Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ain’t No Cure for the Viral WTF

As most of you who are now following this blog can probably imagine it has been a crazy couple of days. Just when I think it is going to calm down something happens that keeps it going. I understand “going viral” from an entirely new perspective now. For the handful of people who followed me previously and haven’t gotten wind of what I’m talking about read the comments on this reviewThe first fifty or so should be enough. A few people posted about it on some internet forums and within a short time word was spreading throughout the internet via twitter, Facebook, forums, emails, and no doubt other avenues I’m not aware of. I thought it would be a good idea to give a run down on several subjects surrounding the entire episode. Many of my friends say I like to bloviate (look it up). Here comes a bunch of that.

Early on Red Adept, the Queen of Kindle reviewers, was kind enough to lend her support. I appreciate that and the many others with the kind comments via the blog, emails, Facebook, and twitter. It seemed many of you intuitively understood what I’m aiming for with this blog and are now following it through the many venues available. I appreciate it and hope you continue to like what I’m doing. Spread the word to your friends. I know, the whole world has done that already. :D

On the subject of Ms. Howett, I’ve already said most of what needed saying in my comments. Many of you pointed out the fallacy in her thinking it was my “fault” if she sent me a bad copy of her book, and many of you understood that despite not being obligated I DID get the newer version. Thanks to those who investigated and pointed out that the current version still had the issues I saw. Some think this was a planned publicity stunt. If so I wasn’t let in on it and question how successful it was. Her sales rank did rise, but I don’t believe this reflects that many sales.

There is a coffee mug some enterprising soul has made available immortalizing one of Ms. Howett’s comments, a youtube video, and write-ups on Slate.Com, and The Guardian website.  The episode made the front page of Fark.com, and many other mainstream, non-book related websites. I’ve been happy that the commentary about me is generally positive.

One thing that rankles me is those posting 1 star reviews on Amazon, having not read the book at all. Those who read the sample and posted I have mixed feelings about. They at least had some basis for their comments. The technical issues I pointed out are apparent early on. Those who posted without reading at all are – I’d better not use any of the terms I really want. Unethical, rude, and inhumane are some more polite ways to put it. For the record I feel the same about 5 star reviews from friends and family who haven’t read the book or 1 star reviews based on price. I’m happy Amazon has weeded out most of the bogus reviews from Ms. Howett’s book.

I appreciate feedback. Although I hope everyone can see a distinction between a typo or grammar error on a blog and the same in a book, I’m still aiming for error free while realizing I probably won’t hit it any time soon. Pointing out those issues in emails or comments means I can fix it and potentially improve in this area myself. I freely admit I’m not perfect in this area. (I suspect concentrating on use, non-use, and misuse of commas would be the most fruitful area to explore.) Other feedback or suggestions are appreciated as well.

Last, if any of you are interested in “the numbers.” Prior to the Big Bang I was averaging about 50 visits a day. (Visits, not to be confused with page views, which appear to run between 1 and 2 average per visit.) My previous high was just shy of 300 visits last Friday when the negative review post was published. 
Monday I had 52, 000 visits, 194,000 on Tuesday, and as I write this with 4 hours remaining in Wednesday it appears I’ll come close to matching that. The number of followers (twitter, Facebook, and Google Friend Connect) was about 230 and has now climbed to 1,900. Links have been shared on Facebook in excess of 2,000 times and while I have no idea how many tweets have gone out, I would be amazed if the number isn’t many thousands. Not to mention a yet-to-be-determined number of book review submissions that is well north of 100. (If anyone is interested in an unpaid book reviewer position, email BooksAndPals(at)Yahoo(dot)com and tell me about yourself.) Authors and publishers who have submitted this week, I’ll be attempting to make contact over the next several days as I formulate a plan of attack for the crush of electrons in my to-be-read file.

To say it is surreal and a bit overwhelming (in a good way) is an understatement. Thanks again for all your support. I hope everyone will keep coming back. I am optimistic the future of this blog will meet your expectations.

95 comments:

KimberlySue said...

The power that the internet holds is amazing!! Congrats! :)

Helen Smith said...

Great post, as always, Al.

Judy Croome said...

Well-balanced and mature response. I'm glad this went viral because I discovered your blog.

I agree with your assessment of the rather cruel "ganging up" on Amazon. It felt a bit like watching a pack of pigeons turn on a weak and wounded pigeon and peck it to death.

Judy Croome, South Africa

Ramona Richards said...

I've been watching all this with an editor's eye, and I want to thank you for what you do, and for how graciously you've handled all this. I started following you because of it, but will continue to do so for a number of reasons, the least of which is that I'm part of the publishing industry.

One note on typos in ebooks, however. The conversion process is still an inexact science, and while our print books may have a few, our ebooks sometimes have words slammed together, characters that run amok, etc. Stuff that's not in the print versions. We're working with our conversion house on those, but it's not perfect yet.

Bad writing is a different subject entirely.

