amazon book reviews

"Unhelpful Posts" on Amazon

I was going to update the post I wrote about a ridiculous comment someone left on Amazon with regard to a review someone else left. But decided to just do another quick post here.

You can read the first post here.

As I said, this comment was ridiculous, it added nothing to the discussion of the book and had nothing to do with the contents of the actual review.

And Amazon did this, which I’d never seen before:

[Customers don’t think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

There was nothing helpful about this comment.

Maybe I’m out of the loop with these things and Amazon has been doing this all along, but I just hope it continues. Leaving a comment about a review to discuss a book in an intelligent way is one thing, but leaving a personal attack about the reviewer makes me cringe.

Kindle Direct Publishing…Review: "No More Harvard Debt" by Joe Mihalic


When I first stumbled across Joe Mihalic’s blog, No More Harvard Debt, I was curious about his posts because I know so many people who are now paying off college loans. I was lucky enough not to have college loans, but I (we) know what it’s like to carry a half a million dollar mortgage, so anything money management interests me. As a blogger I know how to navigate blogs well and I went to one of his earliest posts to see what he had to say…and to see if what he had to say would be of any interest to me.The first line I read made me want to read more.

I graduated from Harvard Business School with my MBA and $95k of student loans ($101k including accumulated interest) in 2009 at the age of 26.

I liked the blog so much I posted about it on my own blog, hoping to spread the word for other people who might be interested in ways to pay down college loans…or any other debt…the good old fashioned American way. Because that’s what Joe did. He didn’t sit around and groan. He didn’t sit around waiting for a handout from the government. He used common sense and forged ahead by working as hard as he could.

And when I saw that he’d put the blog into book form using the Kindle Direct Publishing program I couldn’t have been more thrilled. By doing this I knew he would be reaching even more people who could use advice. And by using the KDP program it didn’t cost him anything but, as is his style, a lot of hard work. And, it’s well formatted and simple to read on any e-reading device. I read mine on an iPhone for the most part.

What I think I like most is that he’s not loud and obnoxious about offering his own personal advice like so many others who get paid millions of dollars to do basically the same things he’s doing. There are some funny sections and some sections that scream reality check. But the most important part was the sincerity…without the gimmicks. I would recommend this book to anyone with debt, or anyone interested in reading a human interest story about a normal guy with a great deal of tenacity and talent.

Review: How to be a Writer in the E-Age, by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Anne R. Allen, Introduction by Saffina Desforges


I finally had a chance to finish “How to be a Writer in the E-Age” this weekend and wanted to post a short review first thing this morning while it’s still fresh. Although a good deal of what I read in this e-book tended to be things I’ve already experienced as a published author in the e-age, there were a few things I didn’t know and will retain for future reference. I started writing for e-publishers about seven years ago when everyone was still laughing at the possibility of e-books going mainstream.

I so wish there had been a book like this back when I first started to consider writing for e-publishers. Until that point, all of my publishing experience had been with small traditional LGBT print presses. And because the LGBT market wasn’t strong back then I made a point of trying to get my short stories into as many anthologies as I could each year. It wasn’t mainstream publishing and the money was terrible, but I loved what I was doing and it was considered legitimate.

When I started to look into e-publishing I read more than one questionable thing about it…or I couldn’t find any information at all. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about it myself. So I played it very safe in the beginning and submitted short stories to several e-publishers just to see what it was like. These manuscripts were released as e-books and I found that I loved working with e-publishers. They were just as professional as all the print publishers I’d ever worked with in the past and in some cases even more thorough. And, best of all, it didn’t take a year or more to get a book released. That in itself was a novelty to me. The world’s slowest industry in the world was now starting to pick up speed.

The moment I started to read “How to be a Writer in the E-Age” I knew it was a winner in every sense. The information is not only valuable to new authors, it’s relevant to published authors who might be thinking about making the switch to e-publishing, too. Or for established authors who are interested in self-publishing and have been on the fence about doing it. I found nothing in this book that can be disputed either (not always the case with writer’s manuals). From the introductions to the last page it’s filled with realistic information that shows writers what the writing experience is like now.

One thing I’d like to point out that I liked in particular was that there are no preachy comments, and this book isn’t pushing any one particular way to be a writer…or whether or not traditional publishing is better than e-publishing. There are many aspects of publishing talked about in this book and that’s something I don’t see often (the authors even read the same publishing blogs I’ve been following for years). In other words, it’s not about hating literary agents and hating those big bad mean publishers and it’s not about how spectacular self-publishing is and how it’s going to change life as we all know it as writers and readers. The book talks about self-publishing in an objective way, which is something I don’t see often these days either.

A while ago I read a writer’s manual written by one of my all time favorite authors, Rita Mae Brown who was one of those authors that changed publishing in the 1970’s, and I thought that was the best writer’s manual I’d ever read. But this book on writing and publishing took what Brown had to say to another level and brought it all up to date so new writers will know what to expect and how to deal with all the changes that are happening in publishing now. But more than that, because it’s an e-book and we can now do things like this with e-books, there’s a feature I’ve never seen before. When you buy this e-book you get updates every six months that will allegedly deal with more changes in publishing as they happen. And the changes seem to be happening on a daily basis now.

As a side note, the book is affordable and worth every penny invested. Trust me, I paid far more for books and manuals on publishing fifteen years ago and got far less information.

Follow Up on Reviews at Kobo and B&N; Is it First or Firstly…or Seventeenthly?

