Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reviews and more...


I’ve done so many blogs over the past couple of years I find myself wondering if there’s anything left to talk about most days. Just when I think there isn’t, something reminds me there’s always a reason to write. A few days ago I posted an observation on my Facebook wall, it was innocuous and I didn’t think much about it. Little did I know it was going to become a serious discussion not only about authors and how we cope with the incessant “ratings” of a few people who appear determined to undermine credibility, but also the reactions of the real readers who abhor the petty maliciousness as much as those meant to be hurt.

We have a wealth of opportunity and ability to be heard in this amazing day and age of computers. In this small sector of the “arts” there’s a growing spirit of meanness among writers who should be supporting each other, but in many cases are behaving in ways that would make the best con artists wince. Reviews, once the realm of well read and professional minded readers, are now the province of every Tom, Dick, and Harriet with the know-how to create a blog and collect books from authors eager for those sought-after reviews. Maybe that more than anything is the real problem. Authors are TOO eager to have those rave reviews in hand to help promote their books and elevate them a little above the overcrowded masses who are struggling to be heard in this industry. But what happens when those rave reviews are just raves and rants?

Many, many authors request of readers that they post a review to Amazon, or to Goodreads… which is the same thing now, since Amazon acquired Goodreads recently. While it was once helpful to consult reviews before making a purchase, you have to really weed through a lot of questionable reading at times now to discover if there’s anything worth considering before you buy a book by a previously unknown to you author. On Goodreads there are pages of ranting, sniping, and snarking on many books–reviews that are so much convoluted opinion and complaint, with little of it relevant to the book. If some point in a novel or story rubs a reader the wrong way, the response these days for many is to simply log in at Amazon, or other sites, and post a scathing review, or worse, simply start rating the book with one-star to bring down an average from other reviewers. We’ve all had it happen. I think it’s how we accept it that often distinguishes the professionals from the amateurs. I’ve seen people whine and moan about one-star reviews, and if you’re fool enough to do that in public, the public will never forget it.

Yet, in some cases, there is good reason for complaint. More and more people are questioning the one-star hit and run “readers” who don’t really read the books, but have some bone to pick with the author. I recently noticed two such people on my Goodreads account–every book with a one-star rating, and all on the same day. So, is it remotely believable that someone would purchase every book on an author’s catalogue then find not a single title to their liking? And then wait until one afternoon to go online and rate them all? Doesn’t sound likely to me, honestly. Do I care, or am I upset? Not in the least. What DOES bother me is the mindset behind this kind of sabotage to someone’s reputation.

Authors work very hard to craft their books, as a rule. But if someone takes offense, they now have the means to be petty and malicious. It is nothing more than that. There’s something vitally wrong with a system of “ratings” when people can rate hundreds of books they’ve likely never read–and not once supply a review of any kind to support the rating. New authors are often crushed by this kind of thing, and at the very least they’re disheartened and shaken. It’s not remotely fair, though I’m well aware life usually isn’t! Then there’s the growing rumble of malcontent as it’s discovered that some of these “trolls” are actually other authors trying to knock down their “competition” by low rating books. That’s even more unsavoury than the ones who just want to exercise their “power” by trying to ruin any author’s high rating.

At the end of the day, this, like so much else, is all but irrelevant in many ways. New authors need to learn to submit their books to legitimate sites, reviewers with a record of being fair and respected within the industry. It may take time, you may not always get the stellar review you hoped for–but you will never be crapped all over and made to feel like unplugging your computer is your next career move.

To those of you out there who think you’re being cute, or those who really are just mean little trolls with no integrity, “go hard” as a friend of mine says…in the end, you don’t ever destroy a real writer–you make them more determined. Real talent is never silenced, and your efforts to malign will one day find and reward you justly. Life is like that, whether you believe it or not.


