Judging Reviews

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As I mentioned in a comment to a ludicrous review (at Amazon.com) of “The Pagan Man” last year, “Like most authors, I am used to people reading my books carelessly, then criticizing them for content that isn’t really there.”

Lately I’ve noticed a swarm of such careless reviews, not just of my books but of books by other authors I know and respect. Rude, borderline illiterate, trollish comments by people who obviously dislike an author’s personality or political views so much that immature insults substitute for analysis and content-focussed discussion.

Anyone (including myself) can make a spelling or typing mistake now and then, but a review filled with dozens of typos indicates—at the very least—someone who is so angry they can’t think straight, let alone type well, or so ignorant that they are incapable of writing clear English sentences. The use of dramatic pseudonyms in reviews copying insulting language from similarly badly written reviews often indicates people posting multiple reviews of the same works under multiple names.

I understand why Amazon doesn’t censor any but the most outrageously abusive reviews, and I trust my readers to be wise enough to separate the wheat from the chaff when reading reviews. I will say, however, that review abuse is yet another reason why, if you have authors whose work you admire, it is important to post your own literate, thoughtful reviews—even strongly critical ones—of all those authors’ works. Otherwise, books you admire and think worthy of greater distribution may be drowned in a sea of childish invective and ignorant misrepresentation.

Cross-posted from my Amazon Blog.

About Isaac Bonewits

World famous (or is that notorious) Druid/Wiccan/Heathen/Santarian author, speaker, pundit, etc. Google me to see what I've been doing with my life and what my friends and enemies think about me.
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6 Responses to Judging Reviews

  1. Noira says:

    Screw the hatemailers :-) Read something amusing, like the just launched Midnight Tree Clan protogrove´s website! http://arbor-nocturnus.wz.cz/

    I hope the bardic parts in English are at least a little funny…

  2. ibonewits says:

    They are indeed! Congrats on becoming an official Protogrove! Welcome to the ongoing adventure of one of the only new religions to document its stumbling way from the very beginning.

    Remember ADF’s unofficial motto: “As fast as a speeding oak!”

  3. Cosette says:

    Amazon may not censor most reviews, but I am not afraid to hit the NO button to the question “Was this review helpful to you?”

  4. ibonewits says:

    Neither am I and I’ve learned to use the “comment” function on really bad reviews too!

  5. Valya says:

    Humble request related to reviews…wondering if you and others might like to download, read, and review my 13-page novel excerpt on Amazon (one of 836 semifinalists chosen from 5000)?

    While not specifically Pagan in theme, it is Magic Realism and is rich in Eastern European folklore and mythology. Tarot also figures prominently in the book.

    The novel is THE SILENCE OF TREES, and it can be found here:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0011ZCAJC

    They are going to be announcing the Top 100 on February 19, and the customer reviews are going to help to cull the herd (although we’re not exactly sure how…they have been extremely vague on several details of this contest).

    There’s also a Customer Review Contest going on for folks who review 25 or more excerpts.

    I have found the quality of reviews to be fascinating in this process, on my novel and that of other Semifinalists. Clearly, some people use this as a way to sabotage the work of competing authors, directly or indirectly (with the helpful votes and comments).

    I hope to read some of your reviews!

    Thanks and blessings,
    Valya
    http://www.thesilenceoftrees.com

  6. Isaac,
    I agree. I’ve come to appreciate the value of a very good reader review on Amazon. I’ve also come to appreciate a well written and carefully thought-out *negative* review; sometimes such things are more useful than praise.

    Still, I too have seen a few books written by friends of mine utterly trashed by people who, apparently, didn’t read the book they were trashing. Alas, what troubles me the most are the people who read such spur-of-the-moment negative reviews and then read no further. If there are nine positive reviews and one negative review, most readers are likely to remember the negative review, and not check up with other readers (or the book itself) to see for himself whether what one has said is true.

    As some wise fellow said, “It takes many years to build up a good reputation, but mere minutes to destroy one”.

    Whoever said that was probably speaking from experience.

    It’s hard enough for pagan authors as it is, what with the bottom falling out of the pagan publishing market, with the occasional begrudgery-review spoiling the reputation of a good book, or a good author.

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