I said yesterday that I’d write a short post where I think reviews tend to be different from retail web sites like Amazon and goodreads.

First, I don’t know why this is.

Second, I could be wrong. Mabye the reviews aren’t any different.

Third, I own two Kobo e-readers and I do a great deal of shopping on Kobo. What I have seen are good honest reviews…and I’m not talking about good reviews in the sense of stellar raves for books. I’ve seen my share of negative reviews there, too. The voices of those reviews sound honest to me. And, I tend to see less of this on Kobo and B&N: ten five star reviews and ten one star reviews for each book.

Again, I don’t know why this is and I could be wrong. There might not be anything to it and maybe it’s just my personal preference.

I’ve heard some claim this might be true because Amazon is the equivalent of a low-end retail flea market compared to other retail web sites. In the real world retail shops are set apart by the prices, the kind of environment they create, and the kind of merchandise they sell. I owned a gallery for ten years where I had some items priced at twenty-five dollars. But for the most part my price point average was $200.00 and up. And that’s because I was representing artists and it was my job to sell their work. In a small boutique you can’t depend on low end volume sales, you can only depend on high end item sales if you’re going to stay in business for longer than six months.

So are B&N and Kobo considered higher end retail web sites? I can’t answer that question either.

But I can say this. I didn’t begin above sentences by using the words “Firstly and Secondly.” I was trained to avoid those words. I know there is a mild debate over this, but I stick with the way I was taught by competent English professors who spent their lives studying and teaching English.

Last, (not lastly) here’s a link to Random House that explains this debate about first and firstly in more detail.

Granted that neither first nor firstly is a hanging offense, even professional lexicographers may have a personal preference. I happen to think your repeated deletions of -ly represent time well spent. Partly this is a matter of consistency: I can’t imagine anyone saying “eleventhly” or “seventeenthly”–and even those who do use “firstly” in enumerations would never use it in any other adverbial context (“The Smyths arrived at the party firstly and left lastly?”). But perhaps another reason to avoid firstly and secondly is that they resemble hypercorrections–inappropriate forms substituted for perfectly good ones, out of a desire to sound especially correct.

An Amazon Book Review That Takes the FU#%ing Cake!!


Before I get into anything else, the photo above is from Cakewrecks.com. If you haven’t been there and checked out the great photos of cakes gone wild, you need to do this soon. Be prepared: you’ll need plenty of time to browse.

About the Amazon book review. Sorry, it’s not a bad review for one of my books and I’m not going to meltdown and rant with overused Internet-isms like WTF-ery, and Headdesk.

The Amazon book review I’m talking about was written for a book I’ve been planning to buy. I do not know the author, nor will I ever meet the author. And though I don’t like to link to things like this because no one is paying me to advertise for them, in this case it’s important to provide a link so readers can see what I’m talking about.

As I said, I’m planning to buy this book and I wanted to check out the reviews late last night. It’s a fairly new release and I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of reviews yet. And, I’m buying the book regardless of reviews because I’ve read the author’s work in magazines and I like his style.

Of course I expected to see reviews that varied. But I never expected to see a gem like THIS:

No, I haven’t read the book. I don’t need to. The premise of the book is completely absurd. A grown man is assuming that there is something wrong with him just because he doesn’t fit into the conventional idea of a father, and that he needs to change. Just because we have a conventional view of what a father should be doesn’t mean you should change yourself to fit into that. Also, you have NO idea whether or not the baby will pop out wanting to do conventional male things. Nothing about being manly makes you a good father. Being a good father is about providing guidance, and listening to what your child wants and needs. I personally feel very strongly about this because I had a father who constantly tried to shove conventional gender roles down my throat, and it made my life much worse. It’s sad to see someone going out of their way to write a book about it.

This reviewer also left a one star rating.

Admittedly, the author of this review didn’t read the book. If he had read the book I wouldn’t be writing this post and I would understand his/her feelings. I would respect them, too. But it’s impossible to respect a review when the “premise” of the review is based on either assumption or hearsay. I’ve read DNF reviews before. I’m not fond of doing it, but I even once left a DNF review for one of the most poorly written m/m romances of all time…with solid examples of why I thought it was poorly written, and with my own name. I hope I won’t have to do this again, but I will if I read something that awful again.

But I can tell you this for certain. One thing I will never do is leave a review for a book that I haven’t read. That’s like reviewing the performance of a car I’ve never driven, or reviewing a film I’ve never seen. Where is the credibility in a review like this? But more than that, how are reviews like this allowed to be published?

According to Amazon, this is their policy about reviews, verbatim:

As a retailer we are interested in cultivating a diversity of opinion on our products. Part of that is allowing our customers to air their honest thoughts on items they have received.

I get this. It makes sense. But in this case the item in question…the book…was never received/purchased by the reviewer, by his/her own admission in writing. It’s pure conjecture.

At first I found the review amusing. I buy popcorn at the circus just like everyone else. But after I thought about it for a while it just left me with a doomed feeling that’s hard to describe. Because if authors are now supposed to deal with book reviews like this, written by people who haven’t even read the book and have deep-seated emotional issues that stem from their troubled childhoods, we’re all screwed.

And this brings me back to something I’ve said many times before on this blog. As readers we not only have to vet the books we are thinking of buying, but also vet the *reviews* for the books we are thinking about buying. The lack of ethics and standards with reviews just seems to be slipping downward on a daily basis.