PDA

View Full Version : Amazon Book Reviews



Chrispd
12-16-2010, 11:58 PM
I've just become the victim of a revenge-by-review review of one of my books on Amazon.com. I think it's time for authors to begin to take on Amazon for a review process that seems to have no effective rules, requirements and ethics, and about which the company says: too bad, not our problem. I am making the case that with Amazon's growing power in the marketplace (I have no problem with that) comes growing responsibility for the ethics of that marketplace and the professional treatment of the intellectual property of those who write the books it sells.

Thoughts? Others with Amazon problems? Suggestions?

Thank you.

veinglory
12-17-2010, 12:01 AM
If you flag a review it tends to get taken down. In fact even perfectly legit reviewers have been removed by authors rallying their fans to flag them. Amazon is about customers, no action by authors is going to interest them much.

Soccer Mom
12-17-2010, 12:07 AM
Yes, definitely flag it if you believe it to be a revenge by review. They really do take them down.

ETA: Oh, and by the way, :welcome:

seun
12-17-2010, 12:19 AM
I am making the case that with Amazon's growing power in the marketplace (I have no problem with that) comes growing responsibility for the ethics of that marketplace and the professional treatment of the intellectual property of those who write the books it sells.


Good luck with that. ;)

citymouse
12-17-2010, 12:36 AM
Last summer I got a bad review from a woman who signed her name. She also added the state where she lives. The last line in her review lamented that she had spent $$ on a book she felt wasn't worth the cost.
Well, I did a people search, found the woman's street address and sent her a snail mail note offering to send her a full refund for the book, plus any shipping costs. I said she could either send me the book or tear off the cover and send that. It would be a proof of purchase, although I did not tell her that. I did not refer to her review except for the last line.
The woman never responded to me but about five days later the review came down. I'm sure Amazon didn't remove it on its own.

As for other authors slamming me, I'm safe! I'm way too small potatoes for anyone to notice, much less other people's fans.
C

seun
12-17-2010, 12:42 AM
Last summer I got a bad review from a woman who signed her name. She also added the state where she lives. The last line in her review lamented that she had spent $$ on a book she felt wasn't worth the cost.
Well, I did a people search, found the woman's street address and sent her a snail mail note offering to send her a full refund for the book


Not being stroppy, but searching for the woman's address strikes me as a bit of a grey area ethically. :Shrug:

Jamiekswriter
12-17-2010, 12:57 AM
Not being stroppy, but searching for the woman's address strikes me as a bit of a grey area ethically. :Shrug:

Why?

Gillhoughly
12-17-2010, 12:59 AM
I got a drive by review--a clearly personal attack--from someone who had been at a convention where I was a guest. Something I said at the convention made its way into her commentary.

Which I found rather amusing. I knew who it was, her motivation, and marveled that she thought I'd not notice.

I reported it to Amazon, pointing out that there was no review, just comments about me as a person. Thankfully, they agreed and removed it.

If you think you've gotten a slam like that, then absolutely report it.

Let Amazon do the dirty work.

But never--and I mean NEVER!!!!--engage the reviewer online in any way whatsoever.

I'm sure a few here will recall a batshit insane paranormal writer who went looney-toon over a 3-star review and got into a public donnybrook with the reviewer in the Amazon comments. Sides were formed up, tears were shed, and it's a miracle the writer's agent and publisher ever spoke to her again.

Non-professional behavior can kill your career.

Not everyone is going to love your words. That's part of the job and you shrug it off. But if it looks like the reviewer has an agenda beyond the limits of offering an opinion on one's book, call in the marines.

One of my pals even agreed with a few of the 1-star reviews. "They had valid points."

Or, you can quote the bad reviews on your website, but make sure you're funny, like Preston & Child:
(http://www.prestonchild.com/rogues/index.html)
Reviewer:
"I decided that I would have to finish this book, even though I knew at about the half-way point, I would have to dispose of it so that at least there would be one fewer copy on the face of the earth...The science is so weak as to be embarassing. More than embarassing, absolute garbage, even taking into account poetic license. To anyone who believes that this is a quality novel, or anything beyond toilet paper, all I can say is 'There are good scientific thrillers out there, these authors couldn't write one, even if they were copying one word-for-word.' "

The authors reply:
"Ouch! Don't get all hot and anxious about my poetic license, that was revoked last year. And by the way, there are two 'r's in 'embarrass.' " -- Lincoln Child

"Not good science? Why, before writing RELIC, we did extensive scientific research on the worldwide problem of brain-eating monsters infesting museums. What more could you want?" -- Douglas Preston



:evil

citymouse
12-17-2010, 01:11 AM
I agree that public donnybrooks are career killers. No one comes out well in the end.
C

amrose
12-17-2010, 01:19 AM
Why?

I would be weirded out by an author sending me personal (snail mail) correspondence over a bad review. I understand that in this case it was a legitimate "hey, I'll give you your money back since you didn't like it," but if it happened to me, I'd be creeped.

Medievalist
12-17-2010, 01:24 AM
It can be hard not to respond, but it really is for the best.

There's a single Amazon review for a book about the iPad three of us co-wrote.

The review really does sound like it's someone who didn't actually read the book, but glanced at a few pages.

The same book has lots of high ratings at iBooks, and a couple of really positive reviews.

But we're all sitting on our hands, and not responding.

