time to drop me a line, I can do that, too.

As a reader, I try to leave more feedback when I really enjoyed stories (still am a big lurker), because I know how much it means to me when I get feedback. I appreciate it when an author comments on it, (and really, sometimes one word or two are absolutely enough,) but I don't expect them to. It is nice to know though that your comment was read and appreciated.

~NEbU~
I'm trying to be better about leaving comments - as a writer, I really love knowing that people have read and enjoyed what I've written, so I want to let other authors know how much I appreciate their efforts.

And being a 'broken record' is okay; a simple 'thanks' can make someone's day.
As a fanfic writer, if someone emails me feedback i almost ALWAYS take the time to respond with at least a thank you and to remind the reader that feedback is really one of the primary reasons that i keep writing a story. (it is, it's just nice to know that others are enjoying the story) the more detailed the feedback the more detailed the response.

if they just leave feedback on my LJ or on BJFic.net i'll reply if there's something to address or something i'd like to address but some feedback is "OMG SO HOT" or "READING :)" what am i supposed to say to that? in the authors notes i thank everyone for feedback, that includes those who say things like the short replies.

as a fanfic reader, i give feedback with specifics whenever possible because that's what i like. I like to tell people what i liked, what i think they got right, what i think was cool or funny because that's what i'd like to hear.

Just thought i'd share.
You've hit on one of my major peeves with BJFic.net - the 'reading' or 'read first' reviews. As a writer, I wish there was a way to delete those reviews, because they annoy the hell out of me.

As a reader, a lot of times I read the reviews first if I don't know the author. It's probably wrong, but if I see a story with a huge number of reviews, then I'm more inclined to check it out. However, finding mainly 'reading' or other teenaged style reactions will make me steer clear of the story, right or wrong.
I try to respond to comments, although I admit that at times I fail. I don't check in on my writing LJ as much as I should, and because I update it sporadically, I often miss comments. If it's been weeks/months since a comment has been left, I tend not to respond, as I don't want to scare the beejesus out of people by responding. It also took me awhile to catch on to the idea that responding to comments, if only to say "Thank you!", is the norm. And there are times when I haven't responded to comments because I know the person who left them and we were talking on AIM at the same time, etc. Additionally, when I first began posting stories, I liked to see how many reviews there were, and I thought it looked like review inflation to respond to comments (I was working off of the old domain counter mindset, where counting more than unique hits was considered in bad taste).

I don't get offended if author's don't respond to my comments, if that's his/her policy. I don't think it's elitist or stuck up. I mean, people are busy. I guess it depends what kind of relationship an author wants with his/her audience, if that makes any sense. If you're going for fandom popularity, then responding to comments is a good idea, as it's a way to link to people and possibly expand your f-list. But if you're writing fic and just want to post it, write it, hear reviews, and move on to the next piece, then I can see how responding to comments might not necessarily be the most important thing on your mind. I ... don't know.

I think a lot of it is just LJ politics, and I wish every little thing weren't analyzed to death, but, eh, that's LJ.
If you're going for fandom popularity, then responding to comments is a good idea, as it's a way to link to people and possibly expand your f-list. But if you're writing fic and just want to post it, write it, hear reviews, and move on to the next piece, then I can see how responding to comments might not necessarily be the most important thing on your mind.

This is an interesting take on the matter. I've never thought about it this way. In one way, I guess you could relate it to professional writers who receive feedback about their works. There's a bit of distance between the writer and the readers.

On the other hand, I see LJ as being more interactive and immediate, and the discussions that can occur can be just as interesting as the original story itself. I don't necessarily see it as a way to increase popularity, though, just as a way to expand my horizons, if that makes sense. Sometimes, I've found that my readers have a different perception of something that I've written, and it definitely makes me think about my writing process. I might never have heard about their opinions if I hadn't responded in the first place.
I do try to respond to comments, but if they're just "That was great!" there's not much to respond to - once in a while I'll respond, "thanks!" but I don't feel obligated.

It's more of a question of discussion. I find the best LJ posts are the one where the poster acts as a host for the discussion threads that the post inspires, whether it's a fic posting or anything else. So, in posting ANYTHING, I try to respond to all comments by people interested enough in a subject I've introduced. It's not that it's polite, so much as I'm interested in keeping the discussion going, and I like to have those interested in my ideas to be able to count on an enjoyable gathering spot for our shared interests. However, if a couple people go off on a thread, then I don't feel necessarily obligated to engage, since the discussion's obviously off and running, but will if I'm interested in what's being talked about. I don't post unless I am ready to take the time to watch my journal - which is why it's been so down lately.

This, of course, is only LJ posting. I've posted on BJfic.net, but don't necessarily respond to everything there. It's just a different atmosphere, not as available to discussion.

I find it REALLY interesting that people feel it necessary to respond to people writing in their journals, but don't feel journal-keepers are obligated to respond to their comments, as a majority (so far in the poll).
I've never noticed you having a problem with either commenting or responding! **grin**

I love reading (and hosting) posts that spawn a lot of discussion, such as this one has. It's very interesting to see the different perceptions people have on a topic.

