anonymous book reviews

How Can President Obama Help Us With Bad Book Reviews?

This post was prompted by a facebook post I read late last night. A young author received a bad review and he was absolutely devastated. I felt bad for him. My heart broke. But there was really nothing I could do other than offer support. Every author has to learn how to deal with bad reviews in his or her own way.

I’ve been lurking around the Internets long enough to have experienced all kinds of book reviews. For the most part, I’ve been thankful. But I’ve had a few bad reviews, too. One in particular was for AMERICAN STAR. It was ripped to shreds in a quasi satirical review that left my jaw hanging. Not because of the bad review or for the fact that there was a technical glitch beyond my control as an author that left a character’s name mispelled throughout the book. And not because the reviewer didn’t spell my name right (smile: you have to love Irony in this case). But because the book is a satire. This is clearly written in the blurb. And I didn’t understand the logic behind roasting a book about pop culture that is already a roast about pop culture. I’m almost tempted to add the link here just so anyone reading this can get a good laugh. (Ah, what the hell. Here it is.)

If you’re going to put yourself out there on the Internet, in any capacity, from business person to author, you’re setting yourself up for criticism of all kinds. And you’d better be ready to take it. Everyone has an opinion and almost everyone feels the need to share it in public. I’ve been sexually harassed by one very popular gay book reviewer to the point where I had to block him from all my social networks. I’ve even had my books slammed on amazon because reviewers didn’t like the prices, which are completely out my control. All I can say is it comes with the territory. And, most book reviewers are excellent, they truly love what they are doing, and they care about their readers. So there is a bright side as well.

When I read the young author’s facebook post about his bad review, I couldn’t help thinking about President Obama. These days it seems no matter what he does or says he’s getting slammed from all sides. How he takes all this criticism is anyone’s guess. And no matter how bad it is he still manages to get up every morning, face the day, and continue running the country with a big smile for his critics. It can’t be easy. And when you think about his criticism compared to a silly little book review, it just can’t compete.

So if you’re a new author and you receive a bad review. Take it in your stride. If you plan to continue writing, the odds are you’re going to get more bad reviews in the future. And they will always be written by someone who knows it all, knows how to manipulate an audience, and feels compelled to express his or her exhaulted opinion for the sake of literature around the world and throughout the universe. And when you think about how the President deals with criticism like this on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, it’s comforting to know it could always be worse.

How Reliable Are Online Reviews for Anything?

First, I’m not talking about book reviews written by serious online book reviewers. So don’t get all worked up into a huge snit until you read the entire post. Joyfullyreviewed, dearauthor, and others like them are not the people I’m posting about today. Like them or not; agree with them or not; they work hard at what they do and they provide a viable place for readers to find out what books are like before they make purchases.

What I’m talking about are book reviews on amazon and other web sites that sell books. And I’m going to start the post with something I experienced recently. I saw an ad for granite counter tops in a local magazine. I’ve wanted them for a long time and the price was right. So I called and made an appointment to see one of their sales reps. I liked him, ordered the granite without even looking at it, and in less than a week it was installed without any problems whatsoever. And when it was finished the sales rep called and asked me to leave a review about their company. He told me he’d appreciate it because his competitor is so jealous he’s getting sales because of his special offer the competitor is leaving false nasty reviews about the company. And I checked it out when I left my own good review, and I was amazed at how many negative comments there were. Mostly because I had such a great experience. I liked them so much I recommended them to friends, and my friends had a great experience. And all the nasty reviews had two things in common: they were all posted anonymously, and all gave nothing but superficial negative comments without any actual descriptions.

I couldn’t help comparing this experience with some of the experiences I’ve seen with regards to book reviews on places like amazon. The bad ones are always short and snarky, and always written anonymously or with ridiculous, contrived names. And the good ones are often just as bad, which leaves me wondering whether or not the author’s family and friends left the reviews to help the author promote the book. The problem is most authors can spot a fake book review a mile away, but most consumers can’t, which is unfortunate. They trust these reviews and base their purchases on them, which is even more unfortunate.

Personally, I’d like to see an end to all anonymous online reviews…for any product. They are often false, misleading, and can’t be depended on. And if anyone wants to leave a valid review, there should be forms to fill out and these people shouldn’t be afraid to leave their real names, in bold print, and stand behind their words.

The point I’m trying to make is that consumers simply cannot trust every single review they read on amazon and other sites like amazon. If I’d read the reviews about the granite company I used and taken them seriously, I would have missed out on a great deal on new granite counters.