And I'm sending out review copies hoping for a genuine review.

citymouse
12-17-2010, 01:28 AM
I find that interesting. I get snail mail from people I don't know all the time.
C

citymouse
12-17-2010, 01:39 AM
In the case of reviews, I keep in mind that they are opinions, and opinions are what make horse races.
Most reviews are ego exercises. Funny thing about egos, the more they are exercised the less effective they become.
C

Chrispd
12-17-2010, 01:46 AM
Original poster here. The advice not to engage reviewers is good as far as it goes. I'm a member of the Authors Guild whose Dir was once asked about these reviews, and was quoted in this account from 1999: “Somewhat above the fray, Paul Aiken, executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York City says his organization has heard complaints from some of its members, but points out that the online booksellers have self-policing mechanisms. ‘The author is invited to respond [to online reviews]’ Aiken Says.” I did respond to the online review in a diplomatic and reasonable way, as Aiken and others suggest. In response, the reviewer went back to the review, rewrote it to make it worse and preempt some of the observations in my comment, reduce it to one star and make its headline even worse. This newly edited review stayed in place with the same original date on it though it had been rewritten two months later. I'm glad I did that, had to be done. If we can't have reasonable discussions with reasonable people all is lost. And I think that we as authors have to stand up for ourselves in reasonable ways. The problem for me is that I have a new book already listed on Amazon (along with five others) though it won't be published until March, a very ambitious two year project with high expectations from the publisher, will become one of its first Kindle products, and there sits on my Amazon page a review as described above by an anonymous person (who's given name doesn't show up anywhere no matter how sharply I use my internet investigative skills) with no credentials given for the topic, attacking my competence by name and tainting my position on what has become the largest marketplace for the products all of us hope to sell. The matter has gone to the highest reaches of the "Amazon Community," but "This review is within our posted guidelines. We won't remove it in its current format, and we aren't able to consider the removal of this review any further. . . Thank you for your understanding."

We all need good editing and criticism when it is informed and reasoned. We want our writing to create discussion and debate. We don't need an enterprise that is becoming the main marketplace for the products we produce to allow a wild west kind of rodeo where ethics and intellectual integrity are not required. With Amazon's growth since Mr. Aiken's comment in 1999 has come its increased responsibility for a professional environment in which our products are sold. It's sort of like if I walked into a B&N, pulled one of my books off the shelf and found that someone had scrawled "Junk! Author is stupid! Don't buy!" on its cover in neon marker.

I'm taking other steps to address the problem, won't go back to the review and comment section. But we shouldn't have to be putting up with this kind of nonsense.

Thanks, and feel free to pass along.

gothicangel
12-17-2010, 01:53 AM
I've just become the victim of a revenge-by-review review of one of my books on Amazon.com. I think it's time for authors to begin to take on Amazon for a review process that seems to have no effective rules, requirements and ethics, and about which the company says: too bad, not our problem. I am making the case that with Amazon's growing power in the marketplace (I have no problem with that) comes growing responsibility for the ethics of that marketplace and the professional treatment of the intellectual property of those who write the books it sells.

Thoughts? Others with Amazon problems? Suggestions?

Thank you.

I would make absolutely sure that it is a revenge review before you go embarrassing yourself.

gothicangel
12-17-2010, 01:56 AM
Original poster here. The advice not to engage reviewers is good as far as it goes. I'm a member of the Authors Guild whose Dir was once asked about these reviews, and was quoted in this account from 1999: “Somewhat above the fray, Paul Aiken, executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York City says his organization has heard complaints from some of its members, but points out that the online booksellers have self-policing mechanisms. ‘The author is invited to respond [to online reviews]’ Aiken Says.” I did respond to the online review in a diplomatic and reasonable way, as Aiken and others suggest. In response, the reviewer went back to the review, rewrote it to make it worse and preempt some of the observations in my comment, reduce it to one star and make its headline even worse. This newly edited review stayed in place with the same original date on it though it had been rewritten two months later. I'm glad I did that, had to be done. If we can't have reasonable discussions with reasonable people all is lost. And I think that we as authors have to stand up for ourselves in reasonable ways. The problem for me is that I have a new book already listed on Amazon (along with five others) though it won't be published until March, a very ambitious two year project with high expectations from the publisher, will become one of its first Kindle products, and there sits on my Amazon page a review as described above by an anonymous person (who's given name doesn't show up anywhere no matter how sharply I use my internet investigative skills) with no credentials given for the topic, attacking my competence by name and tainting my position on what has become the largest marketplace for the products all of us hope to sell. The matter has gone to the highest reaches of the "Amazon Community," but "This review is within our posted guidelines. We won't remove it in its current format, and we aren't able to consider the removal of this review any further. . . Thank you for your understanding."

We all need good editing and criticism when it is informed and reasoned. We want our writing to create discussion and debate. We don't need an enterprise that is becoming the main marketplace for the products we produce to allow a wild west kind of rodeo where ethics and intellectual integrity are not required. With Amazon's growth since Mr. Aiken's comment in 1999 has come its increased responsibility for a professional environment in which our products are sold. It's sort of like if I walked into a B&N, pulled one of my books off the shelf and found that someone had scrawled "Junk! Author is stupid! Don't buy!" on its cover in neon marker.

I'm taking other steps to address the problem, won't go back to the review and comment section. But we shouldn't have to be putting up with this kind of nonsense.

Thanks, and feel free to pass along.

1999 was before the dot-com bust, and waay before Amazon started making a profit. I refuse to condemn a company because of a comment made 11 years ago.

Ineti
12-17-2010, 02:25 AM
People actually read amazon reviews? :D Waste of time. Keep writing.

citymouse
12-17-2010, 02:51 AM
People do read reviews. Reviews have been around ever since one person asked another, "What do you think of this?"
Some people are moved to either buy or pass on a product because of reviews. I am. However, it is the preponderance of positive or negative opinions that may sway me, not a single review.
In that reviews can and do influence sales, they are important to sellers. They should be important to authors too.
C

Momento Mori
12-17-2010, 03:17 AM
If it's a genuine revenge review that's targeting you as an author rather than making criticism about the book, then report it. If it's just a nasty review, ignore it or vote it down. Most customers on Amazon can distinguish those reviews that are agenda bashers rather than genuine comments, which is why they're the ones voted down.

