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CrastersBabies
12-31-2011, 11:10 AM
This wasn't about getting published or specifically about publishing novels, or writing basics, so I thought I'd put this here.

I wanted to start a dialogue with folks about book ratings, Amazon in particular (though welcome over venues like goodreads and such too).

I think most of us know that ratings at Amazon are pretty sketchy. Get 30 people to write reviews and give you 5 stars and you're set, right? Family, friends, ghost accounts, etc..

It's part of the reason I shy away from ebooks because I can't get a good idea of whether or not the book is any good. Sure, I get samples when I can, but sometimes those samples include the first 3 pages (or something like the introduction alone).

How do you think this can be solved? Is there a solution? I mean, wikipedia has volunteers that go through and do fact-checking, but books are a bigger time investment and take longer to finish.

Maybe there is no solution. I thought it would be interesting to brainstorm and just see if it's possible to come up with a decent ratings system, one that helps consumers AND writers. Not saying we'll save the publishing world, but it's something I think about quite often and would love to have some folks to bounce ideas off of.

Ideas? Thoughts?

Sea Witch
12-31-2011, 11:19 AM
CrastersBabies, what do you have in mind here? Are you suggesting trying to convince Amazon to change their system? Do you want to create a database here of our own ratings?

The problem with any system is that ratings are so subjective, and people have so many conscious and unconscious biases. Many of us here can speak to the technical aspects of a book, but the average reader can't. The average reader can talk about whether the book was "engaging" or not. Or if they liked the "story" or not.

Tell me what you think.

escritora
12-31-2011, 11:25 AM
I think most of us know that ratings at Amazon are pretty sketchy. Get 30 people to write reviews and give you 5 stars and you're set, right? Family, friends, ghost accounts, etc..

I don't know, maybe the people I know just suck, but they don't buy my books. They have no interest. They have even less interest in posting fake reviews.

I'm sure it happens, but I'm not convinced it's something to worry about.

gothicangel
12-31-2011, 12:32 PM
How do you think this can be solved? Is there a solution? I mean, wikipedia has volunteers that go through and do fact-checking, but books are a bigger time investment and take longer to finish.



Don't rely on Wiki to be factual, anyone can get an account and alter it. Recently I left a review on Amazon, saying the author's representation was highly inaccurate and owed more to John Buchan and colonialist interpretations of native cultures [i.e Africa, Native Americans, Indians etc.] I went back on a few days ago, the author had received a rash of two star reviews, and a 'friend' had appeared with a five-star review and went on to say he had checked wikipedia and the portrayal appeared correct.
*Cue me dashing my brains out on my keyboard.*
I left a friendly comment about reading some of the many fine Scottish historians on Pictish culture, and perhaps the recent archaeolgy performed by Historic Scotland on Traprain Law, instead. ;)

Old Hack
12-31-2011, 01:10 PM
I read a non-fiction book a few years ago which was shockingly inaccurate and misleading. I reviewed it accordingly, and in the spirit of fairness pointed out the (very few) areas in which the book was useful; and the author reported my review and had it removed. I don't rely on Amazon reviews at all any more.

PEBKAC
12-31-2011, 03:05 PM
I rely on the negative reviews and comments in the reviews. If there is a trend in the negative reviews that concerns me, I usually won't buy it. That strategy has served me well so far.

heyjude
12-31-2011, 04:34 PM
I read a non-fiction book a few years ago which was shockingly inaccurate and misleading. I reviewed it accordingly, and in the spirit of fairness pointed out the (very few) areas in which the book was useful; and the author reported my review and had it removed. I don't rely on Amazon reviews at all any more.

Wow. That's unbelievable. :( And good to know.

gothicangel
12-31-2011, 04:47 PM
I don't know, maybe the people I know just suck, but they don't buy my books. They have no interest. They have even less interest in posting fake reviews.

I'm sure it happens, but I'm not convinced it's something to worry about.

It always interests me how many times a bestselling author recieves a rash of 1-2* reviews, which is then suddenly followed by a 5*, couple of sentence length reviews [which don't actually say anything about the book itself.] On further investigation, you discover it is the reviewer's one and only review.

Linda Adams
12-31-2011, 06:06 PM
It always interests me how many times a bestselling author recieves a rash of 1-2* reviews, which is then suddenly followed by a 5*, couple of sentence length reviews [which don't actually say anything about the book itself.] On further investigation, you discover it is the reviewer's one and only review.

Or seeing an author and all they have is five star reviews, all glowing comments. Those always make me wonder if the reviewers actually read the book. I'm more trustful of the 2-3 star reviews because those are likely to be more honest.

Jamesaritchie
12-31-2011, 06:33 PM
I've never found reviews to be the least bit useful, before the digital age, or since. I rely on word of mouth, and on sample pages and chapters. If people I know tell me a book is a must read, I read it. And I have no trouble finding books with adequate sample pages that let me know whether I like the writer's style. Print or electronic, the jacket copy, plus two or three sample pages, is more than enough. Add word of mouth to this, and I seldom buy a book I don't enjoy.

