Saturday, 5 June 2010

Bad. Badder. Baddest. (Yep, we're talking reviews again)

Something I've often wondered about is if in fact anyone reads reviews of books and then thinks 'OOH! OOH! I MUST GO OUT AND BUY THAT!'

Funnily enough, most of the reviews I read are of books I'm already familiar with, and usually to see if I agree or not with the reviewer's take on the book. I'm not talking about prerelease blurbs, but actual reviews by readers. Prerelease blurbs are designed to excite a reader into parting with the readies, but what of the kind of reviews we see on online sites like Amazon and the such?

Have you ever read reviews on any of those sites and thought, yep, I'm gonna get that one? Usually, I've already looked for said book, then taken a glance at the reviews to see what people are saying, but would never allow them to influence my decision to purchase or not.

What I've noticed on such sites is a growing trend whereby people feel the need to diss an author's work, not only that, but to insult readers who've actually enjoyed the book as well. I'm not getting into that debate, however I think there should be some sort of control in place to discard obvious attempts to cast disrepute on people's work. If they don't like the book, that's fine. Horses for Courses. Swings and Roundabouts. And all that jazz. But as long as the review is constructive, then good. We all like constructive criticism. However, no one likes childish, vitriolic ranting that serves no purpose to anyone. These should be struck from the sites. OK, we have 'free speech' and I'm all for people having their voices heard, but not when it's obviously spiteful. If I read a book I don't enjoy, I just put it aside and pick up something I do.

I recently read that Stuart Neville (Ghosts of Belfast (UK), The Twelve (USA)) uncovered a plot to cast aspersions on his book by a serial poster on Amazon, using different log on names etc to post multiple one and two star reviews. The general consensus was that said reviewer was a frustrated, unpublished author who thought that by pulling down Stuart's success then they'd upped their own little ego in their own sad little world. Well, you ask me, the net is full of similar little people. I only hope that they don't influence prospective readers because some great books by fabulous authors have been severely shot down by some of the nay sayers. But, if you're like me, it won't.

I won't mention names, but I've found similar attacks on my books. One 'reviewer' said they gave up on Dead Men's Dust at page seven, yet went on to say that they didn't like the book (doesn't make sense). Some 'bad reviewers' for want of a better term have even banded together to back each others findings up and cast aspersions on me as an author and on people who have favourably reviewed the book. One even went as far as playing detective to hunt down as to whether I had connections to the 'good reviews'. For the record, Col Bury is a friend NOW. He wasn't when he first heard about me and my first book, and he read and subsequently wrote his review without having met me before we became friends. We became friends because he did like the book and through our mutual love of the crime thriller genre. The said reviewer now trumpets that he was right because Col now co-edits TKnC with me, and he keeps returning to add comments to other bad reviews to get himself another tick in the box. OK, he doesn't like my writing. So all I'll say to him is to move on and concentrate on someone he does, and let people enjoy the books who do so. Another reviewer gave JAW a stinking review. Fair enough. But then we have to believe that she also went out and bought and subsequently read and hated SAB too? I don't think so. Give over. I get from the review that she prefers another big name thriller writer and that's fine by me, but at least get the writer's name right. Hint: there's no 'S' at the end of his name. By the way, said big name thriller writer is a great guy, and a great writer, who would not appreciate the fact I'm being attacked in his name, I'm pretty sure about that.

I'm a pragmatist.

Some people will love my books. Some will despise them. I write for the prior category. So, when I read the 'bad review rants' I just chuckle to myself. I'm not trying to please them, so I get over it. I get some amazing and genuine feedback from people who do like the books, and one of those kind of messages means a thousand times more to me than some little pulpit basher venting steam.

Now then, before you think I'm on a rant, I'm not. I'm getting to the fun part.

