Friday, March 25, 2011

A Word on Negative Reviews

In the short time since starting this blog I’ve received multiple emails from authors whose book received a negative review asking, even demanding, that I remove the review. Rather than address them one at a time I decided to address all these situations in this post. Consider it an open letter to both authors whose books have been reviewed or will be in the future, as well as my readers.

I’ll start by saying I don’t give negative reviews lightly. I understand writing a sixty thousand word novel isn’t easy. It is much more than two hundred times tougher than writing a three hundred word review. I’d guess it is easily thousands of times tougher. I get that. I’m not going to dismiss your months or years of hard work without a second thought. I’m not out to torpedo anyone’s budding career as a novelist, nor is a single review from me going to do that.

However, I also have to consider the purpose of a book review. It’s to help readers decide if it is a book they want to buy. The primary purpose isn’t to help the author, publisher, or anyone except the reader. The author would like a positive review and may benefit from it, but that purpose is secondary. For this reason I will not remove a review once it has been posted. Requests to do so will not receive any response.
Doing so would be a disservice to my readers.  I will post it to the other sites as indicated in the submission guidelines page.  Asking or insisting I remove a review is no different than if I demanded an author stop selling their book.

What Gets a Negative Review

Authors and readers should review the Guide to Reviews page to understand what the rankings mean to me. In this I mention that personal taste can influence the star ranking. However, this really only comes into play when a book is borderline between two different rankings. I’ve made a minor change in the Guide to Reviews page to make that clearer. Any book with 3-star ranking or lower has some definite flaws. What and how serious those flaws are will determine the ranking. These might be problems with the story or the characters. It may be a convoluted or difficult way the author has of expressing themself. If so I’ll typically explain what these are so readers can decide, based on their personal preferences, how this should impact their purchasing decision.

These flaws might be technical issues such as typos, grammar, or incorrect word usage. Those types of flaws exist in virtually every book. I’d venture a guess that a sharp eyed reader will find some in this post. I’d be amazed if some couldn’t be found elsewhere on this blog.

How these kinds of things impact one of my reviews depends on the type and number of errors. Yes, I’m actually keeping track, to a point. I’m not a professional proofreader or copyeditor. If I’m not sure, I don’t count it. Chances of not counting something as an error that should be are much higher than the opposite. If there are a very small number of errors, up to about seven in a typical novel, I’ll indicate this in the format/typo issues area of the review with something like, “no significant issues.” More than that, but under around twenty I’ll say, “a small number of errors.” If there are less than twenty, this is the only place these errors will be mentioned. If you wonder why I mention them at all it’s because the complaint I hear about Indie authors the most is that their books are full of these kinds of errors. My experience is that most aren’t, and only readers with an extremely low tolerance would take issue with so few such issues.

Errors beyond this amount are when they may start impacting the reading experience. My note in the format/typo issues section will indicate how serious the issue is. If the errors detract from the reading experience it will be mentioned in the analysis section.

But everyone else says my book is great

Everyone and I disagree. It happens.

I’ve seen two star reviews for books I’d give four or five stars. I’ve seen one star reviews on books considered “classics of literature.” If 9 out of 10 disinterested reviewers love your book then what I think shouldn’t matter. If all your family and friends love the book and give it a great review, the same thing goes, if you’re sure they will tell you the truth.

However, before discounting my opinion entirely you might be doing yourself a favor to understand why I didn’t like it. Is it a matter of difference in taste or did you push the publish button before your book was ready? If spelling, grammar, and typographical errors were enough to influence my ranking it is almost surely the latter.

Conclusion

As an avid reader, I think we’re living in an exciting time. The opportunity to experience a variety of voices, different subject matter in fiction, and to find quality reading off the beaten path is greater than ever before. This is why I focus on indie authors. However, being an indie author doesn’t mean a free pass for those things that are objective and clearly wrong. If you’re an author planning to submit your book for review and can’t live with the consequences based on what I’ve said in this post and the submission guidelines, possibly you should reconsider.

143 comments:

K.C. May said...

As an author, I agree with you 100%. Writers need to make sure their books are a) the kind of thing a particular reviewer typically reads & enjoys, and b) ready for prime time. Reviewers can't be faulted for giving their honest opinions. It's why we submit to them in the first place.

ICQB said...

Authors: Grow up.

Michael said...

Thanks, Al. What you're doing is great, and it really helps your credibility that you're both encouraging and fair in your approach. If you gave five stars to everything, nobody would take anything you say seriously.

Jason said...

That's awful you've been having trouble with this! Continue voicing your honest opinion, Al!

ddalglish.com said...

"Authors: Grow up."

This whole article summed up in three words :-)

Kathleen Valentine said...

Good article. As a writer, I love getting good reviews but I really only learn things from critical reviews. That assumes they are actual reviews and not just "I couldn't get interested in it, don't know why, it just never grabbed me". Those types of reviews aren't very helpful.

My rule has always been if one person criticizes something I don't worry about it too much but if more than one mentions the same thing it is time to listen up.

Thanks.

Kathleen Valentine said...

Anyone interested in my review of these stupid word verification things? Grrrr...

Debra L Martin said...

This is a great summation. As a fellow reviewer (and author) I also do not take writing bad reviews lightly.

The bottom line is that reviews are for future readers, period.

Deborah Batterman said...

How interesting that everyone who has (so far) commented has nothing but appreciation for what goes into a serious review of a book . . . It takes a certain passion for the written word to even want to review books, and subjectivity will sometimes factor into a review. But even a potentially good story is greatly diminished by sloppy writing, and a critical eye only benefits a writer.

Suzanne Tyrpak said...

Good post, Al. It's tough to give a bad review, much more difficult than writing a great review. I agree with you completely, reviews may benefit writers, but they're written for readers.

Personally, I'm happy to get any review. I'm thankful that someone took the time to read my book, thought about it, and even posted.

Adelle Laudan said...

#1 lesson I learned... Not everyone is going to like your book. It's that simple. As an author, I am always evolving, learning, honing my craft. Sure, bad reviews sting, but once the sting goes away an author should be able to look at any review and learn something about their writing.
Keep doing what you're doing Al, it's why you have such a loyal readership. Kudo's to you.

Russell Bittner said...

"I’d venture a guess that a sharp eyed reader will find some in this post." (Should be "sharp-eyed, by the way.)

Well, BigAl, the truth is yes.

"It may be a convoluted or difficult way the author has of expressing themself" is simply not standard English, your efforts to remain PC or at least avoid sounding pedantic with "him- or herself" notwithstanding.

And "If there are less than twenty, this is the only place these errors will be mentioned" is also incorrect. As I never tire of explaining to my children, if you can count 'em, its "few, fewer, fewest"; if you can't, it's "less, lesser, least" -- as in "Tonight, I see fewer moonbeams than last night; perhaps that's because we have less moonlight."

Okie-dokie? :-)

Russell Bittner

BooksAndPals said...

"Well, BigAl, the truth is yes."