For print books, and for more and more eBooks, there's also the library.

I find far more books to read than I possibly can. My TBR stacks number in the thousands, and I even have more eBooks on my computer than I'll get read next year.

I never have understood why so many pay attention to reviews. Unless you know whoever did the review well enough to know whether their taste matches yours, it makes no sense to trust the review.

escritora
12-31-2011, 08:30 PM
@gothi and Linda --- that settles it! I need new friends. :)

CrastersBabies
12-31-2011, 09:26 PM
CrastersBabies, what do you have in mind here? Are you suggesting trying to convince Amazon to change their system? Do you want to create a database here of our own ratings?

The problem with any system is that ratings are so subjective, and people have so many conscious and unconscious biases. Many of us here can speak to the technical aspects of a book, but the average reader can't. The average reader can talk about whether the book was "engaging" or not. Or if they liked the "story" or not.

Tell me what you think.

Naw, not a database here. I'm more interested in just seeing how a broken ratings system can be fixed. The subjective thing is definitely a part of it, but for me, there's a big difference between someone fluffing reviews (or sabatoging) and actually giving an authentic review (good or bad). I don't know if there IS a solution given the nature of the internet, but wanted to see what the general feeling was. :)


[SIZE=2]Don't rely on Wiki to be factual, anyone can get an account and alter it. Recently I left a review on Amazon, saying the author's representation was highly inaccurate and owed more to John Buchan and colonialist interpretations of native cultures [i.e Africa, Native Americans, Indians etc.] ..........

Well, I never said wiki was factual. I don't allow in the classroom, but I do know they have a system in place that probably helps it be LESS sketchy than it might otherwise be.


I read a non-fiction book a few years ago which was shockingly inaccurate and misleading. I reviewed it accordingly, and in the spirit of fairness pointed out the (very few) areas in which the book was useful; and the author reported my review and had it removed. I don't rely on Amazon reviews at all any more.

Wow. That's incredibly disappointing. As a writer, I expect bad reviews. Not everyone will like my book, "get" my book or enjoy it. Did they contact you at all before pulling the review?


I've never found reviews to be the least bit useful, before the digital age, or since. I rely on word of mouth, and on sample pages and chapters. If people I know tell me a book is a must read, I read it. And I have no trouble finding books with adequate sample pages that let me know whether I like the writer's style. Print or electronic, the jacket copy, plus two or three sample pages, is more than enough. Add word of mouth to this, and I seldom buy a book I don't enjoy.

For print books, and for more and more eBooks, there's also the library.

I find far more books to read than I possibly can. My TBR stacks number in the thousands, and I even have more eBooks on my computer than I'll get read next year.

I never have understood why so many pay attention to reviews. Unless you know whoever did the review well enough to know whether their taste matches yours, it makes no sense to trust the review.

That's part of the problem. It's like movie reviews. I don't always listen to the reviews, but sometimes I do. Sometimes, I want an opinion, a rundown, especially if I'm on the fence. I do find reviewers I like (Ebert), but even he's not jiving with my tastes 100% of the time. More like 80%, and that's the highest I've found.

For books, it's so difficult. Some people read for plot alone. Some read to languish in the language, some curl up with a book like a meeting with an old friend. I have never found a reviewer that reaches the 50% mark on accuracy with me and my tastes. Frustrating!

But, when you have a larger pool (like you find on Amazon), you expect that somehow it will average out to something that resembles a general "number." Not the case. But, I can usually skim the reviews and see what people are looking at and discern if it's something I might like. That's if I take the review at face value.

For example, if someone write, "This book was full of smut and crass humor and it offended me greatly," I would probably say, "alright, this person gave the book a low score because they are turned off by crass humor. I, on the other hand, love crass humor, so I can disregard that review."

Polenth
01-01-2012, 02:07 AM
Ratings are the most meaningless part of reviews anyway. Someone might love a book for a thing I'd dislike, and hate it for a thing I'm looking for. That's why the text of the review is the important part. As long as it has a decent number of reviews, I can get a fair idea if the book contains anything I'll love/hate that isn't apparent in the first few pages and blurb.

The big issue is getting enough reviews on a book. I've generally found Goodreads to be better for reviews, as they don't get removed for silly things and there are more per book.

Overall average rating isn't something I check.

juniper
01-01-2012, 02:43 AM
Most people here say they never read reviews or look at the stars ratings, but I think general readers do. I have a quite-intelligent friend who gave me a novel to read that she'd purchased off Amazon. She wanted to see what I thought of this novel, which she had liked.

She was surprised when I told her I thought it was badly written and here are the reasons why. She said she'd bought it partly because it had all 5-star reviews on Amazon (she also liked the plot summary).

I checked and yep, 6 or 7 reviews, all 5-star and gushing without saying anything meaningful. "Exciting, magical, loved the characters" - that sort of thing. When I said those reviews were probably all from friends and family and not true reviews, she said she'd never considered that people would write fake reviews. It had just never crossed her mind.

