Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: reviews



Ok, its late, like after 11 pm pacific time, and I'm just starting my post. Years ago we (military) cared about Zulu time, but now the only time that matters is Eastern US. So yeah, I'm writing/editing/posting late - blogger time. Or early, if you're across the pond. I prefer late, as I'm always late. My sister says I'd be late for my own funeral . .  yada yada. Whatever.

I missed the IWSG anthology deadline; couldn't get up to word count. Dumped the damn thing three times before 3,000 words, when the self editor said the story line was not flowing well. Thank you, but . .

At least I can move on to other projects now the deadline has passed. A much anticipated beta read, a book to read for review, several overdue book reviews. Yes, I enjoy writing/publishing reviews, and hosting author on the blog; but don't enjoy the review/survey in other aspects of my life.

You book a room, log onto a sales site, purchase a product, access some information, pay a bill, check your account balance. The email is instantly there: Your opinion is important to us, please fill out this survey and tell us about your experience. If you did not have a 10 star rating someone will be fired, but give us your honest feedback.

Sometimes I'm ashamed of myself in this opinionated world. I don't feel the person/service/product met my expectations, but I'm not sure if that is my unreasonable expectations, or the limitations on the product/service. I certainly don't want to be responsible if someone keeps their job or not, especially based on my mood at the time of purchase/usage. Hello, I'm human. I've also been on the other end of the survey where the customer wants something the company does not produce, but as the rep I'm the bad guy for not satisfying the customer! Can you say survey frustration; regardless if you are consumer or product rep?

My Insecure Writers Support Group post this month is about the REVIEW/SURVEY SYSTEM. All those policies and rules, and sometimes bullying, for an opinion. On EVERYTHING.  Now, many of you know (if you've followed me for a while, long before this particular blog incarnation) that I write reviews for the books I read. I understand how much effort the author put into the writing and development of the characters/setting/plot; but as a reader of a finished, published product, I'm entitled to my opinion. If I care to share it publicly.

Recently I read three books from author/bloggers specifically for review. Yeah, I bought each of the books cuz I wanted to review (familiar with the authors) and I did not want to add the disclaimer "I was given this novel in exchange for an honest review." Amazon is getting weird about published reviews when the reviewer  is friends with the author, and I am acquainted with a lot of inde/self pubbed authors. The blogs, ya know?!?

I understand the policy Amazon has adopted that they don't want to publish reviews by persons "acquainted" with the author, whether the review is positive or negative. I've seen enough blog posts where the author is upset by a review, especially by a review from a fellow blogger, and next thing you know there is a review war. Total abuse of the review system, if you want my opinion, but nothing that helps comes without its drawbacks. Sad but true, just how society is today.

Was this post a rant? Sorry. I guess my complaint is the obligation to review EVERYTHING. Sometimes I want to, other times the service wasn't worth the time or effort. But posting a bad/negative review takes courage. Its the bullying concept. Say you don't like something and you are subject to harsh response and ridicule; say you liked it and you're scrutinized as currying favorites.

EDITED: AFTER READING MANY OF THE COMMENTS, I NOW REALIZE THAT MUCH OF THIS POST HAS BEEN MISUNDERSTOOD, AND SO I HAVE DELETED AND EDITED SEGMENTS THAT DO NOT FIT THE POINT I WAS TRYING TO MAKE. THAT POINT BEING THAT THE OBLIGATION TO REVIEW OR COMPLETE A SURVEY FOR EVERYTHING HAS MADE THE WHOLE PROCESS PRACTICALLY USELESS. NOT JUST FOR BOOKS, BUT FOR ANY PRODUCT OR SERVICE.

This post is part of the Insecure Writers Support Group. Please visit the linky for IWSG at your host/founder Alex J Cavanaugh, and his helpers Tyrean Martinson, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Stephen Tremp. Our Ninja Captain is still looking for co-hosts for December and January, so if you are looking for some blog excitement, be sure to let the Captain know at his blog.

And good luck to all the NaNoWriMo participants. I can barely produce 1k a month, so I have not signed up, but I applaud all those brave writers that have made the commitment. Remember, its all about the word count, so shut down that internal editor and JUST WRITE IT.

