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.