I find it REALLY interesting that people feel it necessary to respond to people writing in their journals, but don't feel journal-keepers are obligated to respond to their comments, as a majority (so far in the poll).

I agree. Maybe it's because in today's society, people feel it's become the norm to be rude or just thoughtless, but don't want to appear that way themselves.
If someone on the street stopped you and told you that they like your shirt, would you say 'thank you'? I mean it literally takes a few seconds to acknowledge them.

It's sort of the same idea here.

I was raised by Southern parents so everything was yes, sir and please and thank you. Someone pays you a compliment, you don't just stare at them until they leave.

And, yeah, there are some people that are so well known in their fandoms that they get hundreds of replies, but, if you skim through those comments, a number of them are conversations with their friends that usually start with something like:

OMG askjaskdjkl! I am speechless.

And go on from there.

In the time it took to type the home keys back and forth to their friends, the author could have at least typing a blanket 'thank you.' (Because blanket thank you is better than none at all, IMO.)
I completely agree with what you've said here. I'm from the North, and my parents are from the Midwest, and trust me, they drilled good manners into my brother and me from the time we were toddlers!

Even if an author does get hundreds of comments, a general comment saying thanks certainly makes me, as a reader, feel more inclined to respond the next time. Appreciation is a two-way street.
As a WRITER, do you feel you "owe" the people who comment an answer, even if it's just a thank you for reading?

I don't feel I "owe" it to them, but I do it anyway because I'm grateful to anybody who takes the trouble.

As a READER, do you expect an author to respond to your comments?

No, but I like it when they do.
Maybe 'owe' isn't the right word, although I'm not really sure what is correct.
I don't necessarily expect a comment to my feedback, but I do appreciate an acknowledgment. I also don't think authors should expect feedback, but it's probably nice to get.

What I don't like is authors that demand feedback and authors that seem to want to dictate what kind of feedback they receive. Early on, when I first discovered fan fiction, this type of attitude really discouraged me from leaving feedback of any kind.
As a writer, I don't expect feedback, but I sure appreciate it, which is why I answer any comments I get. Appreciate should go both ways.

And I completely agree about the demanding of feedback. I've seen authors who 'hold hostage' any additional chapters to their stories if they don't get responses. It's a sure-fired way to NOT get any kind of comment from me.
I have a disclaimer in the userinfo of my writing journal telling my readers I rarely respond to comments that are in my writing journal. This is basically because I'm anal-retentive and organized and don't like taking up space in my journal with long-winded comment threads.
And I usually don't feel the need to respond unless a question is asked not relating to the story itself (such as, "Does X end up with Y?" or "Why is Q so grumpy with N for no apparent reason", if it's a series). Questions such as "Where did you get the idea for this?" or "Can I see the article you found the inspiration for this from?" I take to e-mail.
The only time I really respond is to lengthy commments that more or less require a response, if only a "Thank you"
I have a disclaimer in the userinfo of my writing journal telling my readers I rarely respond to comments that are in my writing journal.

At least you're upfront about it and I can respect that. It's the authors who don't have a statement like that and still don't respond (with even as much as a blanket thanks) that bother me a bit.
I do think writers should answer every comment. The numbers of comments I get on stories varies widely, depending on the pairing, probably depending on the quality of what I've done, and certainly depending on a boatload of other little factors both fandom-based (type of story, characters included, generic preferences) and indifferent (time of day, weekday v. weekend, etc.). And all things being equal, it truly does not take much more time to answer fifty comments than it does to answer five. But if it did take a significant amount of time, I'd still answer all my comments. Man, just -- I'm so grateful to get comments on my stories. How could I not reply to them?

I assume we're talking mainly about LJ-replies. I do reply to all feedback (both emails and LJ comments) but with LJ responses especially it seems odd to me to read/hear anyone claim there's not enough time to reply. The reply-to-comment function right there on the screen -- I'm not sure how it could be easier or quicker.

So when I see people say "Oh, I don't have time to answer comments" or say they need that time to write, well. I'll just be frank -- I don't really buy it. Everyone has time to say thank you.

As a reader, I leave comments when I enjoy the story. If I've been commenting for a while and never get a response, eventually I will begin reading without commenting.

I wonder if readers who do not write are in a way more tolerant of not getting replies to their comments? My guess is that writers will be likely to judge other writers by their own feedback-reply practices.
I wonder if readers who do not write are in a way more tolerant of not getting replies to their comments?

I am a reader who does not write and I have basically the same attitude towards feedbacking as you describe here. I read a lot of fic, and I leave a comment for every story that I like - sometimes a short "I liked this." and sometimes more detailed. I understand that sometimes somebody will get busy and can't reply, but if I never get a response after repeated comments, I stop leaving feedback, because I consider LJ a conversation and figure the writer doesn't want to talk to me. It doesn't happen very often; most writers are happy to have readers who like their stories enough to tell them so.
Here via metafandom

This is one of my pet peeves and rants - I've made it many times and have run similar kinds of polls, or at least containing this question.

as a writer I always reply to any comments left on my stories and I get very worried at the thought that I might possibly have missed one somewhere and have gone to what some might consider ridiculous lengths to track someone down to say 'thank you'.