Just one comment about Ms. Howett. I forwarded the link along not to make fun of her but as a lesson to the writing community I'm a part of. Be gracious. The internet is forever and editors have long memories and love to gossip. And, yes, we will google you before we take a book to the pub board.

Paul Ellis said...

Bloviate is a truly awesome word (not just cool, but actually inspiring awe). Being guilty of the same, I shall now incorporate the term into my vocabulary. Thank you for expanding my word pool. If I use it twice more, it's mine for life.

On a more serious note, I believe one of the most compelling reasons why you have received such a large number of requests for review is your balanced approach, general fairness and your obvious love of your work. Yes, all the attention helped, however I am of the opinion that your quiet integrity and professionalism in the face of events gone viral is a bigger draw to authors than any amount of "association by name recognition."

I was not a reader of your blog before this incident. After reading a-half-a-dozen of your reviews, I remedied that situation. You have something good going on here; something I enjoy and am glad to have found. Congratulations!

Lauren Wilder said...

Hi Al,
I read the thread yesterday.The power of the internet is amazing.
I am a new writer and I hope you will review my work when my book is available. Your review of Miss Howetts book struck me as mostly positive and very honest.
That's the type of reviewer I want, especially as a new writer,I am sure I have much to learn and would value your honest opinion.

Lauren.

Sean Sweeney said...

I'm very proud of the way you've handled all of this, Mr. Al.

darthlaurie said...

Hi Al,
I would like to also thank all the people who made this viral. Because your blog is so awesome I had to ask my bf what an RSS Feed was and now I'm going to be a regular follower of your blog. The reviews I've read of yours are awesome. Thanks!

Lyn Horner said...

I greatly admire your calm, even-handed response to Ms. Howett's attack upon you. As an indie author, I hope you will not hold her poor behavior and dismally awkward writing against all of us. I'm sure you won't because you are obviously a true gentleman.

L Haywood Coffey said...

I'd never heard of you before I saw the listing on Fark, so I'd say you have arrived. Now I know that I will never respond to critizm of my spelling in a booke or and articel. Or BaDD Forming of the THML code

www.lhaywoodcoffey.com

Dale Eldon said...

As a sensitive writer, I felt you handled everything perfectly. She was out of line, and because of her behavior, there is no way I would read one of her books.

I refuse to allow myself to be associated with someone who flames reviewers, let alone one who did nothing to warrent it.

I heard of her comments through another author who posted about it on his blog, and as he said, Howett shows what NOT to do when you read a review you feel is bad.

A writer needs to learn humility, even over small things. You didn't put down her book, there was nothing there for her to get mad at. If it was me, I would have been mad at myself for allowing a copy of my book to go out without a lot of proof reading. That is what a professional writer does, self-published, or not.

I don't know if her stories would appeal to me, but I read a book when I know the author is likeable. Even if I don't know them. After reading her comments, there was nothing likable about her words. She is the kind of person I would avoid. She did that to herself.

sinisterechoes.com said...

Did you know even Neil Gaiman was tweeting about this?

I found out about it via Twitter and I must say, I think you handled the chaos graciously.

No matter how insane Miss Howett's rantings became, you remained level-headed and calm.
That showed that you have a lot of integrity.

I'm not an indie author, as I am seeking traditional publications instead, but if I were, I would be proud to have someone like you review my novel one day. However, I do suspect you will be rather busy from now on.

All the best
Alannah Murphy

Jeffrey Miller said...

You're a class act, Al. Keep up the good work here.

Anne Rainey said...

I agree with Jeffrey! Very classy blog. I'll be reading it daily. :)

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for all the nice comments, everyone.

@sinisterchoes.com - Yes, I was watching twitter and had others reporting to me things they'd seen as well. I know both Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry tweeted about it and generated a ton (a word I seem to overuse) of retweets. I'm sure there were other big hitters I missed. To say it has been quite an experience would be an extreme understatement.

Lori M. Lee said...

Pretty amazing what the internet can do lol (for good or ill). Thanks for staying level headed!

MissFifi said...

I came across your blog via a twitter from literary agent Kim Lionetti and dare I say you held your tongue beautifully.
As an unpublished author, to even get reviewed would be an honor. Bad or good, I want it to improve my work. That is what was so horrifying, watching the poor gal freak out over any and all criticism.
That being said, I hate weeding through the vast sea of ebooks so your site is about to become invaluable. Keep up the good work!

Paula Styles said...

I would like to thank Ms Howett for bringing this wonderful blog to the attention of the world. As for Ms Howett, I won't be reading any of her books after her disgraceful behaviour.

Woozlehound said...

I am obviously repeating what has been said repeatedly - the power of the Internet is immense. I found your blog from a link posted by Neil Gaiman & I think you showed a level of professionalism which should take you a good deal further. I expect people will be clamouring for a review from you in future - very well done. If I ever finish my book, find a publisher & make it to print, I would love to have it reviewed by you :o)

S.L. Baum said...

