It's the first Wednesday of the month,
As writers, there’s probably nothing that makes us more insecure than bad reviews. After all, public humiliation is torture when you’re working hard to cull a following and fan base. As an author whose book is primed for release in a few short weeks, I worry endlessly, but I also know this business is hyper-subjective.
As a reader, I’m exceptionally particular and put down far more books than I keep reading. I know the same thing will happen to my book, that there will likely be many who dislike it for whatever reason. I can’t exactly say I’m okay with that, yet, when I received my first 3-star rating this week on Goodreads, I was surprised by how little it stung.
Sure, part of it was because it was my first and all the others are 5 stars. And part of it was because she only rated it. I would have invested far more stock in her opinion if she, as a Goodreads librarian, had reviewed it, as well. And although she does read widely, she still reads and rates primarily romance, which my book is not. But still, I thought it would hurt a lot more than it did.
I’m not one of those authors who will rate my own work. I find that a little…I don't know...narcissistic perhaps. I was recently warned by a blogger friend that one of my Goodreads followers was a fellow writer who often slams other authors and their books on Goodreads and Amazon. When I checked him out though, I deduced that he was probably just a disgruntled writer, jealous of others’ success. So yeah, the source of the review matters to me.
Now we have this whole controversy of authors juicing their Amazon rankings with less-than-legitimate reviews. The first I’d ever heard of anything along these lines was just a few weeks ago. My friend and fellow author, Lisa Regan, asked my advice about an interview she was going to post on August 16th with best-selling British thriller author, David Kessler. While she was excited to go one-on-one with an author she admires and whose books she enjoys, she was also a bit concerned by the advice he was advocating to other authors:
“Do not let anyone lecture you about ‘ethics’ and the integrity of reviews. Get all your friends to review your books and if they are too lazy, write the reviews for them and get them to use their ID's to publish them. (Throw in a few four star reviews as well and maybe even a single three star review that is only mildly critical - and get all of them to vote that each others reviews are helpful).”
But this was not the last I heard on this topic. On August 25th, NY Times columnist David Streitfeld published this article about Todd Rutherford and how he'd been contracted to write and publish over 4,500 counterfeit book reviews on his GettingBookReviews.com website, now defunct. Then on the 28th, Porter Anderson covered the controversy, as well, on agent Jane Friedman’s blog, exposing the fact that self-pub phenom, John Locke, had actually paid people to buy his books and write reviews. And then again on Sunday morning, September 2nd, author James Scott Bell posted about what the “Paid For Reviews Scandal Means for the Future” on The Kill Zone website and how “Andrew Shaffer compares these paid-for reviews to the doping scandal in sports.”
This whole debacle has left a bitter taste in my mouth. While we authors dearly want success and for everyone who reads our books to love them and write glowing reviews, those desperate enough to commission spurious analyses serve only to contaminate and impair the very resource designed to assist them. It creates mistrustful readers who will be much less likely to purchase based on posted reviews.
Perhaps this behavior is in reaction to those folks who post equally-illegitimate bad reviews on books they’ve not even read. But I think those reviews are transparent and that the average reader can see through the malicious nature in which it was composed.
I, for one, believe my work should stand on its own merits and face whatever valid criticism arises, good or bad. But even saying this, I can tell you, I rarely buy books based on reviews. I read the jacket copy and perhaps the first page or chapter and decide from there whether it’s a good fit for me.
What about you…do you buy books based on customer ratings and reviews, and will this baring of the truth affect how you make your future book purchases?
(Sorry for the atrocious length of this post, but I felt it was an important subject for the IWSG.)