Home » Thoughts » Unhelpful Book Reviews: A Rant

Unhelpful Book Reviews: A Rant

I believe this is going to be my very first rant on here. At least the first that I have every intention of posting after I get finished typing.

A little bit of back-story to explain completely . . .

About a month or two ago, I decided that I was going to download some e-books off of ‘The Big 2’ (Barnes & Noble and Amazon). The entire purpose of it was to write some good, helpful reviews – both for the potential readers, and for the authors.

I suppose that I should interject on my own writing here and clarify that I was downloading lesser known books, hopefully by authors who were just beginning their careers. I was hoping upon all hope that I would be able to . . . HELP.

There are two issues . . .

One: I have major problems with reading long things on any type of screen. Even things that I write. When I’m writing my own books, I keep them in separate chapters until throwing them all together. I do not read my own books in their entirety on my computer. I just can’t retain things, or pick them out. So, doing this was potentially problematic in that sense.

Two: Well . . . You see . . . I tried to read one of those downloaded books. I got about 10 or so pages into it and literally could NOT continue. It was torture. Absolute TORTURE.

I went and sat down at my computer with intent to write a review (I should say, I’ve only written one book review in my entire life, apart from the one I’m currently speaking – er, typing – of. I told myself, “Constructive criticism, C. Constructive criticism. Anything you say could potentially help this author. HELP THEM, FOR HOLY &%*$’@ sake!”

I wrote the review, and I was pleased with it.

I was pleased with it until I realized that it was written better than the book I’d attempted to read (I swear this is not me tooting my own horn. If you’ve read many of my blogs, you know that I’m extremely critical of my own writing). And I was pleased until I realized that, if I posted it? I could potentially do more harm than good. I guess the Aspiring-Author part of me couldn’t stand the thought of harming the career of another author.  Even if they might have . . . needed it. Even as a wake-up call.

I didn’t post it anywhere. I still have it saved on my computer, but that’s where it sits.

Anyway, I’ve been perusing The Big 2 again today, and I just got a bit frustrated. Or more than a bit, possibly.

 

The purpose of this here rant is not about the horribleness of that book, or of any other book (though authors DESPERATELY NEEDING to get their books edited before self-publishing, and also ensuring they GET GOOD COVER ART are potentially fuel for the fire of another entry.)

The purpose of this here rant is the absolutely unhelpful, ridiculous book reviewers on The Big 2.

Not all of those reviewers are unhelpful. Some of them write amazing reviews – even those 1 star ones (which I am more likely to read than the 5 stars).

This rant is not even about the reviews that are ridiculous (and also a bit ironic). (THIS BOOOK WAS REATAR!!!!!!!! WHA WAS THE AUTHER THIKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [insert more excessive !!’s]), (This author really needs to stop reling so much on spell-check) . . .

This has absolutely nothing at ALL to do with the reviews that have zero writing (I’m assuming they all just couldn’t stomach the book to the point of not even wanting to comment on it).

This has nothing to do with the rating system at all, really. This has nothing to do with bad reviews.

This has absolutely everything to do with people who give a book 1 star to . . . ask a question. (As a side-note: I actually saw one review like that with 5 stars)

– Here is one star. How many pages are in this book?-

-Here is one star. I’m nine. Can I read this book?-

. . . . . . .

What these people fail to realize is that they are actually harming careers.

I hadn’t even been looking at books with ratings that had less than 4 stars, until earlier. And I’ll tell you – I flagged and flagged and flagged until my little heart was somewhat content once I realized what I was looking at. Unrelated content. Suspected underage user. Unrelated content. Again, and again, and again.

If the book is free .  . . Can’t you just . . . DOWNLOAD it to see how many pages there are?  Hmm?

 

I try to be professional on here – at least to an extent. But seriously? Harming careers.

I say again . . . Harming CAREERS.

I sure as hell wouldn’t want that level of ignorance keeping my potential audience from picking up my book when the time comes. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it – that’s totally fine. That’s an entirely different ballgame.

But if I don’t want it to happen to me?

I don’t want it to happen to any of you either.

