Criticism versus Reviews

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What any writer dreads the most are attacks by members of the public, often with an axe to grind…

In days gone by every writer knew that the only individuals who offered opinions about their work were journalists working for leading newspapers, in the guise of literary critics. Back then they encapsulated the essence of a new work of fiction in one line of carefully chosen words taken from the text in question. Never once did their newspaper’s editor allow them to speak harshly against a given work. Instead, they chose to beguile future readers with the use of a single sentence from the book in question as an enticement like the following:

“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

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Sadly those days are no more. Today, every reader has the freedom to criticise by writing whatever they believe is a review, knowing that they can get away with blue murder, then posting it on book sites such as Amazon. Most are not true reviews at all. Instead what you will see are endless examples of critiques, or far worse! The vast majority believe it is their god given right to tear apart any and every book, in particular ebooks by both traditional and indie authors.

It isn’t! All you are doing is showing your ignorance to the world at large. Some, not all, make it their business to harangue the author of the work they have just written about. A small number will insist that they could have made a far better job of writing the story!

To all of them I ask this – how many of them have ever written anything longer than their own signature I wonder? Have any of them ever had a book published? How would they feel if the boot was on the other foot? Would they feel outraged about the product of all their hard work being considered rubbish by hateful individuals? These people who go on the offensive are too cowardly to use their own name, preferring instead to remain anonymous by hiding behind a pseudonym.

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The Problem With Some Book Reviews

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When it comes to writing a book review, there is only one extremely simple thing for you to remember – if you have nothing positive or constructive to offer, say nothing.

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Since the general public found that they can now write a book review on sites like Amazon, it was inevitable that a few bitter and twisted individuals would rise to the surface. If what I am about to say sounds harsh to you, just think about the one, two and three star reviews written by people who have never read, let alone written, anything more complicated than a shopping list in their entire lives. Or for some totally unfathomable reason, believe that because they never actually bought a copy of the book they positively hate, that somehow or other it gives them the right to inflict their bile and hatred not only on the book, but also its author.

The greater majority of you are normal decent people, unlike the average internet troll(s). Even if they had bought a copy of the book, rather than venting their spleen it would be far better that they refrain if the book was not to their liking. But trolls are not normal, neither are they decent members of society.

From the point of view of the author of the book in question, there is one cardinal rule when you find your book and yourself have become the subject of troll attack – never rise to the bait. Even if you are seriously tempted, don’t say anything in reply to their review. Ignore them! While they may believe that what they say in their review will convince potential readers not to buy a copy, the reverse is often true. When people see highly negative reviews, at the very least it makes them curious enough to want to make up their own minds by buying and reading the book.

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Here are a few examples of the kinds of reviews I’m talking about, in this case one star reviews written about some classic works of literature, in this instance not necessarily by trolls, more than likely from paid literary critics :-

Plato’s – The Republic “it’s important that you all understand that Western society is based on the fallacy-ridden ramblings of an idiot.”

Dante – The Divine Comedy “The most worrisome part of this book is that Dante left out one circle of Hell… The one where you are forced to read this book.”

F.Scott Fitzgerald – The Beautiful and Damned “Does it get any worse than F. Scott Fuckgerald? The only thing good about this bastard is that he’s dead…”

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Now for two typical one star reviews from trolls on Amazon:-

William S Burroughs – Naked Lunch “This is probably the worst thing I have ever read. It is just a jumble of nonsence words from a junk basard. i love the Beat Generation, but come on Bill!!! … F@#$ You, Bill BURROUGHS!!! I’ve heard good things about Junky though. I might read that one.”

Amazon Reviewer – Charlie the Champion

Stephen Colbert’s – I Am America “I love the Colbert Report sometimes and hated this book all of the time.

Amazon Reviewer – Concerned Citizen

Notice the incorrect spelling and punctuation, and how neither of them actually used their name, preferring to hide behind a pseudonym. Most one star reviewers don’t even bother to edit their review before clicking on the ‘publish’ button as witnessed above.