I'm attending Thrillerfest V in July, and attending the awards ceremony as Dead Men's Dust has been shortlisted (by some of the most knowledgeable thriller afficionadoes in the world including a certain big name thriller writer whose name doesn't end in 'S') for the 2009 debut thriller award (Matt thumbs his nose at the bad reviewers ;-0 ). But, that's not all. A coveted prize at the awards ceremony is for the 'Worst Review of the Year!'; it's great fun and I'd like to enter. Now, the only thing is I can't be objective anymore and would like to hear what you think between my top two choices.

1. 'MR Hilton. I gave up on your book at page 65. Whatever gave you the impression you could write? regrettably Mrs...........'


2. 'This book should be promoted by Amazon as 'How to write rubbish and get paid for it". This dreck is so bad that I actually checked the first page to make sure that the first sentence wasn't 'It was a dark and stormy night...'

Answers in the comments box please...

Also, if you'd like to, let us know some of the humorous bad reviews you've had.

Have fun



Col Bury said...

Number one wins, Matt - quality.

Just read the review n comments you are talking about. Nasty people who need to get a life. And that one from Birmingham who is factually incorrect is potential stalker material so keep yer nunchakus at hand, bud.

To be honest his words aren't worth the steam off me shit.

Glaznost said...

I'm with Col, number 1 wins hands down! I read that review when it went up and it made me laugh. Mainly because i think he's talking out of his bottom, but hey, horses for courses and all that jazz...

Lee Hughes said...

Yeah number one. I wouldn't care a sh*t what they think. Anyone with half a mind will see through the stupidity in the 'so-called' reviews. The sales tallies show that you have a large recurrent audience.

Matt Hilton said...

I have to admit that number 1 is fast becoming my favourite too. Short, bitter-sweet and scathing in so few words.

David Barber said...

Matt, number one for sure but hey, you can't please everybody!

The world will always have arseholes and a fair few of them talk out of them too!

Best, David.

Amit said...

Mr Hilton!
Well its been some time as I've been re-writing my book (agent finally got back to me and have an "editorial session" on the re-write next week so im thinking it must be constructive!).
Really interesting post - and one I have mixed thoughts on. People are free to write what they like if its genuine. Being spiteful for the sake of it ive never understood. But I've reviewed books where i have been particularly brutal and some of it know what - how did this get published?! And honestly i think everyone has done or thought that. You're an inspiration to many b/c you did it from scratch the hard way with no "inside contacts". But there are "others" who did it nudge nudge wink wink and then they get published and write drivel i think they are entitled to get gunned down, beacuse the rest of us know the blood, sweat, tears and rage we go through to attempt this art!
I think reviews should be honest and where possible constructive but sometimes you come across a book which is SO BAD (nothing from Mr. Hilton falls into this category) that you feel cheated by spending your money.
Should i ever get published and get a stinker of a review...i wonder how i will feel? Probably vengeful and irritated!!! I'll hunt the so and so down and see if i can find a "plot" for my next book!!!
Yet to read your latest book, but its on my to read list and i cant wait!
Rant over with!

Stuart Neville said...

Thanks for the mention, Matt, and your comment on my blog a while back.

There's a particularly juicy one-star review on the US Amazon's page for Ghosts of Belfast. It's simply titled 'BOLLOCKS', and is an extraordinary hate-fuelled rant full of ignorance and bigotry. I've been seriously considering entering it into the ITW contest.

As for my multiple review posting Amazon stalker, I have a very good idea who it is, and it's come up in conversation with a couple of the other authors he/she targeted. I've been tempted to name and shame him/her, but I don't think I can be bothered with the fuss it would cause.

Matt Hilton said...

Hi Stuart,
thanks for dropping in, it's a pleasure to hear from you. I'm with you in that probably keeping quiet on your suspicions is the right thing to do. I certainly haven't thought about replying to any of the obviously nasty reviews as I guess it would only fuel even more trouble than its worth. Soon, whoever it is will move on to someone else.

I think the problem with the two of us is that we got a lot of press for our debut books, and some people will genuinely not like our books. I'm OK with that. But then there'll be others who think they were more deserving and think they will redress the balance by trying to pull us down. That I can't understand, but it is the way of the world, I suppose.