MM

brainstorm77
12-17-2010, 03:23 AM
Bad reviews can mean sales. I have bought more than one book after reading a terrible review.:tongue

Amadan
12-17-2010, 03:28 AM
If it's a genuine revenge review that's targeting you as an author rather than making criticism about the book, then report it. If it's just a nasty review, ignore it or vote it down. Most customers on Amazon can distinguish those reviews that are agenda bashers rather than genuine comments, which is why they're the ones voted down.


Unless it's a polarizing book with many fans or detractors, in which case people tend to vote up or down on reviews based on whether they share the reviewer's opinion.

I've gotta say, unless it's truly a "revenge review" (how do you know this, exactly?) or otherwise not a real review, suck it up and let it go. Authors who decide they need to "do something" about people leaving them bad reviews are the kind who wind up being snarked across the internet.

leahzero
12-17-2010, 03:32 AM
I did respond to the online review in a diplomatic and reasonable way, as Aiken and others suggest. In response, the reviewer went back to the review, rewrote it to make it worse and preempt some of the observations in my comment, reduce it to one star and make its headline even worse.

An unfortunate lesson you're going to have to learn while dealing with people on the internet: don't feed the trolls. Every "reasonable" argument you give them is just another turd they'll hurl back in your face. You simply have to abstain from engaging with people like this. Trust that your potential readers are intelligent enough to objectively evaluate one bad review.

By engaging with the troll, not only do you give him ammunition to use against you, but you give observers the impression that there may be some legitimacy to his arguments.

Just don't do it.


and there sits on my Amazon page a review as described above by an anonymous person (who's given name doesn't show up anywhere no matter how sharply I use my internet investigative skills) with no credentials given for the topic, attacking my competence by name and tainting my position on what has become the largest marketplace for the products all of us hope to sell. The matter has gone to the highest reaches of the "Amazon Community," but "This review is within our posted guidelines. We won't remove it in its current format, and we aren't able to consider the removal of this review any further. . . Thank you for your understanding."

You're getting into a gray area by trying to ferret out the "credentials" of your critic, presumably so you can turn around and attempt to discredit his/her review. Their credentials don't matter.

You did the right thing by escalating the matter to Amazon. As other posters said above, Amazon is pretty reasonable about removing non-reviews and libel. Without seeing the review in question, there's not much we can say. A bad review can be traumatic; try not to take it too personally. From what you've said, it sounds like the reviewer has an axe to grind, and they're just going to focus on any negative aspect they can point to no matter what you do. There's no way to reason with someone in that mindset.


It's sort of like if I walked into a B&N, pulled one of my books off the shelf and found that someone had scrawled "Junk! Author is stupid! Don't buy!" on its cover in neon marker.

No, it's really not. Your book hasn't been indelibly tarnished. Reviews have been around for a long time; bad reviews are nothing new. The proximity of the review to the product in an online marketplace is a good thing, IMO--it has much more potential to help sales than hinder them. The very existence of a review shows that the book has been read (usually; not always the case), and even a passionate bad review is evidence that the content stirred high emotion from someone.

What happened to you sucks, but you have to stay above it. Notify Amazon and ignore the troll.

AEFerreira
12-17-2010, 06:24 AM
I think almost all readers can tell the difference between a review that critiques the merits of the book and a review that is spiteful, or that is just a matter of "not the reviewer's taste/this books sucks" with nothing of substance. Most people I know who read Amazon reviews take 1 and 5 star reviews with a grain of salt or don't read them at all.

I wouldn't make a big deal over it. I know it is hard not to retalitate, but when people say spiteful things, that reflects on them, not you, or your work. As soon as you retaliate, it reflects on you.

And sometime you will get bad reviews that are legitimate. Not everyone likes everything. Got to have thick skin.

Nya RAyne
12-17-2010, 07:51 AM
Bad reviews can mean sales. I have bought more than one book after reading a terrible review.:tongue


Dit...to!! I've bought badly reviewed books just to see what the hoopla is about. That's sad, but hey it's another sale for the Author.

seun
12-17-2010, 01:31 PM
Why?

Well, if someone I didn't know wrote to me and said they'd gone online to find my address, I'd be more than a little disturbed.

aruna
12-17-2010, 01:49 PM
I would make absolutely sure that it is a revenge review before you go embarrassing yourself.

Very true. I've had good and bad reviews, but once, just a few months after my first book was published, I got a really, really nasty one. And it was a LONG nasty one, too. I could prove that the author had not read the book because he/she made a big hoopla about the "foreseeable outcome", in detail, whereas that "outcome" was just a red herring; the book had an unforseeable twist.

This was the only time I complained to Amazon. They removed the review.


People actually read amazon reviews? :D Waste of time. Keep writing.

I love reader reviews; especially if I didn't like the book and want to see what others thought of it.




I've gotta say, unless it's truly a "revenge review" (how do you know this, exactly?) or otherwise not a real review, suck it up and let it go. Authors who decide they need to "do something" about people leaving them bad reviews are the kind who wind up being snarked across the internet.

A case in point: the hoopla over the review of The Very Thought of You, where that author threw a hissy fit over a few bad reviews from reviewers with no other reviews, which she called fake. The backlash showed that there we even more fake (if that was the criteria!) positive reviews; and that the book had received even more bad reviews on Goodreads.com. Also, since the hoopla, it's got more one star reviews on amazon.

So: if you think a particular review is spiteful, do report it to amazon. Otherwise, leave it alone, and don't make a public fuss.

shaldna
12-17-2010, 04:56 PM
Here's a secret - sometimes people just don't like your book.

And that's okay.

Don't respond, don't be drawn and don't dwell on it.