Well said, Al. Well said :)

Anonymous said...

BigAl, I will be returning to read your reviews. Congrats on going viral!

If you are interested, the link below shows you some stats about visits, tweets and facbook shares through bit.ly alone (not including raw URLs, other link shorteners, etc...)

http://bit.ly/hEp5LI+

Keep up the good work!

Jon King said...

Stand your ground, man. It was a shameful display on the author's part and a very rational response on yours. The review wasn't even that harsh, just honest, as far as I could tell. As an emerging book blogger myself, I appreciate good examples to follow. Thanks.
-Jon

Tony said...

I'm a new fan, Al. This is a hilarious event for your blog, but your reviews are quite wonderful besides. I have some comapssion for Ms Howett, however, since I realize that she feels she got a bum rap and was speaking up for herself. My hunch is that she has some sort of personality disorder, which of course is not mutually exclusive to being a good author. Telling people to "f**k off" might even be a positive attribute for some authors.

The controversy sort of makes me want to read her book just to see what it's about... maybe her apssion translates to her writing.

petemorin said...

Everything happens for a reason, Al. I love the numbers.

Marion said...

You've acted as a gentleman throughout. I'll admit I was unaware of your blog until the trouble started a brewing, but enjoyed your forum presence. The irony, of course, is that you are a staunch supporter of indie authors and their books and not someone out to get anyone.

That the story has exploded the way it has, is a sign of the changes in publishing and the shift to bloggers, twitters and other customers as the new gatekeepers in publishing.

Anonymous said...

Leo at zenhabits.com just included it in his post on how to handle criticism and referred to Ms. Howett's response as a "train wreck." From my perspective, finding your blog has been a boon. I've been wanting to find a good book review site.

mmshaunakelley said...

I have to echo that you handled with class and dignity. As an author, I understand sensitivity, but other than pointing out the grammatical errors, the review was flattering.

You've really set an excellent example for the blogging community, one I wish the author had also set for the communities in which she participates.

Blogger King said...

Why did you disable commenting on the Jacqueline Howett review post? I got a kick out of reading the couple hundred comments that made it in before the lock down.

Claudine said...

Oh goodness. I read the original thread and have to say that while the comments in the end were no longer about the problems inherent in a self publishing medium, the author should never ever have commented on your review.

I am by no means a book reviewer, I read because the written word is like food to me. My soul needs it desperately. However, as with a poorly cooked meal, some books just don't do their words justice. I find that as a professional reader and very much amateur reviewer, even I have to carefully phrase a less than 5 star review. I dared to disagree with an author about my enjoyment of her book (an indie) with 3 stars and got a snarky comment in return. (mine didn't go viral though :) )

I think "authors" like the one reviewed tend to think that they are Gods of the Pen when they are merely apprentices sinking to the bottom of a silt covered stagnant pond.

Imogen Rose said...

Good post, Al. You handled yourself very well.

BooksAndPals said...

@Blogger King: There are many who believed I should have shut the comments down earlier than I did. In restrospect I agree. While a lot of very pertinent comments were made and continued to be made they were also going over and over the same ground.

I'm not the kind of person who likes to kick someone when they're down. It had reached or passed that point when I finally shut comments off.

M.P. McDonald said...

Great post, Al. As far as your comma usage goes or other typos on blogs, I think it's uaually been perceived that a blog is a totally different beast than a book. Blog posts are probably re-read once or twice before hitting the post button. They are less formal and more conversational than, say, a newspaper article. It's what makes blogs so much fun to read!

Anyway, for what it's worth, when you beta'd my book, you were the king of finding missing words. Little words like 'the', 'a', 'it'. My brain totally fills them in when I'm re-reading, and I think it did for others too, because nobody else found them like you did. Thank you!

M.P. McDonald said...

D'oh! I did it again! I missed an 's' in usually! (In all fairness, I'm eating popcorn as I type this and my fingers are full of salt and butter!)

Me said...

I think you handled it well. Also, I would never read a random romance novel in order to give the writer constructive criticism. I think you (and others like you) should be commended for what you do. It gives the writer the opportunity to refine current or future work.

Don't worry about those commenting on your blogs grammar issues. The key difference is that you did not send them your blog and ASK for a review. They came here to defend a fellow writer or friend most likely. Also, we aren't having to fill in articles or other words in order to understand your sentences, your errors are harder to find.

The fact is that it sounded as if the author felt her work so amazing that she was doing you a favor by letting you read it.

@Blogger King: I'm sure he disabled the commentary because it had went viral and the comment list had become quite long.

Anonymous said...

I had not heard of your blog before seeing the furor on the Amazon Kindle discussion boards. Since then I have added your site to the list of sites I visit daily. Your reviews are well written and even-handed. Thanks for the good work!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a winning idea for a blog, dear sir, and you execute it beautifully. Like tons (I like the word, too) of other people, I followed the train wreck on here the other day, but chose to keep my hands in my pockets rather than jump into the fray. Now that things have quieted down a bit, I'll agree with the other posters and say that you handled the young lady(?) with poise and dignity. AND provided me (and many other bloggers) with a bit of fodder for our own blogs. So, thanks. You are now officially in the spotlight. Run with it!

