View Full Version : Bad reviews for length?

10-01-2012, 05:44 AM
Something I've noticed recently and wondered if other authors had as well.

I don't have an e-reader currently, but judging by a few emails that sent me (reluctantly) to check out some reviews, there are readers out there who routinely bitch about the length of a book and rate it very low if there are too few pages to suit them.

Now, in my case, I had no idea that the e-version of the book was well over a hundred "pages" shorter than the print version (at least on whichever e-reader that particular reader was using). But that format of a recent book garnered several low reviews only because the readers resented being asked to pay whatever price they paid for "such a short book." One reader even accused me of actually publishing a novella and calling it a novel. Another bitched because she expected "at least 500 pages" for the price she paid.

I know there's a whole segment of the population with a sense of entitlement about a lot of things, and God knows everybody out there with an Internet connection seems convinced the whole world wants to know their opinion on absolutely everything from their breakfast Egg McMuffin to the book or movie they just "enjoyed."

Is this whole thing getting worse, or have I just spent so much time studiously avoiding online reviews (and a whole lot of Facebook posts) that I'm feeling surprise and indignation for no good reason?

10-01-2012, 05:57 AM
Some of it can be avoided by giving a rough word count for the book in the description. You'll always get the person who doesn't pay attention, but at least it means anyone reading the review can see exactly how short/long it was.

But yes, it's not that uncommon. I know shorts sometimes get marked down for not being novels, when it was in the description and on the cover.

10-01-2012, 08:43 AM
I just checked, and did indeed find a difference in the number of pages between the mass market and Nook versions of one of mine -- nearly a hundred pages.

Then I checked the same book on Amazon, and their info made a point of saying the Kindle version had the same number of "pages" as the paper version. In my case, it was the mass-market format.

I knew there were going to be some variations while all these formats get sorted out. What I don't know is why readers don't check all the available info before they buy the frickin' book, so they later can't bitch about the number of pages they would have been aware of going in.

Then again, I've received too many notes from readers who missed information right on the page -- in boldface, yet --- so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Some people just have to have something to bitch about.

10-01-2012, 09:05 AM
One problem I've never encountered.


10-01-2012, 11:22 AM
Sometimes I do have to remind myself I'm one of the lucky ones. To have been published this long. To have just survived all the rollercoaster ups and downs of publishing in the last decades.

It's times like that I'm glad for an email that tells me someone rediscovered the love of reading because of me, or got through a difficult time in life because my work took them somewhere else for a while.

I'm lucky to have readers to bitch about. Believe me, I get that. But I won't lie. For me, writing is long stretches of struggle punctuated by precious moments of sheer joy. It's my vocation and I wouldn't choose another, but it is a job.

And right now, in the middle of the night, I'm facing the fact that I'm going to miss a deadline. Dammit.

10-01-2012, 07:40 PM
Many readers simply want a lot of pages for their money. This is why print publishers are reluctant to take on novels below a certain length.

It doesn't much matter how much or how little a reader spends, a lot of readers still want as many pages as possible.

And, really, why should readers have to go to those lengths to check out a book? I know this much, a reader IS entitled to expect both quality and consistency in something they buy. If different places have or give different page counts for a book, it is not the reader's responsibly to sort it out. This responsibility belongs to the writer and the publisher.

Bad entitlement is wanting something for nothing. When someone parts with beer money to buy your book, it's a whole new animal. That money gives them the right to expect certain things, and it's up to the writer and the publisher to deliver those wants, else that beer money will go to a writer/publisher who gives them what they pay for.

10-01-2012, 07:52 PM
I think it is important that the reader know roughly how big the book is when they buy it. IMHO a lot of epublishers use terms like "novel" far too broadly.

The only time I ever returned a print book to Amazon it was because everything in the listed suggested a novel, and I got a 40 page pamphlet stapled in the middle. A lot of ebook readers are getting "burned" in a similar way.

Duration of reading is part of the experience that can fall short if the novella or short story length, or even non-epic length of a commonly epic genre like high fantasy, is not clear.