Also, I agree that an author contacting a reader by searching for their address is creepy and potentially very bad for your career if the person you stalked contacted complains about your behaviour.

brainstorm77
12-17-2010, 05:07 PM
Well, if someone I didn't know wrote to me and said they'd gone online to find my address, I'd be more than a little disturbed.

I agree with Seun. I would feel the same.

citymouse
12-17-2010, 05:40 PM
Here's a secret - sometimes people just don't like your book.

And that's okay.

Don't respond, don't be drawn and don't dwell on it.

Also, I agree that an author contacting a reader by searching for their address is creepy and potentially very bad for your career if the person you stalked contacted complains about your behaviour.

1) The reviewer signed her real name and the state where she lived. In doing so she had no expectation of privacy, especially by doing it on an enormous website like Amazon. The lady had her stats listed on line! Finding her wasn't hard!

2) I don't have a career.

The definition of stalking is "the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person." (My bold)
My letter was not malicious, but gracious. As I said, I didn't address her review remarks. I simply understood her disappointment. The contact was not repeated, but a once only offer of reimbursement. I signed that letter. I have nothing to hide or or be ashamed of.

Also, I don't appreciate the use of the word stalked, even if it is crossed out--which is, to me makes it all the more irksome. It should be noted too, that stalked is a criminal term. Like all such words they should be measured for size before trying on.
Also, the OP is about reviews, not me. I simply responded with how I approached one disgruntled reader. If I could, I'd reimburse anyone who read one of my books and felt they had wasted their money.

This is all I have to say on the subject of my letter, however, I'll continue to contribute to discussions
C

ChaosTitan
12-17-2010, 06:37 PM
Here's a secret - sometimes people just don't like your book.

And that's okay.

Exactly.

Granted, there's a difference between a bad review and a personal attack, and the latter shouldn't be tolerated--that's why sites like Amazon have Flag buttons. But bad reviews happen. Even poorly written, ill-informed, grossly exaggerated bad reviews.

As an author, I stopped reading the majority of Amazon and Goodreads reviews. They're crazy-making, and it's no longer worth the crazy.

As a reader, I don't use Amazon reviews to make my decisions. I have a group of blogs and book bloggers whose opinions I trust and generally agree with, and I go there when I need a recommendation.

veinglory
12-17-2010, 07:25 PM
1) The reviewer signed her real name and the state where she lived. In doing so she had no expectation of privacy, especially by doing it on an enormous website like Amazon. The lady had her stats listed on line! Finding her wasn't hard!

You asked why people thought it would seem creepy and they told you. It isn't a matter of who is "right', but how a reader might react.

KathleenD
12-17-2010, 07:40 PM
Had I been that Amazone reviewer, I would have taken the review down - because I felt frightened and unsafe. I would not have taken the refund offer as gracious. I would have taken it as an "I know where you live" kind of threat.

Do I think reviewers should remember that they are talking to and about other human beings? Of course. Do I get irritated when I get a review that indicates the reviewer didn't actually read the book (wrong character names, wrong plot, totally different ending)? Uh, who wouldn't?

But "I know where you live" is demented.

citymouse
12-17-2010, 07:45 PM
You asked why people thought it would seem creepy and they told you. It isn't a matter of who is "right', but how a reader might react.

My bold. No. It was Jamiekswriter ( in post #7) who asked why.

seun
12-17-2010, 08:40 PM
1) The reviewer signed her real name and the state where she lived. In doing so she had no expectation of privacy, especially by doing it on an enormous website like Amazon. The lady had her stats listed on line! Finding her wasn't hard!


Just because tracking her down wasn't hard doesn't mean you should have done it. I appreciate that you had good intentions, but I still think searching for her and then writing to her is getting into a dodgy area. The woman had just as much expectation of privacy as someone on this site, for example, who posts under their real name and has their location visible. Personally, I wouldn't post anywhere in such a way, but nor would I appreciate getting a letter from someone telling me they found my details on the internet.

citymouse
12-17-2010, 08:55 PM
Upon mature consideration, I've decided everyone is right. :)

C

veinglory
12-17-2010, 08:57 PM
My bold. No. It was Jamiekswriter ( in post #7) who asked why.

I stand (okay, sit) corrected.

Opinions are divided but I wouldn't take the risk.

artemis31386
12-17-2010, 09:25 PM
1) The reviewer signed her real name and the state where she lived. In doing so she had no expectation of privacy, especially by doing it on an enormous website like Amazon. The lady had her stats listed on line! Finding her wasn't hard!

2) I don't have a career.

The definition of stalking is "the willful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person." (My bold)
My letter was not malicious, but gracious. As I said, I didn't address her review remarks. I simply understood her disappointment. The contact was not repeated, but a once only offer of reimbursement. I signed that letter. I have nothing to hide or or be ashamed of.

Also, I don't appreciate the use of the word stalked, even if it is crossed out--which is, to me makes it all the more irksome. It should be noted too, that stalked is a criminal term. Like all such words they should be measured for size before trying on.
Also, the OP is about reviews, not me. I simply responded with how I approached one disgruntled reader. If I could, I'd reimburse anyone who read one of my books and felt they had wasted their money.

This is all I have to say on the subject of my letter, however, I'll continue to contribute to discussions
C

It's still creepy, no matter how you sliced and diced it. And even if she did post her name and state, it's still an invasion of privacy for you to look up. Furthermore, if she did complain, it doesn't matter what the definition of stalk is, if it came out in public, it could damage any career you'd hope to have.


As to the original post, bad reviews are part of the territory. They hurt sometimes, but never respond.

citymouse
12-17-2010, 09:28 PM
It's still creepy, no matter how you sliced and diced it. And even if she did post her name and state, it's still an invasion of privacy for you to look up. Furthermore, if she did complain, it doesn't matter what the definition of stalk is, if it came out in public, it could damage any career you'd hope to have.


As to the original post, bad reviews are part of the territory. They hurt sometimes, but never respond.

