Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bad, Amazon Reviewer! BAD!

No! You cannot leave a 1-star review on a book you have not read. I said "no!" Stop it... stop! I had to firmly make this point to a reviewer recently who admitted, in her three-sentence review, that she did not get through the first chapter of a book (not mine) because she encountered the word "anyways." Her unpithy review:
I couldnt even gt through one chapter. Someone please tell this author that "anyways" is not a word. Enough said.
No, gentle reviewer, enough certainly has not been said. Quite the opposite, actually. My pithy response:
I searched my copy for use of the word "anyways" and found only one, in a bit of dialogue. It may not be an official word, but it is slang that is used by teenagers--who are the main characters in this book--so this complaint is a bit ridiculous. If one doesn't approve of the way teenagers speak, perhaps one shouldn't read YA paranormal fantasy.
That should have shut her up, no? No. Her most unpithy reply:
I will stick with the YA authors who leave the usage of slang to dialog, where slang is appropriate. Books like Harry Potter and the Twilight series.
And, after I recovered from an exploded brain, my most excellent, pithier remark:
I suppose I didn't make the first statement in my reply clear enough. The only instance of the word you objected to, "anyways," is in a line of dialogue. I find it odd that you encountered this single use of the word and it stopped you cold, made you put the book down and upset you so much that you decided to leave a three-sentence, one-star review that gives potential readers absolutely no information about the book. Perhaps the forty-eight positive reviews indicate that you should read past the first chapter before deciding that the entire effort deserves only one star. I do not wish to pick on you specifically, but it is reviews like this that make me suspicious of all of a given person's reviews. It is an abuse of the ratings system to review a book you have not read, and it is highly unfair. As I said, I do not wish to pick on you, but I see far too many reviews like this on Amazon. Would you review an album after listening to part of a single song? Would you review a movie after watching the first few minutes? I'm sorry, but unless you can actually make intelligent, informed comments about a book, you have no business reviewing it. If you don't like the writing style and decide not to read further, that is fine. But you cannot, in good conscience, review a book which you have not read.
And that, for those of you who are keeping track, is "enough said." She has yet to reply. How much do you believe one should read before leaving a review? 25%? 50%? 100%?

Addendum: Some people think this is a review left on one of my books and have advised me against interacting with negative reviewers. This is not the case. It is a review I came across on another book. I of course know that it is not wise to respond to negative reviews on one's own work, but in my capacity as a reader who buys books on Amazon, it is fully justifiable to take other reviewers to task when their reviews are pointless and unfair to the author.

53 comments:

  1. Oh! A survey. Answer: EVERY LAST WORD.

    I still think 90% is my number for Hell-bound, and now you're making a stronger case for it.

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  2. I always believe someone should read 100% of a book before leaving a review-how on Earth can you leave a considered thought about the book without knowing what else happens? I've read books where the first chapter had it's problems, but the rest of the book was amazing.

    And on top of this, if you ARE going to leave a one or two-star review, you should at the very least explain WHY. In detail. If you spoke to a friend and said, "That movie was rubbish", you would expect them to ask the question-"Why?"

    Also, on another note, Amazon CAN remove bad reviews if you ask them by reporting it. Not bad reviews in the sense they are bad for your book, but bad in the sense that they are not a review.

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    1. Yes, I told the author to report this review.

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  3. I only review books I have read 100%. If I don't like a book and can't finish it, I generally don't leave a review.

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  4. Reviewers who don't understand that slang is allowed in dialogue shouldn't be reviewing books in the first place. They need to go take a remedial course in fiction writing.

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    1. I'd even allow it in the narrative, if it works with the author's voice.

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  5. She is throwing stones in glass houses, eh? What kind of word is "gt," anyway?

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    1. It's one of those fancy new European words.

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  6. I feel that if you want to review a book you need to read it from first page to last because it's been my experience that a few pages or chapters can change your feelings on a book.

