Book Reviews

The bubble has to burst some time soon

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Have you ever blown up a balloon and reached that point where you know it’s gonna go bang any second? I think we’re approaching that point  in the literary world. When I say ‘I think,’ I actually mean I hope.

The whole, review, sock puppets, paid reviews, fake reviews, deliberate bad reviews cycle is fast reaching the point where the literary world will just implode. Then there are the overpriced promo sites, like that really well known one that costs hundreds of dollars for one day’s promo, whom I won’t name because they haven’t paid me hundreds of dollars for ad space here on my blog. They require your work to have reviews, sometimes a minimum number of them at a certain star rating or above, and can still refuse to accept your work at all. So you save for months or don’t bother to pay your credit card bill, then use the money to apply for an add at that book promo site or others like it. What are you going to feel like if they refuse you because you haven’t the right number of reviews, or perhaps they just hate your cover or notice a spelling error in your blurb? You’ve just flushed several hundred dollars down the shitter. If I lost so much money like that, I think I would either commit murder or suicide.

You can buy reviews on various selling websites. Fiverr is a well known one where you can purchase book reviews. It’s dishonest to get reviews this way, but I’m sure the vast majority of reviews you can see on Amazon, have been purchased. I’m not yet that desperate, but I can’t guarantee I won’t get there.

I hope the bubble bursts soon. We need the floor to fall out from under the whole self publishing world and the entire thing to be reformatted. Rebuild it from the ground up, with concrete rules that are heavily enforced, even some legislation in law would help keep things in line.

This can’t go on, or I can’t. One or the other.

Review etiquette

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I have been prompted to write this blog by a number of posts on facebook about reviews.  I’ve been in facebook groups where the subject of reviews has been discussed, and I’ve seen authors posting about reviews they’ve received.  I have received a couple of negative ones myself, so I know how it feels to be on the end of it.  It also gives me the opportunity to comment about etiquette for reviewers.

The job of a reviewer is to give an opinion ABOUT THE STORY, and not about the author.  The review should contain your views about the characters, the story, how it made you feel etc, AND NOTHING MORE.  A review is not the place to insult the author’s intelligence (or perceived lack thereof), their lack of writing skill, and how you feel they were brought up.

Anyone who leaves reviews that contain insults, only makes themselves look bad.  It is obvious that you are doing this because, a) you also have a book you want to sell and you want to make your rival’s book seem worse than yours in the vain hope yours sells better, or b) a friend/family member of yours has a book to sell and you’re  trying to put down his/her rivals books, or c) you know the author from facebook and you took offence to something they said and want to get them back.

The thing is dear, authors talk to each other and those who leave such reviews get well known amongst authors for all the wrong reasons.  Anyone who reads a review that makes disrespectful comments about the author’s lack of education as a child (as appears on a review of one of my books) is not going to believe what the reviewer is saying, and will just assume that the reviewer is a nutjob.

Of course you must be honest, and if you could not get into the book, say so, but say so politely and without insulting the author’s upbringing/parentage/education or anything else.  Reviews have become a thing of ridicule nowadays because of people leaving reviews like this, and customers no longer have a valuable source of information to help them choose whether to make a purchase or not.

I recently saw a conversation on a facebook group where one such reviewer was being discussed.  This chick has become infamous for leaving insulting reviews on her rivals’ books because she also has books to sell, and knows that the only way hers will ever sell is if there are no others available..!  All of the people involved in this conversation were ridiculing her and her books, which apparently are not of the highest quality.

Look m’dear, just be polite when leaving a review.  You don’t have to lie and say you loved it when you didn’t.  All we ask is that you stop leaving such childish insults that only serve to make you look like an idiot, and to bring the whole of the indie publishing world down to a level of embarrassment.  We have enough to cope with  without this silly behaviour from amongst our own ranks.

Grow up..!

Negative Reviews – the worst way to handle them

I normally pay no more than a moment’s attention to most of the posts by other authors on facebook.  Ninety nine percent of the time they’re just trying to sell me their shit, which I have no intention of buying anyway, so I glance and jog on to the pics of half naked men with washboard abs and funny animal videos.  Now and again though, I see something that so enrages me, that I have to respond, even though I know my response will not only fall on deaf ears, but will probably lose me my kneecaps.  No matter, I prefer to speak up with universal wisdom and risk losing them, than keep silent and condone such behaviour.

In one of the writer’s groups I belong too (although maybe not for much longer) I saw this post.

“Hey all ***(name)*** just got this stupid one star review can we get some vote downs.”  A link to an Amazon review was attached.

The review is this.

“The story was a good one, kept you reading. However, to me it was poorly written. It was hard to keep up with the characters at times because of the way the story jumped from one scene to another before you realize it. I especially disliked the way the little boy, Joel, was written as to his baby talk.

I have never read a book that described a dog’s bark as “Bufgr”. This was just comical to me. Not a major problem with the book.”

