online reviews and ratings

Will "Fifty Shades of Grey" Change the Internet in Some Ways?


I’ve already explained how I discovered “Fifty Shades of Grey,” here in this post. I’ve discovered many books I love by doing this…reading a bad review on what’s considered a professional online review site and checking the book out for myself. With this particular web site where books are reviewed, nine times out of ten I wind up loving the book and wondering why the reviewer hated it. If it happened once I’d think it was me. But when it happens dozens and dozens of times I start to think that maybe the review site I’m checking out is catering to a smaller more elite crowd of readers. Or, maybe I DO have horseshit taste (smile).

I think it’s important to state first that I do respect ALL reviewers, and I believe everyone has the right to an opinion, especially when it comes to books. I’ve also found some of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read by going to review sites and reading the good reviews. The theme of this post is not to bash ANY reviewers or even question them. It’s to examine the disconnect I’ve been seeing lately between what’s discussed online and what’s discussed in the mainstream. For example, when “Bridges of Madison County,” was released it was a huge mainstream success, and yet there are still people bashing the book online to this day. The same thing happened with “Twilight.” We all know how some so-called online “experts” feel about Amanda Hocking. And now I’m seeing the same with with “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I read FSoG and loved it (thanks to that scathing review on that one particular web site where books are reviewed). I also read BoMC and “Twilight” and loved them, too. I haven’t read Amanda Hocking yet, but the odds are I’ll like her work at the very least. I don’t think anyone would have guessed that FSoG would every become as big a book as it is right now. When I bought it I would never have guessed this. But now I read something about it everywhere I go. And here’s the interesting thing. If you go to any mall in any suburban town in the USA and you ask people at random if they’ve ever heard of the review site where I read the review that slammed FSoG before it went mainstream, I’d bet money no one in the mall would know who you were talking about. But go to the same mall and ask them if they’ve heard of FSoG. I’ll bet at least half would know the book you are talking about. This proves one thing: the Internet has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Most people, in the real world, don’t know half of what’s going on in online publishing communities. And they don’t care either.

The most interesting thing is that FSoG started out as an online book and did the impossible by crossing into the mainstream. I’ve read allegations about it being fanfic and I don’t think that’s even significant at this point. FSoG has sparked interest and people are reading it and liking it. If you don’t believe me, check out Amazon reviews where 580 people have reviewed and rated the first book and it has a four star average. If a fanfic author managed to get a big book and cross into the mainstream, I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. That’s all I care about. And though I can’t say the book’s worst online critics have been proven wrong because reviewing books is subjective (no one can be wrong when they review a book and that’s important to state), I can say that the book’s most serious critics have proven that their personal taste in books can now be questioned in a very big way. At the very least their taste can be questioned with regard to what the mainstream public wants to read.

As more people in the mainstream discover more about the Interwebs, through iPads and tablets and devices that connect them to online information, I can’t help but wonder whether or not the credibility of web sites like the one where I read the scathing review of FSoG will diminish in time. In the past they’ve attracted an elite set of readers that tend to think the same way they do (or they are terrified to disagree with them). In their small online world they’ve been very popular. But will the mainstream find web sites like this too elite, and will the content they’ve been putting out in the last decade begin to look less trustworthy because their taste is so off with regard to the mainstream. I don’t mean to say they aren’t telling the truth. I believe they are passionate and they believe in what they are doing. I’m only wondering about whether or not their own personal truth is something the mainstream public will take seriously…or even care about. And will they remain relevant? Evidently, FSoG is a good example of how strongly the mainstream disagrees with what’s considered credible online.

Book Reviews and Ratings…

I wish I could say I’m one of those writers who stalk the Internet reading my reviews and checking out my ratings. I’m not talking about reviews on review sites. I’m talking about reader reviews and ratings. I think if I wrote mainstream literary fiction I’d be more apt to check them out regularly. But because of the nature of my books, I never see a direct correlation between book sales and the amount of ratings and reviews the books receive. So I stopped checking ratings and reviews a long time ago. And this was way back when I was only writing for print publishers.

In other words, and I’m now speaking in broad terms, the overall sales figures of male/male erotic romance indicate people are buying erotic gay romances but only a small fraction are commenting or leaving reviews about them in a public forum. And, I’d like to add, the small fraction who do rate and review these erotic romances almost always use a fake name and identity. Nothing wrong with that. I wish I could do it sometimes. However, the concept is simply too Internet cliche for me and I’d rather not be part of the large Internet problem of “too much anonymity” everywhere. I wrote a post about this, here, when I was shopping for new granite countertops last September. It has nothing to do with books, but everything to do with anonymous online reviews.

I think there’s a reason for the lack of ratings and reviews. Most people prefer to use their real names when rating or reviewing a book anywhere. I know if you check the reviews I’ve written on amazon or goodreads you’ll see that I stand behind my own name and not a pen name. And those who prefer to use their real names would rather read erotic male/male romance in private. And with the advent of e-reading devices, racy book covers can be camouflaged completely.

So if you’re an author of male/male romance or erotic romance and you’re not seeing as many reviews and ratings for you books as you’d like to see, this might be the reason. I know authors who have sales to back them up, but the amount of ratings don’t match up to the sales. I could be wrong on this. There’s no way to prove or disprove it. But take a look at the number of ratings for a mid list mainstream literary novel and compare it to a best selling male/male erotic romance novel and most of the time there will be a huge difference.