 

Maybe I would be more helpful at skimming reviews than reading books. Ha

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30 thoughts on “Unhelpful Book Reviews: A Rant

  1. I’ve yet to run into that with my book, but that is truly frustrating. I think people mistake the review section for a forum. Although, why would a nine-year-old have an Amazon account? That one sounds like a fake and somebody simply being a jerk.

    • I’m so glad you haven’t had that issue with your book.
      If you do, let me know. I’ll do some flagging, because really? It’s just not right. It’s not helpful at ALL. It’s not relevant.

      And you’re completely right. I think people mistake ratings/reviews for forums.
      They don’t realize how unbelievably (UNBELIEVABLY) detrimental that could be to a career – especially a developing one.

      Don’t ask me why about the nine-year-old, but I’m being totally honest about it. There were two like that on the same book earlier (though they were different ages, if I’m remembering correctly). I would say that I agree about it being a fake jerk, but I know some people who let their kids mess around with apps and stuff. Maybe they let their kids download free books or something? Who knows?
      I won’t even get started on that, lol.

      • My negative review curse is from people who couldn’t finish the first 20 pages of the book. I write in a ‘difficult’ style, so some people quit and get angry they spent money. They’re entitled to their opinion, but I wish they had read the free sample first. I don’t think people realize you can read a sample of the book before buying.

      • I typed up a sentence and had to delete it because it sounded horrible.
        Let me try again . . .

        No person can ever be satisfied with EVERY author’s writing, and no author’s writing can ever satisfy ALL people.
        That’s my nice way of saying that sometimes, people just won’t – or can’t (CAN’T was the topic of what I had to delete) – get it.

        I’m sure it’s frustrating.
        I’ll probably be frustrated about it to when I’m (lucky enough to be) where you’re currently at.
        And I don’t even write in a ‘difficult’ style – at least not in my opinion.
        I started calling it dumbed-down-formal. 🙂

        I think . . .
        I think maybe we should all spend a moment being thankful for any amount of sense we have in our brains . . .
        That’s not horrible.
        Right?
        >.>

    • My 9 year old has her own amazon account :3 it’s required to run the kindle app for PC on a computer.. and since my daughter reads children’s e-books… you can see where this is going 🙂 BUT that being said, she’s also been taught internet etiquette and doesn’t post comments on things she has no business commenting on.

      • yup. muahahha. she doesn’t mind though. she’s the type of kid that asks if it’s okay if she goes to a website even if i’ve told her dozens of times before that it was okay.

      • haha tell me about it. I was one of those awful kids on the internet when i was younger that did way too many dangerous, stupid things. I’ve taught children and adults internet safety for a few years now though, so I’m hoping she’ll pick up more on that than my former misconduct.

      • lmao my dad still doesn’t know how to run his computer… so i was given free reign…. very dangerous for a teenage girl. I’ll admit I got myself into a fair share of awful situations most people warn their kids about. It’s a lucky I made it to my current age!

      • LOL well when my family -finally- got a computer, none of us knew how to use it right off the bat.. I learned by necessity but my mother/father were always at works so they never had time to fiddle with it. By the time I was an adult I knew how to code in several languages, build websites, and rebuild PCs.. my dad still types with one finger. haha! They trusted me with the printer more than they trusted themselves.

  2. I’ve seen a few of those infuriating reviews too .. and I flag every single one I find XD they’re almost as bad as the awful people who go around down-voting reviews because they didn’t agree with the author’s opinion of the book. They irritate me to no end :/

    • Glad to know that I’m not the only flagger out there!

      And knowing that you’re a reviewer, I can only imagine how frustrating that down-voting would be to you.
      We’re all entitled to our own opinions and that’s the great thing about reviews. They’re . . . opinions.
      Sure, there are some facts (catching typos and pointing them out, etc.).
      But a review that contradicts one person’s personal opinions doesn’t mean that the review wasn’t helpful.
      A review can be helpful if it’s saying negatives, or positives, or a little of both.

      I seriously wonder about people sometimes . . . I honestly do.