38 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If authors are expecting a review from me, they are in for a rude awakening. I'm too slow of a reader to promise more than the purchase of a book. (I have been trying to read and review more of my blogger buddy's books though.)
Number one eBook seller? Hugh Howey?

Deniz Bevan said...

I know how you feel! I feel guilty that I don't always review every book on Amazon. I feel guilty because I never give anyone five stars, because that should be for classics and true genius like Marilynne Robinson, no?
And sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not as harsh as I could be. I find it easier not to mention a horribly written or horribly edited book, rather than post a negative review. And even books I have reviewed, I gloss over negative bits and try to mention only positive aspects. Unless I really have problems with something everyone seems to love (hello, Gabriel Garcia Marquez) I try not to be mean.
But that's not a good thing, either. Reviews should be balanced. So I feel guilty...

Diana Wilder said...

Good post. Whenever I post a review on Amazon, I am presented with a bunch of books I have purchased (some of them my own, some of which I contributed to) and a lot of them books I decided NOT to review because I did not want to slam someone who was struggling, and I will not post an inflated review. I tried fitting a review into that little slot on my kindle after I finished and gave it up for a bad job. I went in through regular channels and reviewed there. I salute your fortitude!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Amazon's policy is so flawed. Writers know each other. It's part of the business.

I try to be fair with a review and find something I liked. Unless I really didn't like it, then I won't review it.

Ted Cross said...

I don't 'expect' reviews from anyone, but they sure are nice when you get them. I loved the reviews you did for my books.

Yolanda Renee said...

I hate reviewing. I feel as though I don't do them justice. But I love reading the books, so my new policy is to give the rating and a few words and slink away. I don't understand Amazon or it's policies, but if they delete me, there's goodreads and other sites that will allow reviews.
For me it's just finding the time. Who has time?

Pat Hatt said...

I stink at reviews, but have done some in exchange for reading and such. As for me I'd much rather have an honest review any day, I always ask for them, but not sure I always get them as you some want to be nice or hope I'll send them the next book for free, etc. so rate it high.

mshatch said...

I find it most difficult to review books written by authors I know - especially if I didn't love it. What I try to do is make sure to say why I didn't like something, explain why it didn't work for me. And I always try to find something good to say, to balance the negative. But it's still hard.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Amazon is the worst at asking for reviews. I was really surprised when they asked me to review a book I wrote, but was gifting to someone else. Think they'd let me give my book 5 stars? Hardly.

Before I became published, I didn't have any problem giving 1 or 2 stars to books I didn't like and then stating why I didn't like the book. Now? I'm really careful about what I say. Certainly don't want an irate fan of that author to get back at me!

Tamara Narayan said...

This review business is a mess. Every time you go shopping, there's a survey to fill out and a prize to win. It's crazy. I'm also an author and blogger in contact with the same. What do you do when you read another blogger's book and don't like it? Not review, write something balanced, or write the unvarnished truth. I think most of us fall into the first two categories. Is there a Simon Cowell of book reviewing? As a book buyer, I wouldn't mind some honesty.

Stephen Tremp said...

I used to do reviews but got away from it. Too many things going on. Moving forward I'll try to do a few now and then.

Stephen Tremp
November IWSG Co-host

Olga Godim said...

I understand your feelings. I also review books I read, although I don't review on Amazon. I post my reviews on BookLikes, and it's a no-pressure environment, very relaxing. Perhaps you should give yourself a break, review selectively. Don't push yourself too hard. Reviewing should be fun, not a chore.

Donna K. Weaver said...

They figured out I knew an author too. I still review on Goodreads.

alexia said...

I feel guilty about this, too, especially now that I'm published and I want reviews myself! I leave reviews if I enjoy a book, but not super long ones. A paragraph or so. I don't really want to do a blow by blow since it would have spoilers anyways.

Denise Covey said...

Yep. Reviewing is a minefield for sure. And a sure way to get the guilts. I read so many books that if I reviewed every one, it would take ages. I drop a lot of short reviews on Goodreads as I add to my 'read' list. But fair's fair. If someone reviews my book, I will reciprocate.