Ben said...

Keep on rockin' Al! you kept your dignity and your composure in this weird situation and you will emerge as the clear winner with time.

Danielle G. said...

I am one of the legion who found you via the viral WTF, and will remain a follower. I enjoy your reviews, which are full of the kind of thoughtful and critical points authors and readers need to know while being enjoyable to read. I am impressed with the way you handled that situation and the aftermath. It would have been easy for you to get as heated and nasty as Ms. H and those who flamed her without reading her work. This site is an invaluable resource to me as a beginning fiction writer and avid reader.

cussedness said...

Excellent blog. I will be reading you regularly from now on. I'm an older author (30 years as an editor, author, and journalist) who is now bringing out her OP backlist herself. One of my greatest fears (which I discussed at length with Victoria Strauss before deciding to self-publish them) was having my reprints mistaken as the usual mess that self-publishing is famous for.

Kaethe said...

I'm another who followed the kerfluffle and stayed on. I love what you're doing, and am glad you're managing to cope so well.

julienilson said...

I'm sure it's been an insane few days for you, but I'm thinking that you, Al, and possibly self-pub/indie writers in general, will come out ahead in the end.

Personally, I came across the post in a linked article on Fiction Writers' Review, and I found your initial review thoughtful and fair. I'll admit that I came to read the crazy, but I love that someone is posting professional-level reviews of self-pub/indie booke, so I have added your blog to my Google Reader and I bet a lot of others have done the same. And if more people are reading your reviews, then more people might start buying those books.

Don't worry--in another day or so, Charlie Sheen will do something else crazy and people will have something new to talk about. :)

Adelle Laudan said...

I applaud your efforts. The recognition is well-deserved.

Kippoe said...

I was a follower before the incident and will continue to follow.

Belle said...

Wow, that's amazing! Congrats on the increasing success - even if it's probably not quite the way you thought it might happen!

Brandon L. Summers said...

I just heard this was a neat new site that reviews books by indie & self-published authors, and just wanted to know if my novel was any good. I didn't know about the Howett incident or its going viral until well after. I'm still more interested in the body of reviews.

Nichole Chase said...

I was excited to find out about your review site. I know that many people look for your reviews on Amazon, and that they are highly respected. If I had known you had started a blog before the 'Incident', I would have all ready been a follower. I thought that your review of the book was insightful and well thought out. At no point did I feel that you were trying to be hurtful or unfair. I also truly appreciate your outrage for the reviews she received by people that did not actually buy her novel. She did a great deal of damage to herself that day, and treated you horribly after you took time out of your day to read her book.



When I finish my current WIP I plan on submitting it to you for review. I think that I will be given a very honest and courteous review by you or your staff.

Now, go forth with your considerable fame and help us all pick good books to read.

Kristie Leigh Maguire said...

Beautifully written post, Al. I'm proud to know you. I think you have handled all your new-found fame with humility and sincerity. You're still the BA that I knew before you became famous.

BTW, thanks for reviewing my book before you became swamped with submissions for reviews after your blog went viral. I'm even happier that you liked my book and gave it 4 stars. Please know though that if you hadn't liked it, I would have just said thank you for taking the time to review it and wouldn't have told you to FO. LOL

Kristie

~ Wolfe said...

Yes, that was quite a ride. I was introduced to this blog during the firestorm, and it's true I might not have found it otherwise. I didn't see anything at all unfair about the review that sparked the tirade. You took the high road, proving that not all writers have been completely forsaken by good sense and decency. Thank you for that.

This has been an instructive week for writers everywhere. Congratulations on your explosive success, Big Al. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I think that while you handled the initial dialog with the writer well, as soon as it turned abusive, I really wish you would have shut the conversation down. We've all had our crazy moments, and if it ever happens on the internet, a compassionate shut down is the best way to go.

All the best

BooksAndPals said...

I agree, Anon. Were I to have a "do over" I would shut it down sooner than I did.

Fireflywishes said...

Congrats on going viral - I'm a new book blogger to and like so many have said before me, the way you handled yourself really stood out. Your review was very fair and levelheaded. Even though I did discover your blog from a tweet, I am happy I found it because I too take self-published works for review on my blog, and you provided a perfect example of how to behave if I ever come into a similar situation. It must be quite a head-trip to have had your blog noticed by some of the biggest names in the book industry though - woohoo! You're the big winner in all of this - because you acted with supreme professionalism - and even more, with kindness. I'm glad I found the blog, I plan on staying on as a follower :)

April @ My Shelf Confessions

Kel said...

Congrats on your sudden "arrival"... having found you because of the whole fiasco (through at least three different sources including email lists), I'll reassure you that I'm here because I like your review style, and am heartily looking forward to your normal mode.