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  7. My view is 100%. But Michael, you know it's probably not a good idea to engage with reviewers via Amazon review comments. The author rarely comes out looking good.

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    1. Duh! Didn't spot that, sorry. Which book was it?

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    2. I intentionally didn't mention the book or the name of the reviewer. I think it's best that way.

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  8. I need to have this reviewer read my first book Prom Girls a North American Rite of Passage. She may well have the 'big one'. Three editors tore their hair out :) Yay! for me.
    Guide her on over will ya?

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  9. sry but you should never argue with a criticer, even if he is wrong. it is his opinion and trying to change that one leaves only a bad mark for everyone else who read the comments. did you ever read a response of Goerge rr martin in regard of one of his many 1-star reviews? no? because he doesn't care and you also shouldn't. it's not like your reply will change anything about her views on your book, just attract more trolls and haters who will bash you and your book more.

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    1. Patrick, it has already been discussed that this is not a review of my book. It's a review I came across on another's book.

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    2. I added an addendum to the post to help clear up any confusion about this.

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    3. then you did a great thing to stand up for a fellow author. didn't see many people do that.

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  10. Good for you. I am glad you are standing up for authors...and readers...everywhere. It's a shame that people are so quick to comment negatively but need a nudge to say anything positive. You shut her up! I hope other negative reviewers get the point as well.

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  11. You should read a book cover to cover before reviewing it. Period.

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  12. You should read an entire work of fiction before reviewing it. The same is true of most nonfiction books, although certain nonfiction books are intended to be read on an "as needed"/"as relevant" basis. If you read only the parts of a nonfiction book that were relevant to you, I think it's still fair to review it.

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    1. That's a fair point about reference books. But I agree: fiction should be read beginning to end before you can effectively review it.

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  13. Michael - I'm with those who say 100 percent. On the flip side, I've read books that had me until I reached the 75% point and then they did a rapid slide downwards. I think the fact that you took time to comment on the review of another's book is amazing. Keep it up.

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    1. Thanks. It just seemed like such a ridiculous review, especially since she commented that she only wanted to see slang in the dialogue... which is exactly where the "offending" slang was! And even if it wasn't, such a small thing shouldn't warrant a one-star review with not even a full chapter read. Unbelievable.

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  14. "Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work." Carl Sandburg.

    The Amazon reviewer was naive and lazy. Too bad for her.

    Great post, BTW!

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  15. I've got to agree with y'all (can I say that? just kidding :P). I say that if you're going to leave a review, then you have to read the entire story. I stopped reading a book recently because it took a quick turn to the farcical. Am I going to leave a review? No, I'm not. What we post on the internet stays on the internet. It defines us. If all we do is accentuate the negative, then what good are we? As a fellow independent author I want to say thanks Michael for sticking up for us. Well played, sir! Well played.

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  16. Michael, another great post. I believe a reviewer should read 100% of the book, but then there are exceptions. Sometimes a person is asked by a publisher or author to review a partial, in which case the reviewer should state that, though they usually don't. I've seen some great reviews by readers who said they just read a certain portion of the book and loved it. Hey, as an author I love every good/nice/great review.

    On the other hand, one of my books recently received the following 1-Star Review: "Very unrealistic characters having very unrealistic experiences of the Outback." It should be noted the reviewer didn't buy or read the book as he/she apparently considered it unreadable. No, I didn't respond to the review, but I'll sure as heck mention it from time to time.

    For those who follow my blog, I've written several posts about reviews. I look at it this way, if someone writes a review on a book they've never read, then they're not a reviewer, just someone spouting off.

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  17. I won't leave a review unless I read the whole book.

    My first thought on reading the word 'anyways' was 'Is it in dialogue? Because that's how people talk...'

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    1. Totally, I grew up in north west London and we used that word all the time in our teens.

      Viz reviews, I know a bloggers who reviewed a book they could only get 3/4 through before abandoning, but she was v.careful to state why, that it was a one off, and that basically life was too short to struggle on with such a consistently bad book. I felt that was fair if it was her experience and truth.

