Monday, August 27, 2012

Everybody Loves A Compliment

I came across something today that really pisses me off to know. Just this weekend, my friend Mark Mans and I were discussing books, publishing, and how elusive success is. We were commiserating that it seems like all the self-pubbed authors around us seem to be getting rave reviews, which in turn leads to lucrative sales, right? Both of us are slow to turn out stories because we deeply care about creating the best work we can for our readers. In a nutshell, we care about quality over quantity. Meanwhile, many authors (successful authors, I might add) are releasing books in as little as once per month! Some even claim to write some of their books in a single week. I'm not making this up people. :(

I've got two novels available: Majoring in Murder and The Old Royal, in addition to an anthology, An Adverse Anthology. I can assure you, I did not write any of those books in a month, let alone two. Each of those books took me several months to write. The short stories in my anthology took less time, but it did take quite a while to gather enough for a book. The reason the process takes me so long is because I have to edit them. When I finish editing them and feel that they are ready for someone else to read, I always consider the feedback of no less than three beta readers. At the end of that process, I usually go back through it one last time myself and release them into the wild. It's a tedious process, but in my opinion, it's completely worth it for my readers. After all, I want to create the best story I am capable of producing. Now, I'll admit that I know not everyone will like what I create. Writing is very subjective and I am aware of this.

So far, my stories have various reviews on several different distributors; some good, some bad. For instance, at the time of this post, on B&N, my short story Hush, Hush, My Love has received about 22 ratings/reviews (unfortunately, not everyone leaves feedback, just a rating). 10 of those ratings are 1-stars. You can view them yourself here. I'll be honest, it hurts to have those one-star reviews, but the five-stars more than make up for them. On Smashwords, the same story has 5 four-star reviews! I can't explain the diversity between the different distributors. I can tell you this, as an author, those reviews mean everything. Writers need validation for their work. Also, the more positive reviews we get, the better our work looks to other potential readers. It's that word of mouth that tells the next customer that our book is worth reading...or, so I thought. (Before I continue, I will tell you right away that I continue to be hands-off when it comes to my books' reviews).

As I learned today, not all authors have any scruples. I want honest reviews of my work. If someone I know reads one of my stories and feels compelled to leave a review, I always plead with them to be honest. I don't want them to leave me a glowing review because we're friends and they feel obligated. For instance, I received a 3-out-of-5-star rating from a colleague at work because my descriptions "didn't take him there". You know what? I thanked him for his candor and I respect the fact that he was honest with me. However, it seems that there are many authors who participate in cliques that go around leaving one another positive reviews to help each other out. When I learned of this, it made my blood boil. But, today, I learned that some go farther than that: they actually pay third-party services who leave glowing 5-star reviews without ever reading the book and they don't even know the author.

So, while some (possibly only a small subset of us) authors are trying to become successful by truly honest methods, others are simply bypassing the traditional method of producing a quality product in order to fool readers with tens (or hundreds) of purchased, dishonest favorable reviews. This not only pisses me off because they are cutting in the line to success, but it also devalues the honor system that reviews provide while, at the same time, deceiving readers. It makes it harder for me and the rest of the honest writers to succeed. I'm so mad, I don't even know what else to say on the matter without resorting to cursing and breaking something. Below is the original source for the article. I'll let you read it for yourself. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Original article: The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy - The New York Times

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