Please see post #35. :)
c

Chrispd
12-18-2010, 02:55 AM
Original poster. Thanks for the response on this. Some good sober advice, and it's taken an interesting turn. Of course we shouldn't be tracking down these reviewers, but in a professional environment we would know who they were and what experience, interest or credentials they brought to the review. Amazon should not be exempt from that requirement just because they're a "community' rather than the NY Review of Books. I think those who say that the reviews like these are just not that important are right in some respects. But I'm going to hold to this:

Amazon is the largest bookseller in the US (BN plus 50% in revenues last I looked). Amazon is the largest potential seller of the product I produce, and actually makes more in that transaction than I do. If Amazon is going to have a review of the quality of my product right there at the point of sale I welcome that pro or con if it is intelligent, reasonable and gives the purchaser of my product a way of knowing where the reviewer is coming from.

There are models for this. I'm a frequent participant in the Travel Advisor review process. I try to be responsible in my own reviewing, and discerning in how I use the reviews - does the hotel really have a bedbug problem, or is that someone with an ax to grind? The hotels and others on TA don't roll over and take it, the way creative producers are supposed to do on Amazon. TA is challenged by the hotels that TA sells. Many hotels respond to reviews on the same page for all to see so that the customer can continue his effort to make a smart buy. Just because a writer's product costs less, and we're often just glad that someone will read our scribblings doesn't mean that we should be more compliant than the hotels, or anyone else. What's up with that? Amazon was founded on selling books. It's just passing strange that it treats the selling of those books with such casual disregard for integrity and professionalism.

It's got to stop. I've just spent 12 bucks purchasing a URL for a website to try to deal with the problem in an ethical and professional way (amazing that Amazon didn't have the URL name protected). Whether I get the time and chance to do anything with it is another matter. Stay tueed.

ChaosTitan
12-18-2010, 03:31 AM
Original poster. Thanks for the response on this. Some good sober advice, and it's taken an interesting turn. Of course we shouldn't be tracking down these reviewers, but in a professional environment we would know who they were and what experience, interest or credentials they brought to the review. Amazon should not be exempt from that requirement just because they're a "community' rather than the NY Review of Books.

You want to hold Amazon reviewers up to some sort of professional standards? Based on what credentials? Who decides?

Amazon reviews are there for readers. They are usually posted by readers, based on that reader's reaction to the book. Amazon is not a professional critique service, nor are they the review section of the New York Times.

You seem to believe in whatever it is you're trying to accomplish, though, so good luck with it.

kaitie
12-18-2010, 03:38 AM
I'm someone who likes to read reviews, and it might just be that I'm the kind of person who thinks things through, but I can generally tell when someone's just being an immature ass. I won't listen to a one-star review unless it's specific and indicates that the book has actually been read. Even then, a lot of them are clearly just differing opinions.

I do get frustrated, however, when you have issues like groups of people giving one-stars based on publisher when they haven't even read the book (there was an issue about this awhile back) or when people go and trade around reviews or authors "review" their own work. I'm not certain there's a good way around it, though.

Generally speaking, if you've got a good book you'll have pretty good reviews. The only books I've seen with truly dismal ratings are actually by famous authors, and most of those have been well deserved. A disgruntled person or two probably won't be skewing your book too much, and most people don't decide solely based on reviews, either.

rugcat
12-18-2010, 03:40 AM
It can be hard not to respond, but it really is for the best. This is one of the few pieces of conventional wisdom that is absolutely correct.

If you don't have a lot of reviews, it may be a good idea to ask Amazon to take down an obviously ridiculous review, because what might otherwise be a combined four star rating could drop your book to to three or even two stars.

I did this with a review that complained about the price of books that were not available as ebooks. The "reviewer" had targeted a whole set of authors and had posted the exact same one star review, one that didn't even mention the book. Amazon did remove them.

I've posted this before, but my only other (and all time favorite) Amazon one star review for any of my books was for my my first Dog Days novel. In its entirety:

This book stinks on ice. From the book cover, I thought this was a book about a radioactive dog, but it was nothing of the sort!

I didn't ask it be removed -- I rather like it.

Amadan
12-18-2010, 03:47 AM
It's got to stop. I've just spent 12 bucks purchasing a URL for a website to try to deal with the problem in an ethical and professional way (amazing that Amazon didn't have the URL name protected). Whether I get the time and chance to do anything with it is another matter. Stay tueed.


I think you're begging to become one of Those Authors who gets pointed and laughed at.

Going on a crusade against mean reviewers never, ever ends well.

Amazon reviews are by readers, for readers. They don't need credentials or expertise. Yes, some of them will write idiotic reviews. Deal. Amazon would lose my business if they started requiring reviewers to meet some criteria to post or censoring every review an author doesn't like.

aruna
12-18-2010, 06:23 AM
If you don't have a lot of reviews, it may be a good idea to ask Amazon to take down an obviously ridiculous review, because what might otherwise be a combined four star rating could drop your book to to three or even two stars.



That was the case with the one review I complained about. There were just a few good, but quite short, five star revews, one 3 star, and then this very long rant which stank of spite. At the time I was active on the then Amazon review forums which was a hornet's nest of flame wars and the like; I suspected it was one of those people. There was some nasty stuff going on there. It was so obviously a rant, and so out of propostion for a moderately-selling book, Amazon took it down right away.
I have no problem with negative reviews that statate clearly why the reviewer didn't like it, or even just say they hated the book. That's normal. This wasn't.
But I would never make a public fuss. There's always a backlash.



This book stinks on ice. From the book cover, I thought this was a book about a radioactive dog, but it was nothing of the sort!

I didn't ask it be removed -- I rather like it.