  3. Personally, I think you should have posted that review even if it was better than the work it criticized. Everyone who writes something has to expect criticism and it’s not fair if some get off easy cause their stuff is terrible. In fact it helps no one for everyone to be nice to everyone. The readers lose because they won’t have any warning that they are spending their money on something that is subpar, the author loses the chance to get better at writing. I think honesty all around is good. And besides, where do you draw the line, is it okay to criticize an average writer, but not okay to criticize a terrible one? Or only okay to criticize someone who is good at it? I don’t know the answer, but I do think it’s okay to post honest reviews.

    What I don’t get is how so many terrible books get fantastic reviews. It blows my mind, honestly. I’m a very picky reader I guess in that I like writing that flows and that makes sense and so much of it doesn’t, or the plot is crazy and unrealistic. But I guess I’m not your traditional “reader.” Recently, I too have picked up those books that you can’t finish. I have several on my kindle right now. I think a lot of people don’t take the time to learn to do something well, they just slap something together in a first draft and say, look I’m an author! Well…just like all things worth doing, it’s not that easy. You have to learn, just like you’d learn anything else. But people think because they can speak English, they can write the next great novel. Oh well!

    • I agree. You’re 100% right.
      And honestly, I knew (and am still aware of the fact that) the review could potentially help the author improve.
      I just felt like I would be squashing dreams and it made me feel horrible.
      I suppose it was naive of me to hope that I could just pick up some random book, fall in love with it, and do absolutely nothing but praise the awesomeness of the author. That was what I’d been hoping for.
      So I guess I’m drawing the line at, “I PROBABLY shouldn’t write book reviews in general.” haha.
      I felt like I was nitpicking, regardless of being – what I BELIEVED – was helpful.

      Sometimes I wonder the same thing (about horrible books getting amazing reviews) . . . but THEN I look at the content of some of those reviews and it becomes MUCH clearer.
      I never considered myself to be a picky reader until that book. Thinking about all of the stellar reviews on it and then wondering how in the WORLD it was rated the way it was/is.
      I was like, “. . . . . . . . . . Is nobody else catching this? Nobody seeing these BLATANT issues here? . . . . . Anybody? . . . . . No? Guess not.”

      I say that a story can be as crazy and off-the-wall as an author can make it . . . if they can make it believable. And adequate flowage is a MAJOR must for me as well.

      I also think you’re right about self-publishing first drafts (and I only say self-publishing because I would imagine that it’s pretty damn near impossible to traditionally publish first drafts). Some of them HAVE to be first drafts. There’s no other way.
      Now, I’m guilty myself of wanting to rushrushrushrush, but you CANNOT rush publishing a book. As much as I wish it wasn’t like that . . . it is. Tough luck. That’s life. It’s worth it in the end to do it the right way. I’m speculating, but I’m extremely glad that I DIDN’T rush, despite wanting to.
      First drafts of everything are absolute garbage. Period. End of story.
      The series I’m working on getting published at the moment will have gone through five or six revisions by the time I get it back from my editor and go through it again.
      And I had to write an entire six book series before writing the one I’m talking about now to become even PASSABLE at novel-writing.
      I repeat.
      PASSABLE.

      It is no easy feat.
      If it is . . . you’re either doing something wrong, or you’re unfairly gifted.

      • I agree with everything you say here! So true all of it. And yes, it’s necessary to take your time to get your first book ready. Well..any book for that matter. It took me a long time too and even now I’m still learning all the time, but I think my first go was pretty polished. Haaa..I agree when you read those reviews it does tell you something. However, a lot of times when I see a book like that with mostly glowing reviews I’ll go directly to the bad ones because I want to know what the honest people think, so your review would have helped me out and since I’m a picky reader, I usually will agree with what they say so I choose not to read some books like that. Other times depending on what the review said, I’ll pick it up anyway and see for myself. I’ve written a few honest reviews in my day and I gotta say…you do feel bad about bashing anyone and now that I’m published I know how it feels to be on the opposite end of things too. It’s a hard call. But honesty can never be bad, I think. Good discussion!

      • Yeah, it’s definitely a necessity!

        That’s one of the greatest things about all of this – learning constantly.

        I tend to pay more attention to negative reviews than positive ones. Some people are startlingly easy to please when it comes to reading books, which is great. I’d rather not read those reviews (or just reviews from satisfied customers in general). It’s kind of like looking forward to a movie coming out for a year and hyping yourself up about it. High expectations lead to disappointment.

