Monday, February 29, 2016

Provoked by Christopher Nuttall on "According To Hoyt": about reviewing

You can find the original post here on According to Hoyt::

Sarah et co. are just down the road a spell from me at the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga. Therefore, Chris did a guest column, and it punched my buttons.

This originally was just going to be a comment on his column, but since it addresses some specific points about reviewing that had been on my mind, I found it impossible not to let it blossom into a complementary blog post. So, my comment over at ATH is just the intro; this is the entire beast.

I feel celebratory because this column validates most of my practices, gives me a new idea, and provides a forum where I can spit in the eye of one who first attacked, then attempted to sabotage my reviews.

First of all, those of you who read my book reviews on Amazon and on my blog have told me that you like my reviews because they are detailed, and show that I have paid attention to the book, not just read the summary and dashed off a line or two.  Validation point one!

The next point has to do with indie books, and those, plus books published by Baen, comprise nearly all of my reading.  If I encounter plot holes (rarely) or problems with word usage and sentence construction (which is unfortunately a more frequent occurrence), I bring this to the attention of the author.  However, story and characters always, always trump improper use of commas.  In one case, Cedar and I combined forces and the author removed his book; but that is ONE book out of the 203 reviews I have written over the past year and 1/2, and it's entirely possible that I have read, but not reviewed, anywhere from 200 to 300 additional books.  Clunky sentence formation, poor word choice, but good story and characters: in my opinion, that's four stars, because "I like it." (The Amazon definition.) Validation point two!

The last area in which I feel my practices have been validated has to do with the fact that I feel that my mission is to get good books into the hands of readers.As of 8:53 Eastern today, February 29, 2016, at Amazon there are 210,237 Sci-Fi titles; 226,439 fantasy titles; and 12,963 gaming titles.  Those are books in all formats.  It's very rare that I deal with anything other than Kindle; there are 192,205 Kindle titles.  In the last month alone, there have been 11,062 new releases.  The best way that I know of to get good books in the hands of readers is to find the books I like and tell other people about it as well as I can.  Validation point three!

And now, Christopher gives me a NEW IDEA: I feel painfully stupid to have overlooked it.  However, as I have had occasion to rediscover lately, largely through the ministrations of my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, currying black grand mother of Woodstock, Georgia: I am not the source of all knowledge.  So, even though it may be a simple idea, it's new to me: join the author's forums/blogs/etc, and make comments.  I do that with the Mad Genius Club, but I could do much better than that.

And finally, Christopher Nuttall's column provides a forum where I can spit in the eye of one who first attacked, then attempted to sabotage my reviews.

Last week, for the first time, I was contacted by Amazon vendors who wanted me to review a product.  I wasn't really certain about how the stated ethical reviewing guidelines applied in practice, so I went to an Amazon review forum, and asked a question about shipping and handling fees on the items submitted for a review.  I did, eventually, get the answer to my question, but not before at least three different people complained about the way I was reviewing.  Evidently, the fact that most of my reviews are four or five star ratings causes some to think that I'm not honest.  When I responded that only bought the books that I thought was going to like, another person said that they were so tired of hearing that excuse.  Finally, I was castigated for stating that provided feedback to authors, and was told that my reviews were not trustworthy and worthless.  I thanked them for their input, told them it didn't seem worthwhile for me as a book reviewer to try to expand into product reviews, and on my second attempt was able to stop following that thread.

But then the plot thickened.  Most of my reviews received at least one "helpful" vote; some receive as many as five, but it's rare that someone will vote "not helpful" on one of my reviews; it's so rare in fact, that I'm inclined to believe that the author has an enemy, or that I have inadvertently stepped into something political.  Imagine my surprise then the next time I checked my reviews and found that each one of (then) last three reviews, published on February 19, February 25, and February 26,  had all been given a down vote!  I suppose someone felt I must be punished, and took it upon them sales to do so.  Why would they not down vote every one of my reviews?  Evidently, Amazon has safeguards in place to prevent that from happening.  It's still seems rather childish to me; I can almost hear "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" echoing through cyber-space.
One person's snit doesn't matter, and that's all this appears to be. I just checked, and they haven't troubled themselves to go any further. I'm not certain what advantage they felt they were gaining in doing that, but it IS true that when Amazon is rating a n author's BOOK, a good review by a highly rated reviewer has more impact on how many places the book moves up the ladder than a review by a low rated reviewer. There are other factors; for example, a person who shows up as a Verified Purchaser will have a bigger impact than one who does not show up as a Verified Purchaser. A bit aggravating to me, since I pay for the privilege of reading these books through the Kindle Unlimited program, and yet am not a Verified Purchaser.
So, to the unknown down-voter: phooey on you!


  1. Detractors: Some people just want to tear others down. Did a BaBW post on that once.

    I'll share a story from my own experience: The site I post my fanfiction at has a simple upvote/downvote ranking system. If you like a story, you can upvote, if you dislike a story (in theory), you downvote. In practice however, most people just use it to troll. The biggest example I ever had of this was when one of my stories reached the top 250 of the site (out of ... 150,000?). I mentioned it in a post about other things, that it had been a nice moment to see it land above the top 250.

    Within minutes it was no longer there. Someone went in and hit it with a downvote, and it dropped.

    Everything I write for that site gets at least one downvote within a few minutes of posting. One story was descended upon en masse after I embarrassed a group of like-minded circlejerkers (or more accurately, got them to embarrass themselves) who mass downvoted it all at once.

    Some people are just jerks who have never accomplished much in life, and the only thing they have going for them is tearing others down from the dreams they don't have the will, inclination, or skill to reach. It sucks, but you've got to push through, because you really can't get rid of them.

    Sorry to hear you've begun to attract the trolls. Just keep at it. I know I appreciate you doing what you can to leave a lot of authors reviews.

    1. It's pathetic; like one preschooler breaking another preschooler's crayons.