When authors attack

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Authors have been behaving badly lately, have you noticed? They’ve been caught creating fake online identities to praise themselves and trash others. Some have been busted for buying positive reviews for their books while one-starring and bad-mouthing the competition. One jilted author attacked an agent, IRL, and that is no laughing matter, that is plain scary.

Unfortunately, this sort of behavior is nothing new, and it certainly isn’t restricted to writers. Through the ages, politicians, reporters, artists, academics, companies, whole governments have deployed immoral and unethical tactics to promote themselves, demote others, conceal the truth, bend it or rewrite it. Words carry immense power, as anyone ever moved, enraged, galvanized or consoled by them will tell you. They are a vehicle for truth, lies, change and unrest. And rarely something you can overlook when they are aimed straight at you.

When my debut with Ellora’s Cave released, I had no idea what sort of reviews it would garner, if any. EC has a rating system for registered users. And what was the first rating Alex Rising received and fast? An anonymous two stars out of five, meaning, Could be better. No explanation as to what exactly Ms./Mr. Anonymous objected to. Fair enough, I thought. It wasn’t to their taste but hey, at least they gave it a try. Plus leaving a rating without elaborating is not very helpful to other readers, so maybe it wouldn’t hurt the book.

Sabotage, my friends screamed, but how would that work? It might discourage someone from buying my book but not make readers buy yours unless you had a sock puppet recommend, “For a great ménage, read Author X instead.” But I’m not going to lie. I felt bad that was all that stood there for the longest time until a reader voiced their opinion, then a review site, then more readers.

All I could hope for was that most readers felt like I do. I’ve disagreed with reviews so many times, I’ve stopped paying too much attention to them, unless all of them state the book is seriously flawed on some elemental level, e.g. so poorly edited it’s distracting. Taste is a subjective issue. Online reviews are for the most part someone’s personal opinion. But in the light of all that has been revealed lately, are professional, seemingly more objective sites and reviewers any more trustworthy than the anonymous rave or rant?

Bottom line: Do reviews matter? Do you trust them or question them? What influences your decision to buy a book, especially if it’s a new to you author? Is it the

Blurb
Cover
Excerpt/Teasers
(Sub-)Genre/Subject matter
Book length
Buzz
Word of mouth/Recommendations
Reviews
Awards
Ranking
Price
Discount/Offer
Other (what?)

A new to just about everyone author would love to know, so please have your say in comments.

P.S. If there is one thing I would like to ask of everyone posting reviews, it’s this: Pls pls pls no spoilers, m’kay? No. Spoilers. At least alert your fellow readers to the fact you’re about to dish out, m’kay? M’kay. Smexy Sunday. And thanks for playing.

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18 thoughts on “When authors attack

  1. B.Jackson

    The blurb gets me interested in a book. I don’t pay attention to reviews unless the blurb doesn’t tell me anything about the book…like when authors feel the need to tell about their best selling status and writing history in the section where the blurb usually goes. If I can’t figure out what the book is about and the title aroused my interest I can usually find it in one of the reviews.

    I have read reviews, some are helpful, some have not been. The ones I hate are spoilers without the warning, or people who didn’t like it simply because they would have written the character differently. It makes me wonder if that is an author being negative about another author’s work, or if it’s a reader who should start writing their own books in order to get what “they” would have written. I don’t find new authors often because I stick with the authors I know, but occasionally I see something come through the Amazon recommendations and I will search through the list and see what I find that I think will be good to read.

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    • I wonder about those frustrated reviews as well, giving a book one star because it was not the book the reader thought it would be, but only because they accidentally bought the wrong book, for instance, which is no fault of the author’s!

      I’ve read books that had little to do with the blurb. Maybe they were written for marketing purposes for a book far from finished. The book changed but the blurb didn’t, and misrepresentations frustrate this reader to no end because I read blurbs carefully indeed when it’s a new to me author or a subgenre I don’t often buy. The book may end up being a pleasant surprise but when it’s a letdown, you just feel cheated. One more reason to write the best blurb possible for my books! I want them to do what it says on the tin for you.

      Thank you so much for your input! 🙂

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  2. I don’t tend to read reviews at all. I let the blurb, the cover, and possibly an excerpt, tell me whether I want to read a book. I have found that most of the time, reviewers have much different taste than I do when it comes to books/movies/etc.
    The genre has a little pull in what I will read, but not really much. If the blurb sounds good, I will read it. Doesn’t necessarily mean I like it, LOL. Price has no effect on me at all. I have spent tons of money on books thus far in my life, and I’m not gonna stop anytime soon.

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    • I tend to go by feel and personal taste too, Lisa. And better not count the amount spent so far, there might be a car or luxury vacation in there you don’t need to know about. 😉 It’s all money well spent if you enjoyed yourself.

