Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kneel Before Zon!

One of the new big things that a lot of the fear-mongers have focused up lately is the fact that Amazon, on their forums and in e-mails, have stated that a reader doesn't have to read a book in order to review it. As if there weren't already far too many things the Evil 'Zon was doing to stick and twist the knives into the backs of independent authors.

Well, it's true. And that's a fact that's not just true for Amazon. It is a fact for ANY review, ANYWHERE. How do you prove someone read a book? Should they have to take a test on what they read? Y'know, like we often had to do in grade school. Well, at least my classes did. That and book reports. Oh wait, a book report is kind of a review, too, isn't it? With a lot more spoilers we actually expect.

At least Amazon has a differentiation between verified sales and people just wandering to the site after <shudder> reading the book at a library. I guess those folks shouldn't have the ability to leave a review in a perfect world. Bad enough those cheap bastiches didn't buy the book to begin with right? Oh crap, I think my Overdrive loan is almost up! I better go check...

Nope, still got a week. Anyway, if the people are upfront and honest by saying "Well, I didn't read this book, but I am making this comment because <insert reason here>" or "I read the preview and it didn't inspire me to read the rest. This is why <insert reason here>", I don't see the problem. It is an honest evaluation of their feelings on the book in question, and why they are making that particular statement at that particular time.

Authors have got to remember one thing: Reviews are NOT for authors. Reviews are for other people - potential readers, potential users, potential customers. They are paeans to quality or warnings for dreck. Some folks make them humorous, some detailed and sophisticated, some just emulate Frankenstein with a "Book good! or "Book bad!" Most potential customers know how to take what is written in reviews with a grain of salt.

If I see a book with nothing but five-star reviews, that smells of yesterday's fish. If I see fifty five-star, a smattering of two- to four-stars, and six one-star, then I can actually gauge what's going on in a book. There's at least a few people who weren't reviewing out of some sort of obligation or agenda.

No one likes everything, and consequently, everything is not liked by everyone. If an author can't understand that fact, they would be better off in another, less criticism-driven profession. Everyone's got a book in them, they say. But not everyone has the skills to get that book out to the masses properly. It's a sad truth; not every writer out there now should necessarily be a writer. I think You've got to have a few chops in order to get the job done. I think everyone should at least try once, but to make sure you have your head and ego about you before you make that decision to hit the publish button.  If you don't, you are just opening yourself up for disappointment.

One way to avoid bad reviews is to write better. Forget the politics, forget the bullshit and WRITE! It's a great thing to learn by doing and it won't cost you a bloody cent!  Rather than wasting your time worrying about bad reviews (or bad reviews that the Evil Zon is foisting upon you, of course), try perfecting your craft a bit more and then try publishing crap that doesn't have a bloody agenda beyond entertaining, informing or selling books! That's what you're doing this for, isn't it?

I've gotten bad reviews. I've left bad reviews. I've gotten glowing reviews and left the same. I've gotten some reviews from people who obviously didn't read my book. Oh, it cut me so deeply to the heart. Not.  Guess what? I don't let it get to me. Why? Because in the long run, it's not all that important a thing. I could get all bitter and vindictive, but then when would I find the time to be a proper smart ass and wiseacre?   That's a word that really needs to come back into common usage. Along with the name "Gertrude." It's a fine name. It's got character. I had a chicken with that name when I was a lad.


  1. Love it. Not the chicken so much. Because that would be weird.

  2. I wonder about a certain person who rated my book 1 star, but left no comment whatsoever (all my other reviews have been 3 star or better). What motivated her to do so? She could at least say something like, "The book cover turned me off so bad, it was an EYE, and it was STARING AT MEEEEE and I'm a paranoid schizophrenic anyway," but no, not one word. How the hell is that supposed to help anyone?

  3. I think Gertrude is the name of the cow on The Magic Roundabout :)

  4. After reading a sample, I typically go straight to the two-star reviews a book has received. If I can find a thoughtful review in that range, it's generally enough to make my radar kick in so I will steer clear of a book. I just wish Amazon's algorithm didn't look down on three star reviews since so many books strike me as average or okay, and that's not a bad thing.

  5. That's the thing: Most books are three-star books. There used to be very few one-star and very few five-star books.

    It takes a really horrible book to truly get a one-star rating in the real world, and a five-star should really be saved for those books that change your life. Or at least, that's what I used to think before trying to navigate this sort of thing. Now, there's just too many egos who think they are Stephen King and Charles Dickens rolled up into one individual.