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    2. I think it is perfectly valid to review a book that you have not finished, provided you a) at least approached it with an open mind, and b) explain, in a rational and mature way (never get rude or personal), why you couldn't finish it. This will let potential purchasers of the book know that there are aspects which may be difficult. I reviewed the Steig Larsen books that way - and I doubt I had much adverse effect on their sales. But I might just have let someone know that there are difficlt bits.

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  18. Good job, Michael! That's just plain spite to leave a 1 star review on a book that the reviewer hasn't even read. AND incorrect words are used all the time in dialogue. It's the way people tend to speak, depending on who the character is, of course. It always chills me to see low ratings paired with a review that doesn't express what was wrong with the book. I'm suspicious of some of those as well. Maybe a competing author, one with no ethics? And my answer to your question is at least 75%. If the book is still bad 3/4 of the way in, then it's probably bad to the finish. But, that's just my opinion.

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  19. Kudos on defending a fellow authors against lazy bad reviews/ This is especially important as any review with less than 4 stars is read by Amazon algorhitms as "not recomended" and negatively affects teh readers earings on Amazon (http://www.epublishabook.com/2012/07/20/amazon-book-reviews-10-cardinal-rules-of-using-reviewing-power) so I fully agree with you, one should at least read the entire book before venturing to trasg it.
    Furthermore, slang is slang and belongs to dialogues when appropriate and certainly does not warrant such a harsh judgement.
    If you write to the commentator again, you should include a link to this post and advise him/her to have a look at the comments so as to strenghthen your point.

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  20. I had a similar thing happen to me earlier this year, when a reviewer took it upon himself to review my novel "in depth" after only having read two chapters of it.

    I couldn't leave it alone and had a to and fro with him on Kindle Boards but the guy could not be reasoned with. You cannot be taken seriously as a reviewer if you aren't prepared to read the entire novel cover to cover.

    I've had a number of critical reviews which I accepted on their merits because they had read the entire work and made some valid, constructive points. In those cases, I still took the time to thank them for reviewing my work.

    I'm relieved to know that most fair minded people can see through a shoddy review and take a chance on my work.

    Sometimes it's best to leave these idiots alone but then again, there's no harm in discussing it either.

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  21. I do not think someone should leave a review unless they have at least read enough to get the gist of it. It is possible to hate a book enough to be unable to finish it. Or maybe you don't hate it, you just are bored or disinterested. But it is pointless to engage in a dialogue with them. Move on to the next.

    All my reviews are polar opposites. I got a one-star on B&N that was actually great cuz he couldn't put the book down and criticized my character's moral choices. If I don't like a book, I usually don't post a review because I don't want to hurt feelings and the market will give hem their answer. Someone else posted an article about the time-traveling reviewer--those who give a review in anticipation of an unpublished work. These are usually from the super-fan group.

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  22. There was a badly behaving reviewer thread on Amazon that Amazon took down. It was for authors to complain about reviewers. I guess it got out of control. Now there is a badly behaving writer thread run by reviewers and they are ruthless.

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  23. That person must be a troll. No one could genuinely be that petty and rude. Personally, I think if you read the whole book you can give your honest opinion. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.

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  24. I love your pithy replies! I hope she takes it to heart but for some reason I doubt she will.

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  25. Well done! I don't think some reviewers realize how hurtful their comments can be, so I'm glad you've taken the time to set one straight! I love your replies--factual, not just emotional--and I think you responded in such a way that she can't possibly fault you for being a jerk.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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  26. Yay! You go!

    I think 50% at the least. The reviews that annoy me the most are the group of trolls who claim to have read "an excerpt" and, when pushed, will then claim the excerpt was on a third party site asking for reviews of the whole book, based on said excerpt... I have one of these as do several authors I know... same guy even. :(

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  27. 'Anyways' actually IS a word... at least according to Merriam-Webster.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anyways

    And I agree. I think a reviewer must read 100% of a story to leave a review. Period.

