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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Do Authors Obsess Too Much About Book Reviews?

by Anne R. Allen


Whether we're newbies or superstars, traditional or self-publishers, pretty much all authors stress about reviews: getting them…and surviving them.

Getting Reviews is Tough  


From the time our first book launches, we're told our number one job is to get reviewed. We send out ARCs, desperately query book bloggers and give away as many books as possible in hopes that some kind soul will write a few lines saying how they liked the book.

Some authors also use the new pricey book review sites—the ones where you have to pay $30 a month to be listed on a site that gives away free copies to people who probably won't review anyway.

Or they pay to get reviewed at Kirkus ($400-$550) or Publisher's Weekly ($149). (These are not illegal like paid online "customer reviews," but many experts, like Joel Friedlander, consider them a bad idea.)

For a report from the review-chasing front, here's a great post from Molly Greene that includes her experiences with one paid review site. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't all Kumbaya and rainbows.)

We start out hoping for a bunch of rave reviews from big name book blogs or prestigious print journals, but after 100s of rejections from overwhelmed sites, we're grateful for a lukewarm mention on a blog with a readership of two people and a parakeet.

And then there's the biggie: getting reviews on the all-important retail and reader sites.

Nothing looks sadder than a naked, unreviewed book on Amazon or Goodreads. So we plead for people to accept free copies of our pricey, expensive-to-mail paper books on Goodreads and give away as many ebooks as we can on Amazon and Smashwords.

Some desperate authors even cross ethical lines. This is dumb and can get you kicked off Amazon permanently, so don't succumb to temptation to do stuff like:
  • Paying review mills or somebody at Fivrr to churn out generic one-line 5-stars. 
  • Trading reviews. 
  • Establishing "sock puppet" accounts for ourselves so we can review our own books and/or trash other people's. 
People do these things because they're told they gotta, gotta, gotta get those reviews. They've probably heard that they need a certain number of Amazon raves—maybe it's fifty, or a hundred, nobody's quite sure—to make the bestseller lists and get promoted by the algorithms. (A myth: more on that below.)

But we all try to reel in as many reader reviews as possible, begging everyone we meet to read the book and write something. Anything. Preferably something nice.

Only mostly they don't.

Most sales and giveaways generate very few reviews. Lots of scammers use Goodreads and other sites to get free hard copies they can sell on EBay. And the few who do write reviews can be downright nasty.

There's a bizarre reviewer subculture in the Amazon-Goodreads jungle that revels in giving nasty reviews to books they haven't read. It's a game for them. They'll glance at a few lines in the free "look inside" sample or simply reword other negative reviews. They often buy and return an ebook within minutes so they can get a "verified review" stamp on their one-word one-star.

The motivation of these people isn't entirely clear to me, but apparently some are competing to rack up a lot of review numbers—some write dozens per day—which can make them eligible to get free products to review. Others are playing Amazon like a videogame. The rest are just mean people who must be having terrible lives.

But the thing is, none of this stuff is helpful to readers looking for their next read. The abuse also hurts the reputation of genuine reviewers and sends authors into despair.

Surviving Bad Reviews is Tougher


The first time you get a snarky, negative review, it feels like a personal attack. When somebody says cruel things about the baby you've spent years bringing into the world, you hurt in a way that's impossible to convey to non-writers.

You'll be overwhelmed with the urge to punch out the reviewer and/or run away to live out your days in some Unibomber cabin.

But the truth is, bad reviews only mean one thing: you're a published author.

All successful authors get terrible reviews. Every. Single. One. Here's a hilarious sampler of one-star Amazon reviews of classics from the Huffington Post.

But Bad Reviews Don't Always Bring Down Sales.


In fact, bad reviews can actually stimulate buying.

It happened to me.

I got a swarm of one-stars on my buy page for my Camilla Mysteries Boxed Set as "punishment" for standing up for a bullied writer on a high profile publishing blog. Probably not a wise thing to do at the time my mother was dying and I'd been diagnosed with a breast tumor, but I thought I was in a safe place when I wasn't (there are no safe places).

Even though the blogger wisely deleted the troll-infested thread almost immediately, the mean girl army had already been deployed and had orders to swarm.

"Swarming" a buy page with one-star fake reviews is a major sport on Amazon. It has even happened to the Zon itself. Its new Fire phone has over 1500 one-stars, apparently as a protest from Greenpeace, who don't like Amazon's environmental policies.

But when it's just you and you're already stressed this stuff can be pretty upsetting. I dreaded booting up my computer every morning for months. I knew better than to go to Goodreads, the native habitat of that particular denomination of meanies, but I had to go to Amazon occasionally. 

Each time I had a new review it would be one or two stars, containing a veiled personal attack that also showed the reader hadn't read anything but the "look inside".

Then a weird thing happened. 

My sales started to climb. And climb. After a couple of weeks, it hit the bestseller list in humor.

One day I woke up and found I was ahead of five Janet Evanovich titles and my favorite humor book of all time, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy




The book sold over 2000 copies that month and stayed on the bestseller list for half a year.

Thanks, Mean Girls!

Of course if I'd reacted online to the bullying, the attacks would have escalated and might have done damage to my career. (The Manners Doctor is going to do that in the next Camilla mystery with hilarious results).

I knew better than to acknowledge these people in any way after having a run-in with them a few years before when they took offense to this blog. The gang still wields power. Several well-known authors who have reacted publicly to their cruelty have been the recipients of nasty backlash. But I have reason to hope the power of the review bullies may be diminishing.

For one thing, your own target readers will probably read between the lines, which is what I assume mine did.

Plus negative customer reviews that stress what some people consider a book's flaws may give other readers a reason to buy.

"This book is unrealistic and went by so fast it was exhausting" can get somebody who loves a fast, funny read to press the buy button.

"There's bad language and too much sex" can be a ringing endorsement to somebody who's looking for some racy entertainment.

But I think a lot of people have stopped paying attention to customer reviews entirely. Lots of retail sites, like Kobo, don't have them. Besides the bullying and swarming and paid review scandals, there are other issues:

  • Lots of customer reviews are just plain dumb. Reviewers seem to misspell everything on purpose and compete for the most idiotic remarks. And of course some people goof on them for comic effect. Clever humor writers use them for some pretty hilarious stuff.
  • Amazon doesn't even require 20 words any more and B & N never did. I saw a one-star review on a popular book last week that just said, "ewww". 
  • Goodreads actually encourages people to "review" books they haven't read.
  • Spoilers. Amazon no longer requires "spoiler alert" tags, so the nasties are having a great time giving away plots in order to ruin somebody else's read. 
  • Review trolls often give the plot of an entirely different book, and that isn't forbidden either, according to authors who have complained. I heard from one writer last month who got a review that faulted him for writing about a "hero who left his pregnant wife for a whore." Thing is, the hero wasn't married and nobody was pregnant. No sign of a sex worker, either. Somebody going through a rough divorce was apparently using online reviews for therapy. Would Amazon remove the review? Nope.

Are Reviews as Important as We Think?


There was a time when one review—the kind written in the New York Times Book Review or The New Yorker—could make or break a book.

But these days, book discovery happens in hundreds of ways, online and off, and studies show reviews aren't high on the list.

I think many readers have figured out they're better off not reading them at all.

As author Barbara Morgenroth said on The Passive Voice earlier this week,

"The flavor has been chewed out of the review gum. Reviews are like freebies/free days–they don’t work like they used to. Abuse will kill off almost everything."

I fear she's right. In a study reported by Smashwords' Mark Coker two years ago, only 7% of readers reported they browsed and read online reviews before they bought a book. And I think the number has only diminished with the abuse.

So how do people discover books now?

The old fashioned way: word of mouth.

A friend recommends a book she thinks you'd like. You go to the store, maybe check the cover, blurbs, and a page or two, and unless something is horribly off-putting, you buy it. Because  you've already decided you wanted to read it because of your friend's recommendation.

Usually the store is online these days (although there's also been a resurgence of the independent bookstore) but our basic buying habits haven't changed that much.

I know it's true of me. I never browse around Amazon looking for a random book. I go and search for a specific title or author.

Coker's survey said the same thing. Even in the digital age, word of mouth is what sells books. 29% of readers—by far the highest percentage—bought based on recommendations from friends in forums, blogs and message boards. 

Plus, in spite of all the rumors that spread in indie-land about how you can't get on a bestseller list without X number of reviews, plenty of books with only a handful—even if some are one-stars—make the bestseller lists.

Again, I know this from personal experience.

My "prequel" Camilla comedy, The Best Revenge hit the humor bestseller list last spring and stayed there until I changed publishers last month. It only has 14 reviews, including a couple of one-stars from my little friends. But it was in the top 10,000 on Amazon for six months. Why? It's one of my oldest books and I think word-of-mouth buzz took that long to reach critical mass.

(Not that I wouldn't be eternally grateful for some more reviews for The Best Revenge. The one thing nice reviews are guaranteed to do is raise the author's spirits. And more reviews would allow me to advertise in the bargain newsletters.  Unfortunately a new publisher and ISBN puts your book back at square one.) 

Alternatives to the Review-Go-Round


So what if we all let up on the review pressure for a while and start simply recommending books to our friends?

Rather than lament the fact the online reviews don't work any more, Barbara Morgenroth suggests we start a movement to "tell a friend" about books we enjoy.

She put together these two lovely photos for readers to share on FB and other social media sites to spread the word.






Here's what I suggest an author can do:

1) Before a book comes out, or after a "soft launch," offer it to selected fans and a few reviewers you've established a friendship with. Always write a warm, personal email, not a mass mailing, ever. (Asking for a review is like querying an agent. A mass-mailing gets an automatic "no.")

