Saturday, February 28, 2015

Authors wanting to be able to edit Amazon book reviews?

This post is the thoughts of me - Jacqueline Driggers - blog owner and head elf in charge - in response to the following article:

Authors Call On Amazon to Review Reviews Process

Apparently, The Horror Writers Association wants Amazon to amend it's review practices.  I get the impression that they want Amazon to give authors the right to somewhat edit the reviews on their books.  Here's some of the things that they object to in a review:

• indicates the customer has not read the book, but only a small portion of it, such as a free electronic sample;
• includes spoilers which, once revealed, could significantly reduce interest in the work;
• includes negative personal remarks about the author; and/or
• is focused on the work’s price rather than its content.

I mean really -- SPOILERS ???  Come on!  What do they consider spoilers?  If someone mentions that the book has an unhappy ending or one of the lead characters dies a horrible death, is that considered a spoiler?  Pardon me, but maybe, as a reader considering plunking down my money for a book, some of this stuff they object to may be the very stuff I would want to know.

As for abusive reviews, Amazon has a link on every review where you can report abuse.  That is already in place.  It' a done deal that has existed for a while, not only on Amazon, but lots of other sites too.  

The petition mentioned in this article is closed, and did not reach it's goal.  It came close.  But as the old saying goes - close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  

This is all from spring of last year, but it's news to me, as I just recently ran across the post.  

The short and long of it is:

In our wide ranging internet world of today, you are going to run across unpleasant people, critical people, hateful people, spiteful people, etc.  Your best course is to ignore/avoid them as much as possible.  Do not get into a discussion with them.  You will not win.  I know this from hard experience.  You will end up hurt and upset, and nothing will be solved.  

Contrary to what people want to claim, I feel people are more mean-spirited and hateful today than ever before.  Folks want to claim that they've always been there, and that the internet makes them more obvious and more visible.  In the words of my late father -- BULLSHIT!

Some of the complaints voiced by that group of writers, things they wanted to be able to remove from reviews - sounds like writers wanting censorship to me.  Just about a month ago, in the comments to a post in a facebook group I belong to, someone pointed out to me an awesome point:  the reason that you quit reading a book is just as valid a part of a review as anything else.  I also think that, if you didn't buy a book because of the price, that too is a valid part of a review on a sales site.

Let's not forget folks, Amazon is a sales site, a big store that sells lots of stuff.  On any other item, complaints about the manufacturer or their price on a product, would be considered valid parts of a review of that product.  So why shouldn't they be valid parts of a book review?  I say they should.  

If you don't like a writer's writing, you should have the freedom to say so.  And I have a problem with writers who charge $2.50-$4.00 dollars for a 40-70 page 'book' that is part of a 'series', when the whole thing should really be just one book.  The author is obviously breaking the book up into parts in an effort to make more money.  

Finally, let's not forget that there is always 2 sides to every argument.  Do writers try to get the readers side of it?  Because I totally get people complaining about the price of a book.  Money is tight, and some people don't have a lot of money for extras.  

Would authors like to be able to edit the reviews on their books?
The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes!  Of course they would.  Their book is their baby, their creation, their little darling that they've created out of their own mind, that they have slaved and worked over.  It's only natural that they would want everyone to love their little darling.  

But the fact is, not everyone is going to love their little darling.  In fact, some people may even hate their little darling.  
That's the way of the world.  And it's even more so now than ever before.  

So if you want to be a writer, 
put on your adult clothes, toughen your hide, put on your armor, and get ready to go meet the world.  It will be an interesting ride, sometimes a happy ride, sometimes an unpleasant one.  

Don't become a writer because you think it's an easy way to make money or you want fame and fortune.  

Why I'm a writer:
It's an integral part of who I am.  It's how I express myself best.  I write, I have written, on an ongoing basis, ever since high school.  My hair is brown, I'm about 5'5", and I'm a writer.  They're all part of the same thing.  They're all what works together to make me, me.  

When inspiration strikes, the words just flow.  From my brain, through my arms, to the pencil or pen or keyboard, and they spill out onto the paper.  

And now I'm able to pursue my 1979 high school dream of being a book published writer.  Thanks to sites like blogger and wattpad, I'm already a published writer.  

From a book reviewer's standpoint:
I have to disagree with some of the stuff that they want to be able to remove from reviews.  Your opinion of the author and their writing, the price of the book, your opinion of the book (regardless of how little you've read), and spoilers -- these are all part and parcel of a review on a book.  For example:
  • Would you want to read another book by this author?
  • Is the book worth the price of the book?
  • If you quit reading the book just shortly into it, why did you quit?
  • Was the editing good?  Or lousy?
  • Was the formating good or lousy?
  • Did the cover make you want to read the book, or not read the book?
  • Was the cover great but the book disappointing?
  • Were the characters great, but the plot stunk?
  • Was the plot great, but the characters stunk?
  • Was the research on the book shoddy?  Did they propose stuff that just wasn't so?
And I could go on and on.  

In summary,
I have great insights into this discussion, and I can talk about it from all sides of the table:
book reviewer.

For I am all three.  Before any of the others, I was a reader of books; going back to before I could read them for myself.  Beginning in high school, I started writing, (high school, 1976-1979).  And most recently, a book reviewer with my own book review blog, The Leisure Zone

As for the persecution of a particular author, or the slamming of a particular book, sadly, that does happen.  But I do feel these sites have framework in place for reporting such activity.  This, though, gets into another realm of discussion, another subject entirely.  

It is a practice that exists in all areas of human existence today, in all walks of life, at all ages.  It is a practice that has caused more than emotional upset - it has caused some to reach the depths of deep despair and take their own life.   

It is called bullying!
And bullying is wrong, no matter when or where it happens.  

So in addressing this topic, let's start by separating bullying from review censorship; for I think some writers are lumping the 2 together.  

Should writers be able to censor reviews?  No.
Should bullying be allowed?  No.
Should we distinctly separate the two?  Yes.
Even though the post is from last year and the petition is closed, will this topic come up again?  Yes.

And when it does, I hope those discussing it will make the distinction between censorship and bullying. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. One thing though. Books are not necessities. If a reader can't afford the book (and sometimes I feel they can, they just don't want to pay and to later have a complaint to whine about), they should wait until they can, find something cheaper, or ask the author for a copy in exchange for something to genuinely help the author out. If a book is $10 or $15 in print, half off for an e-book isn't bad. A writer has to consider their costs. If the book is only in ebook format, well, I guess that's different.