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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A rewrite is underway

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When I wrote and published The Seventh Age back in 2012, my thinking at the time was to get it out as quickly as possible before the winter solstice in that year, mistakes and all. Why? To appeal to those who firmly believed the Mayan calendar predictions that the world would end on December 21st of that year. Obviously it didn’t happen, but the book enjoyed a lot of success, selling in excess of a quarter of a million copies.

Now, having finally got round to re-reading it four years on, its time to produce a second edition, correcting the spelling errors as well as adding the few words missing throughout the story, principally to get the damned grammar nazis and assorted idiots of my back! Let’s face it, by not editing I gave them what they wanted. Unless they can tear a book apart, they’re not happy. And yet what really galls them to this day is that a book written by an Indie author became an overnight best seller despite the editing errors and their worst efforts.

So, this morning I’ve already begun while the rest of the world was still asleep. I’ll keep you updated with its progress. Meantime here is a direct quote from the original regarding the love affair between the two main characters Ithis, a crypto terrestrial and the archaeologist, Dr Nick Palmer at a critical juncture in the story:

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My heroine Ithis

From now on at night while he slept, Ithis entered his mind tenderly making gentle love to his soul, taking him beyond the normal wonderful sensations of lovemaking, ever mindful that she must not make actual physical contact – at least not just yet…’

PS – will it have a new cover? I have no plans to replace the original as it shows what the book is all about – time.

More later

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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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The Publishing Establishment’s Delusion | Just Publishing

Derek exposes the way the publishing establishment sees Indies

The Publishing Establishment’s Delusion | Just Publishing.

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…

Remember That Words Are Our Craft

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As writers we are always on the lookout for those personality traits which each human being has within them when creating our characters.

To that end, besides acting as a means for our readers to get to know us, blogs are a positive gold mine, especially when certain commenters lose their composure, and drop their guard. Remember that words are our craft. What you say, or don’t say, how you react to a post, gives all of us useful information to draw upon. So don’t be surprised if one day when you are reading one of our books, that a particular character seems very familiar to you.

People simply can’t help themselves when any blogger writes a piece that they feel needs to be commented on. Some have extremely strong views on a specific subject. Others simply agree with what was said. Yesterday’s post on spamming and unsolicited book links in proposed comments certainly qualified. One or two of the commenters where forthright in their opinions.

Some hopefuls even attempt to chastise the blogger, taking offence at what was said, often resorting to swearing and cussing. Needless to say, their comments wind up in the bin, unpublished, having given us useful information for a particular type of future character, usually of the evil kind.  Still others tend to go off at a tangent, talking about something else entirely.

So, to all of you, bear in mind that once your comment has been approved by the blogger, literally everyone who reads the blog, and your comments, instantly forms their own opinion about you. In short, unless you are careful, you will expose your real selves to the world and everyone who reads a blog, intentionally or otherwise.

Having spent twenty-five years in a university in New Zealand, without exception every one of the academics I worked with gave me an endless supply of character traits, which I have used in two of my books. The same can be said for the people I met and served alongside in the military back in the nineteen-sixties. In their case I created military style characters for two of my science fiction novels.

Even talking to our friends give us useful character traits. So, if you don’t want to wind up in any writer’s next novel as a shady, or even a bad character, think long and hard before you comment.

No, on second thoughts, don’t. We need you to lay yourselves wide open. Far too many books these days contain shallow uninteresting characters…

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Arrogance, Snobbery and Professionalism in the Writing World

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One of the comments in yesterday’s blog post Writers, Believe in Yourselves – Stand On Your Own Two Feet touched on the arrogance and downright snobbery rife within the editing and publishing communities. She quoted the following, which as writers we have all seen in various versions on writing sites and in literary magazines and newsletters over the years – “A writer who decides to be his/her own editor has a fool for a client. Only a professional editor can ensure that the indie author will produce something better than crap.” She went on to say – “there is no accrediting body for editors, so ‘professional’ has no meaning.”

How true.

The problem is that all editors and literary agents delude themselves into believing that they are a cut above the very people who guarantee them employment – the humble writer, be they in one of the big six’s ‘stables’ or as in my case, a successful self published mid list author. How arrogant, let alone ungrateful, can a person be? Without us they would not make money! Here’s a question for you, how many editors and literary agents do you know who have produced a best selling novel of their own? I can’t think of one, can you?

Before you start, no I’m not being arrogant. I’m merely stating the facts. When it comes to professionalism, most writers who enjoy regular sales of their books can be considered professionals. Not that any of us do. At best we consider ourselves to be ‘seasoned’.

In the case of the editors, just because they attended a university somewhere, gaining a lowly BSC in English Literature, they automatically assume that they now know far more about story telling and structure than the writer. Could it be that they are envious of the writer’s natural bent for story telling perhaps?

Without naming names, the chief editor and owner of the small press I made the mistake of signing up to several years ago, before I finally saw sense and parted company with him, is still a senior executive in a well known computer company. Like most editors, he considers himself to be a professional.

Is it any wonder that so many hard working writers have had enough of the arrogance and the snobbery endemic within the establishment, choosing to leave the traditional publishing world to become an independent self- publisher?

I think not…