As a reader I do indeed expect a 'thank you' to a comment or full LoC or whatever - it is simply good manners. When I first got into fandom I used to write a lot of LoCs, long ones, ones that I took a lot of trouble over, and as I live by the 'if you can't say something good say nothing at all', credo and also don't believe in being negative, these were positive and praising LoCs not gushing. Several writers replied and we have gone on communicating with one another and I've found a number of good friends that way. However, so many didn't, that quite frankly I gave up writing them.

We are always being told that LoCs are gifts to the writer (and as a writer I can agree with that). Well, I always say thank you for gifts, thus I expect other writers to do so too. If a wrier doesn't respond to my comments, I am unlikely to leave comments in the future.
Several writers replied and we have gone on communicating with one another and I've found a number of good friends that way. However, so many didn't, that quite frankly I gave up writing them.

Frankly, this is one of the reasons I post my stories on LJ; I love meeting new people with whom I can discuss the things I'm interested in, whether it be the fics themselves or fandom in general. My hubby can only listen to my ramblings for so long! **grin**
(here through metafandom)

I always try to answer every comment made on anything I've written (I know I've missed a few in the past, and it drives me nuts knowing that I forgot to respond *g*). I don't usually say a lot more than 'thanks for commenting' or 'glad you liked it', unless they said something that deserves a more in-depth response.

As a reader, I do appreciate it when the author takes the time to reply to my feedback, but I don't expect it, and try not to take it personally if they say nothing. This usually isn't a problem, but there are times when I get annoyed about receiving no response. Basically, they fall into two categories:

1. I've left long, detailed feedback, and would appreciate knowing that the author at least read it, and am curious about what they think. (For me, the author-reader relationship is a two-way street -- unless they specify at the beginning that they're not going to respond to feedback, I'm going to assume that they're willing to discuss aspects of the story. Talking about fic is half the fun, at least to me. *g*)

2. They've responded to all the comments made by their friends, but not to those left by relative strangers. This is much more obvious on places like LJ than it is on lists/author websites. It really grates, especially when they take the time to reply to, say, thirty or forty people they know, but don't reply to the five people they don't know.

In general, though, I try not to take it personally if someone doesn't respond to feedback, especially if I know that they have a policy of not replying to extremely short comments. Personally, I feel that it's polite to respond to everything, but that's just me, and I know other people don't feel the same way. And that's fine. I don't think that people owe answers, but it's appreciated when they do take the time to reply.

Actually, what really annoys me is the people who go on and on and on about how they get so much feedback, they can't possibly respond to it all... and then they go and write a whole lot of long posts on nothing in particular, which would surely take longer than firing off a few responses. Unless you're getting upwards of fifty comments per day, every day for a week or two, it's not going to take too long to respond with a quick 'thanks!' to every one. I know I've put off replying to feedback at times (not that I get a lot, but occasionally there's a bit), and, once you get started, it takes all of five or ten minutes. Hell, even just making a 'thanks for all the feedback, everyone! I really appreciate it' comment in your next post is a good way of thanking everyone, if you're truly running short on time.

I just find that particular excuse incredibly annoying, because it tends to imply that the author is oh-so-popular, and cannot possibly cope with the enormous demands placed upon them by their masses of adoring fans. If you don't want to respond to every message, that's fine, but try not to sound so condescending next time, hey? Because really, that attitude will put me off reading the author's next story. Certainly, it's stopped me from leaving feedback on several occasions. Like I said: two-way street. I've stopped reading/watching various series/books/whatever because the creative forces behind them were arseholish to their fans, and I'm certainly not going to support a fanfic writer who acts the same way.

(To clarify: if an author gets truly enormous amounts of feedback, I can totally understand their not having time to respond to it all. However, a lot of the people I've seen using this excuse would appear to have not received all that much, and I've seen people reply to far more without a problem. Usually, this particular excuse comes across as self-aggrandisement more than anything else.)
They've responded to all the comments made by their friends, but not to those left by relative strangers. This is much more obvious on places like LJ than it is on lists/author websites. It really grates, especially when they take the time to reply to, say, thirty or forty people they know, but don't reply to the five people they don't know.

Yeah, I find that even more rude than not responding at all. And yet, it happens more and more.

Personally, I reply to every piece of feedback (as long as I know about it - with LJ's habit lately of not delivering comment notifications, if someone's commented on an older story, I might not know it, because Recent Comments hasn't been catching everything either). It may take me a few days, but I do it. And if it's going to take a few days, I do say a thank you in the next post.

And I'm definitely less likely to leave feedback if I repeatedly don't get a response from a writer.

The "my stories are a gift" mindset just drives me bugfuck. I've found there are generally two models of thought on this - "my stories are a gift, and feedback is the thank you" and "I'd write my stories anyway, the feedback is a gift and should be acknowledged." It's a spectrum, of course, but I definitely fall at the latter end.