So I think ratings and reviews do affect how some readers - not writers - will decide what to buy. And the fake reviews do a disservice to both readers and authors (in the long run), but I can't imagine that Amazon really cares, as long as they sell books.

CrastersBabies
01-01-2012, 03:41 AM
I agree wholeheartedly. Just because you aren't looking at ratings doesn't mean the majority of readers out there aren't. I've passed on many 2-star-2.5 star reviews. Many.

Hiroko
01-01-2012, 03:44 AM
Ratings that aren't made via a system like Amazon's doesn't make them more reliable, but it's more than true that Amazon reviews are easy to rig.

As far as Amazon goes, when I look at book reviews, I look at the lower-star reviews first, then the 4/5-star reviews at a picky rate. I seek out those reviews that have been thought out and give a bigger opinion than just "cool, awesome, magical," whatever; those are the high reviews that would get me interested in a book.

Gary Clarke
01-01-2012, 03:59 AM
One of the strangest reader mails I ever received was from a Russian reader who hadn't liked my work.* In the course of his rather long mail he brought up the number of four and five star reviews the books had on amazon.com and on goodreads. He simply couldn't believe that anyone would give the books four or five stars and so was certain I had either written them myself, had my family and friends write them or (most hilariously) that my publisher had had them written. Thinking about this still tickles me. I just can't imagine actually doing it (and I certainly can't imagine my publishers going to the bother)

Do you guys think it actually happens as often as folks seem to think, or is it a sort of myth that has grown out of proportion?

*(despite his absolute hatred of the work, he read all three books, which boggles my mind - was he in some kind of masochistic competition to see how much 'awful writing' he could stand? )

Amadan
01-01-2012, 04:07 AM
Ratings are the most meaningless part of reviews anyway. Someone might love a book for a thing I'd dislike, and hate it for a thing I'm looking for. That's why the text of the review is the important part. As long as it has a decent number of reviews, I can get a fair idea if the book contains anything I'll love/hate that isn't apparent in the first few pages and blurb.

Yes. Ratings are only meaningful in a couple of ways, but if you know what to look for, they aren't useless.

First, if the book has only a few ratings then you can dismiss them; there's no statistical significance. The reviews themselves might be useful; a discerning individual can read a review and tell whether it's a good one or full of crap. You can also tell whether or not the reviewer's tastes match yours if it's a long thorough review.

But most ratings follow a fairly normal distribution. If I see a book with a mode of 3 stars or less, or an average rating of less than 3.2, that's usually a warning sign. And a book with a mode of 5 stars and/or an average rating of 4.0 or above is usually worth checking out if it's something that looks interesting to begin with. Of course I don't decide to buy a book based solely on its description and its average rating; I usually look at both the good and bad reviews rated "most helpful."

But as far as "fixing" the ratings system -- you can't really. People will always try to game the system. The best defense is not relying on numbers alone, especially when there are few numbers to begin with. A book with only 5 reviews and all of them are 5 stars? Maybe it's got a small number of fans but they really love it, or maybe those are all reviews posted by the author's friends. You can't tell (though sock/friend reviews are usually pretty vague and obvious). But it's a lot harder to manipulate the rankings when you have several hundred reviews.

Of course, any author who can get several hundred reviews of his or her book probably doesn't even think about how to game the system.

Karen Junker
01-01-2012, 04:48 AM
I mostly skip reviews and just go for reading books by my fellow AWers. We have some incredible authors here. What kind of books do you like to read? I'll bet you can get recs from some of us that will keep you in good books for years.

juniper
01-01-2012, 05:10 AM
... had my family and friends write them ....
Do you guys think it actually happens as often as folks seem to think, or is it a sort of myth that has grown out of proportion?


Yes, I think it happens. I know it does. I'm a member of a in-person writing group in which it seems most of the members automatically give every other member a 5-star review, whether self-pub or small-pub or whatever. Some members abstain from doing reviews at all.

And there's a large facebook group that (apparently) exists only to give each other "likes" on their fan pages and good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. There's rarely any postings other than, "new books up at Amazon, pls like" and then comments saying, "Gave it the stars" etc. 95% are self-pub.

I don't even know why I'm still a member of the FB group. I thought it was going to be more conversations, when I joined, but then it's turned into this circle-jerk.

Gary Clarke
01-01-2012, 05:24 AM
And there's a large facebook group that (apparently) exists only to give each other "likes" on their fan pages and good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. There's rarely any postings other than, "new books up at Amazon, pls like" and then comments saying, "Gave it the stars" etc. 95% are self-pub..

Jeez, that sucks. The longer I'm in the business the more of a bloody innocent I feel (though I have to confess I did get a sickener this year when I realized how very cynical some cliques of writers are about promoting each other's work online - tweeting 'reviews' of each others books and talking them up to each other's fans in a very calculated manner. I know it's all business but ... I dunno... I can't imagine being so cynical towards my readers as to steer them towards someone's work just because that person was a 'friend' or in the same 'stable' as I was.)