I like it too! It reminds me of The Story about Ping. (http://www.amazon.com/Story-about-Reading-Railroad-Books/dp/0448421658/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1292638935&sr=8-1)

Irysangel
12-18-2010, 09:12 AM
Look at it this way, too. I am suspicious of any book that has universally glowing reviews, because I've seen too many cases where bad reviews were put up, and then the author had a dogpile show up on Amazon so they could get the review removed.

I look first for the negative reviews, and ignore the ones that are all "THIS GUY SUCKS AND HIS DAD SUCKS AND HIS FAMILY SUCKS" and look for ones with critiques of why they didn't like it. I bought a book recently because someone complained that they hated a particular plot point...and I loved it.

You just never know. But universally glowing reviews? I always think something is fishy.

frimble3
12-19-2010, 12:38 AM
If there was a mechanism for getting rid of bad reviews, why can't we have one that gets rid of the 'someone who loves me or has an investment in the book' glowing reviews? Both cheat the potential reader. And aiding the potential reader is the point of the review system, not making the writer feel good.
The OP talks about 'professional' standards. That would be reasonable on a 'professional' review site. Amazon says it's for reader reviews. There are no professional standards for being a reader. No accreditation, no testing (once you get out of school). On Amazon you might get a reviewer who reads extensively in your genre, or some kid who's reviewing a book she was forced to read for homework.
If someone posts a review with an obviously incorrect fact, or a personal attack, yes, flag it, other than that, ignore it and move on.

cwfgal
12-19-2010, 01:24 AM
Look at it this way, too. I am suspicious of any book that has universally glowing reviews, because I've seen too many cases where bad reviews were put up, and then the author had a dogpile show up on Amazon so they could get the review removed.

I look first for the negative reviews, and ignore the ones that are all "THIS GUY SUCKS AND HIS DAD SUCKS AND HIS FAMILY SUCKS" and look for ones with critiques of why they didn't like it. I bought a book recently because someone complained that they hated a particular plot point...and I loved it.

You just never know. But universally glowing reviews? I always think something is fishy.

Well, sometimes not. My latest release only has five reviews on Amazon but they are all five star reviews and I don't know a single one of the reviewers.

I've never written an anonymous review for one of my own books before to bolster it on any site, but now you have me thinking about writing an anonymous mediocre review for this last book to make the five-star reviews it already has look more legit. ;)

Beth

Irysangel
12-19-2010, 03:10 AM
Well, sometimes not. My latest release only has five reviews on Amazon but they are all five star reviews and I don't know a single one of the reviewers.

I've never written an anonymous review for one of my own books before to bolster it on any site, but now you have me thinking about writing an anonymous mediocre review for this last book to make the five-star reviews it already has look more legit. ;)

Beth

Five good reviews I can look past. Fifty glowing ones (and no unhappy!) make my eyebrow raise. ;)

Momento Mori
12-19-2010, 03:35 AM
Chrispd:
in a professional environment we would know who they were and what experience, interest or credentials they brought to the review

Yes but Amazon is not a professional environment and nor does it claim to be. It's a forum for providing customer feedback.


Chrispd:
TA is challenged by the hotels that TA sells. Many hotels respond to reviews on the same page for all to see so that the customer can continue his effort to make a smart buy. Just because a writer's product costs less, and we're often just glad that someone will read our scribblings doesn't mean that we should be more compliant than the hotels, or anyone else. What's up with that?

The difference is that it's easier to be objective about hotels than it is about books. A hotel room is either clean or it isn't, the toilet works or it doesn't. The hotel is therefore better placed to refute or correct using facts.

Books however are a more individual experience - if an author engages with a reviewer on whether the characterisation is poor, it makes them look like they're unable to accept other interpretations. It becomes an argument about opinions and in that type of argument, the only loser is the author.

MM

bearilou
12-19-2010, 04:34 AM
I look first for the negative reviews, and ignore the ones that are all "THIS GUY SUCKS AND HIS DAD SUCKS AND HIS FAMILY SUCKS" and look for ones with critiques of why they didn't like it. I bought a book recently because someone complained that they hated a particular plot point...and I loved it.

This x 9000!

Exactly how I look at amazon reviews, and many times the deciding factor in my purchasing the book, over not.

shaldna
12-19-2010, 02:33 PM
1) The reviewer signed her real name and the state where she lived. In doing so she had no expectation of privacy, especially by doing it on an enormous website like Amazon. The lady had her stats listed on line! Finding her wasn't hard!

that doesn't matter. if a reviewer for the NYT uses her real name when slating your book, are you going to send a letter to her home address? no, because it's crazy and scary. so why do you think it's okay to do it to someone else?

I get that you don't understand why it's wrong and why it might scare someone, so none of us are going to convince you otherwise. but to be honest, if it were me who had received that letter I would have been straight on the phone with your publisher making a complaint, and then I'd possibly have called the police. I'd have also told everyone I know in the industry and the general public about it. That sort of story spreads quickly, and next thing you know you have become one of those crazy authors we post articles about here.

Never contact someone like that. Even if they hate your work. It's creepy. And the fact that you set out to find where this woman lived is obsessive and scary. Are you going to do that every time you get a bad review?




2) I don't have a career.

And you won't if you continue with those sort of antics. It's very threatening behaviour.

I get that you thought you were being courteous, but try putting yourself in her position. How would you like it if I hunted out your home address and sent you mail because I didn't like something you had posted here?



Also, I don't appreciate the use of the word stalked, even if it is crossed out--which is, to me makes it all the more irksome. It should be noted too, that stalked is a criminal term. Like all such words they should be measured for size before trying on.

What word should I have used instead?

gothicangel
12-19-2010, 03:05 PM
I agree with Shaldna.

Except I would have phoned the police first, then my solicitor to get a restraining order.

aruna
12-19-2010, 03:45 PM
that doesn't matter. if a reviewer for the NYT uses her real name when slating your book, are you going to send a letter to her home address? no, because it's crazy and scary. so why do you think it's okay to do it to someone else?

