In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author Alan Baxter talks about the injustice of reviews that aren’t really about the book in question at all. Editor’s warning: strong language.
I’ve said many, many times here that reviews are the lifeblood of an author’s career. And reviews can mean literal reviews, posted at places like Amazon, Goodreads and so on, as well as reviews in newspapers and on dedicated reader blogs. But reviews can also refer to readers simply talking about a book they enjoyed with friends, family and colleagues. That may lead to those people buying the book, so it works just like reviews are supposed to. But not all reviews are created equal.
In essence, any review is valuable. Even if you didn’t like a book and you give it a bad review and a low star rating, it’s still useful to potential readers and it may lead a different reader to think, “Well, the problems that person had with the book don’t sound like problems to me, so I’ll give it a go.” And besides, you can’t please all the people all the time, so a good spread of reviews and ratings shows honesty and means we don’t start to suspect that Auntie Mabel and the Sockpuppets are the only people reviewing the book.
For example, American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a book universally recognised by readers and awards alike as being quite excellent. But not everyone likes it. On Amazon it has a 4-star average rating, but that includes 92 1-star reviews. (I’d be ecstatic with 92 reviews of any kind, but that book has over a thousand in total!) Anyway, my point is that not all reviews are going to be good ones and giving a one or two star review is fine. If you’re reviewing the book.
Wondering what I’m talking about? Look at this fucking idiot:
In case you can’t read that, it says:
Taming a Seahorse was good. However, Monday I purchased another Spencer book, and it took sooooooooooooo long to get to my Kindle, I was 20 pages into another book………………..
And the idiot gives the book a 1-star review. I’ve deliberately blurred the name, as I’m not here to witch hunt. It’s just one of many reviews I’ve seen that are like this. This “reviewer” is directly damaging the author’s career by reducing their rating average for reasons that are nothing to do with the author or the book and for things over which the author has no control. The “reviewer” even says they thought the book was good, but they’re giving it a one star review because the Whispernet service was slow delivering a completely different novel by the same author. The degree of stupid here is staggering. What the fuck did the author do to deserve this one star review, exactly?
It’s just petty hollering because the person wanted to have a moan about something publicly and arbitrarily tacked that whinge onto one of Parker’s books. If anything, they should have simply complained to Amazon directly (which, admittedly, is like trying to water a garden bed by pissing on the roof).
This is not an isolated, or even uncommon, incident. These fuckknuckles are everywhere. There are even blogs set up to collect all the reviews that are small nuggets of human idiocy distilled into illiterate paragraphs. This is one of my favourite examples of blogs like that, but I can never get past a few entries before the red mist of rage descends: http://leasthelpful.com/ Seriously, it starts off quite funny for the first one or two, then I begin to despair at the stupid, then, after half a dozen or so, I just want to go out and block the blow hole of a dolphin until it drowns. Then hit stupid people with the dead dolphin.
Reviews are awesome and anyone who takes time to review a book is a fantastic person who will be rewarded with cookies and whisky. But only people who review the book. If you’re using a review and slamming an author’s work in order to whinge about postage times, delivery networks, the fact that your dog shat in your bed (which you deserved, by the way) or anything else, then you’re a broken, stupid person and you should have your internet privileges revoked. Please, won’t someone think of the authors?
This is a reprint from Alan Baxter‘s Warrior Scribe.