I wish there was a way I could truthfully claim I inserted those for you to find. I didn't. Nor, would I catch those in someone else's writing. Although I'm tempted to fix them (one of the great differences between a blog and a book) I won't. Doing so feels like it would be cheating, at least in this post. :D Thanks for pointing them out though.

Author, author! said...

I love reading reviews. It's a chance to see things through someone else's eyes. Writers should be glad of that chance instead of defensive about it, of course, but it can be hard for some people to separate the writing from the self. Those people obviously should not read reviews. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't write them. Keep up the good work!

Niceman said...

It's no fun getting a bad review! Oh, it's a kick in the gut. It feels unfair. It feels mean.

But when we authors ask for a review we are asking for an honest opinion. There's never a guarantee that the reader will like our work.

I'm a big U2 fan. U2 is the biggest band in the world.... but imagine all of the bad reviews Bono has had to deal with. I've never seen him argue with a reviewer, or publicly melt down when a song or album doesn't get the reaction he'd want.

Even when the reviewer is dead wrong. Even when the reviewer is cruel or mocking.

That's something to think about.

Noah Mullette-Gillman

Nayes said...

You know... All this has been immensely entertaining (and by all this I mean this post and the one that inspired it) and I have taken it all in with my spine tingling in the most immense cringe - juicy indeed. But as much as I want to laugh and judge all of it, I suddenly find myself completely terrified that perhaps, as a writer, I am just as bloody clueless and that I have just not figured it out yet. Scary stuff.

muckefuck said...

And I as I never tired of explaining to anyone who will listen, Mr Bittner, the prescriptivist rule you learned concerning the usage less vs fewer is at best incomplete and at worst terribly misleading. But Geoff Pullum (co-author of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language) explains this all better than I can at his shared blog Language Log: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2819.

Scott said...

I've only reviewed a couple of "Indie" books, one of which was (above commenter) K.C. May's...and while I enjoyed it, I still had a few issues with it and mentioned them in my review. The big difference between May and the author's that this post is clearly about, is that May was quite gracious and accepted my few bits of criticism with a professional demeanor and an open mind. She even said that I was not the first to mention them and her subsequent works were going to address those issues, and she left me feeling very impressed with how she handled herself.

This Hewlett lady that this post is partially about showcased not only a lack of grammatical skill, but also became utterly belligerent to you and that is not something you ought to (as a book reviewer) have to put up with. She dug herself a deep hole though and twitterdom now has ahold of the link and hopefully this will be a HUGE lesson to her not to behave in such a fashion.

The only good thing I 'spose is more people know of your site now, and fellow reviewers like myself have dropped in to defend your rights as the reviewer and let her know such behavior is not cool at all. The other good thing about it blowing up so big is...and I HOPE...other authors will see this and it will stand as a cautionary tale in the category of what NOT to do and how NOT to respond to a negative review.

Kudos to you Al for sticking to your guns and not letting small-minded people intimidate you.

bettielee said...

you go, big Al! I just started a review blog... ruh roh! :)

Anonymous said...

"Everyone and I disagree. It happens."

Lovely.

Carry on.

Cookie's Mom said...

I want to add my voice to the many who praise you for your honesty and commitment.

Helpful tips here, Al. I got a lot out of your method for the treatment of errors. Don't worry about the odd typo or grammatical error. There will always be someone ready to jump all over it. Let them have their fun. A life without error is not only impossible, but no fun! Can you imagine the vigilance required to eliminate errors altogether. Ack! No thanks.

Anonymous said...

@Russell Bittner:

The usage of singular they is indeed correct, dating from Chaucer through Wilde, and even unto C.S. Lewis. It's even supported by the OED: http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/sgtheirl.html

MichelleReviews said...

Writers cannot be responsible for anything other than their own choices and people who review know that. So, authors who are worried that the antics of others will make you look bad and deter reviews, I wouldn't worry. Denounce bad behavior when you see it in a polite of a spirit as you can muster, learn from it, and then do better. As the late Michael Jackson might advise: start with the author in the mirror. :)

I am Teriffic Man said...

The word "impact" when used in place of "affect(v)" (& "effect(n)") makes my skin crawl.

Marie Harte said...

Amen, Big Al. Amen. Writers can be nutty. I write; I know. :) Some writers take things too personally, forgetting that writing is indeed a profession, and reviewers are entitled to their own opinions. Keep on truckin', or reviewin', as the case may be.

Cheers,

Marie

David said...

I've only just come across this blog (from a Tweet) and it has a lot of interesting content, beyond the controversial thread I saw before. You seem reasonable and make some very fair points.

A review is to help the reader, so perhaps reviews can include a note on who may like this or that book, even if it isn't exactly for you.

Best wishes

David

Pan said...

Well said, everyone. Additionally, I must commend you, BigAl, for your professionalism even in the face of Howett's belligerence. I admire your grace under pressure. Please keep it up. :)

Panther

Arthur Taylor said...

I got here from, well, you know. I have to say, this seems spot on to me. As a self-publishing musician a lot of the same applies, my policy is to drop the reviewer a private message to say "Thank you for your time" regardless of the outcome of the review, and to stay out of comment sections entirely. It seems horribly unprofessional to go any further than that, and those who do make arses of themselves damage the self-publishing scene for everyone else.

Belle said...

Good on you! I discovered your blog doing the rounds on Twitter and I'm a new follower! Don't change because a few authors just don't seem to get it.

Lizzie said...

I commend you on using stars. I give "grades" on my own blog, but that's because I'm an English teacher.

It IS an exciting time for new literature! I'm so excited I found your blog. I am hesitant to read Indie authors, so it's cool to read reviews first to see if it's "my style."

bookdout said...

About 60% of the 20+ books I review each month are self or independently published. I am honest (and hopefully as diplomatic as you were) in my reviews and do state that clearly in my request guidelines but now I am concerned about this sort of response from an author, though so far the authors I have has contact with have all been professional. Perhaps I need to be more explicit in my policy in the hope of preventing this situation arising. This post (and the one that inspired it) has given me a lot to think about.

Thanks!
Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Iron Chef Kosher! said...

I would like to have posted this on the blog post which inspired this one, but that one is now (rather sensibly!) closed. But, I suppose since my question is only tangentially related to that whole incident, it could very well go here.

Do they not teach spelling and grammar in the public schools anymore? I have a child in middle school, in the *gifted & talented* program - & whenever I check her work, it is strewn with mis-spellings and poor grammar. & she tells me that no, they don't bother teaching them proper spelling, "because computers have spell-checkers." I proceeded to lecture her about "there/their/they're & cases like that, but, I digress!

Yes, what brought this to mind were the horrendous comments by the author having the temper tantrum referred to in this post-thread. Now, my spelling/grammar/syntax/whatever may not be perfect, but have standards really fallen that far since (God help me) the Eighties?

Anonymous said...

How much longer before a certain crabby woman starts posting comments here?

-k said...

