To Fiver or Not to Fiver

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From one of Terry Pratchett’s books, when someone says to you, “May you live in interesting times.”, it’s not said to wish you well. It’s the fleas of a thousand camels infesting your armpits kind of wish. I’ve been having one of those interesting times kind of week. I’m way too sleep-deprived to go into details though – this is just by way of explanation, and apology for my brief and sporadic appearances over the last couple of days. I’ll be back on form after an extra long snooze, a snooze which is fast approaching now I think.

I’ve always said that if I can’t give a book a five star review, then I won’t post a review. I’ve also always said that I reserve the right to change my mind about anything at all at any time too. So. I hereby announce the changing of that rule. As most of you will know, I joined the Rave Reviews Book Club a little while ago. I’ve since been accepted as a member of the board. I’ll be cheering on and supporting our authors in the Spotlight chairs. I’m not the only one, and those authors really do get the most amazing support from everyone, so it’s actually a lot of fun too. Like a really big party.

Anyway. The reason that I’ve changed my five star rule, is because there is no way I would ever be willing to tack my name on to a review and give it a fiver if I don’t honestly believe it does deserve five. I’m generally quite good at buying books that I know I’m going to like at the very least, and there are loads of books on the club’s list to choose from, but once I’ve picked a book to read and review – apart from honesty being the club’s rule – I can’t then not leave a review, and I also can’t leave a five star review if I don’t think the book warrants it. So there it is.

I haven’t decided yet whether or not to post less than fives for my non Rave Reviews Book Club reads. It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t a writer myself. Today I’ve seen two one star reviews left for authors by other “authors”. Before I published I thought that a peer author review wielded more clout – because, being in the business, the reviewer knew their apples from their monkey nuts. But. A lot of reviewers these days seem to be leaving reviews more to attract attention to their own – apparently – fine writing, than to honestly critique what they’ve just read. Non-writing (but also literate) readers are much kinder with their reviews, and also less likely to pick up flaws that they probably wouldn’t even notice if they’ve never self-published anything. That’s why when I do leave reviews, I always ask myself if I would have noted a particular oops if I wasn’t a writer myself.

I have a three star review on my short story – The Visitation, from a reader who said that she really enjoyed, and got into the story and then it stopped. Even though that was my original intention – to make the ending shocking and abrupt, I think about that reviewer quite a lot, and I’ve been scribbling away at adding to that book for months now. I’m not planning on changing the original short, but I’m going to tack a novella in after it about what happens after my abrupt ending, with a note about what it is, why it’s there, and a little thank you and dedication to that reviewer. Because that was a good three star review. It was honest, and not in any way unkind, but at the same time, I do have readers who like that sort of short, so the novella has to be an optional read.

My one star review for Fly Birdie doesn’t bother me at all because it makes no sense to me personally, but I accept that the reviewer just didn’t like it, and I can only hold thumbs that she never reads any of my other scribbles, because she’s not likely to like them either, and if she took such umbrage to poor Hannah, she’ll foam at the mouth if she happens upon Suzette!

Review Horror

After all that waffling I’m still undecided whether or not to post below fives on my non-club choices, so I’ll just be moving along then. I’ll leave you with the second Rave Reviews Book Club Newsletter though. Things are really getting exciting too – writing competition ahead! Have a wonderful Sunday lovely people.

Later addition to this: Having had a re-read of this post, I’ve decided that I will post less than fives on my non-club reads from now on. Fair is fair, and a four star is much better than nothing at all.

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39 thoughts on “To Fiver or Not to Fiver

    Forget the Viagra...Pass me a Carrot! said:
    March 2, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Reblogged this on Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot and commented:
    Reblog Saturday slipping into Sunday – omg…. ah well! Jo has some interesting points to make about reviewing other people’s work. It is a daunting task – the only thing that I would add about less than five stars is that provided it is accompanied by a constructive piece of criticism that highlights the good points and suggests areas that might be elevated, it can be very useful to a writer. Another good piece thanks Jo.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 2, 2014 at 10:23 am

      LOL- thank you Sally! Your reblog Saturdays are cool – and I’m following even MORE folks now. 🙂 You are so right about the constructive. Some of the reviews I’ve seen around and about are barely legible, yet their writers feel justified in trashing so perfectly good books. Have a WONDERFUL Sunday my lovely friend! XXXXXX

      Like

    Mark Myers said:
    March 2, 2014 at 11:51 am

    As a book buyers, If I see one that has a few 5 star reviews and that’s it, I assume his friends are the only ones that have rated it. There are going to be people who don’t like it. As a writer, I would rather have an honest review than a bunch of 5 stars. Like you said, it helped you to see some of them.