Good luck, and applause for your grace under pressure.

MichelleReviews said...

Oh, wow, did I post a long comment, and it disappeared. Well, it's a chance for me to be more succinct.

Al, I think you behaved beautifully. Every reviewer fears that anything other than the lightest of criticism will get that response. I'm a staff reviewer at Red Adept Reviews and I had a review pending with some comments on editing that made me send up a prayer it wouldn't go like your experience -- and it didn't. Still, this was the chance reviewers take in exchange for their honesty, and when that response happens it makes other reviewers think twice.

I commented twice on the original thread. One time to try and offer her helpful advice and one time after she told everyone to eff off to say I'd tweeted this. The tweet didn't stay on long, because I knew she didn't need my "help," and that the storm was coming.

What I'm left with is compassion for her. She worked hard at her website and her Facebook and her Youtube channel, in building bridges. While her behavior was wrong and harmful to other indie authors, she didn't know that she was tearing it all down in a fraction of the time it took to build it. I'd like to hope that she can at least salvage lessons from this and give us a great comeback story.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks, Michelle. I agree with your last paragraph. Also appreciate the support you and Lynn gave. I've done reviews before in another arena and experienced backlash, but this was well beyond anything I'd previously seen.

tennysoneehemingway said...

Like many commenters, I only discovered your blog because of the 'controversy' but, again like many commenters, I'll be sticking around. Not in the hope of more controversy but because you write an excellent blog.

Alessa Adamo said...

Hi Al,
I have to admit I found you over this controversy on my Twitter feed. I read each post, mouthing my own version of WTF as I kept reading. I started to believe it was a publicity stunt to try and stir up some viral activity, and I'm still not sure about that. But I am sure I appreciated your review and your replies, which prompted me to submit my own first novel, Night Flight, for your review. And I promise not to act out over a review that is less than hoped for. I've read many of your other reviews since I discovered you and appreciate the work you put into this. Keep it up. We've got your back.

J.M.Cornwell said...

There is a very old saying that still holds true: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Cyberspace visitors and denizens love drama, and you got hit with a whole pot load. Sorry about the drama, but you gotta love the numbers.

I was one of those who linked on twitter and on my blog, but it was worth it.

Rydia said...

Talking about the grammar and typos here, you know...I never really nitpick about it, especially on blogs...typos happen lol. It is nice to see a blog with such nice grammar, but I don't understand why people will point it out in comments (While usually, making some mistakes themselves.) I don't think you have much to worry about in that area, it all looks fine to me. I guess some people just like being rude.

But what I really wanted to say earlier about people saying its unfair to let grammar and typos affect a review, was that if I'm paying money for a book, I expect those major errors to fixed. When I read, I don't want to have to reread the last sentence 3 times trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.

Sorry, I tend to go on and on lol. The way you handled things while under such pressure was very nice though. I know there's NO way I could have kept a cool head in that situation lol. And congrats on going viral...It might be overwhelming, but I'm sure you can benefit from it. Seriously, how many people get to say, "I went viral" (without doing something incredibly embarrassing lol)

Maxine said...

A great job on this site, I like it. I can't believe how your review created such a reaction. I wrote a negative review recently and it got virtually no attention whatsover, what did I do wrong?!! http://caffeineandchaptersreviews.blogspot.com/2011/01/celtic-dagger-jill-paterson.html

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Al I'm one of the many who found your blog through the Howett debacle. I really was impressed with your ability to so tactfully react to her comments. I doubt I would have had the same self control.

I can't wait to read more of your reviews.

Alexa O said...

As an editor and a writer, I know how strange and awful it is when you point out someone else's mechanical problems and then go on to make a grammatical error or publish a typo.

But your review was not that of a Grammar Police blowhard--in fact, you spent as much time complimenting the book as you did pointing out its flaws. All authors should hope for similar "bad" reviews.

Some people point out grammatical errors for the purpose of embarrassing the author. You didn't do that. Your comments had everything to do with readability, and I thought (having, I admit, not read the book) they were very fair as a result.

I thought it was a lovely review, and I feel sorry for Ms. Howett, who I see as mostly a victim, albeit one of her own making.

I'll be following you from now on, and look forward to more reviews!

Anonymous said...

Will definitely follow your site from now on. Kudos and keep up the good work. And as for Ms. H., I hope she's just ok. She doesn't seem to be level-headed enough to receive even the slightest negative criticism; how much more when thousands of readers now think she's a nut job. Sad. One person vs. the world wide web.

Renee Goudeau said...

I want to echo what's been said by everyone. And I first thought: publicity stunt by the author to get name recognition. Couldn't have been to sell a lot of books! But one thing jumped out at me: she may well have English as a second language. Some of her sentence construction sounded like Romance languages. The spelling? That's why I keep a dictionary very close at hand.

One other question, not a comment, are you still accepting books for review or have you had to shut down because of the what must be an overwhelming volume of submissions?