        Honesty is always best. It’s a big (BIG) deal to me.
        But sometimes . . . I find it best (for me) to just keep my mouth shut.
        XD

        SUPER good discussion!

  4. I agree with Victoria in that you should have posted it, especially if there were already some glowing 5-star reviews. I’ve read a few books recently which I thought were utterly ridiculous in plot, and I needed to counterbalance all those reviewers who praised it for being so different. Also, there are too many self-published books out there which are riddled with spelling and grammar errors, and it gives us self-published authors a bad name. They need to have it pointed out to them that it’s not acceptable to publish stuff like that…
    Also, if it was proper constructive criticism then that’s helpful. I would personally not mind a one-star review if the person took the time to explain why they thought my book was bad, rather than just going ‘it was terrible!’

    • Yeah, even still I’m going back and forth about posting it.
      It definitely had good reviews (as I was not bothering with ones that had less than 4 stars that day because I didn’t realize about the reviewing mess that I mentioned up there), but I’m not entirely sure how many of them. I haven’t gone back and looked because I know that I’d be tempted to post it. Also, I have a feeling that I would just be disgusted by reading those raving reviews.

      Oh yes, those hastily thrown out books definitely created a stigma with self-publishing. A few mistakes here and there are to be expected; it happens, even with traditional publishing. I guess my problem with it is people not realizing such blatant technical mistakes. The thing is – I don’t really know very much about ‘technical’ writing, so if I can catch it? There’s something WRONG. And I just can’t read something that is so unrealistic (with dialogue) or childish (with characters) that I can’t get into it. You’re supposed to enjoy books – not pick them apart.

      Proper constructive criticism. That was the problem. I felt like it was, but I guess I don’t feel like I have the right to tell someone that their writing is crap when other people are clearly enjoying it. If someone wants to write a book where you have to sit there the entire time wondering who in the world is actually speaking . . . well, I reckon they can. I just don’t have to read it.
      But you’re right. I would much rather read a review of my own book that was legitimate and not completely ignorant. And that’s where I’m torn with it. I know that I would appreciate the honesty.

      People can publish whatever they want if they want to fork out the money for it, I guess. I wouldn’t really know, but to me? It just feels like there is a lack of pride with those books you’re speaking about (the ones full of obvious errors). I honestly just can’t understand how someone could spend the time and energy it actually takes to WRITE a book, and then be satisfied that it’s sub-par.
      Of course, I’m sure a lot of people will think my book – and my writing – are crap when mine is released.
      Ah, the joys of opinions.

  5. Believe it or not, bad reviews sell books too. A colleague / author friend of mine had increased sales when someone wrote a terrible review of her book. And her book is awesome anyway, I have to say. There are also people out there who seem to relish in just flaming someone for no reason. Then you have the fun of trying to get the website (Amazon, Good Reads, etc) to delete the abusive review. So it’s not just about reading the book and having opinions . . . but there are people out there who don’t read the book and just have an opinion about the author.

    • I never even thought of that – about potentially having increased sales because of it. Depending on the review, I could imagine some people becoming more curious about the book. (Is it really THAT bad?) ha. Especially if that review is contradictory to the others for it.

      I HAVE thought about people leaving nasty reviews that have absolutely nothing at all to do with the book, but with the writer of it. Some people are just . . . . . . hateful. And it’s very, very sad.

      • As a reader, I don’t take reviews seriously unless they’re constructive. If someone’s clearing just bashing it and not showing any evidence they actually read it, I am more likely to buy it. 🙂 Some people are hateful . . . and probably have too much time on their hands.

      • It really is difficult to take some (most of the) reviews on books seriously. If I see more than one typo, I can’t. If it has more !!!!!!!!!!!!! than words, I can’t. So when I find a review that’s well written, I can’t help but think that I’d . . . uhm . . . gravitate more towards their line of thinking on it.
        Maybe that’s bad of me. You know I’m a big fan of !!!!!!!!!!’s. haha

        Hateful people and too much free time is a very bad combination.

  6. Pingback: Everybody hates prologues. | cnmill

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