    I’ve been in your dilema though. I have read some books for a group and read some genuinely good ones. But then stumbled on a stinker and decided I couldn’t give it a fiver. I delicately emailed him with my issues, he wanted the review anyway and I posted it. I think quantity of reviews helps you in browsers perceptions on Amazon. Good luck.

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      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      I totally agree Mark – that’s why I’ve never asked for reviews. I think that if you are going to leave a review it has to be an honest one, so good for that author who wanted your real review. I’ll be fine though – I know a good ‘un when I see one, so I’m very unlikely to buy a book that will warrant a really bad review. I make sure that I’m in reader and not editor mode when I am reading too – that’s only fair in my book – I’m reading a story. Some reviewers give out a five star so rarely, that getting no fours ever does seem a bit suspect. 🙂

      Like

    Charles Yallowitz said:
    March 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I know a lot of people are suspicious of 5-star reviews on Amazon. Many readers have told me that they ignore those and only look at the 2-4 star range, especially on Indie books. There’s still that idea that most 5 stars come from family and friends if that’s all there is. As for writing reviews, I’ve found that I have a lot of trouble now because I think like an author. I don’t like giving negative reviews, so I’m very picky about what I read and I push to say what was done well as well as what I didn’t like. One thing is certain: I’m a terrible reviewer and have a lot of respect for people that can do it.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      I’m the same as you on this – it hurts me more to think about posting a negative review. But now I’ll go down a notch. If I see only five stars I look inside, and if I think that the beginning of the book looks like a fiver I’ll definitely buy it. My friends and family always glaze over and try to run away when I mention mine. 😀 I’m fine with that though – my lot would be merciless.

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        Charles Yallowitz said:
        March 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

        Funny how people think every author has undying support from family and friends. Most of mine don’t talk about it and none of my family have ever reviewed my books. One friend tried and it was so terrible that I was the one who reported it as fake.

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          March 2, 2014 at 1:25 pm

          LOLOL! That’s brilliant! I think that family and friends are best kept away from our books – unless they’re proper readers or creative souls too. They just need the freebies for their coffee tables – marketing! 😀

          Like

            Charles Yallowitz said:
            March 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

            A lot of my family didn’t even do the coffee table thing. It’s a shame because my books are 8 x 11 instead of 6 x 9 to get the price down from $20.

            Like

              jorobinson176 responded:
              March 2, 2014 at 1:57 pm

              Ha haa haaaa! The coffee table thing is wishful thinking on my part too. Are the 8×11 better priced? I think they look a lot neater.

              Like

                Charles Yallowitz said:
                March 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm

                Createspace seems to work off page amount with pricing. They raised prices recently, but prior to that my first book was $20 at 6×9 and $10 at 8×11. For fantasy books, they tend to confuse people.

                Like

                  jorobinson176 responded:
                  March 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm

                  I reckon that it takes a lot of time to settle in to a comfortable spot, because followers of genres like fantasy and sci-fi are generally very picky about the blogs they follow and the sites they join – I’m one of them, so I know. I’m going to change my Createspace books to 8×11. I really think that they look better anyway – I thought that they would be more expensive for some reason. I’m battling LightningSource for the hardback books now – apparently that has a better chance for being picked up for actual store shelves, and you can sell them on Amazon too.

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                    Charles Yallowitz said:
                    March 2, 2014 at 2:49 pm

                    I was surprised that they weren’t. I did it out of curiosity and was really surprised at the price change. I’ve never worked with LightningSource, but hardback definitely seem to be a surer bet for store shelves.

                    Like

                      jorobinson176 responded:
                      March 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm

                      My bipolar brain zooms all over the place, so it takes me longer to figure these things out. LightingSource charges a tiny fee, but it comes off the book price. Apparently book stores are reluctant to buy from Createspace to put physical books on shelves because there is no return policy if they don’t sell. LS has a couple of things return-wise by way of insurance also.

