In my view this has been a bad week for the business. First there was this:
Crime novelist RJ Ellory has just been forced to apologize for posting fulsome online reviews of his own books under false names – while damning those of rivals.
Ellory is ‘one of the most talented authors today.’ They’re not my words, they’re his. Writing as ‘Jelly Bean’ he described one of his own novels as ‘one of the most moving books I’ve ever read”. As ‘Nicodemus Jones’, he said his work was a “modern masterpiece”.
‘It will touch your soul,’ he added.
In this brave new world we have all been fumbling around for the line. I have been tempted to review my own books, too; after all, Walt Whitman did it and shamelessly. But I’ve always pulled back. Am I naïve? Maybe it’s a pride thing. Just could never bring myself to do it.
It’s one thing to write a blurb on the back of a book; it’s part of the job these days. But when you put your own blurb online and call it an impartial review, the water gets murky.
But when, like Mr Ellory, you start anonymously denigrating the work of ‘rival’ authors and calling it a review, you have definitely crossed a line.
Ellory says he regrets his ‘lapse of judgment’ – even though the lapse occurred over a four year period. I double checked in my Webster’s dictionary and I believe four years is too long for a lapse. After a certain period it starts to look like a vital character flaw.
Especially as there are many writers I know who won’t give anyone a bad review. Mirella Patzer, for instance, who runs a huge Historical review site and reviews books all the time says she would never critique a book unless she liked it. I admire that.
And I proudly belong to the WANA group of writers, who do nothing but encourage each other, and promote each other’s work. This is how it should be.
I just don’t get people who go on Amazon to post one star reviews. But I absolutely respect their right to do so, as long as it’s genuine.
He was right.
Seems you can buy five star reviews. No problem. It will cost you a hundred bucks. For five hundred you can get twenty. A thousand will get you fifty.
Am I being naïve? Did you guys already know this?
Online reviews are now replacing marketing, advertising, even word of mouth. They are used for anything from resorts to restaurants.
It looks like the perfect egalitarian system, facilitated by the internet (that thing they don’t have in New York yet!)
After all, consumer reviews ‘give the illusion of truth.’ Except they are no longer the truth, or anything like it. They have now become just another commodity, written by a marketing department or a for-hire third party service.
Online reviews aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
Now don’t get me wrong, as a reader I really like Amazon. They make it easy to buy booksin ways the old brick and mortar stores never did. But paid reviews are turning their review system into a farce.
Once this gets out, fellas, the bubble is going to burst, big time.
Here’s what I’m looking for these days, as a consumer, me and 7 billion other people: SOMEONE I CAN TRUST.
Why is it so damned hard??
You can’t blame people for playing the game. As one author said here: “Some of these review services will actually ensure your title is read by someone who likes your genre of books.”
In other words, you’re paying for positioning, like a publisher would if he wanted your book in a window display; only instead of paying Barnes and Noble and calling it advertising budget, you’re paying Tom, Dick and Harry and calling it a review.
After all, your marketing department might not have liked your book; the retail staff in the bookstore almost certainly never read it. So you could argue that it’s one form of lying replacing another. Only the author foots the bill instead of the publisher.
But what really irritated me in this article was John Locke. He never mentioned in “How I Sold One Million E-Books” that he bought several hundred reviews. Personally I think it’s relevant.
As Mr Locke says: “Reviews are the smallest piece of being successful,” he said. “But it’s a lot easier to buy them than cultivating an audience.”
It seems there’s a lot still to sort before publishing finds its new level, if it ever does. Whatever happens, I know no matter what goes down I am not going to be slagging off the so-called ‘competition.’ For one thing I don’t have competition; just fellow writers who love the craft and love books every bit as much as I do. They are always and invariably the funniest and most interesting people to get drunk with at writer’s festivals.
And for another thing I couldn’t sleep at night if I did.
To paraphrase Mr Ellroy, if I ever did that it would touch my soul. In a very negative way.
Finally, let’s not forget the poor readers in all this. All they want is to find a book they’ll like. And as this very funny video reminds us, this is what it’s all about at the end of the day.
This guy is just hilarious: don’t you ever interrupt Julian Smith when he’s reading a book