If I were an author I would value that one “negative” review over the hundred that gushed about how amazing my book was because in that one review would lay at least some form of truth about my work which I could use constructively.
Writing is like any form of art; not everyone is going to like what you create. So, as an artist, you need to bite your cheek and take negative critiques with a grain of salt and an ounce of intelligence. I also believe that you need to have an incredibly thick skin to be in any form of business like this. That being said, it’s also a business which is fluid; hence authors need to be flexible and able to change.
The world of online book reviewing is one that is meant to express personal opinion and to spread the word about a book. This means that it’s open to anyone and everyone to express their thoughts and concerns – which is freedom of speech – with honesty and sincerity. For an author to even have the gall to ask to have a negative review removed goes against basic rights and the power of the internet. And to be ignorant and belligerent about it just makes the entire situation worse than it ever need be.
Blogging is about honesty and the truth isn’t always pretty. That’s life, so deal with it.

Suzie said...

Reading through both of these threads reminded me of Ian McEwan who recently started to sue a reviewer for writing a negative review of his book. Once you do this sort of thing it makes a mockery of the whole independent review business.

WrongWriter said...

@Suzie - interesting. That wouldn't be Solar would it? God that book was awful. If I hadn't had to read it for English I wouldn't have bothered.

I found your blog through facebook (yes *that* post). Very interesting, I will be back to check out some of the books you reviewed.

rkfinnell said...

So far I've received positive feedback on my novel. The usual "I couldn't put it down",etc. I'm sure someone who hates it will come along.
Thought of sending one for you to review, but I don't want to send you a genre you aren't interested in.
An honest, true critique can be a writer's best tool in improving themselves.

KimberlySue said...

I recently began a book review blog, and have been in contact with a few authors who have sent me copies of their novels to read and review for them. While I believe it is unlikely that I will come across an author who responded as poorly to criticism as the author this post is about, I still appreciate your professional reaction to her demands, and I feel like if it were to happen to me in the future, that I am better prepared because of you! Thanks for that! :)

Marie said...

Well said.

I reviewed a newly published book that had numerous spelling errors – and it truly affected my perception of what was otherwise a great story. Luckily for me, the author was pleased with the review (though he has twice emailed me to tell me of typos on my blog, so perhaps there was a lingering anger).

I was disgusted to read the comments that that author left you. That alone was enough to put anyone off.

Rosiroo said...

Well said Al! I can't believe the lack of professionalism some authors show...although I did enjoy Jacqueline Howelett's hilarious commentary on your last post.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Marie. You really shouldn't publish your blog posts without proof-reading your work. As you yourself implicitly admit, it looks like downright incompetence for a "literary" critic.

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Why call it it "lingering anger" when he privately emailed you?

He was just politely calling you an incompetent hypocrite for openly publicising his spelling mistakes.

I am afraid critics are not above constructive and well argued criticism.

But there is nothing worse than hypocrisy.

So any posters on this or "the other" thread beware of posting with spelling or grammatical mistakes.

Compose in Word and re-read several times before copying and posting on any blog.

You are marked for life. Any slip up and you will be publicly ridiculed.

Anonymous said...

That said, just to illustrate how important proof reading is on the part of authors (and of course critics):

Jacqueline Howett said...

" ... and if their were any spelling mistakes they were corrected. ... "

".. This is not only discusting and unprofessional on your part, .."

" ... Your the target not me! .. "

March 28, 2011 9:37 AM

Jacqueline Howett said...

"... he was so suppose to download the emergency copy ... "

" ... that don't make sense. ... "

March 28, 2011 11:40 AM


Jacqueline Howett said...

" .. thats how I now he never downloaded ..."

" ... and a snake with poisenous venom .. "

March 28, 2011 11:56 AM

M T McGuire said...

I'd love to send you my book to review - it's humour - but it's also fantasy, which you've said you don't enjoy, so I won't. I'm a little embarrassed to admit to being an indie author after all that Jacqueline Howett stuff... although looking at her posts, I find it difficult to believe that English is her first language.

That said, well done Red Adept for putting it much better than I can. I hope this debacle has brought loads of traffic to your site.

All the best

M T McGuire

Anonymous said...

Fuck off!!!




Only kidding, great post :)

Laura Manivong said...

You were wise and kind to close the comments on the original thread. You wrote a fair and reasonable review. The author's multiple responses were incredibly unprofessional. But the author, who clearly had a very public meltdown, is down now. It's time to stop beating her up.
http://wp.me/poTQ3-93

M T McGuire said...

Doh, that's horrendously inarticulate. Sorry I have porridge brain at the best of times. I meant I hope YOU get loads of traffic from the adverse weather conditions in this particular teacup - although I'm sure you're happy to share some with Red Adept.

In my view, the point of a review site is that I go there, read lots of reviews and gradually get a feel for what the reviewer likes and dislikes and how it chimes in with my own preferences. Then I can guage which books I would enjoy of those reviewed.

The point, the BIG point about this is that the process has to be honest for that to work. So Al, you keep doing what you do because I think you're doing it right.

Cheers

M T McGuire
(PS the F off there made me chuckle).

Supermouse said...

As a reader, I find that negative reviews occasionally sell a book to me. 'I thought this space opera dwelt too much on diplomatic wrangles between planetary governments. Not enough attention was given to description of space battles' is a negative review that would have me reaching for the 'try sample' button. A reviewer doesn't have to like a book I'll enjoy for it to be a good review - they merely have to describe it clearly and fairly.

Laura Manivong said...

Clarification: I don't think you, Big Al, are doing any beating up at all. But some comments and amazon reviews are getting vicious, comparing the author to a mentally retarded monkey. The author wrote an unappealing book full of grammatical and syntax errors. We get it. But there's no danger of her destroying the planet. Leave her alone and let her lick her wounds. Thanks for reading, everyone. : )

Anonymous said...

The use of a private editor to fix Ms. Howett's manuscript would have prevented this situation. That's why they exist and why so many indie authors use them. An author is first and foremost a story teller. Without a story, there's no book. That being said, if spelling and grammar are so poor that they detract from a reader's comprehension, there's no story. That's why they are included in the review process and why Big Al is right to call them. His review was not harsh. This author would have been virtually incinerated on some other sites that come to mind.

Susan Brassfield Cogan said...

The only civilized response to a bad review is "Thank you for the valuable comments." Throw your tantrum in only front of your cats. They know you and will take it in stride.

Angela Perry said...

Personally, I'm thrilled to see someone reviewing self-published Kindle books. Readers need this. I need this! Even with so many books priced at $0.99, I'm hesitant to give self-pubbed books a chance unless I know the author. I get tired of wading through poorly written material before I give up.

Every book reviewer I've seen has had to deal with disgruntled writers or fans at some point. I admire you for taking on the pile of books most run away from in terror. Keep up the good work!

Amarissa Amber Cale said...

Great post and professional review. Your honest opinion should be accepted as it is, I believe. It should also be appreciated and valued by the author. Without reviews, how is an aspiring self-published author to improve? Or for that matter, any author?