Stacia Kane
01-01-2012, 05:40 AM
Jeez, that sucks. The longer I'm in the business the more of a bloody innocent I feel (though I have to confess I did get a sickener this year when I realized how very cynical some cliques of writers are about promoting each other's work online - tweeting 'reviews' of each others books and talking them up to each other's fans in a very calculated manner. I know it's all business but ... I dunno... I can't imagine being so cynical towards my readers as to steer them towards someone's work just because that person was a 'friend' or in the same 'stable' as I was.)

Weeellll...

I'm sure there are some where it's very coldly done, but really, the purpose of an author promo group is to cross-promote and expand each other's audiences. That's why author groups are formed, is to expose the others to your audience and in turn be exposed to theirs. It may sound calculated, but being in two groups at the moment and having been in others I can tell you that members aren't just grabbed out of thin air; it's usually writers whose work you genuinely like and often feel is similar to yours, and whose work you feel your readership might honestly enjoy. (Not to mention them being writers you personally like as people.)

It's not cynical when I tell people who like my Downside books that they will probably like (for example) my friend Caitlin Kittredge's Black London books, too. It's genuine. I love those books. I want people to read them. I think they have enough similarities in tone to mine, and that Caitlin and I have similar enough opinions on what constitutes good writing and good stories, that my readers will enjoy her books too. And many of them have.

When one of my friends whose work I liked gets a good review and tweets it, of course I retweet it. Why wouldn't I? Why would I not help expose books I like, written by people I like, to a larger audience who might not have heard of it but may also like it? Why would I not acknowledge their success and congratulate them on it, and pass it on? And most importantly, why would I not want to help my readers find other books they may enjoy?

How is that cynical? Have you ever recommended a book to a friend because you really liked it? How is it different? Ever sent someone to a business owned by a friend, or recommended a friend for a job? How is that different?

Like I said, I'm sure there may be author groups who don't read each others' work and don't care. But that's never been the case in any I've been in; those are invitation only, and invitations only go to people whose work is considered worthy and whose personalities are considered a fit. So I just don't agree at all with the idea that author promo groups are cold and cynical and there's something wrong with them, and I don't agree at all with the idea that I'm not allowed to recommend my friends' books or it is cynical to do so.

I really don't meant to sound like I'm yelling at you--I hope I don't, and I'm really just using your post as a jumping-off point rather than "rebutting" you or anything--I'm just giving another POV on this.

Amadan
01-01-2012, 05:51 AM
When one of my friends whose work I liked gets a good review and tweets it, of course I retweet it. Why wouldn't I? Why would I not help expose books I like, written by people I like, to a larger audience who might not have heard of it but may also like it? Why would I not acknowledge their success and congratulate them on it, and pass it on? And most importantly, why would I not want to help my readers find other books they may enjoy?


With respect... I don't doubt that you and your friends are sincere and you don't mindlessly promote books you haven't actually read and enjoyed. But, I still pretty much tune out any "recommendations" that I know come from an author's clique. The worst manifestation of this phenomenon is the so-called "YA Mafia (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/03/04/dear-new-writer-im-sorry-i-dont-have-time-to-crush-you/)," which while I agree with the always-incisive John Scalzi is a pretty silly idea to regard as a threat, does seem to me to be a bunch of YA writers who exist to squee over each other's books, and I don't believe for a second any of them would be honestly critical even if they did think one of their friends wrote a turd.

So, basically, yeah, I know not every author's promo circle is the same as the self-pubbers auto-clicking "Like" and retweet buttons all day, but I really don't see the principle as being all that different. There are authors who recommend other author's books (even other authors who happen to be their friends) in a way that makes me believe that they actually really loved that book, but a group that's formed for the express purpose of promoting one another to boost sales ain't it.

CrastersBabies
01-01-2012, 07:46 AM
One of the strangest reader mails I ever received was from a Russian reader who hadn't liked my work.* In the course of his rather long mail he brought up the number of four and five star reviews the books had on amazon.com and on goodreads. He simply couldn't believe that anyone would give the books four or five stars and so was certain I had either written them myself, had my family and friends write them or (most hilariously) that my publisher had had them written. Thinking about this still tickles me. I just can't imagine actually doing it (and I certainly can't imagine my publishers going to the bother)

Do you guys think it actually happens as often as folks seem to think, or is it a sort of myth that has grown out of proportion?

*(despite his absolute hatred of the work, he read all three books, which boggles my mind - was he in some kind of masochistic competition to see how much 'awful writing' he could stand? )

Haha, wow. Very interesting! It just goes to show that he might not be a representation of your general "audience." I mean, I read the Girl Who Played With Fire recently and I was utterly astonished that it received the reviews it did. There were parts that were unreadable in my mind--full pages of mathematical equations and regurgitated textbook definitions. Now, the translation could be the problem, but I was very turned off by the writing style.