                      Like

                      philipparees said:
                      March 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm

                      Thanks Jo. That is reassuring. Four books a year is do-able, and if honesty is allowed I might be persuaded! With regard to my published book(Involution) I cannot see many opting for the work it would take, and yet it has been more appreciated by the ‘unscientific’ or innocent reader than by those to whom I felt it would appeal. I need to reach a wider readership, and the book in process (A Shadow in Yucatan) is likely to be a quick and undemanding option. Will go through the Guidelines again and make a decision but this answer has helped- a lot!

                      Like

                      Charles Yallowitz said:
                      March 2, 2014 at 3:10 pm

                      Yeah. That’s the issue I was having. I think I’m just lazy and comfy at this point, so I’m sticking with an on-line presence. I’ll look into LightingSource though. Couldn’t hurt.

                      Like

                      philipparees said:
                      March 2, 2014 at 3:51 pm

                      Charles, I have used LS in order to maximise world wide availability.(as yet theoretical) Their returns policy is pretty punitive on the author’s income and according to some (not yet experienced) as much as 40% in the US of books ordered are returned. LS either pulps ( and charges $2.00 a book) or returns to author for which postage is payable. Bear in mind you have paid for all these copies to be printed. To use LS you have to be a publisher with your own iSBN’s and pretty savvy with regard to the required contracts which are formidable. Having said that they do assign you a personal rep who will deal with difficulties, and are honourable about making good errors. I have offered a 45% discount but not returns so as to make the profit for shops competitive. What has been an unforeseen shock is discovering that an order placed in the US ( and printed in the US) costs more in postage sometimes than me sending the book from the UK where one postage cost covers the whole USA rather than being based on distance which happens if posted in the US. That I never realised and it probably would have meant going with CS instead. I thought I had asked all the relevant questions!

                      Like

                      Charles Yallowitz said:
                      March 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm

                      Wow. That’s good to know. Sounds like I’d have a rough time with them. My stumbling, Indie Author butt would be crying in the corner with all that. Thanks. 🙂

                      Like

                      philipparees said:
                      March 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

                      You are not alone Charles! I was ( still am) the quintessential Indie innocent and have made every mistake in the book. Everything I have done was to get a book that is un-describable into bookshops, but no matter how good the professionalism of design, attractiveness of prize winning cover, without a budget ( in my case blown on publicity of the wrong kind) or a name, or IT savvy expertise I fear it ain’t gonna happen! I am now putting all efforts into getting reviews, writing articles, and not even certain those will work either. Its a very hard haul.

                      Like

                      Charles Yallowitz said:
                      March 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm

                      I agree. I turned my focus to the on-line and eBook stuff. I found more sites that help promote those things. As for making mistakes, I’ve made a bunch of them. I never realized how many pitfalls there were out there.

                      Like

    Patsy said:
    March 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I’m reluctant to give negative reviews. As I’m a writer myself I know they can be painful, I worry it might look like sour grapes and I’m aware that often the fact I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s of poor quality. I’ll give 3, 4 or 5 stars. Generally if I think it deserves less than 3 I won’t have read it all anyway and in that case a review is unfair.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      That is so spot on! I’ve seen so many reviews – especially on Goodreads – where a one star is left, and the reviewer says that they didn’t read past page ten. That really is unfair. I think I’m going to do the same now – I’ll go down as far as 3. Like you I really feel for other writers. There should be a separate 10 stars just for writing a complete story – even the bad ones must take so much time to write, and I’m not into trashing a writer for trying so hard.

      Like

    MishaBurnett said:
    March 2, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    This is exactly why I refuse to agree to swap reviews or join any group in which reviewing is mandatory.

    I don’t enjoy writing unfavorable reviews.

    I have a very limited time for reading, and I often won’t finish a book if I don’t like it enough to give it four or five stars.

    And I believe that there are enough truly excellent works out there that deserve more attention that I don’t want to spent time writing about books that I don’t believe are that good.

    I have been invited to a lot of different writer’s networks, but if writing reviews of other authors works is required, I just can’t commit to it.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      That’s a really good point about writing about books that you didn’t like – rather spend that time writing. I have reviewed a couple of authors who then reviewed one of mine, but unless it’s coming from a book club environment that sort of thing will maybe be frowned on by Amazon. I’ve had a couple of requests to join groups where everyone just posts 5 stars reviews of everyone’s books without reading them. I’ve politely declined because I’ve heard that if you say anything you end up with hundreds of 1 stars in retaliation. I know I’m really lucky to have most of my time at the keyboard, and I can see how incredibly hard it is for my author buddies who have day jobs and families to take care of also. And that’s a pity – because some really bad books get to the top of the ranks because of buddy reviews, and really fantastic books take a long time to find their deserved fan base because indies have to do it all themselves.