To those who say, "Authors, grow up"... please try to remember that all authors are not cut from the same cloth as Ms. Howett. Indeed, some are in desperate need of maturity, though not all are infantile. I have seen some who believe the sun rises and sets around them, but I love their work!

Great comments from all of you!
Cheers everyone,
Amma

diaryofadomesticgoddess said...

Hear hear! A personal opinion is just that, and if you don't enjoy a book for whatever reason, you are perfectly entitled to voice that - especially if you can quantify exactly what it is you don't like in a reasonable manner. It's the most honest and helpful way to write a review. When reviewers simper and give a glowing review to a book that doesn't deserve it, it is a disservice to fellow readers and to the author who should be able to take constructive criticism.

disgruntledgrrl said...

I've often advised my friends - actors and writers - that before they put something up for the public, imagine it being hated by everyone. Imagine it going viral as a mockery.
Still want to put it up? Go for it. Having 2nd thoughts? You're having them for a good reason.
If something I wrote garnered in a review "Sentence structure was bad" I would totally email the reviewer and ask "where?" and then follow up with "I meant it this way - how do you think it would be best to word it?"
How else ya gonna learn?
I write reviews, I edit scripts and stories. I have no fear of getting blasted - just a fear of being misunderstood. Of saying "blue" when I meant "tricycle".
There is a different between a hater and reviewer.

Brock Booher said...

Thanks for being a "gatekeeper" of an industry in chaos. A friend is someone that tells you when you have a booger hanging from your nose and doesn't let you keep embarrassing yourself. As a writer I will never improve without feedback - even negative feedback. Keep it professional, but keep it coming.

Louise said...

Big Al, I want your baby. (Okay, maybe not.) But I’d like to stand with the crowds saluting you.

I was once kicked off the staff of a website for allowing a negative review to go online. (It was for a Broadway show, not a book, which mostly meant that the average person would have wasted 100+ buck instead of five.)

It was the only decision I could have made with integrity, and I stand behind it to this day. I did hate to see six years of good work and dedication, and hundreds of hours of volunteer time, get thrown away like that. But I came out with my ethics intact.

Thank you for using your powers for good.

Anonymous said...

BigAl:

How do you feel about authors to whom you've given bad reviews emailing you asking for clarification?

I'm a fiction wanna-be writer and should I actually self-publish I'd just want to know if that would be crossing some line?

Thanks!

Danielle said...

I too am a reviewer through Coffee Time Romance & More. I have gotten a few nasty emails. Luckily I have this amazing boss who defends me with her virtual sword and shield. LOL. I have also had many authors who have had a less than stellar review come back with "thank you" or "I am sorry you did not care for my novel as much as others might but your review was professional and honest without being degrading" I have even gotten some "thank you for the honest review. Can I ask you to clarify this part...so in the future I can make sure not to do this again?" Most authors are very professional. I love being a reviewer. Not only because I am addicted to books but because I get to read many different genres and experience new writing styles everyday. Keep up the great work Al!

Anonymous said...

Reviews are for future readers but the author can benefit from a supported bad review. When I write something that isn't received well it's great to know why the reader didn't care for it. Don't we all want to improve our writing?

greengeekgirl said...

Rock on, sir. Rock on. As a reader, I thank you.

E.D. Lindquist said...

Some of these authors are clearly getting their coping method wrong! You don't trash the reviewer who gives you a low score - you write his/her name on your ice cream in chocolate sauce, then devour the whole thing!

Then go back, reread the review and decide if the low points are things you can or want to change. After that, time to get back to work.

Seriously, I'm sorry that some authors are giving you shit. Bad reviews happen. Bad editing happens. And simple conflict of taste happens. I guiltily confess that I don't like Victor Hugo, despite his literary god status.

I hope that the bitchy feedback hasn't cost you any sleep.

San said...

For those who still think "everybody says my book is awesome" is a valid point, theres a nice work: Ibsen's "An Enemy of The People". A must read.

Very nice post, btw. I got here from a Neil Gaiman's retweet and after reading several comments on the last issue with the reviews, I just laughed!

Keep up the good work.

onehundredonebooks said...

Great thoughts, Al.

I'm reading and blogging through Time Mag's Top 100 books, and I hated Mrs. Dalloway, and reviewed it that way, and Virginia Woolf is considered one of the great writers of the 20th century. The reviewer has to be true or it cheats the potential reader. Some authors need to get over themselves as well.

Anonymous said...

Lol anyone remember Jacqueline Howett? RIP

robinintheuk said...

Well, I actually got drawn into a pretty mesmerising drama regarding one of your negative reviews thanks to Neil Gaiman and Twitter.

Thank you for this post. I think it is very helpful for readers, writers, reviewers and those of us who need a little reminder on polite behaviour and the internet.

But mostly, I'm just so happy to have found your blog...

Chanel said...

Hear, hear! Due to your extreme professionalism, Al, you've gained yourself a new reader.

Kort said...

Well said BigAl. As a reviewer myself, I couldn't agree with you more. I thought what you wrote regarding Ms. Howett's book was very fair and if I ever wrote a book, I'd be love to ask you to give it a read. Count me as a new blog follower as of today too! ;)

Matt said...

If a writer puts a book out for the public to read then they automatically open up their book to criticism. Most authors understand this.

What's more, blogs such as this are merely one voice among many. If an author claims that others loved the book then they should just leave it at that rather than draw attention to a negative review on one blog or one magazine, etc.

I see no reason for you to explain yourself. But you have and you are articulate and clear and seem fair. I would think that at the very least many writers would appreciate that.

Anonymous said...

I run a DVD/Blu-ray review site and at times a filmmaker will demand we remove a review and/or call us every name in the book while telling us how stupid we are. Our policy is to publish their rebuttal--in their own words. This usually only serves to reinforce how correct our review was, as an author's comments reinforce how correct your review was.

Kimberly Chapman said...

I hope one day when my previous works are back in print or a future one is published, that it is honoured to receive one of your reviews, be that positive or negative.

Bad reviews hurt but one should never go after the reviewer, not even in email.

katekindle said...

How to submit? Pls give a submissions address. contact me at merymacmary@yahoo.com, please.

Anonymous said...

Al, as a bookseller who drops proof copies like they're on fire when confronted with one too many egregious lapses in grammar / spelling, I applaud your review strategy. You deserve a lot of internet traffic for the work you're doing.

There are many sites where people are far less fair than you are, and while they can be entertaining, they are not so informative. I'll be coming back here to read your reviews on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the recent furore over Jacqueline Howett's review and subsequent inane vitriol... Perhaps it was all a clever marketing ruse? Everybody is tweeting it/facebooking it - it is viral - so success! She has done it! Fame increasingly has little to do with talent and she has taken advantage of that. Unfortunately the Synopsis of her book is enough for me to ignore it as mindless popularist drivel suitable for old age pensioners in a doctors waiting room. Her responses on your blog simply reaffirmed that she is barely literate. But she is famous and everyone is talking! The fact that her novel is no great tome would probably not disappoint her - I doubt she has managed to read Ulysses.
But I will now follow YOUR blog/reviews with interest.
Thank you

Katharine Swan said...