That said, I know people who love a fast-paced, very simple story and place plot as top priority. It's a book for those type of people (imho) and if they are giving reviews on that nature then people who are into that kind of novel will benefit from the reviews.

So, it could be that you're hitting someone's pet peeve or that there's something that keeps them coming back for more (like plot in the book I read) but they are being turned off by something that isn't jiving with their aesthetic. Still, very strange that he would actually suggest that people faked your reviews. I mean, I imagine it happens, but this sounds like a case where you simply hit one of his writerly nerves and he's a bit too caught up in his own tastes to imagine that other folks' tastes will vary.

CrastersBabies
01-01-2012, 07:53 AM
Yeah, I love seeing authors/friends promote books and I do the same for my pals and for authors I love reading. But, I kid you not, I found an ebook on amazon - 50+ reviews, 4 stars or above and it was the worst piece of writing I have ever seen. Most were small, choppy reviews, very little thought put into them. So, someone going off a number will say, "oh! Look, 4.5 stars." They open it up and see 3 spelling errors on page 1, a "there" instead of "their" on page 2, and 23 adverbs on page 4.

We're all readers--avid readers.
We're all avid writers.
And we're all savvy on a message board and have some concept of the online community.

My mom? Loves her some amazon. Do you think she's going to read all those reviews and know which ones are fake? No.

Doesn't matter who here reads reviews or utilizes them. We're the writers. We're going to be a bit more sophisticated in doing our research.

juniper
01-01-2012, 08:07 AM
It's not cynical when I tell people who like my Downside books that they will probably like (for example) my friend Caitlin Kittredge's Black London books, too. It's genuine. I love those books. I want people to read them. I think they have enough similarities in tone to mine, and that Caitlin and I have similar enough opinions on what constitutes good writing and good stories, that my readers will enjoy her books too. And many of them have.
.

Thx for the recommendation - I've been on Downside withdrawal and wondering how I'd make it until your next comes out in March.

gothicangel
01-01-2012, 02:21 PM
But most ratings follow a fairly normal distribution. If I see a book with a mode of 3 stars or less, or an average rating of less than 3.2, that's usually a warning sign. And a book with a mode of 5 stars and/or an average rating of 4.0 or above is usually worth checking out if it's something that looks interesting to begin with. Of course I don't decide to buy a book based solely on its description and its average rating; I usually look at both the good and bad reviews rated "most helpful."



I'm actually distrustful of reviews that have 4+ *. For me, the sweet spot it 3-4* which means that there are people out there who didn't like the book, which is to be expected.

I certainly don't rate 'most helpful' ratings. There is normally an author fanbase-mafia that blacklists reviewers who dare criticise their demi-god.

Amadan
01-01-2012, 06:37 PM
I'm actually distrustful of reviews that have 4+ *. For me, the sweet spot it 3-4* which means that there are people out there who didn't like the book, which is to be expected.

I certainly don't rate 'most helpful' ratings. There is normally an author fanbase-mafia that blacklists reviewers who dare criticise their demi-god.


Again, I'd say both those things are true if the number is pretty small, but less likely to be true if you're talking about a book with a lot of ratings.

scarletpeaches
01-01-2012, 06:52 PM
Jeez, that sucks. The longer I'm in the business the more of a bloody innocent I feel (though I have to confess I did get a sickener this year when I realized how very cynical some cliques of writers are about promoting each other's work online - tweeting 'reviews' of each others books and talking them up to each other's fans in a very calculated manner. I know it's all business but ... I dunno... I can't imagine being so cynical towards my readers as to steer them towards someone's work just because that person was a 'friend' or in the same 'stable' as I was.)I've had experience of this as well, both to my detriment and advantage. I've had people downgrade my books simply because I'm not part of the clique. I've also had my books praised because I'm part of the gang.

I really don't care if people love or hate my books, as long as their reviews are honest. I had one negative review from someone who emailed me privately to apologise and I greatly appreciated her honesty. My respect for her skyrocketed because it showed me for good or bad, her reviews are genuine. She's not an arselicker, or a deliberately snarky reviewer -- she just says what she likes and what she doesn't.
When one of my friends whose work I liked gets a good review and tweets it, of course I retweet it. Why wouldn't I? Why would I not help expose books I like, written by people I like, to a larger audience who might not have heard of it but may also like it? Why would I not acknowledge their success and congratulate them on it, and pass it on? And most importantly, why would I not want to help my readers find other books they may enjoy?

Have you ever recommended a book to a friend because you really liked it? How is it different? Ever sent someone to a business owned by a friend, or recommended a friend for a job? How is that different?I agree with this entirely, though my success as a writer is minuscule compared with yours. I doubt my audience is anywhere near as big! :)

However...
...I just don't agree at all with the idea that author promo groups are cold and cynical and there's something wrong with them, and I don't agree at all with the idea that I'm not allowed to recommend my friends' books or it is cynical to do so.No-one's saying that (I hope) but such groups do exist, and they muddy the waters for authors with more integrity. Perhaps they see nothing wrong with mutual backslapping, but to me, this is dishonest.