You're probably like me in that you only wish the best for folk and hope the same in return.

Love us or hate us, at least they're not ignoring us, eh?

Thanks again for dropping in, and hope to see you at Thrillerfest.

Matt Hilton said...

Hello, Amit,
like you say it's been a while, mate. Great to hear that you've been hammering away at your book and things are moving on for you. Hopefully you'll have some great news to tell about after your meeting with your agent.

On the 'bad review' subject, I agree with you in that we all have a right to say what we want. I respect that - I'm one of those writers that used to jump up and down when some 'z' rate celebrity suddenly 'writes a book' and it goes straight into the bestseller charts (usually because of some well-placed cash in certain pockets)or some mega-seller supposedly writes seventeen books in 2 years and they all get shelf space and chart positions. That's different than just writing a bad review for the sake of it, usually having not even read the book (if you ask me) because there are so many misquotes and wrong facts. Half the time they've only read the blurb on the back, because that's all they quote. A good, well thought out critical review (like yours)is welcomed by authors, good or bad.

Any way, I seem to have opened a can of worms with this subject and I didn't really mean to, it was just a lead up to introduce and seek feedback on my competition entries, so I'll shut up about it now!!

Good to hear from you, mate, and I genuinely do hope to hear some great news from you soon. Harrogate this year? If so, I'll see you there
all the best

Matt Hilton said...

Hi David,

I'm with you and everyone else by the sound of things. No 1 it is, me thinks!

Dean Ford said...

Definitely Number 1, Matt.

I've seen a lot of novels that I personally didn't like achieve great success, but rather than rant and rage over it, I used to think; "If they've achieved success with that, and my novel is in my opinion better quality, then I'll get published in the end too."

People who spend so much time dissing the work of others are probably just filling a void of inadequacy in their own lives....

Gavin Bell said...

Hi Matt, sorry I haven't been around thrills/kills/chills lately - life intervened in the form of a new baby!

I have to say a lot of the bashing comments on amazon are pretty dispiriting and sometimes there seems to be a conspiracy to make a particular book look bad. I remember reading and quite enjoying Christopher Ransom's book The Birthing House and checking out amazon to see what the reviews said after I'd read it. Not only was there a disproportionate amount of one-star reviews (for a book that was at the very least an efficient page-turner), but many of the reviews seemed to criticise the same things in nearly identical language. It left me wondering how the author had managed to personally annoy those people, since the book was nowhere near bad enough to justify their ire.

On the other hand, I have to admit that I do love to read a really well-written scathing review, so I wouldn't want to ban negative comments from sites like these. Sure, 99% of unconstructive criticism is useless, but there's 1% that can be pretty damn funny and creative in its own right.

I guess the acid test is, does the review make a good point? If it doesn't, and it's just dull, unimaginative bashing of a successful author, then the best thing to do is ignore it and focus on the people who have something worth saying.

Matt Hilton said...

Hiya Dean and Gavin,
thanks for the comments. It's a touchy subject this one, but something, as writers, we all have to get used to.

But any way, I'm with you both.

Gavin, I agree that bad reviews should be allowed and am not suggesting other wise, just that obviously malicious and blatant attempts in spoiling a book's rating should be stamped down on. Plus, I'm fighting the cause for other writers here, because on the whole, most of my reviews (even the bad ones) have been fair enough. What i took umbrage at was certain 'bad reviewers' then slagging off people who enjoyed the books and said they were being paid or were publishers plants. In my opinion that's not on.

But any way, I've kind of rattled the sabre long enough on this one, so will let it go now. By debating it we're only giving the attention seekers the time they crave. (that's not to say I haven't appreciated everyone's in put!!)

Matt Hilton said...

Oh, Gavin, forgot to say: 'Congratulations on the birth of your child.'

very best wishes to you and your family.

Gavin Bell said...

Thanks Matt, she's doing great. Only downside is it makes it very difficult to keep up with the writing!

Col Bury said...

Tell me about - we had two in a year... I've got two baggy eyes to prove it!
Congrats, fella.