As a fellow book review blogger, I think this post is dead-on. Reviews are for readers! And now I'll bet you've got a whole lot more of them, thanks to Ms. Howett.

Anonymous said...

To all that was said in this post I would like to add that a constructive critique of anybody's artwork, be it written, a painting or whatever it is not an attack on the publisher, but the work itself. The artist has to recognize this and separate themselves from their work.

I have had many bad reviews of my work and it is not what you want to hear, but if you listen to what is being said it is probably true and a great opportunity to improve, fast.

Don't get depressed over a bad review, study it and write something better next time.

Mary Ellen said...

Great post!

To "But everyone else says my book is great" I'd add that perennial favorite, "But you can't say it's not good; it really happened that way!" -- both send chills down my spine.

Ms. Howett suggested first that the reviewer had been thrown off by her British English. I grew up American, have now lived almost 12 years in England, and I'm an editor who often works with independent writers; when I get a manuscript full of the kinds of errors that this author made in her posts (here and on her own site), I've always found that the writer's first language wasn't English.

Perhaps it doesn't matter; perhaps we should take her at her word. But I'd say the author of these posts (here and at her site) didn't learn her English in the US *or* the UK.

Thanks for running an honest site, Big Al. I wouldn't have found you without this flap, so I suppose I should be grateful to Ms. Howett for that.

jessica said...

I love your honestly. The thing is writers who self-publish or are Indie writers really REALLY need to be aware of this. Now, JH will never be taken seriously no matter what. She stood a chance until she flipped out.

Kitty Behind the Curtain said...

Well put, Big Al.

RobynBradley said...

I'm late to this party, but I agree that this is a great -- and important -- post. Bad reviews are a part of life, just like death and taxes. As an indie writer, I can say I'm grateful for folks like you who are willing to read us and provide such honest and tactful reviews. Rock on, Al!

Judd Exley said...

Only just found this site, but I'm going to polish the holy hell out of my novel before I submit it to you for review.

And, to be perfectly honest, I'd be honoured if you read my work at all, as a negative review from somebody that I actually respect would probably help me become a better writer far more than 80 moderately-good reviews in a row.

Sad that she went Crazy Bitch on you, but illustrates a great point. There are some of us out there that call 'em as we see 'em, and stand by that. Good onya mate.

Laurie said...

I was sad to see the comments on your review. I don't think your review or response was unfair, but I am sad for the author. I'm also sad for humanity. It seems the internet has turned adults into school yard bullies, taking pleasure in people's pain.

I'm not an author, but I imagine that publishing a book is a labour of love and it must be difficult, and even painful to watch someone review it negatively.

Certainly she should've responded differently - or not at all. However, egging her on and gleefully laughing at her was... tragic for me. It's difficult to like people much when you see them act that way.

Nice blog you have... too bad I found it under such unpleasant circumstances.

Cee said...

I didn't think your review was unfair at all and seemed to contain some positive thoughts about the book.

I'm a writer with a lot of weaknesses when it comes to grammar and when people point things out to me when it comes to grammar or any other view they have about my work those comments go into a little book I keep that I go through when I do my final edit to try and not make the same mistakes on my next story.

Plus I've never found negative reviews a problem. Try learning from no reviews, now that's hard.

R.M. Prioleau said...

Thank you for posting this blog, BigAl. It was needed badly.

Al Zacklen said...

After reading this and previous controversial posts, I will say this:

Al, should I ever complete a book of my own, I will welcome your review of it - whether glowing, ho-hum or completely disgusted. Your posts are fair and entirely worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

Jacqueline's stopped posting. Good for her.

Figgy said...

@Iron Chef Kosher - I think the issue is that a lot of the students in my generation (gen Y) stopped caring and making an effort to use the correct words, and so now the teachers have stopped caring?

It has always bothered me, as I used to take great pride in my 20/20 spelling tests, and I grew up writing joint stories with a few of my friends... Suddenly, though, they lost the understanding of the English language that I know they DID possess at some point. I was noticing there/their/they're mix ups all over the place, and countless spelling errors.

I guess what makes me try and avoid self-published novels nowadays is that there are so many people out there who are eager to self-publish straight away, without having anyone look over the novel, without having a proper editor hack away at all the issues.

I had to do a double take the yesterday when someone in an online writing group mentioned the median advance for debut novels being around $5000, and that being further justification for her to want to self-publish, and for others to look at that instead of traditional publishing. I just don't get it.

If you have explored your avenues, and it looks like the best option for you, then so be it, but you can't poo-pooh the traditional publishing process... There are reasons why it works, one of the big ones being that someone else looks over your work and tells you when it's good enough.

/rant

Sorry about that. Good work Al, keep it up!

Figgy said...

I should clarify; the double take was over her using that as a reason to self publish, not the amount... A smaller advance would simply mean royalty payments a lot sooner if they book does sell well...

Figgy said...

And also, for those of you who can self-publish and make it work, good on you!

It seems like a lot of effort, with a lot of avenues closed to you that would have been sorted out by someone else if done the "traditional" way.

I didn't mean that against all "indie" writers, just simply that people start turning to it because it is easier, or before they have explored all the avenues leaves me gobsmacked.

If you aren't going to prepare your book, and edit it to a standard that is at least as good as the worst of the tradionally published books, then what is the point?

Sorry about the triple post, and the rambling... I clearly should have gone to bed several hours ago, rather than staying up and posting on forums and blogs... Consider it the equivalent of late night shopping when you're tired; it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Robert K. Blechman said...

I agree that authors need to grow up. My own soon-to-be-published Twitter novel "Executive Severance" has been compared to Shakespeare, Proust and Joyce in that it is a tragedy they'd rather not remember that has driven them to drink. One review called it "riveting" in the sense of nine inch nails being driven into your skull.

Did I let that stop me? Not at all, even to the point of placing an inappropriate plug in this comments section. So authors, get a grip!

Anonymous said...

The review made it sound like a good story worthy of a download, but I guess I'll have to take the author's advice and....off

Robert K. Blechman said...

BTW, if you want to read "Executive Severance" for free, it is available at Textnovel.com here;
http://www.textnovel.com/story_detail.php?story_id=2115

It doesn't have the illustrations we're adding to the print version and I don't guarantee the absense of spelling or grammatical errors, but hey, the price is right.

Keep in mind that it was composed entirely on Twitter.

Anonymous said...

Russel Bittner wrote, after quoting Big Al:

'"I’d venture a guess that a sharp eyed reader will find some in this post." (Should be "sharp-eyed, by the way.)'

I think you meant to write '(Should be "sharp-eyed," by the way.)'

Anonymous said...

Very fair. I can't believe anyone who wants to publish work could have a problem with it.