It's similar to the five-star reviews kerfuffle (love that word). There are genuine, honest folks out there, but the dishonest ones make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Stacia Kane
01-01-2012, 07:11 PM
Yeah, I love seeing authors/friends promote books and I do the same for my pals and for authors I love reading. But, I kid you not, I found an ebook on amazon - 50+ reviews, 4 stars or above and it was the worst piece of writing I have ever seen. Most were small, choppy reviews, very little thought put into them. So, someone going off a number will say, "oh! Look, 4.5 stars." They open it up and see 3 spelling errors on page 1, a "there" instead of "their" on page 2, and 23 adverbs on page 4.




There are very few things in this world I hate more than people who game Amazon reviews. I really, really loathe those people, so much.

Why? Because of this:



I'm actually distrustful of reviews that have 4+ *. For me, the sweet spot it 3-4* which means that there are people out there who didn't like the book, which is to be expected.

I certainly don't rate 'most helpful' ratings. There is normally an author fanbase-mafia that blacklists reviewers who dare criticise their demi-god.


As I've said here before, it's hardly my fault, nor do I deserve to be overlooked, just because 99% of my 70+ Amazon reviews are raves. I've never in my life asked someone to write me a positive review anywhere; I've expressly forbidden my family and friends from ever reviewing my books or responding to any reviews of it. I don't personally know anyone who left me an Amazon review; yes, a few of them are review bloggers who I "met" online after they contacted me to say they loved my books, but I don't think that's the same thing.

And yet I see blanket statements like this and what I hear (sorry gothicangel) is "People really love your book, but I can't believe it's actually any good so I think that means you cheated, and I won't read it. Next time write something not as good that people don't like as much, and maybe I'll give it a chance then."

Now, I don't entirely blame you for thinking that way, since the sleazeballs and amateurs and cheats are out there having circle jerks all over Amazon. I blame them, and I hate them for it. But it's still upsetting.

Personally, if I see a self-pubbed or micro-press pubbed book with three rave reviews which say nothing about the writing or plot or whatever, I'm suspicious. But I have my own veracity tests. Is the blurb well-written? Is the cover professional/is the publisher professional? Do the reviewers have other reviews, and for whom? Are the other reviewers writers in the same genre or with the same publisher (again, we're talking about micropresses here)? How well-written are the reviews; are they full of homonym errors, are they vague, are they just a bunch of cliches which say nothing? I think fake reviews are pretty easy to spot, really; does the reviewer have "Author of [book title]" in their name? If so, I'll probably discount it. Does the reviewer list, at the bottom of the review, other books they recommend and one of them happens to be written by someone with the same name? Then I'll discount it. How many reviews are there--if it's a self-pubbed/micropress book with under ten reviews and all of them are clunky collections of praise, I'm suspicious.

Is there a Look Inside feature? I use it, so I can judge the writing for myself and so judge how honest the reviews are. If not, I may try the author's website and look for excerpts.

I don't do this all the time, but I do it often enough, because I don't think anyone deserves to have their work dismissed just because too many people loved it.

And I do agree with Amadan here:



Again, I'd say both those things are true if the number is pretty small, but less likely to be true if you're talking about a book with a lot of ratings.


I just really, really hate authors who try to play with reviews. Because I refuse to do so, and it feels like I--and others, of course, because I don't actually have any friends who participate in such sleaziness--are punished for their dishonesty.


(Sorry, this is one of those subjects about which I get really frothed up. :))

Gary Clarke
01-01-2012, 07:54 PM
I really don't meant to sound like I'm yelling at you--I hope I don't, and I'm really just using your post as a jumping-off point rather than "rebutting" you or anything--I'm just giving another POV on this.

I can't help but feel that I've insulted you, though. It does felt like you were taking much of what I said personally. I really didn't mean to hurt or offend you. I wasn't in any way speaking about authors who reccomend books that they like and enjoy. Those kinds of books should be recommended, regardless of whether or not one is friends with the author. I was simply discussing the phenomenon of authors who recommend books because the author of said books is their friend/in the same stable. That is all. Ok?

Gary Clarke
01-01-2012, 08:10 PM
So, it could be that you're hitting someone's pet peeve or that there's something that keeps them coming back for more (like plot in the book I read) but they are being turned off by something that isn't jiving with their aesthetic ...f his writerly nerves and he's a bit too caught up in his own tastes to imagine that other folks' tastes will vary.