I only review books I totally enjoyed and can give at least 4 stars. As you say, Amazon is picky about reviews after the big scandals, but why shouldn't you be allowed to review a book by an author you 'virtually' know. With all that said, a newbie on Amazon needs reviews, which is why I gifted you the book and asked if you'd review it for me. Now, I retract that friendly request as I can see you are super burdened by these expectations.

An author who's hot doesn't need our reviews nearly as much as someone who's heard that people won't buy your book unless you have 10+ reviews. I wonder about that, then I read that people who buy on Amazon won't buy an author they don't know and won't buy authors who only have one book up. Well, I take everything with a grain of salt. We'll just see how it goes. After all, self-pubbed authors are in it for the long term.

And I sincerely withdraw my request for a review, so you can move onto the next one!! Life is damnably busy!

Denise Covey November co-host IWSG

Lynda R Young said...

I prefer to only agree to a review if I know I'm going to like the book. A blogger once offered me a free book so I could review it. I agreed because it was written in a genre I enjoy, but I warned her that I only review books I like--so she declined the offer. Apparently she didn't have a lot of faith in her book :(

klahanie said...

Hi Donna,

Thanks for a most informative post, Donna. I will have nothing to do with Amazon based on the way they treat their employees. Of course, that's a totally different angle.

I get your rant. This might surprise you, but me, yes me, a smug amateur, gets loads of requests to review stories. In fact, I've even been asked to edit somebody else's story. I find it a dilemma and quite flattering at the same time.

Take care and keep smiling, even through gritted teeth :)

Gary

dolorah said...

Apologies for the misunderstanding of the intent of this post. This is not a rant to say I don't like doing reviews for books. I like reviewing and even when it sometimes feels an "obligation" it is worth the time and effort.

The purpose of this post was to spotlight how the "review" or "survey" has been trivialized to the point of uselessness. If I had not waited until the last possible moment to write and post this, I would have re-read and edited it down to the essential point.

TBM said...

I usually review books I've read, but do tire of all the requests for reviews from restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, ect. I just don't have the time to give my opinion about everything.

Chrys Fey said...

I only review books. Not products or services. And I've been lucky not to have to give a review below a 3 star ranking. I always give myou opinion though but try to stay positive. Even after listing negatives. Amazon has become a real pain lately. I hear so many complaints about them and am lucky I haven't been impacted by their strit rules.

Chrys Fey said...

I only review books. Not products or services. And I've been lucky not to have to give a review below a 3 star ranking. I always give myou opinion though but try to stay positive. Even after listing negatives. Amazon has become a real pain lately. I hear so many complaints about them and am lucky I haven't been impacted by their strit rules.

Brandon Ax said...

It had become a bit much no matter what they want a review. I do enjoy getting them on my books and try to return the favor, but even Amazon changed their policies about word count and such. OH well that is the world we live in.

VR Barkowski said...

I didn’t read the earlier version of your post, Donna, but I absolutely agree that reviews have become trivialized. That’s because reviews are no longer perceived as assessments but as promotion, making lukewarm or negative comments an insult to the author and a blow to sales rather rather than constructive feedback.

Amazon reviews have been a cesspool for years, and I pulled out early on, but I still rank all the books I read on Goodreads worthy of 3 stars or above. These days, I limit myself to writing reviews for books gifted by publishers—never authors. If the publisher doesn’t want honesty, they’d best not supply the book.

As for non-book reviews, I’m weary of being solicited and won’t write one unless I’ve been scammed in some way and want to alert others.

VR Barkowski

Lisa said...

What a great post. One that needs to be out there. Makes me think of politics right now. Who started that "If you're not with me, you're against me" way of thinking? Oh, right. Not getting into that. But I hate this polarization of our country, right down to reviews. Whatever happened to integrity, compassion, and kind honesty? I guess that got thrown out of school when they threw out hand/cursive writing as unnecessary... What?

Cherie Reich said...

I have heard of Amazon's policy, but so far it hasn't affected a single one of the reviews I've written. They're welcome to delete my reviews at any time they see fit because I always post them on my blog, Goodreads, and sometimes Barnes & Noble and Kobo. That said, I really do get what you mean about the obligation of reviews/surveys. I don't often do surveys and feel guilty for not taking the time, but I just have better things to do. I'd rather tell people about books I loved or at least liked.

