Sunday, April 17, 2011

Positive reviews that DON'T help.

A friend of mine's mother writes short stories, and they were looking for an inexpensive way to have them bound to share with friends and family. I just sent a link to Lulu.

While there, I figured I'd do some perusing to see what's new and interesting in the world of...


Followed by sighs of incredulity.

Each and every one of the competently (not even well, just competently) written blurbs that I've read so far has been either from a book put out by a commercial press, or an anthology collection from a well respected magazine. Those are also the books that sport covers that don't make my eyes want to leap from my head and run under the sink, where blessed darkness may ease the burning.

Yes, I'm sure I'll hear 'there ARE well written self published books' recited back at me like the mantra that it has become. My response?

Who the hell wants to waste hours digging to find the one that appears at least competent? I clicked on about fifty links this morning. There was ONE self published fiction that looked well written, and it was only marginally fiction: a series of hauntings from one county in Tennessee. While marginally fiction, the book appears to be interviews and history, with a bit of paranormal speculation.

Every single other blurb that I read was swamped with awkward sentence structure, clunky writing, and in some cases, mind boggling spelling and grammar issues. If the blurb is incomprehensible, the thought of suffering through an entire manuscript by that writer makes my hands shake.

The only thing worse (or funnier, depending upon your taste) were the obviously shill reviews from friends and family, raving about how great they were. When a self professed non reader takes the time to say how 'grate' a book is, and how it was a 'page turner' without hinting at the story itself, that doesn't help sell a book. When 'a reader' waxes on about the skill of a writer (which is clearly belied by the blurb) with zero other thoughts to that book, it kills any semblance of reliability of that review.

Reviews CAN help you sell this thing to someone other than Aunt Edna, but only if that review feels realistic and balanced. I'd be far more inclined to take the chance on something that 'could've used another round of copy editing' or 'exposition fell flat in some places, but still an enjoyable story' far more than 'teh gratest book evar writen' and 'I couldn't put it down' without saying WHY. (Didn't that type of advertising go out of fashion in the mid 1980's?)

Used car commercial language is silly in used car ads. It's absolutely dismal in an obviously biased, poorly thought out review from a friend that wants to help. Honestly, it doesn't help.

And for dog's sake, do not give a raving review about your OWN book. It makes you appear a bigger ass than those other reviews.


  1. Brilliant and well written. But, I can see the vanity press pretenders will surely be angry you are not recognizing their greatness.

  2. I just don't get it - there are several blogs dedicated to reviewing vanity and self published books, and some of them have a great reputation.

    No reviews, or one that points out both the strengths and weaknesses, is a much better option than really obvious shills. They scream 'this book sucks and no one will read it'.

  3. Digi is spot on 4 star reviews are far better than five star reviews, in my opinion.

  4. Blurb writing seems to be almost a genre unto itself, in some ways. I know someday I may have to do that, for the first book, unless someone saves me, but still you would think the world wants to know a hint of the tale.

    The problem with the reviews is some folks are so used to being the one to read first in their little clique or community, that they forget those who have no clue who they are will not just take their word over it being a "must read", or "riveting". Yet, these were the words on the reviews they must have seen on the books and tales they read over the years, so the industry bred this monster as now the web makes us all reviewers and critics.

    I would almost say it might be in a vanity writer (and yes, I know Digi, I am technically one) to contract out that one critical part.

    When buying a book, I tend to ignore the reviews, its that blurb, cover and sample that grab me, as few have the warped tastes in reading I do. I would hope to never need the "peer review" to sell a book, the few times I broke down and bought a book on that, I was disappointed in the tastes of the writer or critic in reading materials.

  5. Blurb writing totally is an art in itself - there's a reason why writers at larger publishers often have someone from marketing or PR to write them.
    I hadn't thought of that - it makes total sense within a small circle. It just doesn't help the writer when there are reviews like that, they're like reading the printout of a particularly terrible film trailer.
    Paid reviews are just as useless - the good reviewers do it (at least for the self published ones) for the sheer love of it, not money. A paid review is completely useless.

    I tend to read reviews, as well as the cover, blurb, and (if available) sample pages. That's why I chose to mention reviews like this - they'll steer me away, rather than towards a purchase.