Oh sure :) I get that about reviews, and I respect the honesty of a bad review just as much as I love the joy of a good one. I simply don't read any of them any more (I did in the very beginning, back when I still believed I could learn from them. But I quickly learnt I couldn't. The opinions expressed are too widely varied. Things that some folks love about the books are the very things other folks seem to hate. They're kind of like marmite that way :) )

I do wonder at someone being so driven by dislike that they would write to the author, though. A fan mail I can understand - it's a natural impulse to encourage or reach out to someone who has touched you positively. Maybe its just me, but it seems odd to reach out in response to the negative. I do suspect this person was very young though, as he expressed a rather naive belief that no war could rise out of a lack of communication between rulers. Also there may have been something of a desire to provoke a public reaction, as he kindly included a link to his online reviews( a link I left pointedly unclicked :) )

CrastersBabies
01-01-2012, 08:40 PM
I've had experience of this as well, both to my detriment and advantage. I've had people downgrade my books simply because I'm not part of the clique.

It's stuff like this that makes me want to kick people in junk. I thought I left high school behind me. The fact that grown adults would do this is pretty astounding. Actually, the first thing that comes to mind is that they feel threatened by you. Letting a "clique" dictate how you're going to review another author is pretty sad.

CrastersBabies
01-01-2012, 08:51 PM
As I've said here before, it's hardly my fault, nor do I deserve to be overlooked, just because 99% of my 70+ Amazon reviews are raves....

My guess is:

1. You're far more professional than some of the scum out there.
2. You got the writing "chops." :)

I believe the system is working as it should for you. I went to check out the reviews for "Unholy Ghosts" and the first three reviews are solid reviews (solid in that they actually discuss what's going on story and craft). Subsequent reviews prove just as legit. I'd read those and say, "hmm, I need to give this a shot." (Which I did, just now, thank you Amazon and thank you Stacia Kane. New reading material for my new Kindle Fire--shazzam!)

I do think that talented writers will rise to the top, regardless of ratings. The few negative reviews I did read were things like, "didn't like the dialects in the speech" (which doesn't turn me off - thus I can ignore that one).

Sorry for using you as an example, but once I went to check some of the reviews out, I got lost there for a bit in dreamy dreamy new book land.

The sad thing is, I hear about Scarlet's experience and others who had their genuine reviews removed and I'm kind of honked off at Amazon. I feel like they need to come up with a better system of dealing with those goons without making it harder for people who are benefitting in a legit way.

I feel like Pooh bear: think, think, think. And I am. :)

CrastersBabies
01-01-2012, 08:54 PM
Oh sure :) I get that about reviews, and I respect the honesty of a bad review just as much as I love the joy of a good one. I simply don't read any of them any more (I did in the very beginning, back when I still believed I could learn from them. But I quickly learnt I couldn't. The opinions expressed are too widely varied. Things that some folks love about the books are the very things other folks seem to hate. They're kind of like marmite that way :) )

I do wonder at someone being so driven by dislike that they would write to the author, though. A fan mail I can understand - it's a natural impulse to encourage or reach out to someone who has touched you positively. Maybe its just me, but it seems odd to reach out in response to the negative. I do suspect this person was very young though, as he expressed a rather naive belief that no war could rise out of a lack of communication between rulers. Also there may have been something of a desire to provoke a public reaction, as he kindly included a link to his online reviews( a link I left pointedly unclicked :) )

And the fact that he continued the series, too . . . yeah, weird. =O

Gary Clarke
01-02-2012, 07:38 PM
The sad thing is, I hear about Scarlet's experience and others who had their genuine reviews removed and I'm kind of honked off at Amazon.

I kinda gave up on Amazon once I'd discovered goodreads. I think it's more user friendly and I find the standard of reviews to be generally quite high and thoughtful. I may be totally wrong, but goodreads also seems more bookish and less marketing oriented? (though there are ads and links to sales sites etc -the main focus is discussion?)

Stacia Kane
01-02-2012, 08:28 PM
I can't help but feel that I've insulted you, though. It does felt like you were taking much of what I said personally. I really didn't mean to hurt or offend you. I wasn't in any way speaking about authors who reccomend books that they like and enjoy. Those kinds of books should be recommended, regardless of whether or not one is friends with the author. I was simply discussing the phenomenon of authors who recommend books because the author of said books is their friend/in the same stable. That is all. Ok?


No, no, you didn't at all, and I'm very sorry if I came off that way. Like I said, this is a topic about which I tend to get a little wrought up, but I was honestly just using your post as a jumping-off point; it really wasn't intended as a direct rebuttal to you personally or anything, just a good step-up to a soapbox. :)

Like I said, I agree those groups exist and that it's wrong. I dislike authors trying to play readers, any way they do it. I've just heard comments like that so many times, and wanted to make the point that not all author promo groups do that sort of thing.

To be honest, I forgot for a moment while writing it where I was and to whom I was speaking, and I apologize for that. (I would have come back to elaborate, but I was making lasagna bolognese from scratch--homemade bolognese, homemade bechamel sauce, the works--and it was time to put it all together and get it in the oven, and by the time I was done with that my mind was elsewhere.)