2) After you get 20 or so reviews, stop worrying about it. Yes, you need between 10 and 20 reviews to be eligible for the bargain book newsletters like Fussy Librarian, KND, and ENT—and BookBub wants thousands, but more are not necessary to make good sales. Bookbub has become so expensive that lots of authors aren't breaking even on it anymore, so maybe that will be a blessing.

(And if you see that a book you love has only a handful of reviews, do write one. Every helpful review fights the the abuse of reviews and scores a point for the good guys.)

3) Promote your books in other ways, like guest blogposts, spotlights and interviews.

4) Present a helpful, pleasant persona on your chosen social media sites. Keep promos to less than 20% of your interactions. Be a friend, and you'll make some. Then they might read and recommend your books.

5) Build your readership with a helpful (not just promotional) blog or newsletter. Obviously I personally prefer a blog, but as long as people actually sign up for a newsletter or mass mailing it can be a good alternative. But they must choose to subscribe and you must provide a way to unsubscribe, always. Don't assume your readers have nothing to do but promote your books for you.

6) Recommend books you love…and spread the word about "tell-a-friend."

7) Put all that energy  you were using to beg for reviews into writing your next book.

8) Keep chocolate and/or wine handy when reading your own reviews...and your fingers off the keyboard!

In fact, really successful writers advise us not to read our reviews at all. I can't say I take their advice, because the nice reviews really brighten my life, but I try not to take the snarky ones to heart. And some negative ones are actually helpful.

But we'd probably be better off if we all followed Laurell K. Hamilton's advice. She said on Goodreads recently,

"I seldom, if ever, read reviews…I've found that even good reviews can mess with my muse and me, so I've learned that simply not reading is the only sane way to go."

I am not telling readers not to write reviews! 


The world still needs book reviews. I'm simply saying as writers, we shouldn't obsess. We can live with fewer than we think.

NOTE: In-depth book blog reviews are very different from most customer reviews on retail and reader sites. A book blog review is more like telling a friend. Book blog reviewers are some of the hardest working people around, and I encourage them to hang in there, in spite of idiotic mass-mailings and entitled, rude authors and publicists. (They contact me, too, because I officially have a "book blog," and they drive me nuts.)

If we stop obsessing, book bloggers' lives will be easier too.

And remember that every time you put on your reader hat and write a sensible, honest customer review, you are fighting the abuse and giving real reviews more power and credibility.


What about you, Scriveners? Do you obsess about reviews? Are you influenced by them? Do you write them? Do you tell your friends about a book when you've finished it? To start this ball rolling, why don't you recommend a book you've enjoyed recently in the comments? 

I'm going to start by sharing a "tell-a-friend" book. I've been meaning to write a review and hadn't got around to it.

BOOKS OF THE WEEK


TELL-A-FRIEND BOOK: The Goddaughter

Award-winning mystery author Melodie Campbell is Canada's "Queen of Comedy" according to the Toronto Sun. She's one of the funniest people I know. How do I know her? She comments regularly on this blog! I liked her comments and went to Amazon and bought the first book in her series. Her "Goddaughter" Gina Gallo is the Mafia princess version of my own loopy sleuth, Camilla Randall. Want great laughs and a fast-paced plot? You can count on Melodie's books. (And Melodie will be a presenter at the L.A. Bouchercon in November.)



The Goddaughter is the first in Melodie's Goddaughter series. (Her Rowena paranormal series is hilarious as well.)  And it's only $2.99 right now on Amazon US and Amazon CA. Also available at NOOK and Kobo


THE BEST REVENGE: Now only 99c!


This week I'm re-launching The Best Revenge, the prequel to the Camilla Randall Mysteries, with my new publisher, Kotu Beach Press (Mark Williams international has closed its doors.) It sure would be nice to get the sales started up again. So if you know anybody who likes funny mysteries: 
TELL A FRIEND!



THE BEST REVENGE: How it all began! When Camilla Randall, a 1980s New York debutante, is assaulted by her mother’s fiancé, smeared in the newspapers by a sexy muckraking journalist, then loses all her money in the Savings and Loan Scandal, she seeks refuge with her gay best friend in California. But her friend has developed heterosexual tendencies and an inconvenient girlfriend, so Camilla has to move in with wild-partying friends. When a TV star ends up dead after one of their parties, Camilla is arrested for his murder. She must turn to a friendly sanitation worker, a dotty octogenarian neighbor and the muckraking journalist who ridiculed herwho also happens to be her boss. 

The Best Revenge is on sale for only 99c at Amazon US and Amazon UKAmazon CASmashwords, AppleKobo and NOOK

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


Writers’ Village International Short Fiction Contest $24 entry fee. Prizes of $1600, $800, $400 and $80. A further ten Highly Commended entrants will receive a free entry in the next round. Professional feedback provided for all entries! Any genre: up to 3000 words. Deadline December 31st.

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS: NO ENTRY FEE. These awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Three awards of $5000 each will be given annually in each of the following categories: birth through grade school (age 0-10), middle school (age 11-13) and teens (age 13-18). May be fiction, biography, or other form of nonfiction. Deadline December 1, 2014. 

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS LITERARY FESTIVAL SHORT FICTION CONTEST $25 ENTRY FEE. Submit a short story, up to 7000 words. Grand Prize: $1,500, plus airfare (up to $500) and accommodations for the next Festival in New Orleans, VIP All-Access Festival pass for the next Festival ($500 value), plus publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine. Contest is open only to writers who have not yet published a book of fiction. Deadline November 16th.

For NEW WRITERS! THE FICTION DESK NEWCOMER'S PRIZE ENTRY FEE £8. First prize £500, second prize £250. Short fiction from 1,000 - 5,000 words. Writers should not have been previously published by The Fiction Desk, and should not have published a novel or collection of short stories in printed form. Deadline October 31st.

GLIMMER TRAIN VERY SHORT FICTION AWARD $15 fee. Maximum length: 3,000 words. 1st place wins $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue. 2nd place wins $500 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). 3rd place wins $300 (or, if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies). Deadline October 31.

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134 Comments:

Blogger V.L. Jennings said...

Absolutely love your insight into the review world. I myself have not been prey to review trolls but some of my friends have. I also heartily agree with you that word of mouth these days holds a lot more weight than most of the reviews on amazon- even though I love hearing from those who have loved my books.

Maybe the reviews section should be changed to- leave the author a note if you liked their book... lol

October 5, 2014 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There are so many other ways to promote a book - and us as authors.
I think I know some people who review a multitude of products on Amazon just so they can be listed as a top reviewer. Like you, no idea why.
I do read reviews. The one or two star ones with one line I ignore.
My first book didn't hit the best seller charts until almost a year after its release. My publisher's best guess was that I was really active online. (Also about the time I started the IWSG.)
And I don't know the cost of BookBub, but my publisher said sales of my title this spring more than made up for the cost. As soon as my third book hits the minimum twenty-five reviews, they want to run another sale through BookBub.

October 5, 2014 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sound and sensible advice as always! Thank you.

October 5, 2014 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

I prefer to write reviews on my blog and also prefer to give my own spin on it. I don't solicit them but offer them to authors I truly enjoy reading OR allow them to guest post (this is for ebook blogger authors mainly). I will review on Amazon what I review on my blog if it's a new book. Not Goodreads. I specify in my About Me tab what I will review (genres).

I do think authors obsess and I've read a ton of posts about it. What to do, what to do? There is no magic elixir. I will read blogger reviews if they don't say they are reviewing a book for their BFF or one of the group of writers to which they belong (smacks of pat-each-other-on-the-back-ism) but rather 'hey, I read this great book which you might like. . .' That's my take on it. I'm a slow blogger, so most reviews on my blog get a few days of publicity. I garner more comments and visibility for the author that way.

October 5, 2014 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

V.L.--It's a weird thing isn't it? The reviews don't mean much as a whole, but even a one-line positive review can totally make our day. I agree it would be nice if they'd just give us the good news. :-) Or maybe just have a "like" button or something.

October 5, 2014 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I think the review game must have a similar draw to an online videogame. Lots of people out there to compete against and a giant playing field.

I read reviews too, although I don't think they've ever influenced my decision to buy. I usually read the one-stars only for laughs.

I've heard Bookbub has stopped being as effective recently because of KU and other changes at the Zon. People tell me if they're not in Select, they don't break even. But of course it does raise your profile. They say they require a minimum of 25, but usually they only choose books with several thousand.

October 5, 2014 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Ruth! You partly inspired this post, because you're always so sensible about the pointlessness of most reviews.

October 5, 2014 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D.G. Your policy sounds very sensible. Your blog reviews sound like the "tell-a-friend" stuff Barbara Morgenroth suggests. Putting the review on Amazon is kind. It's always going to help.

And I agree about Goodreads. I think the admin there is trying to make it a better place, but the troll culture is pervasive. I recently had to leave my Boomer Lit group because some trolls came in and made it toxic. Even old ladies can be d***s online

October 5, 2014 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Emerald O'Brien said...

Thank you for the reminder of what I believe is an important part of being an author. Readers who like your work, who recommend your books to others, are the most natural form of advertising. The reader knows what their friends like/ might like, and they wont spoil the story like a review might. A good recommendation is also one of the biggest forms of complimenting the author. Can't beat it, and I think it's great to emphasize the more personal approach to spreading the word.

October 5, 2014 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I work in a library, and if a book doesn't have a reviews....well, I think we don't order it. Even if a book does have reviews, it's sometimes unreasonably difficult to actually order them (like some of the indies in...Library Journal I think? Maybe just in general).

