etiquette

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..!

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Why I don’t beta read

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I don’t beta read for people, and I don’t review for them either, unless I’ve chosen to read the book and liked it. There are several reasons for this, and a recent experience reminded me why it was a good decision for me not to do it. The ease with which anyone can get their work into print, is both good and bad. Without publishing houses guiding authors, they are totally undisciplined, mainly because they simply do not know that there is a way of doing things that earns you respect, and many ways that won’t. Trying to educate them is a waste of time; you will either be ignored or lose your kneecaps.

Recently, I made the mistake of allowing myself to be persuaded into beta reading for someone. I said yes before he told me it was over 100k words, and I’m too nice to go back on my word. This guy has an internet presence which gives the impression (however right or wrong) that he enjoys a level of success. He lives in a country where the people have their own, very unique culture, although he is not of that culture himself.

The generally accepted rule of thumb, is that you don’t send your book to betas until you’ve edited it, proof read it, and made it as polished as you can. It is not the job of the beta to point out spelling errors or grammatical mistakes, or to have to traverse them while trying to get into your plot. The manuscript I received had obviously not even been given an initial proof read, let alone multiple edits. It was terrible, not to put too finer point on it. Do this too often and word will get around the greater writing community that you don’t know what the hell you are doing.

Another problem I found, was that it was too specific to the unique culture the author lives in, which I feel would alienate those not of that culture, (which makes up roughly 75% of the rest of the world). Fine if you only intend to publish in that one country, but if you want it to be available worldwide, it’s a mistake, in my opinion. When I say too specific, I mean he used words of that language without giving a translation or giving us any clue as to what it means.

The main problem for me, was that it was far too long and seemed as if he had filled it with tons of minute descriptive detail just to pad out the word count. There was simply far too much minute descriptive detail that did not help the story. I did give it a try though, and set my Word Talk up and sat back to listen. I felt that the first 5 or 6 chapters could easily be discarded without any harm to the main story, and by chapter 9 I had fallen asleep through sheer boredom. I realised that I had probably bitten off far more than I could chew, so I read three or four chapters, then skimmed through another dozen or so, then read three or four more, then skimmed a load more, wash, rinse, repeat until I got to the end. In my opinion, he should cut it down to between 70 and 80 thousand words, and he will have a story that gets into the action quickly and carries you through at an exciting pace.

When I wrote my thoughts to the author, he did not even bother to acknowledge that I had taken my time (free of charge) to give him the benefit of my experience and viewpoint as both an author and a reader. It doesn’t matter that he may not have liked my opinion, he asked for it, I gave it, and I deserved an acknowledgement at least. I couldn’t give a flying fuck what you think of my opinion, if you ask for it, you will it and I expect you to thank me for my time. This guy didn’t, and that shows not only his lack of experience as an author in the field, which will only serve to hinder him as word gets around of his lack of basic etiquette, but also shows that the spin he puts out about himself is just that – spin.

This has proved to me that my decision not to beta read for others is a valid one, and one that I shall stick to in future. It’s not that I’m unhelpful or want to keep other authors down, it’s because when I give hours of my time to someone without charge, and they can’t even acknowledge my contribution, I feel like a fool.

I will be nobody’s fool, so don’t ever ask me to beta read, or read for review.