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  28. I have mixed feelings on this one. I've read things that within the first chapter got thumbs down for me - do to errors and overall poor writing. I don't think I left a review, however there was enough of the writing style (not the story line) revealed that I knew I wouldn't enjoy the read.

    On the other side - I HAVE had someone to write a not so stellar review for one of my works midway through the read . . . then came back to finish it off. That was silly to me.

    I think definitely more than the first chapter should be read, but I'm not sure if I feel like I have to read the entire story to make an assessment. I have written a 1-star review before, and I did read the whole work, however, it didn't take me reading the whole work to know that I'd be rating it one star.

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  29. "do to errors" LOLOOLOLOL!!!!! That should be due to errors.

    See. . . who am I to judge!

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  30. I'm ringing in on the side of "must read the whole book" in order to leave a review. Frankly, I have way too many books on my TBR list to finish a book that I would rate 1 or 2 stars, and I feel it would be unfair of me to leave a review if I hadn't read the whole book. To give a book a 1-star rating based on one word, correctly or incorrectly used, would be laughable if it wasn't so hurtful and downright aggravating!

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  31. I had someone give one of my books a 1-star review on the Barnes & Noble site because the book was written in first person. She admitted that she only read three pages and then decided to return the book because she doesn't like first-person narrative. She went so far as to say that publishers should WARN readers ahead of time if a book is written in first person. And the author deserves a 1-star review because, um, why? It's a crazy world out there.

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  32. I think I'm going to take a minority view here--although I agree with you completely in this instance, I do think that's it's possible for a book to be so poor in quality that it's worth warning other potential purchasers even if you've only read a chapter or two. I wouldn't do that, certainly, based on a single word. I also wouldn't do it based on the simple fact that I didn't care for the story; there are many popular novels that just aren't to my taste. But what about a novel that is so riddled with typos and grammatical errors that it's actually difficult to read (and not for stylistic reasons)? What about a non-fiction book on a topic in which you have some expertise which you find within a couple of chapters to have made numerous blatant factual errors? I don't think in such egregious cases one has an obligation to struggle through the rest of the book before warning fellow readers of those issues.

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  34. Area reader, reviews like that bug me to. don't rate a book, positive or negative, that you haven't read.

    To this reviewer's defense, at least she read SOME of the book. I'm seeing a lot of reviews lately that admit to rating the book for totally bizarre reasons that have nothing to do with even a single line from the novel.

    Reminiscent of spam if you ask me, not that you did.

    FYI, as an author you no longer have the right to be a reader. Wait, don't roast me alive. This isn't MY opinion. As a reviewer, I personally think you DO have the right. But there is a very vocal group on the interwebz who believe authors are no longer human because they wrote something other than a review.

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  35. I don't think someone should write a review unless they have read the whole book. However, if there are one and two star reviews on a book, I like to read them. Especially if there are a lot of positive reviews. Sometimes they have valid points (not that they change my mind about reading the book), other times they make me roll my eyes over the sheer stupidity.

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  36. Just got something like this. Newest review was a 3-star. Star count doesn't bother me at all but I wish the reviewer had elaborated. Very vague review with poor grammar/punctuation. Claimed my book was "worth the read" & "nicely written and entertaining" so the 3 stars confused me a bit. Most perplexing, however, was the claim that my story was "not a sci-fi". Ummm . . . I invite anyone to my blog to check out samples and see if they agree. Can this sort of review be removed? It seems very misleading. Again, I'll take a 3-star review, or even less, as long as the reviewer justifies the rating in their review.

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  37. I've noticed people confusing two things: one is a review, a genuine one, written as a review (good or bad, it doesn't matter), and the second one is customer's opinion - usually a few sentences with irrelevant information and (sometimes "hurt") feelings. To write the first one you should read the whole book, cover to cover. Period. The second one is not even a review and should be ignored. Why bother with people who don't bother?

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