Thank you for bearing up under all this. All we indie authors aren't hack writers looking for a free home.

eilonwyg said...

I found out about this from a memeber of my writer's group and I have to say as much as I am disappointed that it had to be under such circumstances, I like what I've found here overall. I love how fair you are in your critiques and how honorable and calm you've been throughout this whole debacle - even now, you don't hold anything more than perhaps pity for the unfortunate woman. In all honesty, I would have been proud to have received that review for one of my own works. Keep up the good work - I'll be reading.

BooksAndPals said...

@Renee - Regarding you question about still accepting submissions, the answer is yes. My call for volunteers to join me in reviewing has been met with a great response so I'll have several others to help me with the reviewing tasks. Thanks for your interest.

R.J. Smythe said...

I'm one of the ones who sent in a manuscript for review after learning about your blog after it went viral, though I hadn't understood the reasons for your sudden popularity until I read this post.

Er, um. My apologies for the increased workload. That was not my intention, obviously.

Just an idea, maybe not practical: maybe you want to consider creating one or more forums for authors to post their submissions, in which the general readership can read those manuscripts and comment on them/review them without your direct intervention. That would take work off your shoulders, although admittedly may be going in a direction different than what you want for your blog.

Myself, I write for what I hope is the enjoyment of a readership--but finding a focused, targeted place on the net to spotlight what I have to offer hasn't been as easy as you might think. The sites I've found so far have been targeted more toward authors than readers . . . when I post work on those, it's more like I'm in competition with writers who are trying hard to get the attention of a conventional publisher.

Myself, I just want to share the fictional scenarios that are in my brain with people who might, I hope, enjoy reading them, and so am looking for forums in which to do so.

Thank you--



Thank you--

Jude Mason said...

Dear Al,

I'm one of the thousands who read and shuddered at Ms. Howett's rants. I've been back three times to finish reading the posts, and to reread your review. As an author who's had her fair share of both good and bad reviews, I can honestly say, yours was one of the more helpful ones. Often a reviewer who finds a book not to their liking will be much less kind. You gave some extremely good pointers to the author and it's sad she couldn't see that. Good advice and honest reviews are a boon to us.

As for her writing: I did go and download the free chapter allowed by Amazon. The writing definitely needed work, but as you said, did hold promise. I hope she can take a deep breath and realize what she's done to her career and possibly learns from her mistakes.

I wish you all the very best with your blog and may gather my courage and send you my newest for a review. I do wonder how you'll ever manage to get through your backlog. I'm smiling now. You've really created a monster for yourself. Good luck and take care!

Jude Mason

Samantha said...

You deserve every bit of the support you've been getting, it's well earned. Though I don't read the books that you've been reviewing (since I don't have any type of e-reader it's more difficult for me to find them), I enjoy your perspective on reviewing. Keep up the great work, I look forward to reading more!

Beth said...

As others have said before me, I'm glad this viral blowup happened because it led me to your blog. I like your review style and your emphasis on serving the reader's needs, especially in the wild world of indie ebooks.

Renee Goudeau said...

May I intrude to say to Samantha--try downloading the free Kindle for PC. Does a good job and opens the door to all Kindle books. I use mine all the time-esp. to see how my book looks!

Todd C. said...

While her attitude was beyond unprofessional, the level of cruelty and schadenfreude in the comments and on Amazon is horrific. Al, I'm glad at least you (and a few other commenters) have acted human through all of this.

The Internet hive-mind is truly terrifying. It's eternal and has a flawless memory. Slip up once and you're a meme joke forever. I hope she's able to move past this someday, and more importantly, that the rest of the world lets her.

Badger1911 said...

Todd, I tend to disagree. She went in, started to go postal. Then the proverbial shit hit the literal fan and people started to fire back. Acting human? Please... if someone makes a complete idiot out of himself (or herself) and then doesn't have the balls to say "Okay, I was over the top, I'm sorry", but instead goes down the F-Bomb Lane and goes totally hysterical... someone like that deserves to be ridiculed until it stops being funny.

Lesson #1: Pick your fights carefully.

Life is cruel. Get used to it or succumb.

If I would go postal like that every time I meet criticism... I'd be locked up somewhere by now and friendly people in white uniforms would look after my welfare.

Badger1911 said...

Also note: I don't read e-books. They are surely a nifty invention, great technology and an amazing feature. But I prefer a printed book in my hands, no matter how heavy or big it may be. Apart from that, what I usually read never makes it into e-book formats anyway.

Arabella Boxhall said...

Oooh, it's fabelhaft that you're getting so many hits now, dude; especially when you didn't go postal in reply to Ms. Howett going postal on you. As someone else remarked in the other thread, we don't know her situation. Maybe someone she loved died that day and she broke down in your blog. Compassion is always an awesome response to an unknown quantity.