I do have a question about how ebook formatting gets applied. I recently bought two ebooks from Amazon from an established author and they were *full* of errors. It looked to me like they had been generated by OCR software and yet these were official US publisher kindle files, not dodgy bootlegs. I know that the same book in print would not have been put on the market with so many errors, yet publishing houses seem happy to release ebooks without proof reading. When I contacted the publisher, they told me that a revised file would be available in a few weeks, but by then Amazon had already refunded me and remotely deleted the files.

I wholeheartedly agree that too many of these kinds of errors makes a book very hard to read, but maybe we shouldn't expect such a high standard from indies until the big players can do it...

Anonymous said...

I think this blog has been a bit harsh on Ms. Howett. She did spell "Seaman" correctly in the title of her novel.

Vic said...

As a reviewer who has given a number of negative reviews, I post them with a heavy heart. Like you, I try to balance my opinion, mentioning what I like about the novel and giving sound reasons for what I did not like and why. After writing a negative review, I lay it aside for a day, then take out any statement that might seem hurtful or personal. Vic, Jane Austen's World

If I wrote only glowing reviews, I would lose credibility with my readers. As you say, Al, my two star review might be someone else's five star review.

I feel sorry for Ms. Howett. No one taught her to write her true feelings down and hit the delete button, or to file her reply for later and reread it when she cooled down.

Vic said...

I should have edited my own comment better. Ah, well.

Razor's Edge Press said...

Best literary discussion I’ve read in ages. Thank you so much. I’m adding this Blog as mandatory reading for all my new authors. “This is what happens when you don’t listen to your editor! There’s only one proper response to any review: Thank you for taking the time to review my book.”

Margaret Riley
Editor
Changeling Press LLC
Razor’s Edge Press

Midnyte Reader said...

I really admire your well spoken comments, reviews and responses. I don't know if I could have remained as calm and had such a clear head if I was in the same situation.

Phil Simon said...

Here's the rub: If you can't handle one, don't put your work out there. Books, music, movies, art, etc. are all open to good and bad reviews. As long as a review is not petty or mean-spirited, I have no issue with it.

I can say without remorse that some negative reviews of my first book helped me create better ones the second and third time around.

Anonymous said...

"Authors: Grow up."

Ouch. Let's not generalize. This is one author.

***
Sorry, can't login with my lj account for some reason.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

Reviews are so subjective, it makes little sense to get worked up over them--good or bad. As a writer, I take everything with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, I'm only trying to please MYSELF--not some anonymous reviewer on the internet. I don't claim to be perfect...so when a critic points out an error in my writing, I think about it, and if it jives with me I'll try not to do that again in my next book.

You won't last long as an author if you cry over every negative review or failure.

Shiloh Walker said...

This... "everyone else says my book is great.."

is shows a level of the author's maturity.

It's like middle school. Or elementary school even. I swear, it's the author's version of saying, "WELL, FINE. YOU WON'T DO IT MY WAY, SO I'LL JUST GO OVER HERE WITH THE KIDS WHO WILL!"

I swear-authors, if you're saying this? You're shooting yourself the foot, because, I GUARANTEE you-not EVERYONE else loves your book. Because it's impossible to please EVERYONE. That's the deal with writing-what works for one will NOT work for another.

Learn that, accept that, and your career as a writer will be a heck of a lot smoother.

And if you throw fewer temper tantrums in public? You'll look less of an ass.

Tracy said...

As a long-time book reviewer, I'm always amazed by author reactions. I've had many great responses, even to negative reviews, and always appreciate that feedback. I also had one author threaten to have me blacklisted by every publisher in the world, which was funny because she was self-published.

Years ago, my contact at Warner Books told me that in her experience negative reviews draw just as much interest as a glowing review. People will buy it simple to ensure it's really the train wreck the reviewer claims.

In the end, grammar and spelling errors in a galley are fine. In the finished product, it's the one thing I dislike, especially when they're errors that spell and grammar checkers should have caught. Just the description of the book on Amazon had me itching to grab my red pen. When people are spending their hard earned money on a book, they have the right to expect a polished form.

Lawrence said...

Fuck off!

Anonymous said...

Shiloh Walker said...
This... "everyone else says my book is great.."
is shows a level of the author's maturity.


There is more to it. Check out amazon.com. There are 73 ratings.
Seven - 5 stars
two - 4 stars
two - 3 stars
three - 2 stars and
59 - ONE star.

Chelle Nevar said...

As a 30 yr old with both dyslexia and dysgraphia, I find it hysterical when someone writes worse than I do.

Fyi, I love spell checker. I know for a fact you are picking up followers due to this incident. As I did, they looked out of curiosity, and stayed for the reviews.

samplingerror said...

Al - I think you're selling yourself short a bit in saying the role of your reviews is for the reader's benefit. Reading several of the reviews on here, you seem very aware of the constructive feedback you can give to the author and, rather than taking a step back and just making recommendations for the reader, you lay out what mistakes the author made that inform your opinions.

As you say, we do live in an exciting time; communication between author and audience has never been easier (ahem) - and helping authors improve benefits everyone's reading experience.

Anonymous said...

LOOK AT YOU'RE BALL, ALL OF YOU.

Barefoot Domestic Goddess said...

Found your blog because of some recent articles. I have to say, I love it. Your reviews are great. Don't bow to them. No one is promised a rose garden of good and happy reviews. As a reader, I appreciate your honesty and independence.

BooksAndPals said...

@ Everyone. Thanks for the kind comments. As you might imagine, I'm getting overwhelmed with comments, emails, book submissions, and such. Slowly trying to dig myself out from under it and sorry I can't respond to everyone individually. However, I do appreciate the support.

@Vic. Well said. Also why I dislike the star system and purposely designed mine to be top heavy. You'll see more 4 and 5 reviews than anything else, however, I also try to point out things that might be an issue for some people. Matching the reader to the books he or she would like is the goal.

@samplingerror (love the name): I agree. An author can also benefit from some of the feedback I give and I know some have.

redcrest said...

I saw the debacle with that childish author and honestly thought it might be a publicity stunt at first. I honestly don't know what to make of her or her crazy overreaction to what I thought was a pretty fair and objective-sounding review.

Anyway, reading this post about how you actually take the time and consideration to count typos before declaring a book "full of errors" and to be conscious of the fact that the author has worked hard to write a novel and shouldn't be shot down lightly really won you my respect. I will definitely be checking out more of your reviews. Glad someone like you is actually taking an interest in/checking out self-pub novels.

Ferdi said...

It's such a shame that you need to justify anything. Overall, I think your reviews are written in a fair and intellectual manner, commenting on both the positive and negative in an adult fashion.

Keep up the good work!

celesmaxwell said...

After reading the infamous post, the reaction from the author, and this post... I think I need to finish my book and send it to you.

Honest reviews make us better writers.

Anonymous said...