So reviews and accessibility are important for library placement. I'm not sure many individual buyers actually make their decisions based solely on Amazon reviews (which I agree are frequently quite dumb)

October 5, 2014 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Emerald--You're right that a friend won't include spoilers the way some reviewers do these days. And they actually know what you like, based on knowing you, not just some algorithm. Let's spread the word about "tell-a-friend"!

October 5, 2014 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger The Hostess with the Mostest said...

Good work, Anne! You got right to the heart of this important issue.

October 5, 2014 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--Libraries are a special case. It's not just reviews they require, but reviews in prestigious print publications like Kirkus. This is why self-published authors will pay $500 for a Kirkus review. But that's not a question of quantity but quality. I haven't heard of libraries paying attention to the number of online reviews, but I know they'll buy on the basis of a rave in Kirkus. Getting into libraries is pretty tough for small press books and self-publishers although some of mine have been purchased through Overdrive.

October 5, 2014 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hostess--Thanks a bunch. It's always hard to tackle reviews, since they're kind of the "third rail" of the publishing world. But they're being abused so much they've pretty much burned out.

October 5, 2014 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Anne, you are a real sweetie to mention The Goddaughter! I am delighted you liked it and thrilled that you said so on my fave writers' blog (here!)
Yes, our heroines should get together, as I know they would hit it off :)
Someday, their authors should get together too.
Excellent research and advice on this blog, as usual.
And more own story to add:
ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL (the first book in the series Vine Reviews called "Outlander meets Sex in the City") got a review entitled "Smut!" by a quite religious person. She went on to say that she read the entire book to the end, and it was still smutty. You guessed it - at first I was devastated. Then my sales went up!! 'nuff said. :)

October 5, 2014 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Honestly, all I think a review does is provide visibility of the specific book and author. I don't read any reviews before deciding on a book, and it wouldn't make any difference. There was a novel that was getting a lot of five stars from people (a best selling author), but my response to the book was "Meh." The book wasn't for me. Reviews are very much animals of personal taste.

As for writing reviews, no, absolutely not. The rampant meltdowns of authors over review silliness was a huge turn off to start with, and besides, they're really time consuming because I have to read the book, then write the review. Much better to spend the time writing my books.

October 5, 2014 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--I loved the Goddaughter and I'm really looking forward to Rowena. I love your sense of humor. I sure hope you can make it to the Central Coast the next time you're in California.

That's too funny about the "smut" review. Some people would accuse you of planting it to get more sales. :-) (People who spend their lives gaming the system assume everybody else does it too.)

October 5, 2014 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--A review does provide visibility, but so does a spotlight or interview, so we can mix it up and let up on the pressure. And you're so right: any given bestseller will have tons of 5-stars and then a whole bunch of 1-stars that say "huh? I hated this thing." Totally subjective.

Book reviews are hugely time consuming. That's why book bloggers can get a little cranky. They're working hard, usually for no pay. We should be so grateful to them. I don't think we thank them enough.

October 5, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
OpenID yeyeright said...

I love to reviews of my short stories that I publish as ebooks on Smashwords and Amazon. Even better, I like to get feedback from stories that I have submitted to paying publications, especially when they are accepted. For the most part all comments have been seen as fair and helpful. However, there is one short novella that has generated a whole lot of "1" reviews on Amazon. As I consider this tale to be one of my better writing efforts, I have always been puzzled by this. The only thing that I can think of is that sine the story takes place during a Central American revolution, there may be negative feedback from that event.

Henri

P.S. "Never responding to a bad review" is excellent advice.

October 5, 2014 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger BooksAndPals said...

Love this post, Anne. I see a book blog the same as you do, as amplified word of mouth (my two followers and a parakeet). Depending on what it says, one star reviews can actually help. From a reader's perspective, a book with a handful of 5 star reviews and nothing negative looks suspicious. Unhelpful negative reviews indicate that people beyond the author's friends and family are reading the book. Often one person's negative is another's positive. When I'm making a buying decision on anything, I always look at a sampling of the negative reviews. They're much more likely to push me off the fence, often to buy.

October 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

I am really on the back-foot today, Anne. Your post makes it clear I'm pretty far off in my attitude towards reviews... and the Giants are losing at home!
I still read every review, more than once. I don't have that many yet, and none are negative so I guess that phase of life is still ahead of me. But I just wrote a short post to FB, a panegyric on what reviews can mean to us as indies, which you mentioned but on its own is leaning the wrong way!
I'll split the diff with you about whether it matters for fame and fortune. I think when a potential buyer browses especially an online site (maybe following Amazon's rec for what to look at?) the eye takes in an enormous amount in seconds. Part of that is the cover, part the title, and part is just seeing that there are indeed reviews, that the score is over 4, and maybe the headline of the first review or so. It affects me that way.
Your point about authors taking time to review other work is quite apt- I have made a point to read and review the work of folks I never met, outside my beta-group and sometimes genre. It's always been rewarding- it's how I met you for example! (On the other hand, there are some draft emails to you I've been working on, that I think I'd better go delete now...)
You nailed it by making the distinction to recommend, spot on! I have been asking folks for both these first two novellas in the "Judgement's Tale" series the same thing: "tell someone I don't know!" And I think it may be working. All part of the slow-burn strategy. Someday my platform may get wide enough that I can come down off pointe- which would be great because I look seriously ridiculous in a tutu.
So yes, reviews are valuable to me because I don't have enough independent validation to know. But when a stranger- with no iron in the fire- takes the time to compliment the writing or say they are looking forward to the next one... that means everything.
And hey look, the Giants just scored.

October 5, 2014 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Molly Greene said...

Thanks so much for the mention, Anne, and thank you for the wonderful post – as always. My thoughts about reviews are a mixed bag, just as reviews themselves are: Authors have to have a certain amount of them to gain access to book promo sites and – as you said – so your book doesn’t look sad and unloved, but we also need to take them with a grain of salt. Example: a recent book promo netted me reviews that ranged from “Ho hum” to “Couldn’t put it down.” Um, what? But that makes sense to me. One reader’s favorite book of the year can inspire nothing more than an eye-roll in others, and I know this from personal experience – a great friend of mine recently rec’d her fave and I couldn’t get past the first 25 pages. That’s the nature of the beast. As for the trolls, “Vengeance is mine, said the Lord.” (LOL!) Huge congrats on your super success in spite of the mindless meanies.

October 5, 2014 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

yeye--I didn't mean to lump reviews with critiques. We all need critiques and sometimes they can be painful but useful and sometimes they're just useful for knowing who is not your target audience. I don't think we should use online reviews as critiques. I think Wattpad may serve as a place where you can get that kind of critique from the general public. But generally you can't learn much from public comment.

It's interesting that you got a bunch of one-stars because of a book's setting. People may dislike the historic event and shoot the messenger.

Never responding to *any* customer review is probably the best advice, but I have sometimes contacted a reviewer who gave me a rave and friended them on FB or Twitter..

October 5, 2014 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

Timely stuff Anne (as usual). I make it a point to ignore my reviews as much as possible. But just today was pulling my ISBN for a book I have on sale right now and noted that it got one more 1-star review so now I'm freaking out (but won't read it---the other 66 are 4 and 5-star). Here is my corollary: The more reviews you have, the more you will have bad ones. It's the law of averages. And "haters" are a sign of success as hard as that is for those of us who would never in a zillion years consider hating on another author "just because" to get our heads around. And I repeat the many congratulations you have received here. I have just purchased my first Ann Allen book and hope to get to read and review it soon.

October 5, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Hi there Big Al! Thanks for stopping by! You're one of the hardest working book bloggers around. (with a whole lot more parakeets than most LOL.)

It's very true that one person's negative is another person's positive. When I changed publishers this summer and my books got new AISNs, I fought hard to keep all my reviews, especially the one-stars. They are such a strong selling point for people who DO get satire. Smart people read between the lines.

October 5, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Gay Degani said...

Anne, I read this post with great interest since I am in the very middle of doing all of this for my novel. I did pay for a review at Kirkus and received a not-so-good one. It felt like the anonymous reviewer had set out only to highlight the bad leaving me with nothing to use, not even a sliver (although I did take one that implied a negative but the sentence itself was okay and so we used it on the paperback).

When I got the review, I was pretty shocked. The response had been to that point really strong. I had to mull over whether I would publish it (they so kindly give us that option!) I gave myself a couple days and then decided yes, of course I would publish it. I'd paid for it after all ($400!!), every writer gets bad reviews, and I clung to the old adage, "Any publicity is good publicity."

But too I decided to post a "counterpoint" on my blog, a not an emotional scree against Kirkus or the reviewer, but just a straight forward admittance to my surprise at what the reviewer criticized and what he/she had chosen not to mention.

I had hoped, though did not overtly solicit, that some of the readers of my serialized novel, would pipe up in defense of the book, which they did. So as it turned out, yes, I have a negative review from Kirkus, but at the end of it are a few comments by everyday readers talking about why they liked it.

For me, I am proud of the way I handled it, especially since I spent most of my life believing in the negatives people have thrown at me. Finally, at my ripe old age of 65, I understand that one cannot be knocked down by others if one works hard, continues to learn from study and from others. Work and experience birth confidence and the ability to continue on with the journey.

October 5, 2014 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Rosalind Minett said...

Another good article but the info about troll reviewers is rather dispiriting to someone who takes quite a bit of trouble with her reviews, on Amazon as well as the few on her blog, i.e. me. Perhaps troll reviews reveal themselves for what they are - worthless.

October 5, 2014 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Kimber Leigh Wheaton said...

