Friday, July 31, 2015

Blogtalk Radio: The Women Show

I just finished listening to The Women Show with Bennett Pomerantz. His guests yesterday were Valerie Douglas and Mary Ann Peden-Coviello. A third author was supposed to be on, but canceled at the last minute because of a family emergency.

The topic was Amazon reviews and it is worth listening to even though the authors involved did not stay on topic the whole time, veering off into cover art (professional or amateur) and editing, choosing genres, etc. I had imagined that the co-hosts would get into the topic of Amazon's policy book reviews, algorithms, and why certain authors cannot review the books of authors they know, but that was not touched on at all. Maybe a topic for another time.

Since I was unable to post a comment on the show, I've decided to do so here regarding some of their discussions. As I said, the show is worth listening to. I applaud Bennett Pomerantz for being willing to disagree with his co-hosts. Bravo!

Now on to my comment:

As a reviewer, "honest reviews" are not always honest. One of the reasons I quit reviewing professionally is because I was told I had to make all my reviews positive. My reviews were always polite, but always honest. If I didn't like a book I said so, and vice versa. Polite is one thing, but telling me I had to leave a positive review wasn't honest and was not going to happen.

Having said the above, not all reviews are honest reviews. It's easy to tell. I have read reviews where it was obvious the reviewer had not read the book at all and the ignorance showed in what they wrote about the book. I have a few of those on some of my books. There is no guarantee the review will come down even though it is not honest or accurate and obvious the reviewer either had an axe to sharpen on the author and had not read the book. Like Joe Konrath said, ebooks are forever. So are reviews: good, bad, and indifferent.

I do not believe that asking family members or friends to read and review one's book is dishonest or a bad practice. One of my cousins, who up to this point is "...not a book reader," read one of my books and loved it. I urged her to write a review. I didn't specify what kind of review, just that she should write a review. The same goes for anyone, friend, family, or stranger, who reads one of my books. Write about what you read and how it affected you. One's first critics are often family and friends. It's not asking them for a review that is dishonest, but asking for a certain kind of review that's dishonest.

As writers, we must use our words carefully and, as Anne Rice demonstrated amply when she went off on an Amazon reviewer after a negative review a few years ago, responding to reviewers personally is always a mistake. So is not differentiating between the kinds of reviews a writer asks for.

Yes, it is wrong to stack the deck. No, it is not wrong to request that the people who have read a book review the book, whether they be family, friend, or stranger. I am all for readers taking the time to review a book they've read -- and review it honestly, but, as has been mentioned, they should READ the book first. The whole book and not just a blurb or regurgitating what someone else said about a book before reading it. And reviews are not the place to settle a personal score. If one cannot separate the person from the author/book, then one should not review the book. /end of comment
Many people read books, but few ever write reviews. The reviewers often are writers. I review books of people I know personally, and often people with whom I have had differences, but my personal feelings do not enter into the review process. If I find my anger or dislike of someone is too strong to remain neutral in a review, I don't post the review. I have had that happen with only one or two authors over the years. I recused myself on those occasions. Luckily, it does not and did not happen often. 

Amazon has become a bit draconian in their review process, especially with regard to authors not reviewing the books of authors they know personally. There is no accurate algorithm for sifting out the axe-grinders and the boot lickers and banning all authors reviewing personal friends who also happen to be authors is not necessarily the best policy. If Amazon cannot write an algorithm to get rid of negative reviews from people who have not taken the time to read what they're reviewing, they should step back and let nature -- and the Internet -- finds a level. 

Good and bad reviews come and go. Yes, they are forever on the Internet -- as long as there is technology available to access the reviews -- but ultimately reviewing a book is subjective, a personal like or dislike (not necessarily of the author) of the reviewer. There will be ugly reviews. Count on it. Get used to it, writer. Take it like a duck in the rain. Let it roll off your back and then go write another book or story -- or even review. Keep it clean. Keep it honest. Be real.

That is all. Disperse.

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