So, the next time you think you have the right to slate a book and its author, especially if you didn’t even have the decency to purchase a copy – think again! Better still, stop making fools of yourselves and get a life…

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This article appeared in the New Statesman. I urge you all, both writers and book lovers, to read it – http://www.newstatesman.com/voices/2014/03/your-book-sucks-are-authors-being-bullied-one-star-amazon-reviews

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Lastly, why not support all writers by signing this petition. If you are on the side of common decency it is your duty to do so. This petition needs not just hundreds, but hundreds of thousands, even millions like you and I to sign it before book sites like Amazon will be forced to listen and stop siding with the trolls, by allowing them to get away with their often vicious attacks. If the attacks were physical, would the police do nothing? No. So why should Amazon condone what is happening on a daily basis?

https://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-com-protect-amazon-com-users-and-indie-publishing-authors-from-bullying-and-harassment-by-removing-anonymity-and-requiring-identity-verification-for-reviewing-and-forum-participation

Thank you for adding your name to the petition alongside mine.

PS – it might also pay you to read this:- http://www.derekhaines.ch/justpublishing/amazon-reviews-and-keyword-stacking/

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Cyber Bullying On GoodReads

It’s to be expected given that it is now wholly owned and controlled by Amazon, who allow cyber bullies to attack anyone and everyone who publishes books. A lot of rhetoric abounds from both sites about ridding themselves of the problem, and yet to date nothing positive has happened. While I’m all for freedom of speech, there are limits!

Cyber Bullying On GoodReads.

A Writer’s Secret Desire

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As writers we all write for the love of words and telling tales. We all say that we don’t really care if no one else likes what we write.

Really?

Yes I love writing with a passion. Yes, writing is everything to me. Yes, I enjoy the feedback I get from those of you who have read any of my books, whether it is good, bad or indifferent. At least the vast majority of you took the time to see what makes me tick as a writer.

Like most writers I know, I do not include any of the following in that last statement – Trolls, Pedants and Armchair Critics. Each of those groups are nothing more than self-important fools who believe that they know more about words than the average writer does. A lot of what they say when they attack any writer, in particular Indies, is down to professional jealousy, and envy of your modest measure of success, when you consider that in some cases, they are writers themselves.

As writers, be honest. Wouldn’t you just love to have at least one book that made people sit up and take notice of your endeavours? I know I would. With each book I write (at the time of writing this, I’m busy with my seventh), I like to kid myself that this one will become a best seller. I thought that when I wrote my fantasy anthology back in 2012.

Despite critical acclaim it wasn’t.

So with this latest one well and truly on the way (the word count now stands at nine thousand and I’ve almost finished outlining Chapter Five – almost), here’s hoping that it finally breaks through the invisible barrier that all books struggle to navigate their way through. I’m not asking for much. Just to be able to say that one book of mine was a best seller.

Is that asking too much? I honestly don’t know.

One thing I do know, the book I’m currently writing will create controversy, maybe even anger towards me among certain elements within society. Do I care? Do I hell as like. If I make you think when you read it, then I have done my job.

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Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists

If you’re a writer, you already know this if you’ve published a book and it appears on Amazon and Goodreads…

Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists.

What It Takes To Be A Serious Writer

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In the good old bad old days, wrongly or rightly, writers were shielded by their agents and publishers from their reading public to maintain an air of mystery, and to shield them from the more repugnant elements of society, among other things. These days since the internet became reality, it has become a necessary tool for all writers to be able to let their readers get to know them.

Even so, as a writer you need to be cautious. There are a few drawbacks. The  spread of internet trolls, armchair critics and pedants springs to mind. But, always providing the writer doesn’t engage with them, they remain where they belong, lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet fora. With the way the review system operates on a lot of book sites these days, they do their darnedest to put people off buying books written by every writer they hate. Usually their stupidity, bile and invective has the complete reverse effect. Some foolishly think that they will be able to get at any writer who maintains a blog by offering a less than civil comment. If you are a member of one of the three groups mentioned above, know that your comment will never see the light of day…

The time has long since gone when serious writers simply wrote books. Contrary to popular belief, being a writer is not only a lonely existance, but also unless you are one of the fortunate few, the amount of money we receive in royalties is minute to say the least. Any serious writer who makes £12,000 per annum, or more, is doing well. Most mid-listers make far less; new writers, practically zero.

