Book reviews

#AmWriting #IndieAuthors How to Destroy Your Credibility as an Author – Part One: Handling Reviews

This is Part One of my pseudo-sarcastic series about destroying one’s credibility as an author. I’m not being mean, and I’m definitely not pointing my finger at anyone; I’m just tired of seeing the same old unsavory practices all day, every day. Writing a book is hard, I know. But who said writing is an author’s only job? Granted, writing is the most important part of an author’s job, but non-writing responsibilities, such as promotion, time management, financial management, and public relations, also play a role in achieving success as an author, especially if you’re an independent, or “indie” author.

The manner in which independent authors perform the non-writing aspects of their jobs speaks not only for the individual authors, but for all independent authors. When many authors make the same mistakes again and again, the book-buying public lumps all independent authors together. And that’s when you read such comments as, “Oh yeah, invincible self-published authors and their massive, vapor-filled ego bubbles,” or, “Our publication no longer reviews self-published books because the authors lash out at us if we give their books less-than-stellar reviews.” Sound familiar? And speaking of reviews… Part One of my series deals with handling bad reviews.

~ How to Mishandle Bad Reviews and Destroy Your Credibility and Reputation ~

1) When you receive a bad review, immediately “lash out” at the reviewer. Call them a jerk, and insist that they don’t understand the book or, alternatively, that they had read the book through their eyes instead of your eyes. If the review noted spelling or gramattical errors, simply tell the reviewer, “Nobody’s perfect! A few errors aren’t a big deal.”

The reality: Reviews are for readers, not authors. The author’s job is to create a reading experience for the reader, and then back away. Commenting back on reviews is authorial intrusion at its worst, and in addition to eroding your credibility and reputation as an author, it will likely earn you more bad reviews and/or a spot on one of the many “misbehaving authors to avoid” lists. To put it bluntly, when you receive a bad review, suck it up and move on. Unless the review contains profanity, racism, or a very explicit personal attack, nobody is going to remove it for you.

But, what if a competing author, their publisher, or someone who hates you submits a trash review? Sadly, it happens all the time. It has happened to me twice, plus a third review came from someone who exploded when I didn’t support their relative a local election. There’s nothing you can do about it, although karma usually wins out over the long run. I’ll tell you that story some other time. Now for the good news… Readers are smart! Most readers can spot a “rigged” review faster than you can spot one, and they often vote down bogus reviews as being “not helpful.”

Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s suppose a valid customer submits a bad review and goes into detail. Send them a check! Really. They’ve done what most people won’t do without a fee. They’ve pointed out things you need to work on. Such bad reviews are invaluable in developing and furthering your writing career.

2) When you receive a bad review, vote it down and ask your friends, relatives, and forum buddies to vote it down or leave nasty comments. You can easily bury the bad review, and potential customers will see only good reviews unless they spend oodles of time digging–and most won’t.

The reality: Again, reviews are for readers, not authors. Also, a review’s helpfulness rating influences book-buying decisions. Voting down (or up) a review is manipulating, or “gaming” the system to make one’s book appear better or more popular than it really is. It is a deliberate and willful misrepresentation of a material fact, for the purpose of achieving financial gain. And yes, the F-word applies here: Fraud. Gaming the system not only damages your credibility and reputation as an author, it also calls into question your integrity as a human being–by making you appear as someone who will “do anything for a dollar, even if you have to mislead people.”

3) If a competing book is more successful than your book, or if you’re afraid it will become more successful, visit every review site on the internet and give it trash reviews.

The reality: Much has been said about this practice, but nothing good. I can’t think of anything more unprofessional or unethical than an author’s trashing of a competing author’s book. Sure, authors have the right to an opinion, but sometimes opinions are best left unsaid, especially when an obvious conflict of interest exists. As I said earlier, readers are smart. If you trash the work of your competitors, readers will catch on and your plan will backfire.

Now, a few parting words. You shouldn’t over-analyze reviews; weigh them and move on. If a reviewer gives useful tips, take them to heart. If you receive tons of great reviews, pat yourself on the back, but don’t think you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. If you get lots of bad reviews, take a close look at your writing; you might need to develop and hone your skills. And remember that reviews aren’t about you; reviews are about your books, by readers and for readers. Step back. Don’t intrude. Allow readers to give their opinions and to judge for themselves the merits of other reviews.

The bottom line: If you get a bad review, don’t make an ass of yourself.

Up Next Week:  Part Two – Getting Sucked Into the Virtual Whirlwind of the Internet, aka, the ClickFest

Book Review Bias: The Online Disconnect

#amreading #amwriting #books

The findings of some interesting studies about book-buyer behavior were released this past week. One study found that book-buyers “discover” books and authors most often through word of mouth. The study also found that most people go online to buy the books they discover through word of mouth. Let’s put these two findings together.

Sally will tell John, perhaps at dinner, “Hey, I just finished reading a GREAT new book by so-and-so!” And John will surf to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and order a copy. Simple enough. Or is it? Let’s think about it. John listens to a verbal book review from someone he knows and trusts, and he goes online–where millions of book descriptions and reviews already exist–to purchase the book Sally had recommended at dinner.

John represents the many book-buyers who, according to the recent study, discover books and authors through friends rather than the internet–but then go online to buy the books. The internet boasts millions of books, each with an inviting description and a list of reviews. There are also author and publisher web sites and blogs, and thousands of daily tweets about every type of book imaginable. Why are people so reluctant to use the internet and its many book descriptions and reviews to learn of new authors and books?

Enticing book descriptions and over-the-top sales pitches fall flat without validation. Book hype comes from authors, publishers, and booksellers–those who cash in when a book sells. That’s why many book buyers turn to word of mouth and reviews for the lowdown. Enter authors, publishers, and booksellers–yes, again.

The lack of credible, unbiased reviews online has created a disconnect between discovery and purchase. Customers are left not knowing what to believe when they ponder a book purchase; making an informed decision becomes a game of roulette.

At one end of the review continuum are authors and publishers who, using fake names, litter competing books with vague, unfounded one-star reviews in hopes of redirecting would-be customers to their own books. Such literary smear campaigns cheat readers out of potentially good reads, and rob authors and publishers of potential sales. At the opposite end of the continuum are authors and publishers who, again, using fake names, shower their own books with glamorous five-star reviews in hopes of boosting sales. Such embellishment usually leads to buyer remorse, which, in turn, leads to bad reviews. Can you spell “Backfire?”

For a book review to be credible, it must be written by someone who has actually read the book and who doesn’t stand to gain financially from the book’s success or failure. Very simple. However, with the many profit-driven fake reviewers on the internet, and with all the one- and five-star reviews (but nothing in between) given to many single titles, it’s difficult for book-buyers to go online and make informed buying decisions based on reviews. It’s no wonder why people prefer to discover books and authors through word of mouth rather than through the internet. People are more inclined to believe people they know and trust.

Some online booksellers have taken measures to ensure review integrity, but none have succeeded. In fact, one retailer, who routinely deletes five-star reviews believed fake, but who doesn’t delete fake one-star reviews, openly states that people are not required to purchase or read a book in order to review it on their web site. Say what? Yes, it’s true. Quality and integrity controls for online reviews are needed across the board. Customers should be able to read genuine book reviews and make informed purchasing decisions without getting sucked into the invisible whirlwind we call bookbiz cut-throat drama.