I get that you don't understand why it's wrong and why it might scare someone, so none of us are going to convince you otherwise.

Please check out citymouse's post 35:


Upon mature consideration, I've decided everyone is right. :)

C

I think this horse is dead. Peace, please? :flag:

ChaosTitan
12-19-2010, 07:17 PM
Yes, that particular horse is very dead. Can we stay on topic, please?

Thanks.

leigh78
12-19-2010, 07:50 PM
Are we talking about only one or two bad reader reviews here? Because that's just life. Not everyone is going to like your work. I agree with the others: as a reader I only pay attention to the negative reviews that offer real critique of the work - not slurs.

If there are more positive reviews than negative, if I like the plot summary, if there's a decent (doesn't have to be raving) professional review (Publisher's Weekly, ect...) I'll read the neg reviews with a grain of salt and still purchase the book to decide for myself.

Now recently I was on my nook looking for a book to read. There was a book that had a good plot summary and I went over to the reader reviews to check them out. Review #1 & #2 both commented that while it was a good story line the grammar, ect... was so bad that whoever edited it should be fired. I went over to look at the publisher - and it was a self pubb'd book. I've been burt buying a self-pub book before and I won't do it again. I'll only purchase books that have gone through the publishing houses. So something like that will keep me from purchasing the book but most books I've bought off Amazon have a few negative reviews in the mix. That's just a fact of life. As long as the neg reviews offer actual critiques and aren't slurs and as long as you have more positive reviews than negative, I wouldn't spend even two seconds stressing about the neg reviews.

shaldna
12-19-2010, 10:21 PM
Are we talking about only one or two bad reader reviews here? Because that's just life. Not everyone is going to like your work. I agree with the others: as a reader I only pay attention to the negative reviews that offer real critique of the work - not slurs.



This. I only consider reviews by people who actually seem to have read the book.

brainstorm77
12-19-2010, 11:19 PM
I received my first bad review today.:D The only thing that I dislike is when someone complains in a review about things the writer cannot control, like price. The rest you just have to let swing right on past and take it as the person's opinion.
I suspect I'll have a few more swing my way before I'm dead. :tongue

PercyBlok
12-20-2010, 05:44 AM
Respond to your own reviews at your own peril, Ann Rice anyone?

Read reviews because they can be a good indicator of what is good, bad and ugly.

Why on earth would anyone that has been published by a credible press (small or large) respond to any one review from a person on Amazon? To me it smacks of ego issues or a person that has way too much time on their hands.

My take on Amazon reviews, I rarely find a book that has a majority of bad reviews. The usual thing I find is that the public at large usually is quite "fanboy" in nature and most books are overrated. When I look through Amazon reviews, I usually throw out the high and low and concentrate on the 3 star area. These, I find, usually detail both the high points and low points in a piece and offer more scope upon which to make a more informed decision.

Oh, and authors offering cash back (again Ann Rice anyone)...why? No other form of entertainment that I can remember offers me this. Movies, video games, songs, comedians, carnival freak shows....????

Jamiekswriter
12-27-2010, 05:19 AM
I get being creeped out, but why is it a grey error *ethically*?

What ethic is it violating? I could see if you did something illegal to obtain the mailing address, but if a simple google search gives up your real name and home address, I don't see anything *unethical* about using the info you found to send a message.

I don't think it's wise and I wouldn't do it . . . just because there's a lot of crazies out there and I'd rather leave that can of worms unopened.

However, I bet that reviewer thinks twice about leaving another nasty review. It's easy to be awful when you think you're anonymous. I wonder if that reviewer would have said the same thing face to face? -- I doubt it.

But as for responding to bad reviews? I know I'm going to have a hard time stopping myself from defending the bad review. The hardest part, though, is stopping my friends from doing it!

Amadan
12-27-2010, 05:58 AM
I get being creeped out, but why is it a grey error *ethically*?

What ethic is it violating? I could see if you did something illegal to obtain the mailing address, but if a simple google search gives up your real name and home address, I don't see anything *unethical* about using the info you found to send a message.

I don't think it's wise and I wouldn't do it . . . just because there's a lot of crazies out there and I'd rather leave that can of worms unopened.

However, I bet that reviewer thinks twice about leaving another nasty review. It's easy to be awful when you think you're anonymous. I wonder if that reviewer would have said the same thing face to face? -- I doubt it.


Seriously? Are you really for-real serious?

Medievalist
12-27-2010, 06:23 AM
I get being creeped out, but why is it a grey error *ethically*?

Some things to think about.

I can post a review on Amazon as Stephen King.

It doesn't mean I'm the author of Pet Sematary.

Remember; identity on the 'net is exceedingly fluid, and flimsy.

Also, the fact that information is a matter of public record is not the same as contacting that person--if it's perceived as stalking (and honestly? I can see how it might be) you're in for a peck of trouble.

Finally, contacting someone about a negative review is unprofessional. It never makes the author of the book look good.

Don't do it.

Liosse de Velishaf
12-27-2010, 10:23 AM
I don't know if I'd find it creepy... But I'd imagine the author was a bit invested in something as unimportant in the grand scheme of things as one Amazon review.

Anyway, I read all the one and two star reviews of a book first. Then I read however many 3-5 star reviews as I think I need to make an informed decision.

I find all 5-star reviews fishy. First thing I do? Check if it's from a legit publisher. Google the author. Take another look at the cover art to see if it looks professional. It has been my experience that traditionally published books are less likely to have an undeserved lack of bad reviews. Sorry, but I have yet to see a perfect book. Except for mine, of course. ;)

citymouse
12-27-2010, 04:04 PM
I feel I need to clarify something here. I did not contact the reviewer because of a bad review. Out of 15 reviews 3 were below 4 stars. I didn't write three notes, just one.
What motivated me was that the reviewer felt that hard earned dollars were wasted on my book. I felt bad about that, so I offered to repay. This was the reason and the only reason.