35 comments:

  1. Great blog topic! Lots of food for thought.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a good and timely post, Denyse, though I don't have any answers except possibly the old adage, "Never read your reviews." I always questioned that, because honest assessment can teach you a great deal and I enjoy thoughtful feedback from readers. Now, however, I'm beginning to wonder if it may be time to take the old advice to heart. Maybe those authors knew something we're just learning, in some cases the hard way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Miriam - there are no easy answers, but at the end of the day, if you really do want those reviews, you have to be prepared for potentially ugly feedback as well as things you can work with and learn from. I think rating systems need to be revisited, though, and removed as an option.

      Delete
  3. Excellent blog, Denyse. Sometimes I think that this is one of the worst aspects of just about any kind of 'social networking': giving people a simple weapon to use against anyone they resent for any reason whatsoever, with little or no chance of being identified. They can laugh to themselves, pat themselves on the back, and, for awhile, feel like they have power. Maybe Miriam's right, and 'never read your reviews' is our only strong defense - that and communicating with trusted people who can identify those sites the present the greatest danger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed, Roberta. Here again we have the bully behind the anonymity of the internet. And it is another form of bullying, no mistake there.

      Delete
  4. Very good post! I agree with everything said!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank so much for coming by and lending support, itlnbrt.

      Delete
  5. Well said Denyse! "Real talent is never silenced". I just loved that. Best luck. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Rose, but it IS true. People who write because it's what they're born to do are rare, and no amount of bullshit will ever silence those voices! :)

      Delete
  6. Fantastic. I'm standing here applauding.
    Tweeted.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well said Denyse! Very well said. And this is why I don't ask for reviews from the general public. The way I look at it, if someone likes my work, they'll post it of their own accord. Does that mean I haven't sent my work off for review by professional sites? No, it doesn't. But, I've waited, I've checked them out, read some of their other reviews and if they don't seem to be professional - good or bad review not withstanding - then I don't send a request. If they are professional - good or bad - then I'll take the time to make a request and wait patiently for it to be posted wherever it's going to be posted. :D That's just my two cents mind you and maybe I'm old school, but it is what it is. (PS: I am on pins and needles though - as any new author is - saying, "Do they like me?" But that's a personal thing and I do my best to keep that to myself...*giggles*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret - I think we all get antsy when we're waiting for some kind of validation of a book we've written. I agree with you, too - I have said, let me know what you think of the book when I've sent them to people who've won them in contests, but overall, like you, I leave it to the reader to decide if they want to review anything. Many times, I never know if a review has been posted, and that's just fine, too. Thank you for your input, it's much appreciated.

      Delete
  8. As a reader, I don't pay much attention to reviews where the person is obviously ranting. Generally, I decide to buy a book based on the description and reading a sample of it (whether reading a few pages in the bookstore or downloading the sample from Amazon). As an author, of course, it's hard to overlook the reviews on my own books. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is, but you know, over time, good and bad are welcome. I share them all - and I've had a couple of doozies, believe me!! I think the rants just make people move on to something they can actually formulate an opinion from, but who knows? At the end of the day, the best promo is still readers who suggest to other readers, isn't it?

      Delete
  9. I'm glad to hear that the readers ignore the rants. I have to admit that they still hurt. I can't help but wonder what I did to that person to make them hate me. In the end, I realize that it's not me that they hate but themselves and it makes them feel powerful to belittle someone else. These are the same people who stole your lunch money in the school yard. Bullies. What goes around comes around and eventually they will get the same treatment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very, very true, Cindy. It's not always easy to ignore the "bullies" and those who seem to thrive on malicious poison, but in the end, ignoring them is the only real to deal with them. The desire to explain or question is natural, I think we all want to know why people are nasty to us, but as you've said, it is their issue, not ours, and the best way to rise above it is to walk away from it. Thanks for coming by. :)

      Delete
  10. Hi Denyse! I think this is a very well thought out and concise overview of the review process and how it affects all authors. I sincerely hope there is karma to bite those who would willfully try to downgrade other authors or who take pleasure in just being mean. I only leave reviews for books I enjoy. The ones that don't capture my interest get deleted. Too many good books to read.
    *hugs*
    ~JD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, JD. I agree. I will take time to write a review for a book that's really affected me, and I want to share that. Only once did I ever leave a two-star review, and it was because the book took me forever to read - same scenes repeated and a hero was anything but... even at that, I didn't trash the author, simply said the book wasn't something I'd ever read again.