I won't add to your already clogged inbox, but while I'm here I wonder if you could recommend someone to review my book of short stories...? It's so hard to find anyone who likes non-speculative dark fiction. Do you know anyone who might be interested? If not, no worries.

MLBurt said...

Reading your reviews, I can say that I am thoroughly glad for the "Big Bang". They're wonderfully insightful and well-written, reminding me a little of Ebert's film reviews. Also you handled the whole situation with admirable aplomb.

+1 follower. Very interested in this blog.

ZW17 said...

Out of all the places you would have expected this thread to land...

A gun board for AR15 rifle enthusiasts. Yes, you have officially "gone viral"

Shoot straight and in the great words of Ms. Howett, "Fuck off"

http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=1169188

the_voice_of_reason said...

As this whole sorry saga has developed, my attitude to Ms Howett has changed more than once. I wrote one of the earlier negative reviews on amazon.co.uk, in which I endeavoured to explain why I considered her a poor writer. Over the following days, I became concerned that most of the negative reviews were little less than abusive, and amounted to bullying of a woman who might, for all we know, have mental health problems.

I had also posted a one star review of "The Secret Passion of Twins", again explaining the defects in her English. Some days later this drew a response from Ms. Howett herself, ignoring the criticism but calling me "an abuser". My response was to indicate that her comments were not doing her any good, that I had tried to explain why I felt she was a poor writer, that she disagreed but I stood by my opinion. There in hoped matters would rest.

Sadly though, both my review and a subsequent unconnected negative review of "TSPOT" have been deleted from amazon.co.uk. This suggests, to say the least, that Ms. Howett continues to demand the removal of negative reviews of her work, asshe did on your site. This is in my view a disturbing attitude to be adopted by someone who elects to expose their writing to the public. Thus I consider that Ms. Howett has forfeited any claim to my sympathy.

Theresa Milstein said...

Since I'm not on Twitter, it took me a little while to figure out what exactly had happened. Your name came up on a FB post and there had been a blog post about some self-published author exhibiting poor behavior.

This morning, I read your previous post and comments. I also visited Amazon. It's obvious that some "reviewers" just used your review since the only grammar issues they point out are the same ones you did. That is just so low. I've previously had some contact with the author through FB and her blog, but don't really know her. I see she hasn't posted on her blog or FB. I feel bad for her because how many of us do things we regret in the heat of the moment? I hope she figures out a way to make amends. And I think she should pull the book, get a professional edit, and then relaunch.

That said, it is a cautionary tale about self-publishing. I know that when I have buddies critique my manuscript, they find a plethora of mistakes. If I get to the next level, I'm sure agents and editors would too. If I'm ever going to self-publish, I need to be prepared to spend the $ to make my manuscript sparkle. I can't afford to do that at this time.

You handled yourself really well though the whole thing, so now I'm following your blog.

benning said...

Having a teensie publisher I was amazed at the fact that they assigned three editors to my manuscript. Even with that I managed to retain a few errors. Since I'm no Grammar Maven I knew that there'd be errors, and said that any remaining were mine alone - in my Acknowledgements.

The one that still makes me blush was found by my Uncle, after publication. Not surprising, the editors, and I, missed it. I mentioned, in passing, starlings. Not important to the story, and never referred to again. But as my Uncle pointed out, starlings did not exist in North America during the period of the American Revolution. *bangs head on desk*

Yeesh! LOL

When you come right down to it, it is the responsibility of the author to make the grammar, and spelling, as perfect as possible. I did my best. So did my editors! :D

It was a good review, Al. And I blanched at the exchanges between you and the author. As another commenter noted there, she should have thanked you and moved on.

A blogger I respect looked at my book, enjoyed it, but thought the opening chapter began far too slowly. And he decided not to post a 'promo' on his blog. That hurt, but I thanked him for his honesty and moved on. As should anyone receiving a negative review.

Hurts, but that's all a part of writing, right? ;)

Blog on, Al! :D

PS: I have a love/hate affair with commas. >:(

Cold In Seattle said...

Welcome to more reviews than you can handle. And perusing some other sites - you're not the only one.

I am working on accuracy and grammar myself (how am I doing so far ;-) Your original review was great, she just took a critique as a personal attack, as opposed to suggestions for improvement.

I'm pleased they are also removing the bogus reviews, viral does have several meanings (I guess). Good to see you have the fame mobile rushing at you.

Here's wishing many more successes.

For Your Pleasure Reviews, by Cold In Seattle

Nexcerpt said...

Al, welcome to the post-viral jumble. Having lived through it a coupla times, let me assure you: it gets better... eventually. lolz

But, comments are closed on the original post? I realize that ~may~ be a tactical decision (to reduce the influx of insanity, or redirect readers to new posts). And, perhaps you already addressed this issue, in a comment I missed!

But, it seems more likely that default settings in Blogger/Blogspot (to "Moderate Comments after 14 days") are preventing new comments there.