Gwen Gardner said...

I don't ever promise reviews anymore. I know what you mean by feeling obligated to review these days, but I don't let myself feel pressured about it. If I want to write one then I will. If not *shrugs*

Shannon Lawrence said...

This is funny, considering I filled out two surveys today asking for my review of 1. a hotel stay and 2. a software product I use. I also turned down surveys at two other places. Then there are book reviews. I hate giving stars for reviews. If I could just write the review, I'd be more inclined to do it. But I don't do five stars unless something is exceptional, and I hate to give a review if I want to give 3 stars or less. Sigh.

Blogoratti said...

It definitely has some reasoning, this post I mean. The whole idea behind reviews is often short lived.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Donna - I don't like reviewing and having just been away - I was bombarded with review please - ignored! I hate them and unsubscribe from as many possible. I have reviewed a few books - just don't mention I know the author - seems simplest. Things I don't like - not so easy ...

I just don't feel obligated - I really can't take the strain!! Cheers Hilary

Arlee Bird said...

There are a number of books I've been intending to review, but I haven't been reviewing like I used to. I like reviewing--it's just getting around to doing it. I did review a book on Amazon for an author I know after he gave me a copy. My review was the only one he had. Recently I went back to look at this review that I had left a few years ago and it was gone. I guess Amazon deleted it. I'm not really sure what the deal was.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Nicki Elson said...

I only fill out those product/service surveys when I'm in the mood for it - or if I've got something worthwhile to say. My car dealership called after an oil change to see how satisfied I was with the service. When I gave them positive feedback, they said, "Okay, we're going to mail you a survey. Please make sure to give us the same marks there." I thought that was funny - do they not send the survey to people who don't give a favorable phone review??

authorcgcoppola.com said...

I don't review.
I've never liked doing the "what I thought about this product/service" even though it helps future customers. I always think I'm going to answer wrong or something. You're braver than I am.

Nick Wilford said...

I never respond to those surveys. Just don't have time and like you say, I don't know what it means for the employees. I try to review as many books as I can but I often seem to be behind. It's difficult if I've already moved on to another book. I sometimes just leave a star rating on Goodreads because it all helps (but only for books I rate 4 or 5 stars).

A Beer For The Shower said...

It's funny that Amazon is so stringent on reviews tied to people that know the author, and yet so many self published books are full of them. You see 20-30 5-star reviews and automatically think hey, this must be good. But the book is absolutely terrible. Why? Because all of those reviews were just put up by friends/family. I hate that. Ruins the honesty of reviewing.

Christine Rains said...

I missed the IWSG story contest deadline too. My idea didn't come to me fast enough! Next year. I agree about reviews. Though I try to review all the books I read, I don't always have time, and I do my best to be honest.

Carol Kilgore said...

I hate getting emails to review/rate products I purchase online. My delete button gets a workout. I barely review books. I know that's horrible, but it's true. I think a lot of people feel that way, so I truly appreciate all the reviews my books receive. Periodically I thank readers and reviewers on FB and Twitter. I hope some of them see it.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Great post, although I'm sorry its original version was misunderstood. That's happened to me with this group before, and it's very frustrating.

I completely agree with you, but not with Amazon's policy. I've become friends with some people *after* they reviewed my book, either because they wrote such an awesome review, or because they loved my book enough to want to get to know me a little. And now their reviews will no longer count because of this? Ugh. I think everyone assumes an author will have at least a few friends and family reviewing. Those reviews: "EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT! SHAKESPEARE COULD NOT HAVE DONE BETTER!" are fairly easy to spot. I don't think we needed to turn it into a police state.

But those constant survey requests, how I hate them! I'm still being pestered to review a tour I took back in August. If I'd wanted to review it, I would have by now.

Sorry it took me so long to respond. This month has been crazy!

dolorah said...

Hello everyone:

Thanks for stopping by. I hope I've returned a visit to everyone. Its my busy two weeks out of town and time just gets away with me. I'll be home next week, and have more time to catch up. Cold, rainy weather is good for sitting around and blogging :)