That said, a wide spread sensitivity has let to some unjustified whining. It is a 'buyer beware' issue if page or word count is provided by the vendor.

10-01-2012, 08:38 PM
I always look for an approximate page count before I buy a book on Amazon, especially self published ones. I do like longer books, just because I feel the stories are more developed. But I would never leave a bad review based on length, that just seems silly.

10-01-2012, 09:37 PM
Do the ebook versions of these books have less content, ore are they shorter due to formatting?

I do expect to pay more for longer books, as a rule. With paper copies, it makes a little sense to me to pay more for more paper. But page count is obviously not a perfect indication of the length of a story or even the word count. With electronic editions, page count can be a worthless measure sometimes.

I don't think it's unreasonable for readers to want an idea of how long something is. But word count is probably more meaningful than page count when it comes to ebooks.

10-01-2012, 09:46 PM
I have been irritated in the past at buying things advertised as "novels" that are obviously long-ish short stories. (Let's say...15K words or fewer.) So I can see readers being really upset by something like that. If they're told they're buying a novel, they pay $5, and then they get a short story well...yeah, they have a right to be angry.

Otherwise, I agree that it's pretty entitled. (And probably the best way around it is to post a word count. And to know that advertising something less than, say, 40K words long as a novel isn't the most ethical thing to do.) Never had a problem with short novels, though. I'd rather not read through padding.

G. Applejack
10-01-2012, 09:50 PM
I've never given a bad review simply for that, but I have been ticked off when I paid novel price for a short (under 20k) novella. Now I make sure to pay strict attention to the page count. Buyer beware.

10-02-2012, 02:03 AM
Though I could be wrong, it's possible the anger comes from the feeling of being cheated.

As a reader if I bought an ebook that was 100 pages shorter than the printed version with no assurance that the word count was the same, I'd believe the ebook was edited. I'd feel cheated for what I'd missed. But then I don't care for abridged books.

A note that the ebook had X number of words, the same as the print version, would help me.

Even if the reader thinks the publisher/ producer screwed up and put out a flawed ebook, they don't seem to realize they could write the publisher and/or the producer directly rather than expect the author to pass the message along. Of course putting reviews up at Amazon/BN is much easier than writing a letter.

10-02-2012, 02:20 AM
The Nook version was actually missing content, or it just had a different number of "pages" due to format?
The latter is hardly anything to get worked up over . . .

10-02-2012, 02:23 AM
Absolutely no big deal if it's formating, but the thing is, without the word count same as the print version, the reader won't know.

I've never seen print book with the word count listed. Maybe I don't know where to look.

10-02-2012, 02:34 AM
I've had this problem with my shorter works on Amazon, but there's nothing you can do about it really. I make the word count and page number clear in each of my blurbs, immediately visible at the end of the story summary, and if people choose to disregard that (which they often do), well, I did what I could.

But honestly, I don't think it really hurts you that much. In my experience, most other consumers usually hop on those reviews without any prompting from me or anyone else and downvote them or point out that its unfair to penalize a book for being what it was advertised as being. And consumers who use reviews as part of their decision making process are hardly going to be swayed not to buy a short story because shockingly, it was a short story.

10-02-2012, 03:13 AM
But honestly, I don't think it really hurts you that much. In my experience, most other consumers usually hop on those reviews without any prompting from me or anyone else and downvote them or point out that its unfair to penalize a book for being what it was advertised as being. And consumers who use reviews as part of their decision making process are hardly going to be swayed not to buy a short story because shockingly, it was a short story.

Yeah, I've seen several cases where a one-star review was given to a non-fiction book for being about exactly what the title indicated it was about, when they were (mysteriously) expecting something else. Sometimes it's clearly a vocabulary issue. Other times, it's hard to tell what people were thinking.

This past month, I've stumbled across two different one-star reviews left on the wrong book (i.e. it's clear from the review what book they thought they were ripping to shreds, not seeing that they left the review on a different book by a different author. One that has a similar color cover and each shows up on the other's "people who buy... also buy...", but that's the only connection between them.