Sunday, June 14, 2015

That's Egregious! by Jamie Hill

In preparing another blog post about reviews, I was looking for a word that meant something was both good and bad at the same time. (I still haven't put my finger on the word, so if you know what I'm trying to say, hit me up in the comments!) I stumbled upon egregious, which is such a fun word I had to look it up.


1. extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant:

an egregious mistake; an egregious liar.

Synonyms: gross, outrageous, notorious, shocking.

Egregious is also good for 11 points in Scrabble and 14 points in Words With Friends, bahaha

It's not really what I was after, though. Some reviews are certainly egregious. Some are just plain stinkers. Some are so wonderful they can leave an author floating on air for days.

When I first started writing, reviews were much harder to come by. There were a handful of review sites and they generally had a lengthy waiting list of books to be reviewed. At that time, the e-publishing world was just breaking loose and suddenly there were more books than any site could handle.

Individuals with a love of reading and the ability to use Blogger discovered they could become reviewers, too, and many of my best reviews have come from these smaller sites and/or individuals. Many of them had a code, if a book was a stinker they'd just let it go and not post a really bad review. I appreciate them for doing that, because the bottom line is reviews are subjective. Purely subjective.

Some of the most popular books have gotten plenty of negative reviews, yet they've gone on to become movies, video games, action figures, etc., and earn the author millions. *sigh*

The past few years has shown a rise in the reader reviews at sites like Amazon. It's nice to allow readers to give their opinions, and I don't think there's an author out there who would criticize a genuinely thoughtful review. It might sting, but it might also bring up something for the author to keep in mind when writing the next book.

Family Secrets came out in 2006 the first time, and both of the main characters smoked. It wasn't as big of a deal ten years ago, but man, oh man, are people on me about that now. Many of the reader reviews mentioned how much they hated that Jack and Crystal both smoked. They were serious about it! (I got a little flack about the sex in the book. Okay, most of that was from my mom, but some from readers too. Yet the smoking seemed to be a much bigger concern.) In book two, my hero Brady started out as a smoker and quit by the end. And book three had no main characters who smoked. Zero. My mama didn't raise no dummy. (But I'm still a bit smuttier than she'd like.)

The negative side of Amazon reviews is that a 'reader' doesn't have to have read the book to post. I got one review on a book that's no longer available giving it one star because it was so short, the reader didn't even read it. *Blink* Excuse me?

Here's a couple of reviews for my novella On The Edge. It has several four and five star reviews like this one: 

"Surprisingly full story-line for such a short novella. I enjoyed this sweet romance with a good dose of suspense thrown in."

Then there's a one star review that says:

"Hated it. Don't buy it. Worse published book ever. Don't buy this trash. Also very short......BAD. Big disappointment
I read a lot of books and this was the worst."

Her grammar aside, I believe there's a compliment in there somewhere. Amazon has over a million books published at this very moment. If mine is indeed the 'WORSE PUBLISHED BOOK EVER', I want a plaque somewhere with my name on it.

Seriously, what good does a review like that do? Does it tell you why she didn't like the book (which she probably got free on one of the book's promo days)? Does it say anything about the plot or the characters? Or does it, perhaps, say more about the reviewer, who chooses to hide behind the name 'Amazon Customer'. Original, gal. Creative.

My publisher has started a campaign that whenever she sees a nonsense review like the one above, she marks it as 'unhelpful'. This makes it drop lower in the list of reviews and lowers the reviewers 'helpful' percentage. It's not much, but it's something we can do to say that while opinions are subjective--stupid, unhelpful reviews don't have to be tolerated. An author needs to overlook them and move on. Or blog about them for a little comic relief.

I'm still waiting for my plaque, by the way.

Find Family Secrets, On The Edge, my newest novel, Time To Kill, along with my other titles at Books We Love:

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1 comment:

Skyewriter said...

Good plan to mark as unhelpful. I'm guessing it's someone else who has to find it unhelpful but that would be one way for authors to help authors.

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