Now, this review is not disrespectful in any way, it does not include name calling or swear words and never encourages other potential readers not to buy the book.  It is honest, well written and candid.  This person obviously spent money buying the book (the ebook version of which is nearly $4) and has exercised his/her right to give their honest opinion on it.  After all, we do live in a society that claims to encourage freedom of speech.  Indeed, the reviewer even compliments the book as being a good story.

Asking your author buddies to immediately go and vote down a review, simply because you don’t like it is not only unprofessional, but it also says a lot about your moral standards as both a person and an author.  That worries me and makes me determined never to buy any of your books.  I not only have to enjoy the book I’m reading, but I also have to respect you as a person.  I’m funny like that, I have standards.

The world of book reviews has become so sullied in recent times, with sock puppets, paid reviews and now this type of ‘vote rigging’ by authors and it makes me less desirous of getting reviews for my own work, or at least makes me care a little less about whether I get them or not.

When people pay money for our product, they have  a right to voice their opinion of said product, and whether we like what they have to say or not, is beside the point and of no consequence.  That is the joy of living in a society where freedom of speech is encouraged.  I applaud this reviewer for voicing their opinion in such an honest but unemotional way, and for avoiding name calling and other such undignified behaviour so often seen these days.

The more I associate with other authors, the less I respect them.

When you get a low star review, as we all do from time to time, simply ignore it.  Do not respond and certainly do not resort to this kind of ‘vote rigging’ as it only makes the paying public all too well aware of the depths to which you will happily sink, in order to fool them into thinking your product is worth their money.  What makes it worse is that the person who made the request, claims to be a religious man.

You, Sir, are an ass..!

The Sleep Room – Review

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I purchased this book from a supermarket in my local town for £1.95.  I will admit, it was the cover and title that caught my eye initially.  I have never heard of F R Tallis before.  After reading the blurb on the back, I decided it was worth risking the, thankfully low, price.

This book was sufficient to make me want to keep reading it, and I read it all in one day.  After the last three books I read, which all were so painfully awful I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages a day, it was a pleasure to get engrossed.  The story centres around Dr Richardson, a psychiatrist, who goes to work at Wyldehope Hall, a secluded home for the mentally ill, in rural Suffolk.  Spooky goings on make Dr Richardson wonder what is really going on and the book takes on a typical supernatural overtone.

Once I got through chapter one, I had to switch off my ‘author’s head’ and try to look at it purely as a reader, because I soon found some editing mistakes.  The book is written in first person, and there are many consecutive sentences that begin with the word, “I.”  This is probably the most well known thing not to do in first person and Mr Tallis needs to change his editor for so basic a thing to be missed.  The next thing I noticed was in the paragraph that ended page seventeen and began page eighteen.

“I followed Mr Hartley up to the first floor landing, where we passed beneath a stag’s head with glassy black eyes.  When we reached the second floor landing, Mr Hartley unlocked another door, switched on a light, and invited me to enter a wide hallway which had rooms adjoining it on both sides.”

The use of the name Mr Hartley twice in consecutive sentences is, again, a glaring error in editing.  The second occurence of the name should be switched with the word, “he.”

After noticing both of these editing errors, I made a huge effort to switch off my author/editor head.  Things didn’t improve.

I have always been a huge fan of James Herbert, the very famous horror writer.  I’ve read every book he’s written and would have dearly loved to continue doing so, had he not gone and died recently.  Mr Herbert’s last book before he passed away so tragically, was called Ash, and although not his best work, wasn’t at all bad.

Ash was published on 30th August 2012, (according to Amazon).

The Sleep Room was published on 4th July 2013 (according to Amazon).

With the exception of one or two points, The Sleep Room follows the story of Ash so closely it is both worrying and embarrassing.  If I were a suspicious sort of person, I could suspect Mr Tallis of knocking off one of the most highly respected authors of our time.  It could, of course, be pure coincidence that Mr Tallis just happened to think of an almost identical storyline to that of Mr Herbert.  He might not ever have heard of this most famous of authors, despite the fact that he writes in the same genre.  Anything is possible.

The problem is, James Herbert has a lot, and I mean a lot, of fans who will have read Ash.  If they also happen to stumble upon The Sleep Room and decide, as it’s the same genre, to read it, they will come away thinking Mr Tallis has ripped off Mr Herbert’s story and be pretty annoyed.  And there’s the rub, even if he hasn’t deliberately copied the storyline, people who know James Herbert will think he has, and they will talk.  I noticed it and I will talk.

The way publishing is nowadays, we are the sole trustees of our own integrity.  With almost no legislation and quality control going on, it is up to us to make sure our work is not only of a high standard, but also that it is unique.  To not do so, not only  harms you but harms all authors.

The twist at the end is also a direct copy of the one in the movie, Shutter Island.  This also bring the whole book into question, for me anyway.  Mr Tallis would do well, if he is at all concerned with his brand and his integrity, to take the book down and re-write it, making it unique to himself.

As I said, Mr Tallis may not have deliberately copied James Herbert.  It may be coincidence.  But now that he does know how closely this book follows Mr Herbert’s, does he care enough about his public image and integrity to change things?

I cannot give this book any more than 2 stars, simply because of the disturbing similarity between it, and James Herbert’s Ash.