      Delete
  11. Great post! I couldn't agree more. I have seen Karma in action and it's not pretty. I feel sorry for people who have little or no compassion for others and attempt to tear down a person's reputation and hard work. How bad must they feel about themselves that bringing another down makes them feel good?

    I envy your ability to find something to blog about regularly. While I always have a reason to write, I usually add to my books, not my blog. Again, this was a great post. Good job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tianna. I think there are a lot of people whose credibility is non-existent, and with the anonymity of the internet, they love to play games. It's not remotely productive and it will cost more than the author they think they're hurting.

      I love chatting via my blog, but I frequently wonder if I have anything worthwhile to say to people! :) Thanks for coming by.

      Delete
  12. Wonderful post. I used to be a book reviewer as a job. I loved sharing what I found exciting about each book and not one single book received below a 3. I could always find something that I liked in each book, even if it wasn't alway my new favorite. Now as an author, I get those hit and runs. They still show up on Amazon and other places. The comments are mean and spiteful. Yet when I look at their reviews, it appears that they have a hard time finding something good to say about any book. I try to chalk that negative review up to nothing to worry about, yet when it's read...it's out there. Hurt does nothing more than bring about more pain. Karma is much better with the good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melissa, I work with Coffeetime Romance, and while I am not a regular reviewer, I do one occasionally with the owner's permission. Every book has some merit, and there's always a way to find something positive to offer. Over time I've become a firm advocate in the removal of the "rating" without review system on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.

      Delete
  13. This is a big topic these days - the snarky reviewer. It never occurred to me until recently that authors were doing some of it to harm their fellow authors. What truly miserable human beings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Jane - the idea of some of these one-star nasties being our "fellow authors" is pretty disheartening. Of course, what it also says is these so-called authors are petty, mean, and very insecure in their own talent.

      Delete
  14. Well said. A very timely topic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, NJ. Seems to be a topic that many people are talking about at the moment - maybe with the joining of Amazon and Goodreads, a lot of these nasty idiots are moving back and forth between the sites?

      Delete
  15. I've been considering doing a similar blog post. When I read a really nasty, mean review of anyone's book, it pisses me off. Feel free to state your opinion good or terrible, but seriously??? Must you be so nasty? I actually read a review where the reviewer compared the book to "stepped-in elephant shit". Geez.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Damn - that's real class, isn't it? And any author with professionalism is totally unable to say a word in reply without starting a shit-storm of controversy, so we all need emotional hides like elephants!

      Delete
  16. Great topic and very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I try to keep in mind the words of Irish Playwright Brendan Behan regarding critics: "Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done everyday, but they're unable to do it themselves." And I figure those who can't write, try to demoralize those who can.

    I amuse myself imagining some pasty-faced douche-bag sitting in his Mom's basement, remnants of fast food wrappers all around him, one hand on the keyboard as he feverishly types nasty words to hurt other people, while the other hand is supplying the only "date" he'll ever get. Maybe not accurate, but it sure helps me feel better!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Excellent blog Denyse. I don't usually read book reviews or any type of reviews, because these are someone’s personal opinions which don't reflect my own. On the other hand, reading your review really pissed me off, I know you’re an outstanding author and don’t deserve this at all. Karma will get back to that l*ser ball.
    Gina

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well said. I am a newly published writer and I already got a bad review on Goodreads. It didn't bother me so much because I made a sale after that. I never read the reviews much now on Amazon because I don't trust them anymore.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.