I loved this post. There was a time when I eagerly checked for reviews, but that faded away with my first troll stalker trio. I don't have a ton of reviews for my three novels... maybe a hundred or so. But I have more than one bad review by someone who seems to have read the wrong book-- wrong plot, character, bashing a non-existent sex-scene. I'm posting your picture "If you loved a book, tell a friend" on my blog- it's a nice reminder.

October 5, 2014 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Marco said...

Hi Anne-
Great post and one I've forwarded to any of my authors who aren't already hooked up with your blog.

I'm so glad to see the action-steps you've given regarding reviews - the road to publication is tough enough without being bludgeoned by 'reviewers'.

As an editor, I have often volunteered to check my author's first reviews and discuss the 'cons' that show up. Having someone to react with, talk through the crap, and keep a positive outlook can be a help I feel - especially when the author is working on their next book, series or not. Hard to feel empowered when under-developed egos are clamoring for attention via ugly book reviews.

Book retailers, distributors and such will only be concerned about reviews if they create a crash and burn on their business/profits. If crappy reviews, meaning reviews that serve no purpose except to randomly trash a book, stop people from purchasing via certain venues then restrictions will reluctantly be instituted by retailers. (they will always be more paranoid of disaffecting sales than of promoting respectful behaviour)

I buy books on recc only - period - word of mouth. If I find an author I like, I buy every book they put out. I also buy books that high quality, well-respected blogs, such as yours, point out.

I hope that other editors make themselves available to authors when reviews start popping up. It may be months after the edit, but after all, the editor has (or should have) a deep investment in the author's current and continued success!

Thanks for bringing this forward, Anne - and btw-- love your article in this month's Writer's Digest mag! Congrats!!

October 5, 2014 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Marco said...

Rosalind - no 'perhaps' about it! Troll reviewers spend their day validating their existence by trying to trash the sincere efforts of others.

You put out the work, you created something original, you contributed to the world by adding your creativity, ideas, and passion to it.

Best success to you in your current and future ventures!

October 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Collette Cameron said...

I'm still chuckling. "Two readers and a parakeet."

When I first got published, I obsessed over the reviews.

Not so much anymore.

I'd rather have one honest, in depth book blogger review, than ten, "It was a great book."

Thanks again for another wonderful post!

October 5, 2014 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Very informative and sensible, Anne. Reading reviews of my books is not my favorite thing, either. My husband does it for me, and while luckily most of them are favorable, he culls through and prints out the best ones. (He knows it means more to me than diamonds or pearls!) No, the occasional bad review won't bite, but the aggregate score of a book title on Amazon, I'm told by my publisher, does count. Something to be mindful of, though I'm not sure what can done about it other than to follow your advice.

Goodreads? It has that useful function that allows you to see only the 4 or 5-star reviews if you should so choose. When I'm having a bad day, I go straight to that for an uplift.

On the subject of book bloggers: Whenever one gives me a lukewarm review, as happened recently, I post a comment thanking the reviewer for their time and honest opinion. Who knows? Maybe someone reading the blog will see that I'm a nice person and think about giving my book a chance.

The other kind? I agree you should just ignore them. The best revenge (speaking of which!) is to not dignify with a response.

October 5, 2014 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Talk about timely. This morning I got an e-mail from a friend about her new book and asking me to write a review. Read your blog post and am going to write the review. Thanks for sharing Barbara's great idea.

October 5, 2014 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--LOL. I'm picturing you in a tutu now...I'm not saying reviews aren't an important thing for our careers. I'm saying they're not the ONLY thing, so we should dial down the obsession.

I also said how hugely important those first 20 or so reviews are. Not just so we can get into the newsletters, but because our fragile egos really, get a boost. Anybody who is feeling powerless can write a rave review and make one person ecstatically happy for a whole day. Maybe a week or a month. How many things give you that kind of power? (That's meant to be tongue in cheek, but there's some truth to it. Smiling at a sad stranger can sometimes have the same result, but it's iffier.)

But most reviewers aren't thinking about the author's needs. Good ones are thinking about the reader's needs. Bad ones are trying to get a free Firephone or whatever the prize is for racking up all those reviews.

Those are the kind of reviews that have less and less meaning.

However, we can always help online reviews have more meaning by writing good, solid, thoughtful ones like yours. So keep writing them! (And now I'm intrigued about those emails...)

October 5, 2014 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Molly--Your post came just as I was thinking about this issue, and it's a perfect illustration of how they've become such a huge issue for us.

I've had the same thing happen. "Tell a friend" doesn't always work either. Somebody will give me a book and say, "I KNOW you'll love this." And it's some humorless slog through some miserable, gritty tale and I'm thinking..."this person doesn't know me at all!"

And as for trolls..their karma will come back. I love the quote from the German poet: "the wheels of God grind slow...but they grind exceeding fine." :-)

October 5, 2014 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Liz--It's so hard not to look isn't it? Partly because the good ones make you feel so good. I try not to let my eye rest on the hateful ones, but...it happens.

And you've made a great point. More reviews, more one-stars. It's just the way it goes. It seems to be especially true of trad-pubbed big-splash books. The more raves a book gets from the book biz elite, the more the literary unwashed want to bash it.

Thanks for buying one of my books! I hope it gives you some laughs.

October 5, 2014 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gay--Thanks for sharing your story with us. I've often wondered how often this happens.

Kirkus is so important for getting into libraries, so the big price tag can be worthwhile. But it sure is a gamble. It sounds as if you handled it with grace. I agree that usually "no publicity is bad publicity as long as they spell your name right."

Great point about how a neg. review can rally your fans. Sometimes that alone is worth the pain.

As we get older and wiser, it's easier to put this stuff in perspective. Congrats on handling it so well.

October 5, 2014 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalind--Don't stop writing those thoughtful reviews! Every time you post one to Amazon or Goodreads, you're fighting the troll culture. And when you also post them to your blog, you're "telling a friend."

Maria--I agree.

October 5, 2014 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kimber--I think that same review bashing a non-existent sex scene has been posted to 1000s of books.

I've heard so many complaints from authors who have received the identical review that it can't be coincidence. But Amazon's ToS do not require a reviewer to read a book and they don't prohibit putting the same review on every book page they stumble on, from 50 Shades to the Bible. They just don't care. Which is why the reviews are becoming so worthless.

I'm so glad you're going to post Barbara's picture on your blog!

October 5, 2014 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maria--I love the idea of an editor including reading reviews and counselling about them! What a fabulous service! I'll remember that when I'm recommending editors. :-) As a third party, you can look and see if the negatives have any value or it they're just the result of the reviewer having a bad day. Or a bad life. Some neg. reviews can be very helpful, as I said.

Is the November issue of WD out already? I've subscribed, but I haven't got mine yet. I've been asked to be a regular contributor, so I'm really jazzed. Writer's Digest is a fantastic magazine to write for.

October 5, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Collette--Those careful, in-depth book blogger reviews (which also sometimes get posted to the Zon and GR) can be so very, very important. The validation keeps us going and the honesty will boost sales.

October 5, 2014 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--Thanks for weighing in here. You're a NYT bestseller, so it's good to remind people that all writers go through this, no matter where they are in their careers.

What a wonderful husband you have! Maria above says she does this for her editing clients. What a great service.

I had no idea you could screen the reviews at Goodreads. I'm so terrified of that site, I never go there. Maybe I'll try again if I can screen out the trolls.

I know people say you need a X star rating or a X number of reviews to be a bestseller, but I've had 3-star books make the bestseller list (after the bully attack) and so has my 14-review book. Exceptions that prove the rule, perhaps.

I thank book bloggers, too. But I've heard it's not always appreciated. So I always ask if the blogger wants me to respond in the thread before the review goes up. Otherwise, I thank them in an email. (Never arguing, of course.)

October 5, 2014 at 2:15 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Anne, this is truly great advice. I try to do two or three guest posts on review blogs per month and I do a lot of research beforehand. Nothing like subbing my gay historical romance to a site that reviews paranormal, like werewolves and vampires, and shape shifters, oh, my! Been there, done that. Also offer a giveaway or two of one of my books. I've been asked to trade reviews and ran like hell from that. So far my little Goodreads blog has been fun. I try to come up each week with topics that appeal to readers and writers alike. If something relates to something in my Lovers and Liars series, I mention it, but I don't use the blog posts to mainly hype my books. At least I try not to. Another wonderful post.

October 5, 2014 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--If you like your friend's book then go for it. You'll be fighting all the people who abuse the system and you'll be telling your friends. Do spread Barbara's photos. We want it to be a movement!

October 5, 2014 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Suzanne McKenna Link said...

For the last several months I have been obsessed with getting reviews for my debut novel, (self-published in 2013), and for my efforts, I have succeeded in acquiring many. After reading your post, I am going to heed your recommendation and redirect my energies into my writing and get busy finishing my second book. My WIP needs attention more than my first book needs more reviews. Thank you making me see the light!

p.s. I write reviews all the time, but I will be sure to openly recommend books from now on in hopes to create a positive air for others as well as myself.

October 5, 2014 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Okay, so here's what you do. On the book page on Goodreads, scroll down to "Community Reviews," then click on "filter," and you'll see a menu. Choose to view either the 5 or 4 star reviews, and voila! Instant mood elevator.

October 5, 2014 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Gay Degani said...

Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your blog and the time you spend preparing it and then reading the comments. Most do not bother to do this and it is such a pleasure to get a reply from you.

October 5, 2014 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--I'm a huge fan of guest blogging. I think it's a great way to get the word out about who you are and how you write without all the drama of a review. And yes, book bloggers get furious when you submit the wrong genre. And you can imagine what kind of a review you'd get for your gentle wartime love stories from somebody who's saying , "dude, where are the effing fangs?"