      Like

    philipparees said:
    March 2, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    This touches on my dilemma and why I have not completed signing up to Rave Reviews, although the mutual support of other authors is an attractive idea…its a lonely business. But ‘rave’ suggests undiscerning, and your points above about the obligation to support means less than total integrity. Reviewing is such a very personal matter, and a three star simply means that for that particular reviewer it merits three…yet these are the means by which they are judged. Still deliberating!!

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Rave Reviews is very clear with the review policy Phillipa. Reviews from 1 to 5 stars can be posted on all sites, and honesty is a must. On the main reviews page, reviews lower than three stars aren’t posted because that’s just depressing – but if anyone wants to give you a 1 on any other site that’s fair. I personally don’t feel that any book deserves one star, but that’s just me. The ‘rave’ aspect of the club is all about the support. Twelve books are put in the read for review spot per year at this point, but loads more are spotlighted. The minimum books members have to purchase and review per annum is only four. Those of us who have the time to go nuts on social networking do, but those who quietly read and share as they can are not swept under any rug. I’m right there too, and we will support and boost everyone. There are so many clubs out there that I’ve seen to be dodgy, and they fizzle, that’s why I’ve never, ever joined any before this. This time I’m really happy to be part of the RRBC team. All those lovely guys on the board are kind, caring, and really working towards the goal of indie authors making their mark by supporting each other – totally honestly. If any member was to try faking anything they would get booted right out of the door.

      Like

    Carol Balawyder said:
    March 2, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    A lot of reviewers these days seem to be leaving reviews more to attract attention to their own – apparently – fine writing, than to honestly critique what they’ve just read.

    I don’t think we can avoid this but perhaps the RaveReviews Club could have this “rule” to go by: for every review,less than 5, give constructive criticism and also say something good about the book.
    I have yet to read any of the books here but do intend to do so. I think it’s a great idea as long as there is always respect for the writer and that this platform is not a one way street. Review to be reviewed.
    I also agree that a 1 star shouldn’t exist. We all know the effort it takes to write a book. That alone merits more than 1 star!

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      You are totally right Carol. Apart from some of those get rich How to Write a Best-Selling ebook on the Loo type things, I reckon that any writer who takes huge chunks out of their lives to produce a finished story, and go through all the learning curves that they have to to self-publish, deserve much more than a one right out of the gate. What you have said is already a club rule. We also have a zero tolerance for bullying and trolls, and the board will deal with any of those who are brave enough to share their venom with our members. But undeserved praise is definitely not what anyone there is looking for – just notice – that’s the main goal. To help boost books enough to be noticed. Mine has just gone below the 50 000 rating for the first time ever, and I have a brand new and really constructive four star review too. All of the board are really working very hard to make this a really tight ship. It’s growing so fast that a lot of work is needed, but all leaks will definitely be caulked as they pop up.

      Like

        Carol Balawyder said:
        March 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm

        I’ve just registered as member for Rave Reviews, now have your book on my e-reader and look forward to reading it.

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          March 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

          Thank you Carol! That’s brilliant – you’re going to love being with the club, and there are still more things being planned to support all the authors even more. 🙂

          Like

            Carol Balawyder said:
            March 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm

            I’m really learning the ropes regarding the club.
            I read your book and wrote a review of it on Amazon. I really liked it. It was a terrifying insight into racism. I also loved (and admired) the strength and courage of your main character, Suzette.

            Like

              jorobinson176 responded:
              March 12, 2014 at 7:35 am

              Wow! Thank you Carol! It’s fantastic to have so many people read your book, but terrifying at the same time, because of the possibility that they all could hate it. There is so much happening on the club. I’ve never actually seen so many people really go out of their way to support each other. Just wait until your turn – it’s great.

              Like

    M T McGuire said:
    March 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Holding thumbs! I love that phrase. Good post and I hop the Long Sleep sorts you out!

    Cheers

    MTM

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      March 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Thank you MTM! My life is way too interesting. I’m pretty sure that the weather here has reached some sort of evil sentience, and is actually aiming lighting at me now. LOL!

      Like

        M T McGuire said:
        March 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        Mwah ha hahargh! I hear you. We have had two days of Sun and most people in the locality are walking about in a daze, in shock!

        Like

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