Google recognizes that comments are increasingly likely to be spam beginning only a few days after any post. However, a thread like this might attract insightful new comments for weeks; that might be valuable for driving traffic. People seem more likely to link to a post that contains their own comment.

If you did not ~intentionally~ close comments on the OP, and would ~like~ to permit more, your Blogger/Blogspot account should allow you to do so. If, though, you're just buried with comments you haven't moderated yet -- hey, it's the price of fame ;-)

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for the hints Nexcerpt. I did close comments on the original post intentionally. It was well past the point where anything new was being said and I felt like it had passed the point of "piling on" long before. After the furor has died down a bit more I might change to "moderated comments". Have to give that some thought.

Layla said...

I think you're a total class act, Al. Sincerely - the way you handled Ms. Howett and the fact that you're pointing out how unethical it is to leave one star reviews of a book that hasn't been read, despite the fact that the author went bat shit crazy on you, speaks volumes about you as a person.

So, you've gained a reader in me. Not because of the way Ms. Howett acted, but because of the way YOU did. :)

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks, Layla, and also all the others who have left comments that I haven't specifically responded to.

Michaela Grey said...

You gained another reader in me, Al, and I'm definitely going to be checking out a few books because of your posts. I also reposted your link on my own (very) humble blog as a warning to others.

This particular blog post made me think of this very funny cartoon by a fellow writer:

http://boscafelife.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/bella-negative-review1.png

Ayanla said...

I subscribed to your feed after being led here by Regretsy. Not only that, but I already bought one of the books you reviewed, Anomaly. When I was a newly married woman, years ago, we had this used book store a few blocks away. I'd wander around there for hours, picking up books from authors I never heard of based on nothing more than my gut. The Kindle, though giving me convenience and accessibility, has taken away my ability to just scan the shelves and pick a book. Instead, I'm turning to people like you to help me find those gems I may never see from authors that, while not well known, deserve to be read. Keep up the good work.

Martin said...

I totally agree with you about the unethical one star reviews. It is those 'reviewers' that prevented me from even considering a submitting a review. I even went so far as to remove a Facebook post that I made about blog commenting debacle. Once the haters pile on, people who have empathy, perspective, etc. will tend to walk away. What happened to this author goes beyond reaping what she has sown. If she is still reading this blog, I would suggest to her that she sell t-shirts of the cover art while this viral thing is still relevant.

Derek said...

I don't know where to start. Entertaining and informative hardly seem to cover it. So I'll simply say 'thanks'.

Tommy Sean said...

As so many have said, you handled the matter very well. The author's response is amazing.

I have never stood in her shoes, as I am still muddling my way through the first novel I will actually finish. Well - I plan to finish it!

However, having felt outrage before, I understand her WANTING to respond that way. Outrage does not have to be justified in order to be felt, of course.

I would expect that, at some point, she will regret all of this. It could turn out to be a valuable lesson for her. If she is able to get control of herself, perhaps she might have some success with a pseudonym, considering you praised her story!

And last, but not least, if you do some serious study on comma usage, please blog about it. I need the help!

TEISHA LITTLE said...

Hello, I am the up and coming new york times bestselling author, Tiesha Little, author of the highly-anticipated dystopian chick-lit titled DAWN. I am fixing to send you a electric copy of DAWN so that you can read and rave about it and everyone can buy it, as I am fixing to sue my publisher. I just revealed the cover, and everyone seems to love it.
Kisses!

John Tranter said...

You say:

(I suspect concentrating on use, non-use, and misuse of commas would be the most fruitful area to explore.)

That's true for most people. It is easy to misuse commas, and their use has changed very much over the last hundred or so years. Once (two thousand years ago, or two hundred years ago) commas, colons and semi-colons were used mainly to show where pauses should be given in reading aloud. These days they have adopted an almost purely grammatical function. The use of the semi-colon is a particularly subtle art; one seldom met with, for that reason.

Speaking generally, a pair of commas, if they can be replaced by parentheses or a pair of dashes, are working okay. Example: Speaking generally, a pair of commas -- if can be replaced by parentheses or a pair of dashes -- are working okay. But I mainly go by ear. Here's Jane Austen, a masterly mistress of English style, with the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Well, that's how any good writer would punctuate the sentence today. But Jane Austen was writing in 1813, two years before the Napoleonic Wars ended, and she wrote:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

The commas are ungrammatical, and act as reading-aloud pauses. It doesn't really matter because the style of the sentence tells us that it was written when commas had a different function to the ones they have today. When reading Austen we may take a moment to change mental gears, but we then read on with enjoyment.

best

John Tranter

NZ said...

Even though it must be madness with your review going viral I'm glad it happened because it brought your blog to my attention. I'll will continue reading.

Cookie's Mom said...

Al, just checking in. How are things going for you now that the insanity has settled down (or has it)?

BooksAndPals said...

Going well, Cookie's Mom. Things have settled down and I'm set for reading material for the forseeable future.

Cookie's Mom said...

Great to hear! The blog is looking good!