I was naive about all the review trading out there when I first started. We have to be so careful not to appear to be trading. But we also tend to read the books of people we like, and if we like the book, we want to spread the word. But it can't appear to be a quid pro quo.

Congrats on getting nominated for the Rainbow award! Lovers and Liars is a fabulous read!

October 5, 2014 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

This was awesome. As an avid reader and someone who occasionally blogs about books, i am INUNDATED with requests for reviews. I actually really dislike writing book reviews. It's my least favorite kind of post to write. I also hate to feel like every book is one I'm reading is a favor. That feels mean to say . . . BUT, I miss just walking into a bookstore and gravitating towards something. Also, I rarely read reviews!!

October 5, 2014 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Suzanne--Don't stop writing those reviews. They're a great gift to the community. So is telling a friend when you love a book..

But it sounds as if you can stop worrying about your own reviews. Yeah, get back to that WIP! :-)

October 5, 2014 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Great thoughts on reviews, Anne. In celebration, a few of my favorite YAs are:
Thalia Chaltas - Because I am Furniture -- there's heart on every page of this realistic novel in verse.
Carol Plum-Ucci - What Happened to Lani Garver -- one of my 8th graders read this 300+ page novel in one night, & burst into my classroom the next morning saying, "This book changed the way I see the world!" 'nough said.
David Levithan - Every Day -- a perfect allegory for adolescence -- the entity that is the protagonist wakes up every day in a new person's body: female, male, thin, not-so-thin, gay, straight -- fantabuloso!
Keep up the good work, Anne.

October 5, 2014 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--Thanks! Truth be told, I hate writing reviews, too. Somehow the ghost of my fifth grade teacher comes up explaining why she's, giving me a C on that book report, and I don't know what to say.

And when I read, it has to be for relaxation, so I hear you about the favors.

One of the things I dislike about social media is we don't have that magical distance between us and the author any more. I liked imagining they lived in the book, not in any other part of my life.

October 5, 2014 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Thanks for the Tell-A-Friend suggestions! I only know Thalia's book, not the other two. YA fans, check them out!

October 5, 2014 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment that came via email from Russell Bittner with another Tell-A-Friend:

Well said -- in every respect.

And because I heard you and would now like to "tell a friend" (several of whom I've already told), I'll recommend Calum McCann's LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN for those who haven't already read it.

October 5, 2014 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

I work in an independent bookstore and we are asked daily what we recommend. It keeps me one my toes; I have to keep up with my reading. It is nice that people still appreciate that service. And, come to think of it, no one has ever asked me if a book I recommended got good reviews. Interesting.

October 5, 2014 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Russell--Thanks! It's on my TBR list. One of the world's greatest titles.

October 5, 2014 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--Ha! I worked in lots of bookstores too and I don't think I was ever asked that question either. Hmmm.

They did sometimes ask me for "that book that was on Oprah. I don't know the title or the author, but it was on TV." Not very helpful to a bookstore clerk who doesn't watch daytime TV because she...works in a bookstore. ;-)

October 5, 2014 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Marco said...

Yes - I got mine last week!!! tres cool - I saw your name and squealed. lol oooooo! a regular! [more squealing]

Thanks on the support - I really believe that editors should be partners in every way they can - and not everything has a price tag on it. Takes me a few minutes to check reviews and maybe a few emails or a quick phone call to root out the useful from the trash. Time well spent!

October 5, 2014 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gay--Thank you! I'm so glad you appreciate the time we put in here. Ruth and I figure we made the mistakes so you don't have to. :-)

October 5, 2014 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--That tip is pure gold!! I can go there without an entire Lindt chocolate bar handy now.

October 5, 2014 at 3:31 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Thank you so much, Anne. I was very much surprised. I'm glad you enjoyed Lovers and Liars. Means a lot to me.

October 5, 2014 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger florence cronin said...

Anne, I never read the reviews of a book before I read it. It often reminds me of movie reviews ... the worse they are ... the more I want to see the movie. I like making my own mind about what to read.

Sad to say, I don't write many reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, but I love book blogs. I agree ... the book blog is like a recommendation from a friend. And word of mouth is one of my strongest pulls towards reading a book.

I can only hope that when the "day" does finally arrive, I can weather reviews as well as you have. I remember when this blog came under attack and I also remember the dignity you showed during the entire mess.

Another place where I find good book recommendations (though also lots of promoting) is on Facebook. I have many writer friends on FB and love when they talk books ... not their own necessarily. And it was because of you that I discovered how wonderful Catherine Ryan Hyde's books are.

Although I do not subscribe to many YA, Fantasy or Sci-Fi blogs, many of my friends do and also review lots of them. And I do love Nina's reviews and book recommendations and often look at her book list to see what's she's reading.

Six months ago I did a circle of comments recommending Orphan Train and was delighted to see many came back and loved it as much as I did. I also did a round of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and will do it again this year with her latest ... Under the Wide and Starry Sky. It goes without saying that I love Camilla's series ... but I had to say it anyway. Thanks for another great post. You keep us honest and give all of us the boost we need to plow through this fickle business :)

October 5, 2014 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--I'm like that about movies too. I used to always read the reviews in the New Yorker and know if they hated something I'd probably love it.

Recommending or spotlighting a book on your blog is so great. Those are what will come up if somebody Googles a book--not the Amazon reviews. So they can have more clout. The times when it can really make a difference to write an Amazon review is when you see somebody who deserves good reviews doesn't have many, and when you see them under attack by trolls. Then you can make a huge difference.

I'm so glad you love Camilla and thanks for the Tell-a-Friend recommendations!

Anne

October 5, 2014 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Claire Hill said...

As a reader/reviewer/blogger, I found this post really interesting. I had no idea that half of the stuff you mentioned was going on, it's such a shame that there seem to be people out there who are behaving like this; it seems nasty people find their way everywhere.

I review pretty much every book I read, especially if I've received it via a giveaway or direct from the author/publisher in return for a review. My reviews are always honest and any criticism is constructive. At the end of the day, my reviews are just my opinion. I know I'm not the only reviewer/blogger that is honest as I have a network of friends on twitter who are cut from the same cloth. It's such a shame that some people have no respect for the amount of time and hard work that goes into writing. I'm appalled by their behaviour!

October 5, 2014 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

I could not do what my husband does for a living (TV film critic). I feel for the author even when I don't love their book. Which is why I only post reviews of books I give 3 star and more. It's honest at least. That said, I LOVE when baldly honest reviewers (like hubby) save me me money I might've wasted on a bad book or movie by telling it like it is.

October 5, 2014 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claire--Thanks for being a regular reviewer. People who take the time to review the books they read in an honest way are helping the entire book community and help combat the abuse.

These trolls and meanies and system-gamers ruin it for everybody.They bring down the reputation of sincere reviewers like you and they disrespect their fellow readers as well as making authors miserable.

We love sincere reviewers like you! Mwaaa!! Thanks for all you do!

October 5, 2014 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Shawn Lamb said...

I too have suffered those "mean girl" attacks you mentioned, along with trolls, especially on Goodreads and Amazon. With all the problems you described, I don't seek reviews. As a result, I don't have many for my 14 books. Instead, I concentrate on writing and publishing for the loyal fan base I've built over the years by way of events.

There is something to be said for keeping one's sanity as an author and letting reviews come as they will and not stressing.

October 5, 2014 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--Being a TV critic could be rewarding but tough. It's not just one person's living you affect, but the whole cast and crew. They have a huge amount of power.

But they do save us (and advertisers) from wasting time and money. Although I think they should give new shows a little more time than they do these days and let them find the right audience. They've already killed Debra Messing's new show, apparently, and I rather liked it.

October 5, 2014 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Timely post to me, as I just published my first book a collection of vintage romantic ghost stories and have been doing everything you said. I think I'm up to three reviews, but I guess that's better than none.

One thing I read recently was to ASK for reviews in the back of your book, like in your "About the Author" area. Have you heard of that?

As to what book I would recommend, I recently read Stephen King's (not that he needs my little recommendation) Joyland. It's a GREAT read for Halloween, but not too scary. I'm always up for reading and reviewing Historical Fiction, vintage era 1920-1950s, books for my blog. Hit me up!

Thanks again for the great advice!

~ Tam Francis ~
www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

October 5, 2014 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger Zane Sachs said...

Good post, as usual! I don't understand why Amazon allows spoiler reviews now. I wrote to them about it, but received no answer.

October 5, 2014 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Shawn--The mean girls are a toxic clique--or maybe several. Funny how so many of the review trolls are female. I start to ask myself "why did I burn my bra for these women?" LOL.

The subtitle for the book I wrote with Catherine Ryan Hyde was first "keep your E-sanity" but after a while, we realized we couldnt' really deliver on that. :-)

Yes, writing the next book and focusing on your fans is the best way to build readership IMO.

October 5, 2014 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--Oh, yeah, my publisher has politely asked for reviews in the back of my books for years. Doesn't seem to work that well.

Stephen King is a genius at unearthing our primal fears and getting us to look at them. I predict he'll be read many generations after our "literary greats" of this era have been forgotten

October 5, 2014 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Zane--I think allowing spoilers was one of Amazon's worst decisions recently and they seem to have been making many. I think that comes from Goodreads, which encourages reader-abuse in many ways. I think they figure controversy sells, but I'm not sure they're right. GR is not a nice place to be.