Nowadays, we spend a lot of time either with our own webpages where we advertise our wares, or as in my case (and that of many other writers) we operate a blog like this one, contributing to it on a daily basis. Let’s face it, people are curious about us. They want to know everything about their favourite author(s). Once again there is danger involved in maintaining any form of public forum. How much do you reveal about yourselves? Short answer – think before you type. There are people out there who will think nothing of revealing your innermost secrets to the world in an attempt to turn potential readers away from your work. After all, like everyone else, we are human beings with the same character flaws, hates, foibles, desires, regrets, financial and health problems as anyone else.

Besides writing that novel, the odd short story, and maintaining a blog, we also interact on popular social media sites as well as placing links for our latest novel, novella, anthology and blog posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Linkedin etc. Participating in all of these activities has become an absolute necessity since the concept of publishing, and what publishers were prepared to do for their writers changed for the worse from the point of view of the writer a few years ago.

To keep our names in forefront of the reader’s mind we need to ‘self-promote’. The myth that any writer worth their salt does nothing but slave over their latest manuscript is just that – a myth. Some of us attend various book fares, book signings and conventions. Some of us don’t. I am one of the latter, owing to poor health. Besides which, until someone comes up with a way for writers like myself who write purely for the eBook market to digitally sign your copy, I won’t be doing it.

For all writers, being able to meet you when you visit our blogs, like what you’re reading, and become a follower, means everything to us all. As readers, while you might never consider reviewing something of ours on an internet book site, being able to read your comments on our blogs as well as chatting to you on Facebook also means everything to us. Plus, never forget that always providing we post on our blogs and talk to you on Facebook etc, at least you know we’re still breathing.

So, if you are thinking of becoming a serious writer, all it takes is dedication, mental strength, doggedness, and above all, you must become resigned to the fact that you will be living on an income well below what is commonly held up as the ‘poverty’ line. If you are serious about writing, be prepared for the long haul.

One other thing, if you want to know more about me, why not wade your way through the over one thousand posts I have produced on this blog?

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There Is Nowt Queerer Than Folk

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People in general are probably the most complicated, dangerous, confusing, annoying, tiresome, argumentative, frustrating, angry, illogical, emotional and idiotic creatures roaming this planet of ours. Don’t even get me going on the differences between the genders…

To begin with, the greater majority of mankind believes in some form of non existant all powerful entity. Why? What’s wrong with standing on your own two feet? To any logical thinking being, any form of religion makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Where is this all powerful being when we need them the most, like when we are involved in a war, or are suffering a family crisis? Nowhere, that’s where! So why bow down to them? It makes no sense at all.

Religion is hardly peaceful or benevolent, despite everything its devotees preach. Each religion believes it is the only true one, conning its faithful into thinking that all the others are unbelievers to be destroyed! I’ve lost count of the number of wars that were, and still are, being fought in its name – an ugly trait of those who still believe that they are still the masters of all mankind. It seems that we can’t get through a single century without declaring war on each other. Once again, why is that? In the days of yore the common people were given no choice in anything. Once upon a time we were ruled by Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Earls, Barrons and tribal Chieftains. What they decreed simply happened.

I’ve got news for you people. These days we do have a choice, despite what our political and religious leaders may say. Our politicians, backed by the more fantical religions, have taken over from any kind of royalty, prosecuting wars in other lands like there is no tomorrow, usually because those countries are oil rich. While we can’t do much about the religious fanatics, except ignore them, every few years we do get the chance to vote out the political party that is annoying and frustrating us the most. The real trouble is that instead of thinking first, many simply give their vote to a specific political party because that’s the way their family members and them have always done it. In my own case, I usually vote for the Labour party. Why do I do that? Habit, pure and simple!

More and more these days people simply don’t bother to vote, believing that their one vote won’t make any difference. Total rubbish!

With barely a fortnight to go, the good people of Scotland will get the chance to vote, either for independence from the rest of the UK, or to maintain the status quo. This is a historic moment in the history of these islands. The Scots won’t get another chance like this in the forseeable future. The political pundits and polls suggest that both sides of the argument, for and against, are about even. When have polls and pundits ever got anything right when it comes to elections, or in this case, probably the most important referendum that Scotland will vote on?

Since the Jacobites were beaten in the eighteenth century, ending any previous thoughts of Scots’ independance, the proud nation has been nothing more than a vassal state of England. Despite all of the scaremongering and threats from the UK parliament, personally I hope that Scotland achieves it dream to break away from the houses of parliament, otherwise known as Westminster, once and for all.

Role on the eighteenth of September…