Question of the Week: How Valuable is Reader Feedback…

*How valuable is reader feedback to your writing, both good and bad? Does it reign you in, give you food for thought, help shape the way you write? Or do you just ignore it?

* This week’s question comes from Alex V. Cook.

7 thoughts on “Question of the Week: How Valuable is Reader Feedback…

  1. oh my god, sometimes the people who read what you write are hateful AND stupid. i can’t deal with that combination. it kicks up my misanthropy like nobody’s business. and then there are those who like to try to prove they know more than you do about even your own personal experiences. i don’t want to be specific – because mostly i don’t want to acknowledge specific stupidity and give it any kind of standing other than what i said.

    reader feedback has on occasion given me food for thought (like when someone asked me why i called 1979 punk rock’s nadir – he disagreed because that’s the year he came into the scene – for me, it was all over but the crying… so i actually made a post script about it) but mostly i’d have to say it would be a good thing for me to learn how to ignore reader feedback.

    yep. i should change my name to Miss Anthrope, shouldn’t i?

  2. I’ve read some dumb letters in music magazines, but I wonder if the Internet isn’t responsible for the volume of “hateful AND stupid” feedback. Enough of the feedback I’ve received, and seen colleagues receive, reads like the comments on YouTube that I’ve devalued it. It’s a shame, but you have to do it if you don’t want to go nuts.

  3. I get a trickle of comments both positive and negative, usually corresponding with how I view the record; fans love you when you agree with them, hate you when you don’t. Try saying something disparaging about Stereolab and you will get avalanched with passive aggressive scorn.

    Lately though I’ve gotten a couple that had a “How dare you waste my time with this” tone to them which I found strange. It’s not like my views on a band or album are required reading. Maybe now the shine of being an armchair critic has dimmed with time, people are becoming armchair editors.

  4. People use the Internet the way they use their cellphone. Impulsively. Just like standing in line at the grocery store where I’m listening to subliterate people grumble into their phone the most inane chatter imaginable, so too, they take to their keyboards uncomprehending what they think they just read. (They mostly look at photos.)

    If they had to send a letter, it would never happen. But since they can hit respond…it’s too easy.

    I know this isn’t what’s intended by the question, but I must admit I’m always amused at the idea that someone sends in a letter to Rolling Stone that essentially says: “Kudos to (writer name here) for their insightful profile of Tom Hanks (or equally irrelevant celebrity). I always knew he was a lovable and talented actor. Your recent cover story on this multi-talented man made my day. Keep up the great work.”

    Do they hope to win a free subscription or something? And isn’t it always this same letter?

    Makes me appreciate the people that tell people me my mom should’ve been more proficient with a coat-hanger. Now that’s an opinion!

  5. It depends on who is responding. Sadly, it seems you get more ‘angry street-teamer’ responses than anything with grey matter utilized, but that sort of comes with the gig.

    I’m always surprised at the amount of responses we get that say “Do some research next time…” followed ironically by something completely incorrect, subjective, and unnecessary.

    The handful of intelligent responses usually make up for the slew of stupidity.

  6. I’ve found about one-quarter of the time, depending on the reader’s intelligence, letters-to-the-editor can be insightful.
    If it’s a plainly written correction or expression of a difference in opinion backed up with example, I’ve been appreciative and responded in kind when replies were allowed.
    But like many writers and editors know, you really don’t hear from readers or subjects unless they have a problem with the article.
    And, again, it depends on how the feedback is given. If it’s personally insulting (age, looks, sexual orientation), addressed to the publisher (like a letter home to your daddy), or merely poorly written I don’t pay it much mind.
    In that case I usually just extract the basic point and take it into consideration.
    And then there are cases of fellow writers or coworkers, sending submissions, very obviously, anonymously. I liked to save those.

  7. Periodically someone will send something that resonates with something I was already thinking or offer another interesting point of view.

    Recently I received a letter telling me I nailed it in my review of one album, but got it completely wrong on another. I don’t remember another letter that told me how smart and stupid I was within paragraphs, but most of the rest contradict each other & making one set of fans happier would just piss off others.

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