October 5, 2014 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here is a comment that came via email from Eric Welch:

Interesting article. I'm not an author, but I read and review a lot on Goodreads (1400+ reviews https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1711431-eric-w) I also read a lot of reviews and as you note a one star review (this book has the f-word) will often make me very curious and perhaps encourage a purchase.) That being said, my experience on Goodreads has been extremely positive, but I think it has a lot to do with the genres and one's circle of friends. By being selective on whom one friends (to be my friend you have to have written at least 25-50 reviews - not just rated) and to read and review in genres I like: mystery, non-fiction, politics and science. Some genres seem to attract or lend themselves to excessive drama, especially YA (my wife is an author in that genre). I have gained many, many intelligent and interesting friends, some of whom I met F-to-F both here and abroad and have had many very articulate and intelligent conversations about books. But I'm very selective in befriending and weed often. I pay no attention at all to star ratings finding them worse than useless, but love an incisive review.

I'd be curious to know how Goodreads encourages readers to "review books they haven't read". I certainly could find no such motivation in their policies nor have I ever experienced it. It's permitted -- I don't approve --- but see no evidence of encouragement."

October 5, 2014 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Jim Self said...

Great post.

There are lots of reasons to ignore even honest reviews. I'd be a terrible person if I went around reviewing romance novels, because they're just not my thing. My opinion would never be useful to anyone considering buying. Some others just won't get your art, which is pretty much the trademark of all good art. The only reviews you need to concern yourself with are those that talk about:

A) Some kind of technical problem with the book, such as missing pages, or
B) People who loved the book and why they loved it.

Worrying about the rest is akin to constantly going back and rewriting the novel. DON'T DO EITHER!!!

October 5, 2014 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger Jim Self said...

Mention her name, and she appears before you...

October 5, 2014 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eric--thanks for jumping through the hoops to comment! Blogger is owned by Google and Google seems to have a running feud with Wordpress. They simply won't allow comments from anybody with a Wordpress ID. They want you to use Google Plus IDs.

Our robot overlords at work.

Good for you for writing so many reviews! I think readers who have never written a book have a better time on Goodreads than authors. I'm sure lots of authors have abused GR with spam and that's why the attitude is so anti-author. But they sure hate people who write books over there.

If you follow the link above when I talk about GR actively encouraging reviews of books people haven't read, you'll see one of hundreds of threads saying "GR readers can use stars any way they want. They can use them to say why they don't want to read a book". It's part of the culture. I've seen threads like it every time I've ventured onto the site.

I had left all groups except BoomerLit, which was mostly a promo site, but I'd stop in now and then. I stopped in a few days ago to welcome a newbie and said something like "Welcome. BoomerLit is cool" and immediately a troll appeared who called me names and accused me of trying to force everybody to read BoomerLit. They added I was probably some self-published moron and why didn't I stop writing because nobody wants to read about old people.

I left the group. I do not ever want to go back to GR. That is typical of my experience. Toxic, belligerent, moronic behavior seems to be encouraged. But I assume lots of people love that.

These are probably people who love to stomp into biker bars and yell "Harleys suck!" and then feel sorry for themselves because nobody treats them to free drinks.

If you have found a haven of non-sociopaths on that site, you've had more luck than I have.

October 5, 2014 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jim--Very good point! If I gave an honest review of a zombie romance, it would be "ewwww". Not helpful to anybody who likes the genre.

Even the tech reviews aren't that useful. I got a one-star from some person who couldn't download one of my books and checked out her reviews. 20 of them said the exact same thing. I think she needed tech support, not the review thread.

And I am with you 100: NEVER rewrite because of a review. They are always subjective.

October 5, 2014 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger RO said...

Great topic and quite relevant. As a reader, there have been times when I've passed on a book based on reviews, but I've learned the importance of giving the author (who poured his or her soul into the writing) a chance, then drawing my own conclusions. As a reviewer, I'm fun and honest, but always want to make sure any potential negative feedback is constructive and never mean-spirited. I appreciate the fact that reviewers take the time to read a book and give a critique and have found that most authors want to hear how they are doing.

Keep up the GREAT work! Love your Blog. www.intheknowwithro.blogspot.com

October 6, 2014 at 5:58 AM  
Blogger Peggy Ann Craig said...

Thank you, Anne, I really needed this after receiving my two first bad reviews over the weekend. One who admitted to only reading 20% of the book then continued to give incorrect details about the story-line based on the little bit he read. The other review gave away a huge spoiler which I tried to reach Amazon and have removed, but didn't realize they didn't do that. How frustrating.

October 6, 2014 at 6:09 AM  
Blogger Toni Leland said...

Great post, Anne! Long ago, I decided to take my mother's advice: if I like a book I've read, I will post a review or at least supportive comments. If I didn't like it, I just move on.

My own books have modest numbers of reviews, mostly good, and I've had some zingers in the past - but I try to always remember that everyone has their own opinion about book content, and not everyone had a smart and kind mother! LOL

One thing: I don't read book reviews before buying a book, but I often go back to read them after I've invested in a book I didn't like. Interesting to see that my reasons are mirrored in the reviews!

October 6, 2014 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger Patricia Stoltey said...

This is great advice, and I love the "If You Love a Book, Tell a Friend" badge. I'm putting it on my blog sidebar! Thanks!!

October 6, 2014 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

RO--You're obviously a very kind reviewer although I'm actually not in favor of authors using reviewers as critiquers. I think the product should be market-ready when it's put out there.

Critiquing is not necessarily a reviewer's job. Your only job is saying whether you enjoyed it and why--as a guide to other readers. But thanks for going the extra mile!

October 6, 2014 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Peggy--Ouch. It's one of the most awful feelings in the world. Especially when the "reviews" have spoilers and misinformation so they're ruining the book for other readers. I don't know why these people don't have anything better to do with their time.

October 6, 2014 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Toni--"If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it" was great advice when your mom said it and it still is.

But negative reviews have their place and.can be very useful for readers. If somebody says, "This book is silly and goes too fast for my liking" that's telling somebody who likes fast comedies to buy. But if you're a writer, those low-star reviews are always going to hurt., so thanks for being kind.

Very good point about reading reviews after you've read a book! I do that all the time, especially with films. Not just ones I don't like, but to see if other people had the same experience I did.

October 6, 2014 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--Thanks so much for spreading the word!

October 6, 2014 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eric's response:

Thanks for the quote from GR; I was not aware of that stance. Although the way it's worded doesn't bother me that much. Shouldn't reviewers be able to indicate to their friends why they don't want to read a book? That's what readers do.

I have a strong suspicion it dates from the early days of GR when the emphasis and thrust of the site was aimed at readers rather than authors. I do know that in the past couple of years (I've been on GR since 2008) there has been general discontent in some quarters (again, it seems to be predominantly YA and romance, but not exclusively and especially since GR was bought by Amazon,) at the shift in focus away from readers to inviting the participation of authors to use GR as a marketing tool. I don't mind since I like authors, but it does sometimes get wearisome to get constant requests for reviews (I get 1-2 per week) from authors who don't even bother to see what kinds of books I like to read, requesting that I read and review their work. Before about a year ago, that never used to happen.

We do know that GR has begun marketing itself to authors in general as a way for authors to promote themselves and their work through advertising, self-promotion, etc. Even some of my GR friends decided to flee to other sites like Booklikes and Leafmarks (I cross post to LibraryThing and Leafmarks) where they feel the emphasis is on reviewing and not on marketing. Some of the more vocal resented what they felt was a general trend on the part of GR to push reviewers away from negative reviews to the more positive. For me this was never an issue because I only very rarely review a book I don't like. I don't read books I don't like and see no reason to give a book I don't like any publicity one way or the other. There have been a couple of exceptions, but you'll notice my rating average (I hate the star system since it tells me really nothing) is pretty high.

My personal feeling is that your agent is overreacting *unless* your intent is to use the site for self-promotion only. I have several friends who are writers, but also great readers and reviewers. And I've read their books precisely because they are interesting reviewers who have something intelligent to say about books they have read. I applaud and encourage that and doubt very much if any GR reader would be offended. On the other hand, writers who just get on to sell their books and not become part of the general book culture would probably be less welcome.

October 6, 2014 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks, Eric!

It's great for authors to hear from somebody other than me that all that marketing 24/7 can do more harm than good. W shouldn't go to Goodreads with an author hat on--only go as a reader.

And my experience has been that it has more than its share of argumentative "GrumpyCats" but maybe I've just been unlucky.

October 6, 2014 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

Hi Ruth, not to give away my age.... but I've been your books' fan from the very beginning! Thank you so much for this astute and much needed reminded to stay 'cool'. This newbie writer appreciates it! As an aside, so that other readers can enjoy, if they haven't yet - a couple of the links in your sidebar, namely Dacades and Modern Women - links are broken. I'd check out the others too. All the best, Ruth, you rock!
Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk. http://www.gloriasilk.com

October 6, 2014 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tanya--Thanks for the heads-up about Ruth's links. They break with fair regularity. I'll go fix them now. I know Ruth will appreciate the kudos! I'm a fan too.

October 6, 2014 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

My pleasure, Anne, also, what's the best way to get on the mailing list, like an RSS feed? I do sound like a newbie, yet I've completely designed my own websites.... anyway, thanks for all your hard work.

October 6, 2014 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tanya--The best way to get the blog is subscribe via Mail Chimp--put your email address in the big white window in the sidebar. Or you can hit "join this site" --the window with all the little photos-- and that will show up in your blog feed. We don't use Feedly any more because it died for a while. Not sure if it works again, but it's not offered in the standard Blogger menu.

October 6, 2014 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

Oops, was that there all the time? :) Duh, thank you, Anne, feeling very smart right now! I'm now connected with you ladies! All the best.

October 6, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger A.K.Andrew said...

