Monday, October 29, 2012

In Which I Express a Ton of Opinions about Expressing Opinions

Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion, observation, and concern, not necessarily fact.

A scandal broke a while ago about an author who used an alias account to tear down his competitors' work in reviews on Amazon. (I read the article when it came out, but I forgot the man's name.) As sad and concerning as this is, I am a bit more concerned about the resulting ripples through the publishing world, especially on Amazon.I don't know details and do not claim to be an expert, but I have observed that a few of my author friends' reviews have disappeared from their book listings on Amazon. It appears that most (possibly all) of the reviews were the four and five star reviews. According to what I have heard, they were not paid reviews to the best of the authors' knowledge.

I am concerned that people's opinions are being censored. I believe strongly that everyone is entitled to their opinion. It doesn't have to be in line with mine. I am not saying that everyone is entitled to express their opinion if they can't express it politely, constructively, and kindly. Thumper's father had a good point when he said "If you can't say something nice...don't say nothing at all."

One, two, and three star reviews have their place too. As long as the reviewers are civil, they should be able to express their opinion of the product they bought. They should be able to issue warnings or concerns they had with the product. However, attacking those who express a different opinion shouldn't be standard procedure. That kind of behavior--attacking the credibility of the other reviews/reviewers, the author (creator) of the product, and others who have supported the product--is not fulfilling the purpose of a review, to give feedback on the product.

More links about the disappearing book review phenomenon.

If I, as a reader, want to give a book a five star review, I should be allowed to without being criticized (or have my review deleted) for my opinion just because someone else doesn't agree. The review system is not fool proof. Reviews are just readers' opinions which will be as varied as the readers' are. If someone is concerned about wasting their money, they should download a sample, read ALL the reviews, and understand that purchasing something always comes with a risk. Amazon does have a generous return policy for ebooks.

I read the reviews of my books, every painful or delightful word. Learning from them is hard, but I try. When readers speak, I listen and try to respond with better work. However, I am very aware that each reader comes to a book expecting something different. I cannot fulfill all of those different expectations in one book. So, I don't try.

I strive to write the best story that I can every time. I learn from my mistakes and make new ones with each book. I am not perfect. I will most likely never write the next great American novel that becomes a classic in future generations. That doesn't mean I won't write an entertaining novel, well crafted, and worth the price tag I put on it.

I shall now finish my opinionated speech and get off my soap box. Thank you for listening.

- Rachel Rossano


Kendra E. Ardnek said...

Huh. So that's probably what happened to my book's reviews ... there'd only been three, but it was the really long and detailed ones that disappeared ...

Literaturelady said...

Oh, I love that Thumper quote! I say it to myself when necessary...

I appreciate your blogging about this. It's a good reminder for me, as I tend to be snarky when talking about books with a shallowly delivered message and unbelievable characters. It's no fun reading those books (I made myself do it for reviewing purposes), but that's no reason to lash out. (And I think it's a good idea to mention any positives; there were bits I liked in those books.) So thank you for the reminder!


Rachel Rossano said...

I am sorry to hear you have been losing book reviews, Kendra. :( I hope they return or someone replaces them with better reviews. I hope they smooth out this issue soon before it gets too big.

LiteratureLady, I know what you mean. I am tempted to get snarky too when a book is poorly written. It is part of the reason why I am avoiding writing reviews unless I love the book or am doing it for a friend where I can make suggestions to them in private. Reviewing is hard.