Saturday, October 5, 2019

Reading comprehension, reviews, and jerks

There's an unwritten (but much written about) rule for authors when it comes to reviews. You cannot respond to negative reviews. Authors are supposed to have thick skin. Authors shouldn't put their work out for the masses to judge if they can't handle the criticism that will inevitably come. Even books that have a large number of positive reviews will also attract some 1-star hit jobs. We're just supposed to rise above and tune them out.

For starters, it's unprofessional to try to argue with readers. If someone thinks your book sucks, leaving a comment on their review telling them they're a bozo isn't likely to change their mind. Nothing will be gained, and there's a chance you just might unleash the dogs of the internet, who will savage you with many more terrible reviews, just because.

So I won't respond to the moronic review that was left for The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo on Amazon this week. Not on Amazon anyway. But I will vent here, in the relative obscurity of my own site. Here, among friends and spiders and bots (yeah, I see you Russians in my traffic stats).

Here, in its entirety, is the review that was written.

"Is this all nothing but emails?" Um, yes. That is why it says this in the summary of the book:

So maybe if you hate stories told through emails, don't buy a story told entirely through emails.

As for the "what a waste" portion of the review ... you may recall that I ran a free promo for First World Problems last month. Not to go too Janet Livermore on it, but my expectations weren't exactly met. I didn't get anywhere near the downloads I was hoping for. I had 900 in four days, which is pretty crappy. It did generate a few sales of Dispatches from a Tourist Trap, which I assume means there were a handful of people who enjoyed the first book enough to move onto the second. But there wasn't exactly a spike in sales of either book. Which makes me 99.9 percent sure that this reviewer got the book for free. So "what a waste," eh? They wasted none of their own money on it, and if they hate books written as emails, it should have been obvious by the first page--second if they're slow--so how much time could they have wasted figuring that out?

This reminds me of a 1-star review left for my first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt.

That book is indeed a story about people who work in a baseball stadium. I'm not sure if I could have made that any clearer in the summary.

So, again, if that's not what someone was looking for, why buy the book? Apparently his reading comprehension is as poor as his grammar.

The most incredible part of that one is this same guy left a review for my other baseball book, Nine Bucks a Pound.

So many questions. Why did he buy a second one of my books if he hated the first so much? Why would he review a book he only started? Is it personal? Should I know this guy? Did he open the phone book and plant his finger on my name? Does he hate cans?

Reviews can be tremendously helpful for authors. (I'll pause here while you go to Amazon and write a few for some of your recent favorites.) Even negative ones can be useful if they provide honest, constructive criticism. But these, all they do is give authors something to vent about on their blog. Considering how dry I run sometimes on blog topics, maybe I should consider they've done me a favor.