I hope this isn't a repeat- my comment disappeared! It's a fine balance with reviews, because readers do want to see them, but I love the idea of people referring books to a friend, which could be done in a less formal more widespread way that goodreads. ( thanks for the links to post!. And thanks also for the submission links. So appreciated. As always, an incredibly informative post. Thank you:-)

October 6, 2014 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

AKAndrew, I heartily agree, too! Word of mouth rocks!

October 6, 2014 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for subscribing, Tanya!

October 6, 2014 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

A.K. Sorry about Blogger being so weird with comments. I don't know why they make it so tough. But this is the only one that came through: no repeats.

Good reviews are golden,and readers can mostly tell which ones are good. (A negative review can still be good: skillfully written and helpful to the reader.) But I think we all hate wading through the dumb stuff. And I don't see the abuse letting up any time soon. So the Tell-a-Friend campaign makes a nice alternative.

October 6, 2014 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I don't really read reviews much, other than the two that Amazon features for a given book (the most helpful and the most critical). I'm trying to do book reviews again, mostly of fiction that I've gotten from the public library (I've long stopped doing reviews for writer friends simply because what they write I really can't get into).

As for recommending books, I strongly recommend "Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore" by Walter Mosley. I took one look at the inside jacket blurb (it reminded me of my commercial debut) and I was hooked. Not only on the story, but on the writer himself. Read the book in one day.

Father Nature's Corner

October 6, 2014 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G. B. Yay libraries! Great to support them. Reviews of older books can be a real gift. Some of them don't have any reviews at all.

Walter Mosley rocks! Love Easy Rawlins. Thanks for the "Tell-a-Friend".

October 6, 2014 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

Anne, this is fascinating. I swear, I've never, EVER bought a book based on reviews, just like I never see movies based on reviews. I read books and see movies based on recommendations.

I'm glad Amazon no longer requires so many words. Sometimes I just want to say "Awesome!" Now that I know how important reviews are to writers, I'll write a review about books I enjoy. I was surprised to learn about paid reviewers and sock puppets...sad reality, I suppose.

October 6, 2014 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie-- I like your positive take on the Amazon review requirements. Now anybody can write one, so we should do it and fight those fake reviewers!

October 6, 2014 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Jim Self said...

Heh heh. If someone gave 20 1-stars talking about having trouble with the download... either someone got bored of their hobby of beating their head against concrete, or it's the go-to complaint of the exact kind of saboteur you mentioned in the post.

October 6, 2014 at 9:56 PM  
OpenID amreade said...

Hi, Anne,

If I read a book and don't like it, I simply don't review it. I've been hurt several times by reviewers who are just plain mean and I refuse to ruin another author's day just because his or her book wasn't my cup of tea. Even worse, I think, are the reviewers who leave a one-star or two-star rating and don't bother to review the book at all. I'm still pretty new to publishing, so I was surprised to learn that there are people out there who actually try to write the highest number of bad reviews. Have any of them reviewed my book? Maybe. There are a few reviews from people who clearly didn't actually read it. Your post actually made me feel better about them!

What book would I recommend? It's not so much a book as an author--M.B. Beaton, author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series. Her books are full of intrigue, but sharp and very funny!

October 7, 2014 at 4:27 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

OK. You did it again. You left me speechless with this great post and I have nothing to add. Well, actually one thing :) Authors who write in the erotica or erotic romance market always seem to have a harder time getting reviews because it's such a discreet genre...especially gay erotica. Readers are apprehensive about leaving reviews at all because it's so discreet. We get e-mails from readers all the time. But there's no way that Amish guy in the closet is going to review a gay erotic romance in public, anywhere, not even with a pen name. He's sneaking the book as it is and reading it in a barn. I'm being literal here. I get e-mails like that all the time. So it's not a good idea to get too hung up on reviews for that reason, too. Sometimes readers just can't leave reviews.

October 7, 2014 at 8:09 AM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

Apt and interesting point, Ryan. I'm just wondering if the trend of the hugely successful 50 Shades of Grey may have made it easier for some to actually review their erotica faves, as it's become so much more 'fashionable' to read erotica. But those who are secretive will always stay so, I suppose. Really enjoying being in the lovely community, here.

October 7, 2014 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Bernardo Montes de Oca said...

Great post! I loved the tips! I remember talking to an agent who told me: once you're over fifty reviews, you're doing well. You don't have fifty friends or family members with enough time or appreciation for you to send a review. I found it funny. Thanks for another great post. I established friendships with some reviewers and plan to use them for my soft launch. Hopefully it works well.

October 7, 2014 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

am--Finding out about the review troll culture is upsetting, but it does make it easier to take the really nasty "reviews" when you realize they have nothing to do with your book and the "reviewer" very likely never read it.

I love Hamish MacBeth! I didn't know M. B. Beaton had other series. Thanks much for the recommendation!

October 7, 2014 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--Thanks for bringing that up! I think lots of people who love a book feel uncomfortable about reviewing in public for one reason or another. Even if they're not gay Amish guys reading in a barn. A lot of romance readers are kind of secretive about it, too. And some people just can't remember their Amazon password. :-)

I get emails from people who liked my books and don't want to review, and I often think that's the case, since a lot of my audience is my age. Or they're just not comfortable with online culture.

October 7, 2014 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tanya--I think some people find erotica more acceptable since 50 shades (It was a stroke of genius to put that skin-free cover on erotica) but others don't want family or friends to know. Setting up an anon account to review takes computer savvy not everybody has.

October 7, 2014 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bernardo--I think it's silly to have a whole industry that's dependent on getting unpaid friends and relatives to promote your books, but that agent isn't alone. The pressure to rack up reviews is relentless. But I think mostly pointless.

I prefer the soft-launch, get a handful of reviews, and then do other promos kind of approach. Big splashes aren't always the way to long-term sales.

October 7, 2014 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jim--After hearing a bunch of complaints from authors in various forums, I saw a lot of similar troll review complaints: 1) too much sex/swearing (the most popular: even my 90-yr-old mom's squeaky clean cozy got one of those) 2) glitch in the download 3) The story isn't "realistic"--goes on to give spoilers 4) Book is nothing but political propaganda (hilarious on a chick lit title.) 5) Reviewer doesn't approve of the author's "behavior." 6) Book is full of typos and needs an editor. (When you see this on a trad title that has been reissued as an indie, you realize these are just people who hate indies.)

October 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

Ah! Doing other promos...This would be a fabulous subject for a blog post. Or is there something on this fantabulous blog already? Direct me, madam.

October 7, 2014 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tanya--We have many many posts on the subject, and I've written a book about it with Amazon #1 seller, Catherine Ryan Hyde HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE. Try Ruth's post on "how to sell your ebook"

http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2013/11/writers-toolkit-4-how-to-sell-your.html

There's a search window in the upper left corner and you can put "marketing" or "book promotion" in there and get more info than you probably wanted to know. :-)

October 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Tanya Freedman w/a Gloria Silk said...

Perfect, you know the problem, Anne, don't you: you have many wonderful gems here, and I'm now going to go through it and enjoy and learn. Thank you again!

October 7, 2014 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Anne--I just bought The Best Revenge, not because I read glowing reviews for the book, or because it's on sale, but because you write what I consider the most valuable, articulate blog available to writers. Thank you.
And thank you for doing the unwise thing by standing up for a bullied fellow writer, especially given your circumstances at the time.
I had no idea the malicious computer hacker's mentality had come to book reviewing. But you have shined a light on this, and just as important, you have offered clear, rational alternatives for writers.
I keep saying thank you, don't I? And for good reason--so thank you again!

October 8, 2014 at 5:42 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

I agree. I even do this myself and I should know better. My review list is so backed up I don't even want to think about it. And you're spot on about people not being comfortable with online culture. Or not knowing enough about it. We...people who follow online publishing blogs...know and "get" it, but if you go into the supermarket and mention this blogger or that one we think are so popular the odds are no one will even know what we're talking about. The Internet is still very young.

October 8, 2014 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

Exactly. FSoG helped in many ways with the mainstream, but I think e-books in general helped a lot more. I started reading erotica and erotic romance as a freshman in college in the late 1980's and had to sneak books out of the quaint little cookie cutter book shop on the green in Morristown, NJ in brown paper bags. I hated paying for them at the counter. Sometimes I'd buy an Ann Rivers Siddens book just to offset the erotica. E-readers have provided a new sense of discretion and privacy.

I also think people don't want to be bothered with anon accounts on Amazon because in order to have one they have to go through the trouble of setting it up all over again and then buying something. Most people just don't want to do that...or, as you said...they aren't that savvy.

October 8, 2014 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

How to Be a Writer in the E-Age was very enlightening for me. And I'm not stating that lightly. I only wish there had been a book like that around back in the early 2000's when I first got into digital publishing. We were all stumbling around back then.

October 8, 2014 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--You are sooo right. I tell people I'm famous on the Internet and it never fails to get a laugh. The average person in the supermarket still thinks the Internet is all about smutty pictures and role-playing game nerds. They don't think an ebook is a real book and they don't have a clue what Amazon is about. (Only they know it's evil.) Sigh.

October 8, 2014 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--Thanks for buying TBR. It may not be your cup of tea because it's essentially a satire of chick lit. If you aren't enjoying it and you'd like something a little more, well, male-audience oriented, let me know and I'll substitute one of my more literary titles.

You just said what I've been thinking but haven't articulated: The review-troll culture comes from hacker culture.

It's all about learning to game the system--just for the sake of finding holes in the tech--with no thought to the human consequences. That's why it's so scary and cruel.