In this forum I've been referred to, albeit obliquely, as a demented creep, who is probably a stalker. Some may have an image of a wizened crone bent of over a keyboard, mumbling, "I'll get you my pretty!" Great visual, but no cigar.
Well, I'm certainly not demented. The creep part is arguable, depending on who you talk with. The stalker moniker is the most damaging because it is a criminal accusation, which in a court of law requires the proof of the elements of a crime. The two most prominent in stalking are frequency and malice. Intent is also in there.
Now there are those here who will say that doesn't matter. Well, boys and girls, it most certainly does matter. You cannot accuse someone just because you feel creeped out. You cannot accuse someone just because you feel threatened. A threat has to be overt, it cannot simply be inferred.

To wrap up, let me say again, that upon mature consideration, I've decided everyone is right.
C

ChaosTitan
12-27-2010, 07:10 PM
To wrap up, let me say again, that upon mature consideration, I've decided everyone is right.
C


Quoting for emphasis.

Can we please stop resurrecting this matter, folks? It's been dealt with and settled. Moving on.

aruna
12-27-2010, 08:02 PM
I find all 5-star reviews fishy. First thing I do? Check if it's from a legit publisher. Google the author. Take another look at the cover art to see if it looks professional. It has been my experience that traditionally published books are less likely to have an undeserved lack of bad reviews. Sorry, but I have yet to see a perfect book. Except for mine, of course. ;)

I can assure you, that whenever I post a 5-star review -- and I do, occasionally, it's because I find that book perfect, in that it moves me way beyond myself. Sure, it's subjective, but for me that's what reading is all about. Perhaps writing can never be as perfect as, for instance, a magnificent musical composition, but it can come pretty damn close. And if I write a 5*, it's to let others know! It's sad that so may people say they don't trust the 5* reviews. I;ve written several honest ones, and read many more that I find perfectly kosher. It's fairly easy to tell a genuine good review. It's usually a bit longer, and tells spefically why the reader has given it that rating.

Amadan
12-27-2010, 08:45 PM
I don't give 5 stars because I think a book is "perfect." 5 stars isn't really fine-grained enough to span the entire spectrum from "Waste of paper" to "Perfect." I give 5 stars to a book I would happily reread and recommend to others, and which hit all the high points of great writing, intelligent and engaging plot, and interesting and believable characters.

astonwest
12-27-2010, 09:12 PM
I don't give 5 stars because I think a book is "perfect." 5 stars isn't really fine-grained enough to span the entire spectrum from "Waste of paper" to "Perfect." I give 5 stars to a book I would happily reread and recommend to others, and which hit all the high points of great writing, intelligent and engaging plot, and interesting and believable characters.
I'm the same way...maybe they should let people give a score out of 100, then people could nitpick each book. Ding a point or two for every spelling or grammar error, just like school.

aruna
12-27-2010, 09:15 PM
The thing is, if a book for me is subjectively "perfect", it actually might not be objectively perfect. But the effect is such that I am so blown away I want to share my delight with others; without nitpicking. And so I give it the "perfect" score.

citymouse
12-27-2010, 09:35 PM
The thing is, if a book for me is subjectively "perfect", it actually might not be objectively perfect. But the effect is such that I am so blown away I want to share my delight with others; without nitpicking. And so I give it the "perfect" score.

I agree. I love Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series. Only one in the series has disappointed me, so far. I recommend them to anyone who seeks a good story told well.
Sara Paretsky is another of my favorites.
For intrigue you can't beat Daniel Silva, although his Gabriel Allon series does follow a predictable formula IMO the writing is superb. So as a reader , my assessments are always subjective.

C

jessicaorr
12-28-2010, 06:08 PM
I think ultimately you have to trust the intelligence of your readers. I buy a lot of books from amazon.com and I always read through the reviews. The difference between an honest review and a spiteful one is pretty obvious. I think most people can distinguish between the two.

Bad amazon reviews come in three general categories:

1. Complaining about shipping/price. These reviewers don't realize there is a forum for complaints addressed to the booksellers. I always report such reviews and post in the comment section that the writer, who's work they are supposed to be reviewing, has nothing whatsoever to do with the manner in which their book was shipped etc...

2. The reviewer hasn't read the book and doesn't intend to. The just want to complain about the author's political views/religion/etc... Anyone who is genuinely interested in reading a book is not going to pay attention to a review like this. I saw on audible.com that one of the reviewers of John Michael Greer's The Ecotechnic Future had given the book one star because the author was pagan. Big surprise to anyone not capable of the fine art of google, but what does it matter? I doubt that book dissuaded anyone from buying the audiobook.

3. The reviewer genuinely didn't like the book. As others have said, genuinely bad reviews are not necessarily bad, particularly if they are well thought out. I've actually bought quite a few books because of bad reviews that detailed plot points that seemed interesting.

If your bad review is one of the first two, don't worry about it. Most people can tell it isn't genuine. The worst thing is that it brings down your total star count but even that isn't bad. I've often clicked on books that have three stars just to see why. In fact, I'm more likely to closely examine a three or two star book than I am a five star one.

So don't sweat it, just keep writing. Trust your readers.

brainstorm77
12-28-2010, 11:32 PM
Unfortunately, there appears to be a trend with Amazon reviews and authors acting less than professional. While cruising the Kindle site today, I stumbled onto a comments thread which was a complete trainwreck.

It was enough to make me never buy a book by the author.

BenPanced
12-28-2010, 11:51 PM
Unfortunately, there appears to be a trend with Amazon reviews and authors people posting anything online acting less than professional.
Fixed it for you.

brainstorm77
12-29-2010, 12:06 AM
That too. But this was Amazon specific.