I agree. As writers, our work is submitted to the public. Everyone of us must face the chance that someone will not like our work. Maybe it's the world we built, our plot, our characters or even our genre. It happens.
I read the review for the author in question. It seemed to me to be a normal review. I understand that she might feel overprotective of her work. I have posted online and some of the posts that are popular are ones I personally detest. Some reviewers are not professional but I don't find that to be the case in your blog. So the author's unprofessional response baffled me. Why be nasty when there was nothing to be nasty about? Why even given a review that upsets you the energy to throw a temper tantrum?
Writing is a craft. It like any other art develops over time. Just because a reviewer does not like the first book, doesn't mean they won't like the second.
Authors should accept this and learn from negative reviews. Reviewers have taken the time to write a review as feedback. A review is meant for the consumption of a reader. It narrows down the many novels out there. Authors should use reviews to aid them in further developing their writing.

evilphilip said...

Here is a fun one. Amis the flurry of people rushing to Amazon.com to leave 1 star and 2 star reviews on Jacqueline Howett's novel someone purchased my zombie novelette and left me a 2 star review of Howett's novel.

Ack! I got caught in the crossfire.

I know it wasn't a review of my short story, since the comments mirror Al's review (formatting, spelling, grammar, etc.) and even mentions a "second fixed version". Um, I've only uploaded my novelette to the Kindle once.

I guess I should thank the reviewer for purchasing the story, I only wish they had READ it. Ha!

Leigh said...

Al, I compliment your professionalism. Unlike some who reacted with amusement and glee, I felt troubled for Miss Howett and I suspect you felt sad too. You acted with honor and most of us respect that. Write on.

Iany said...

I think criticism is the best thing you can give a writer, in that it allows them to evaluate strength and weakness.
I think you are brill and anyone who gets annoyed that they're not automatically considered a special snowflake should grow up. Thank you for your reviews!

Heidi Nielson said...

As an aspiring author myself, I just wanted to say that I admire your honest criticism and the way that you have refused to back down to outside pressure.

I hope to one day receive such honest reviews on a completed novel, whether they be negative or positive.

Thank you for what you've said here!

TheGamblurr said...

I was brought to your blog via Drew McWeeny's Evening Post at Hitfix regarding The Greek Seaman (obviously).
I found Drew's blog and Hitfix via my love for Alan Sepinwall's reviews, which i found through a Google search that led me to, of all things, Blogspot... strange huh?
Anyway I'm an avid reader, but i clearly am not a writer. All of this leads to me declaring that I look forward to more of your reviews and the potential of the great stories/authors I'm about to discover.

Nice to meet ya BigAl.

TheGamblurr said...

That should say Evening Read, not Post.

ham1299 said...

Absolutely fabulous post. I, too, believe that negative reviews are a necessary evil at times, and I absolutely refuse to post only positive reviews on my blog. I think I have more credibility as a blogger if I share the good and the not-so-good books that I read. I always try to find something positive, and make sure to mention it in my post.

No, I'm not a writer, but I have worked in publishing as an editor, and I do understand what goes into it. The blood, sweat, and tears (so to speak) are numerous. I know how it can feel to have your "baby" fall down. I get it. But I still am writing for other readers, no to pat someone's back or make them feel good about themselves. I wish I could, but I don't feel like I'm doing the right thing if I don't show both sides of the coin.

As a blog reader, I don't take blogs with nary a negative (meaning, didn't like the book, rather than trashing the book) review very seriously. No one can possibly like - or even tolerate, sometimes - every book they open. It's simply impossible. As such, I expect to run across a few negative reviews here and there. And it doesn't sour me from having read the book. Most of the times, I just remember having read mention of it somewhere, not necessarily what the review said. Familiar titles are titles I'm more likely to grab off the shelf, look at the blurb on the back, and decide whether to purchase right then and there. Simple as that.

Anyway, perhaps I should have written my own post on this! LOL Thanks for a great post. You have a new follower/reader.

Vivian Vincent said...

As a writer, I appreciate a bad review if it's more than just "I didn't like it" type reviews. I haven't had many, but I have had a few. You take each with a grain of salt, take the criticism as not being personal or hateful, but rather as something to help you improve your writing.

As you said, it's one person's opinion and may not represent the majority. Not everyone can like the same things or look at things the same way.

It's silly for an author to get upset over one bad review. Sometimes even a bad review can be good since people will be tempted to buy the book just to see what all the fuss is about.

As far as editing, no one's perfect. I read a lot of books, probably two 300 page novels a week and I always find errors.

Do they take away from the story? Most of the time no. There are rare occasions where it's obvious either the publisher didn't take the time to help the author with proofreading/editing or the author just didn't care and wanted to get the book out there to make money. When I encounter those types of books, I usually contact the publisher since poorly edited work reflects not only on the author, but on the publisher as well.

To the authors who prompted this blog post: SUCK IT UP!

It was one bad review. Move on.

Anonymous said...

Great review on negative reviews. For a moment, I was tempted to grab the book that was reviewed with two stars before I read the rebuttal of the author claiming that her piece was the best of the best. I understand each author place great pride on their work but I suppose they also have to learn to take criticism well in stride.

All i could feel was how could her book be perfect when, as an author, the vocabulary and grammar wasn't in the post. Sad to say, even with the great storyline, the eccentric behaviour puts my appetite out. I'll pass. =)

mewriteprettyoneday said...

Unfortunately our world seems to be comprised of folks who were raised by parents who never knew how to set boundaries, give constructive criticism, require responsibility and teach manners, work ethic, and gratitude.
Ms. Howett is obviously lacking in all… she needs to learn to respect another’s work (your review) if she expects her own to be taken seriously. Your criticisms were dead on and the fact is I have trouble spelling my own name some days, and have never met a coma I didn’t like. As far as responsibility, take it! Learn it; apply it in all areas of your life! You goofed Ms. Howett… of well, we all have, make light of it, laugh at yourself (we all are) and do better next time….. As for the manners, work ethic, and gratitude? Well say thank you, don’t expect a trophy just because you showed up (or a good review just because you wrote a “book”) and be grateful that in this day and age when most people just want to talk and be listened to, somebody took the time to hear what you had to say.
Al, you are a breath of fresh air! I love your “this is how it is and I am not gonna apologize for it attitude,” my only regret is that my children have not met you… you could totally explain my parenting style to them. And for the record? This post was typed in word, spell checked and then posted… but alas, even spell check won’t fix comas.
Onward and upward Al

Shadrach said...

'"It may be a convoluted or difficult way the author has of expressing themself" is simply not standard English, your efforts to remain PC or at least avoid sounding pedantic with "him- or herself" notwithstanding.'

The use of "himself" or "herself" is generally frowned upon -- instead, rewrite the sentence to avoid gender-bias, such as

"It may be a convoluted or difficult way authors have of expressing themselves."

Autumn said...

Al, you are doing a good thing here.

Your original review was honest, and as positive as it could be. Not at all harsh. It's not realistic to expect any book to be perfect, yet readers should have a right to expect a book to be realtively free of errors that will detract from their enjoyment of the story. Your system seems to address that.

There are Amazon reviewers who give everything 5 stars, or at worst 4. We all know who I mean! That person's reviews are worse than useless. As a reader, I want honest but kind reviews to help me decide whether to stump up my hard-earned on a book by a writer I've never heard of.