October 8, 2014 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tanya, I saw our average stay per visitor has gone up from 10 minutes to nearly 13. Is that you? :-)

October 8, 2014 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger J.M. Lominy said...

I absolutely adore your blog. Kudos to you for the continued education that you provide for writers. I shared your blog information with a writer friend of mine and I'm sure she will do the same with several of her friends; word of mouth in action.

October 8, 2014 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ryan--Thanks so much for the endorsement. We'll be giving away a couple of copies next week and we'll have a contest that Catherine is going to judge. She's such an amazing inspiration.

I sure was stumbling in 2002 when my first book was accepted by a UK publisher. They had their own POD machines they were substituting for the old offset printers, but the binding was done the old fashioned way with big pots of smoking glue I'm sure were terrible for our lungs. They wanted to to be on the cutting edge, but the tech was too primitive. Eventually they didn't make it. An adventure, though!

October 8, 2014 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

J. M.--Thank you for spreading the word! I'm so glad you find our blog useful.

October 8, 2014 at 12:50 PM  
OpenID awriterofhistory.com said...

Very thoughtful and helpful article. I'm in the camp of rarely looking at my book reviews and keeping my fingers away from the keyboard if I do. In a survey I did last year (2440 participants) I asked for the top 3 sources of recommendations. Here are the answers: (1) friends - 63%, (2) a few favourite sites/blogs - 47%, (3) online retailers like Amazon - 43%, (4) Facebook, Goodreads and other social media - 50%, (5) library - 18%, (6) browsing the bookstore - 43%, (7) newspaper - 14%, (8) book review publication - 8%, (9) publisher sites - 4%. I imagine the definition of friends has changed to include friends on social media sites. More information on my blog :-)

October 9, 2014 at 6:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Awriter--Very interesting stats! And they coincide with my own experience. I'll check out your blog.

October 9, 2014 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

This comment comes from Linda Thorne--who scrolled to far (not surprising when there are 126 comments!) So it went to Ruth's post from last week. Here it is again:

"Lots of interesting material here. I don't pay much attention to reviews when I'm looking to buy a book except for children's books for my grandkids. I study the reviews carefully, looking for what ages of kids enjoy reading them. I'm only looking for whether the book is written for their age group. I make the decision on which one to buy after reading the synopsis or book cover.

I do look for reviews sometimes out of curiosity about what readers are saying about certain authors. I don't take the 5-stars that seriously or the 1-stars as I know some people will overrate a book or underrate it, sometimes badly like the "meanies" you describe here. I have found myself really annoyed when I read a bad review on a book I loved and I sent an argument review back hoping to negate it. I could not understand anyone taking away such a different viewpoint from a book I truly enjoyed.

My debut novel is in stage one - under a publishing contract, but not at the publication stage. I loved your advice about having wine or chocolate nearby with fingertips off the keyboard when reading our book reviews. I'll need to remember that after it's published. Thank you for this information."

Linda Thorne

October 9, 2014 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--I think books for small children are an exception in many ways. And yes, we do want to know who liked it and didn't--and why. Good for you for responding to reviews of books you've enjoyed, to combat negativity, especially if it comes from misunderstanding. I admit to writing some reviews of my favorite books prompted by stupid ones. We're not supposed to reference a particular review in another review, but we can say, "I don't understand people who say 'Bleak House' is a silly comedy and too short. Perhaps they read a different book?" or something like that. Best of luck with your book!

October 9, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Diana Stevan said...

Anne, I appreciate your post, as I'm about to publish my debut novel. One thing I do keep in mind regarding reviews is something, my son-in-law, a professional actor said. "If you believe the bad reviews, you have to believe the good ones, too." And "The worst thing is getting no reviews. At least in getting any review, you've affected someone in some way." I like that. I'll try to remember that as I go forward.

And congratulations on getting work with Writers Digest. They obviously recognize your talent. I'll look forward to seeing your writing there.

October 9, 2014 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Diana--Congrats on your debut! Your son's advice is helpful up to a point. As long as you remember that many, many reviews are written by people who have not read one word of your book, so it hasn't affected them at all. You are just a random victim. But it does help with the actual reviews.

Thanks! I'm in the issue of Writer's Digest on news stands now!

October 9, 2014 at 9:20 PM  
OpenID mistresselysia said...

Thank you for this. It really couldn't have come at a better time, because I find this whole jungle quite terrifying! My first book did better than I ever thought it would (over 6,500 copies sold in 3 months, hit the #1 spot in horror and has never dropped out of the top 30,000 since release... Doubleyoo. Tee. Eff?!? To this day I have no idea how it did that!), and with it came a crapload of reviews - a lot good, some bad, a few pretty ugly - and whilst I have no issue with people writing these reviews (everyone is entitled to their opinion), I've found myself becoming totally neurotic about them. The good ones pile the pressure on for my next book, which means I get paranoid about letting them down with my next book, the bad ones just play into my deepest insecurities about not being Good Enough, and I've got to the point where it is seriously ruining my publishing journey. I should be ecstatic - I'm a #1 bestseller! For one, glorious weekend, my name was next to Stephen King's! - but I'm not. I'm scared and a bit miserable and kind of wish it would all go away - not the being published bit, but the attention bit. I wish I could just ignore it all, but being with a small press means I have to do some marketing (*snort* yeah, cos I am sooooo good at that....), which means having to look... ugh. It's just incredibly comforting in a way to know that this probably my issue, and that in the grand scheme of things, it isn't such a big deal, and it certainly isn't as big a deal as my stupid brain likes to make out to be. Just writing this has been hugely cathartic (and one day I shall learn to make peace and just not look!). Thank you again. Just... yeah. Thanks :-)

October 26, 2014 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elysia--First, major congrats on your #1 bestseller! I hope this post will help you let go of some of that stuff. EVERY bestseller gets rotten reviews. It has nothing to do with the quality of the work. Look at the reviews of the bestsellers. I'm sure Stephen King has some stinkers. People especially like to attack successful books. There are a lot of bitter people out there who have decided they will never succeed at anything, so they hate people who do.

And yes, there are always second book jitters, especially when your first book is a success.. But every writer has them, so consider them part of the process.

And yes, we all have to do lots of marketing, whether you're with a small press, Big 5, or self-published. It's the way it works these days. But that doesn't mean you have to visit your buy pages all that often. Visit maybe once a week when you're feeling strong.

October 26, 2014 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I am sooooo confused about GR. I hear so often they do not require you to read the book before rating it, and I see accounts that make me highly doubt the ratings are genuine. And yet I did some research and found out from readers that they feel the GR rating is more accurate than Amazon, it's like the gospel to these people, they go by its average to decide if they want to read the book. If the book has below a 3.8 I think one person said, she refuses to read it, because GR folks think it's not good enough.

How many Amazon book shoppers even check GR? Does anyone know?

I have a book that is mostly getting good ratings (about 60% 4 & 5 star on GR, higher on Amazon). I have been told it is good by both people I trust, and also perfect strangers. So when I see 1 star, 2 star ratings, I just don't get it. How can some see a well-written book and some others think it's trash? I check this rating almost obsessively, and don't understand for the life of me what is up with these 1 and 2-stars. Did they really read the book? Maybe, maybe not. Do readers THINK these 1-star people read the book? Apparently.

What is even more bizarre, is that books I have read that are chockfull of spelling errors with awful sentence structure have tens of thousands of ratings, and they average out unbelievably high. Seriously, they are so poorly written I can't imagine how they average more than 1.5 stars. And yet they have 3.5 or 4 star average. I'm baffled! I'm not saying my book is stellar, but compared to badly edited books like that? I don't get it.

I have a sequel ready for release and with every 1 or 2-star I get on the first book, I start having more doubts. I'm a bit of a pessimist, and I wonder, will more 2-stars show up and give me a 2-star average? And why is my well-edited book averaging more 2-stars than the terribly unedited one? lol

It is so unfair that they are not required to read the book, because I don't know if their rating represents the book or if it's there to be mean or for a fake account to have something to rate, or just some loser with nothing better to do to pass the time.

It just feels like my whole career rests on their stupid website, which my book is automatically added to. It's like we don't even have a choice to list it there. Sorry for the rant, I am just so frustrated.

Thanks for the great post.

June 8, 2015 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kelly--I feel your pain. That's why I almost never go to Goodreads. One of my agents told me: go to GR once:, to put up a profile, link to your blog, then NEVER, ever go back.

I have terrible reviews at GR because the GR bullies hate me for writing a blogpost urging grandmas to write reviews. So they carpet-bombed me with one-star reviews. I also get several one-stars any time Anne Rice gives this blog a shout-out. They hate Anne Rice. It has nothing to do with my books, or hers.

Anybody who thinks GR reviews are accurate is incredibly ignorant. Snark and negativity and hate do not equal honesty. It just means GR is full of people with nothing to do who hate anybody who has succeeded at something.

The only GR reviews I have written are of well known books by top authors who get a pile of one-stars because they are literary authors and most people on GR can't read past a 3rd grade level. But I haven't done that for several years because going to GR at all makes me despair for the human race.

Yes, some very good reviewers do leave GR reviews, but they also usually post them other places as well. There is no reason to read GR reviews or even go there, as far as I'm concerned. It is not a place that welcomes authors. Only go there as a reader to discuss other author's books--never your own. Never mention you're an author and NEVER read your GR reviews. Except for comedy.

There's a plague right now of paid reviews and some of those review mills also post on GR. The people who have 100s of GR reviews probably bought them. More on that on my May 17th post on "Paid Reviews: Why No Author Should Pay for Amazon Reader Reviews"

http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2015/05/paid-reviews-why-authors-should-never.html

June 9, 2015 at 9:52 AM  

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