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  3. Becki Wyer

    I very rarely rely on other people’s reviews unless it’s someone I know and trust. If the author is new-to-me, I prefer a free short story or excerpt to get a feel for the author’s writing style. Then, if I like it, I’ll buy more.

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    • *jots down* Free short or excerpt. Good to know. I don’t have any say regarding the excerpt my publisher chooses as the official one, but lucky for me, they know their business. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by, Becki!

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  4. June M.

    I generally decide on a book based on the blurb and excerpts (or Kindle samples) more than anything else. There are some review sites that influence me somewhat, if it seems like we have the same taste in books but I never allow someone else’s opinions to completely decide on a book.

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    • Hmm, yet another vote for blurbs and excerpts. And trusted review sites, but only you know what those are. And I’m glad you do, if they’ve helped you find good books!

      Thank you, June, much appreciated. 🙂

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  5. Susan W.

    I don’t let reviews determine whether or not to by a book. The cover, blurb, and excerpt are more important to my decision making than another persons review. I do follow several blogs to find new books but I base my decision more on the book itself. If an excerpt can grab and keep my attention then I’ll by the book no matter what the reviews are like.
    If I really like a book I try and find someway to contact the author to let them know personally. There are several authors/books that I have really loved that only had 2-3 stars and when I read some of the reviews I seriously doubt the reviewer and I read the same book. It’s all about taste.

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    • Covers seem to be an important factor. Is it any wonder, considering how it’s often the first thing you see, what catches the eye or doesn’t, when browsing. Not the title, the name of the author or the blurb, the cover art. I’ve been very lucky in that department, not that I can take credit for creating them, only for offering suggestions.

      And I’m so glad to hear you’ve contacted authors whose books you’ve liked! That is honestly the best thanks and greatest reward any writer can get.

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  6. The whole review system has become a bit wonky lately. It seems like people are taking pleasure in trashing books for the sake of it. I’ve had reviews where people trash my work with anonymous posts and don’t even comment, or comment and it has nothing to do with the book. I think people should make up their own mind if they want to read a book or not and not rely on a review. Not everyone will like the same book as the next person.

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    • As with any matter of opinion, of course it’s always best to exercise your own judgement. But what if those who like a book never say a word and those who dislike it (or the author!) are the only ones doing the talking, and the reader looking for some guidance starts thinking, “Whoa OK I’m not touching that if no one has anything good to say about it.”

      Fandom shines through but so does pure malice and those posts should be easy to overlook, as baffling as they are. What’s the motivation behind them, I’m sure I’ll never understand. “I can make you or break you,” perhaps? Because readers have power. Please use it wisely.

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  7. hollie8985

    I don’t read reviews, even though I reviewed for a company for a few years, as you say they are someone’s opinion.
    I do agree that negative reviews can be damaging, an author friend of mine recently received a negative amazon review. The reader stated that she didn’t realise she was buying an erotic romance, but turned this around to be the authors fault, then went on to complain about the length, the content and the lack of ‘Celtic’ elements, it’s set in ancient Scotland about a witch. She then went further and compared the book to another (none erotic) author and claimed that as this was such a bad book, she would recomend others not to bother with the second book in the set either.
    To me that isn’t a fair review, this reader is allowed her opinion of the book, or any book, but it isn’t an authors fault if you buy a book you don’t want just because its title may be to your taste.

    Sorry rant over, this is quickly becoming a pet peeve.

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    • S’okay, Hollie, I know what you mean. Ellora’s Cave has a line for short stories, the Quickies, up to 15,000 words, period. A common comment and reason to leave a low rating is, “The story was good but too short.” When a story is good of course you don’t want it to end, ever, but a Quickie is a Quickie and if that’s what you bought, that’s what you get.

      And it would be nice to hold others accountable for our reactions, wouldn’t it? It’s only human but like you said, no fair.

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  8. I like detailed reader reviews which explain the rating, however those are few and far between and I most often choose based on blurb and sample. Also, (blushing), I like pretty covers.

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    • Detailed reader reviews are the best (except the ones that contain spoilers, grr!!). The person may or may not have liked the book, but at least you know they have actually read it, so those can be very helpful.

      And I like me a pretty cover, too! Who doesn’t? 😉

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  9. The blurb, an excerpt and word of mouth recommendations influence me on my purchases. If a book has a lot of bad reviews…or one star ratings it may influence me, but it would have to be more than one!! Detailed reader reviews are helpful…but still not a deal breaker.

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    • Another vote for blurbs and excerpts! And I’m happy to hear you’re giving books that catch your attention a chance. As has been noted, ratings and reviews, positive or negative, may have nothing to do with the book. Crazy but true.

      Like

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