I believe the system is working as it should for you. I went to check out the reviews for "Unholy Ghosts" and the first three reviews are solid reviews (solid in that they actually discuss what's going on story and craft). Subsequent reviews prove just as legit. I'd read those and say, "hmm, I need to give this a shot." (Which I did, just now, thank you Amazon and thank you Stacia Kane. New reading material for my new Kindle Fire--shazzam!)

I do think that talented writers will rise to the top, regardless of ratings. The few negative reviews I did read were things like, "didn't like the dialects in the speech" (which doesn't turn me off - thus I can ignore that one).

Sorry for using you as an example, but once I went to check some of the reviews out, I got lost there for a bit in dreamy dreamy new book land.



:blush: Well, thank you! I hope you like it!

I think the problem for me is, while I'd like to believe the talented writers rise to the top, I've seen so many people comment online that they won't try the books--not just mine, because I wouldn't specifically refer to myself as a "talented writer," but I've seen this with more books than just my own--because they've been "overhyped." It's depressing, you know? People are certainly free to choose books based on whatever criteria they want, but it's just a bit difficult to feel I'm being punished, or other writers are being punished, because I/they wrote something a small vocal number of people really loved. You know, all the rave reviews in the world don't mean much if the books aren't selling.




The sad thing is, I hear about Scarlet's experience and others who had their genuine reviews removed and I'm kind of honked off at Amazon. I feel like they need to come up with a better system of dealing with those goons without making it harder for people who are benefitting in a legit way.

I feel like Pooh bear: think, think, think. And I am. :)


And I completely agree. I wish Amazon had a better system in place, or were more vigilant about their review system, but at the same time I honestly can't imagine how they could fix the problems. The only real idea I can come up with is to somehow mark the accounts of those who have Author Central accounts, so there's a record of those people's activity; like, "Stacia Kane voted this review as helpful" or whatever. Which I'm not entirely comfortable with.

It would help if they paid attention to things like the Highland Press scandal, where an "author" and her group of cronies attacked a reader for a so-so review. The reader, who was blameless, was banned, while the authors were allowed to continue attacking others. It was shameful.

I don't know, perhaps if enough people starting emailing them to complain they'd do something, but I don't count on it. I frankly don't think Amazon cares about either authors or readers.

scarletpeaches
01-02-2012, 08:43 PM
I've never had problems with reviewers or reviews on Amazon. It's Goodreads where these idiots seem to hang out in my experience.

CrastersBabies
01-02-2012, 09:30 PM
I kinda gave up on Amazon once I'd discovered goodreads. I think it's more user friendly and I find the standard of reviews to be generally quite high and thoughtful. I may be totally wrong, but goodreads also seems more bookish and less marketing oriented? (though there are ads and links to sales sites etc -the main focus is discussion?)

I have a goodreads account that I rarely use. I think I'll go check out the ratings now. Thanks for the suggestion, Gary.




:blush: Well, thank you! I hope you like it!

Just broke into it last night. I'm loving it so far. I'm really big on voice and Chess is hella great to read. I suggested it to a friend as well.



It would help if they paid attention to things like the Highland Press scandal, where an "author" and her group of cronies attacked a reader for a so-so review. The reader, who was blameless, was banned, while the authors were allowed to continue attacking others. It was shameful.

I don't know, perhaps if enough people starting emailing them to complain they'd do something, but I don't count on it. I frankly don't think Amazon cares about either authors or readers.

I'm ugh.... wow. This is a side of publishing that I haven't read much about. Very scary. Have you ever had a "stalkerish" review? (for lack of better term).


I've never had problems with reviewers or reviews on Amazon. It's Goodreads where these idiots seem to hang out in my experience.

That's too bad. I don't get the nastiness in the book community. I guess there are goobers in all walks of life here, and the internet gives them the freedom to behave badly. I really don't have much activity on goodreads, but now I definitely want to check it out to see the good/bad.

Amadan
01-02-2012, 10:13 PM
Of course Amazon doesn't care about readers or writers; Amazon cares about selling books.

I still think it's very unlikely that any writer's career has been significantly affected, positively or negatively, by Amazon reviews.

Stacia Kane
01-03-2012, 04:20 PM
I'm ugh.... wow. This is a side of publishing that I haven't read much about. Very scary. Have you ever had a "stalkerish" review? (for lack of better term).

Luckily I haven't, no, but I know someone who did, and it was very unpleasant.






I still think it's very unlikely that any writer's career has been significantly affected, positively or negatively, by Amazon reviews.


Oh, and I agree. Worrying too much about Amazon reviews is pointless; much like taking Amazon rankings as any kind of real indicator of anything.

My issue with gaming Amazon reviews isn't really about reviews and/or sales. It's about the culture of mistrust and animosity I believe it helps cultivate between writers and readers.

Ken
01-03-2012, 04:41 PM
... there is a simple solution that would help "a bit."
Amazon could post a note by the book ratings asking people to be fair and not to give a book more stars or less stars than it deserves based on criteria other than the merits of the book itself.

Overall, I find Amazon ratings helpful. The reviews, too, when I'm looking for a book.