As a writer, I want that too. There's a lot for writers considering self-publishing to learn from this whole sorry tale.

1. Self-editing is necessary, but may not be enough. We're too close to our work to pick up the mistakes in grammar, spelling, and expression. If a writer can't afford the services of a professional editor, there are online critique groups across a range of genres where writers can swap line edits of each other's work. This still won't make it mistake free, but put a story through a few rounds of that and the worst errors that will drag the reader out of the story will be fixed. I don't want to be unkind to the writer the original review referred to, but the Amazon description of her book contained so many spelling and grammar errors I would not have chosen to buy the book. Online critique groups are free, for the most part friendly, and in return for helping another writer this person could have avoided that.

2. Bad reviews hurt worse than someone telling us our baby is ugly, and it's hard to separate out the feeling of being personally criticized from the reality that what is being criticized is something separate from us. We need to develop strategies to let us respond to negative reviews with grace. Venting privately to friends, writing that scathing response to the reviewer then hitting delete instead of send, whatever works. I've bought books given deeply critical reviews simply because I admired the author's response- for example Carla Cassidy's response to Smart Bitches review of her book Pregnesia. I'm sure more readers than me bought the book just because of that!

3. Reviews are a chance for the writer to learn, grow, and improve. It we think our writing is already perfect, we'll never develop beyond where we are right now. Putting a self-published first draft out there and insisting it's the best thing ever written is not the way to produce our best work!

I hope when I finally publish my stories (I know they aren't yet as good as they could be yet so I'm still working on improving my writing and storytelling), that Al will review them. At least I know it will be honest!

Anonymous said...

One of the first reviews I got for one of my novels was delivered in person, and very straightforward: "There's no romance."

She was right. It was also immediately apparent that the book wasn't her typical read, and that's fine. A friend had loaned it to her, telling her she thought it was very good.

Valid review, but wrong reviewer. She was honest, and said what she felt. I simply thanked her an moved on.

The problem, setting aside mechanical issues, is that people sometimes select books they won't like, and then tell others how terrible there were. If you don't like long, involved stories with lots of characters with names you get confused, don't read War and Peace. It's not for you. However, it is a pretty good book.

I appreciate all reviews, even the negative ones. I try to discern why, but sometimes it's simply because it was the wrong book for that reviewer. I can't find fault with that, although in a couple cases I wish they'd simply acknowledged their preferences rather than try to identify every "fault" in the book. In both of those cases, they basically re-wrote the entire story, trying to say "if it was written this way, in a genre I like, then...I'd like it."

Oh well.

Keep on, Al. I think you're doing just fine.

Anonymous said...

Jacqueline Howett is so childish, I wouldn't be surprised if she started a law suit, just to be compensated for her hurt feelings. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"I think this blog has been a bit harsh on Ms. Howett. She did spell "Seaman" correctly in the title of her novel."

Anonymous, it's me, anonymous. Judging from the spelling errors, i think it was supposed to be "The Greek Semen". Sorry if I offended anyone's delicate sensibilities or "morals", but semantics can be funny! Hooray for creative writing!

George Ivanoff said...

An interesting post. It got me thinking... and I ended up writing about reviewing on my blog. You got a mention, in case you're interested... http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/literary-clutter-blog/reviews-the-good-the-bad-and-the-downright-ugly/2011/04

Jan Priddy, Oregon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
voxnewman said...

I just found your blog. It's a great service. I'll be submitting something soon.

MilliVanilli said...

Holy Mother of God that writer is a bitch.

Reading her replies to this post makes me never want to touch anything with her name on it.
So glad this blog shows her true personality.

MilliVanilli said...

Lol, I meant to post that on this blog of yours. I found it on regretsy and it just amazed me at how.... well, ridiculous she acted. It was like some tween raging on 4chan.

http://booksandpals.blogspot.com/2011/03/greek-seaman-jacqueline-howett.html

Gene said...

When people look at my writing, I want to know what's BAD about it, not what's good. You do that. My hat is off to you, sir. Keep up the good work!

Sharon said...

It's absolutely astonishing to me that anyone would ever want to be a reviewer. I am very grateful that an individual would take the time to read my book and then write a thoughtful review. Reviews are difficult to write. I've tried and I don't find it easy to express my thoughts on what made a book great or what made it less than stellar.

So thank you to all reviewers out there who take the time to read books then write about their experience and help others decide among the bewildering plethora of stories available to read... and at the same time help authors become better writers.

Clarissa said...

Wow, what an interesting read! When I have someone review my writing, I'm looking for insight on what I need to fix. I certainly would not bash a reviewer for doing what the reviewer is supposed to do. I've been on both sides though mostly on the reviewer end and never have I seen anything like this. I'll be reading this blog often now. :)

L. said...

I write AND review (come to think of it, I'm going to send you my stuff!), so I think I can see both sides.

On one hand, the reviewer does have a commitment to readers; any one who doesn't feel this way should limit book-related blog posts to "I think this books rocks! Buy it!" I myself rarely post a bad review, choosing instead to simply not add to the body of reviews for a crappy book... but this is primarily so as to not burn bridges as an author. If I only reviewed, I'd be more liberal in telling it like it is.

As an author... two things: the best way to avoid bad reviews is to avoid writing bad books. Also, even good books get an occasional bad review. As long as BAD < GOOD, you win.

Anonymous said...

You're precisely correct with this writing...

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

Love this. I know that each novel and story is the writer's "baby" and creative work is so subjective. I create as well, with textiles rather than words,and it takes just as long to knit a hideous orange and red sweater as it does to knit a lovely one. If someone says (and it has happened), "I really don't like that", I don't take it as a slam on my work; it usually makes me take a step back and usually say to myself, "You know what; they're right".
For me, nothing guarantees a 3 star or less rating more than tons of grammatical/spelling errors, convoluted or unrealistic dialogue, and/or typos. Seriously, all of these pull me right out of the story and could easily be corrected by a decent editor or even a friend who knows proper English. I've gotten to the point where I sometimes simply can't finish the book because of them.
We reviewers write reviews based on our own personal taste. We develop followers that tend to have the same taste that we do. We write our reviews for them, because book-buying is expensive and it's nice to know where and where not to spend your book-buying dollars.
We do this for free (believe me, receiving a book to review does not at all truly compensate for the time it takes to read and to formulate a well-thought-out review, write it, check for errors such as those I mentioned above, and cross-post it to consumer and reader sites - it really doesn't).

joannefm2 said...

I love this. I have read so many book blogs, and most of them rate books 4-5 stars. I can't believe all these readers "never met a book they didn't like". I'll take an honest review any day, even if it doesn't agree with my own.

Anonymous said...

You have a wonderful site here that was a quality read for me. Good info! Thanks!

Chris said...

"I’ve seen one star reviews on books considered 'classics of literature.'" I'd go further and say I've seen LOTS and LOTS. Even if your book is a stunning work of genius, lots of people -- LOTS of people, even smart ones -- will hate it. Make that a mantra.