More fool me

I have just received a Kindle, and am launching into the world or reading e-books, which is an exciting new adventure! So far, I’ve only got five books on there (including a draft version of my own ‘The Artemis Effect’, which gives me a little shiver every time I see it on there). Like many Kindle newbies, I’ve started with some free e-books, and one which I have purchased. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s touted as a murder mystery.

It wasn’t expensive, and I purchased it not knowing anything about the author, but the blurb sounded interesting, and it seemed to have some good reviews. I should perhaps have noticed that there were a few five star, glowingly positive reviews, and then some down in the one-and-two star range, with nothing in between. But, I thought, you can’t please all the people all of the time.

However, now that I get into it, I have to say, it is really quite appalling. The dialogue is formulaic and dull. Parts of it don’t make sense at all. And I’ve guessed who did it already.

To be honest, I feel just a tiny bit irritated, and gullible. I can only assume that the glowing five star reviews were either:

a) from people who have different views on the book, and perhaps haven’t read a lot to compare it to,

b) they are ‘paid’ reviews, or

c) they are by friends and relatives of the author.

As someone new to this market, I would love to hear if this is typical: should I have my ‘bullshit-radar’ on high when I am reading reviews? Or have I just hit a bad egg?

11 thoughts on “More fool me

  1. I tend to glance at reviews, but for the most part try to just give a book a try and see what happens. I find that most books end up having some five star and some one or two star reviews, so you never really know. :)

  2. You’ve touched a nerve, sorry, so this is a long comment. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of ratings inflation out there. At least, that’s been my observation. I’ve found that when it comes to the world of Indie publishing (you didn’t say the book was indie, but I’m assuming here that it is, because of your suspicions around the reviews), there are a number of reasons that a subpar novel will have tons of rave reviews. While I’m sure sometimes friends and family are padding, I’ve noticed that some glowing reviews are given by other Indie writers. The intent isn’t nefarious necessarily (although “review swapping” does occur). I think often a fellow indie writer just chooses to emphasize what good points a weak novel has. They probably look at this as encouragement of a sort. They don’t recognize the long-term disservice this does to the writer and his/her reputation. I’ve been hesitant to ask for fellow writers to provide reviews, because I’m afraid they’d feel obligated to give me a good review.

    Another brutal lesson I’ve learned: there are some extremely talented indie writers out there, easily on par with anything coming out of traditional publishing. But those are still the exceptions. Until more indie authors recognize the need for extensive revisions and professional editing, I think more often than not the indie average will continue to be on the lower end of the quality scale.

    Bottom line: yes, reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve read a number of books with rave reviews, and frankly, a lot of them are awful. Don’t let that discourage you, though. There’s plenty of talent out there, and at the very least, you can learn what not to do when you find yourself reading the bad ones. I’m still an enthusiastic indie writer, even with the issues like the one you talk about here. I hope I have’t been too negative.

    Oh, and enjoy your kindle!

    • Hi! Great to hear your perspective, especially as you are further down the Indie path than I am. I have heard it suggested that the dross will be naturally filtered out, but with overly positive reviews of dodgy material, it will be harder for that process to occur I suppose.
      I have also been a bit worried by reading about people who turn out a novel within a month and have it up on Amazon within a couple of days – how can that leave time for reflection, let alone serious proof-reading and editing?
      It seems to me that we Indies need all the help we can get, so perhaps when we find someone who really has written something splendid, we need to put reviews up, tweet about it etc. :)

  3. I also just got a Kindle and started reading a disappointing self-published book. There were obvious typos, words missing, stilted dialogue, the verb tense kept changing, and on top of that the plot was pretty silly. I kept reading only because it was extremely short and I figured it was a lesson in what not to do. I love the idea of self publishing and I’m leaning toward it, but it’s really too bad whenever anyone puts something like that out. Of course, I’ve read some awful traditionally published books too (even ones with great reviews), but for some reason coming across one of those doesn’t reflect as poorly on the traditional publishing method as a bad self-published book does on that method of publication. (BTW – H.G. Wells books are all free on Kindle and those are, of course, great.)

    • Good to know about H.G. Wells! I’ll have to follow that up.
      You’re quite right about there being dreadful traditionally published books. In fact, reading that sort of thing is what inspired me to write. I thought, “Even I could do better than this!”
      In a way, finding those traditionally published books which are dodgy ought to be more disappointing – after all, they have a huge team of professionals behind them, supposedly. The edition of Hitchhikers I just read was full of typos, and that was in it’s 33rd printing – no excuse! But perhaps an Indie book is more of a personal reflection on the author when it is poor, as we have greater control over what goes on to the shelves?

      • That’s true – and all the more reason to make sure it’s professionally edited – though I guess even then it’s probably difficult to reach a state of complete perfection.

  4. You will inevitably get reviews at either end of the scale. A friend of mine had a one-star review for his book. Why one star? the reader didn’t like the genre. They hadn’t read the book, but had decided to leave the one-star review to have a go at the genre. What can you do?

    If I write a review I will only give 5 stars if I really enjoyed it. If it is self-published I want to see evidence of good editing and whether there has been a professional all round approach. I feel strongly about leaving reviews for the self-published books I read to support rather than simply flatter.

    There are loads of good quality self-published books out there that you wouldn’t have been able to read without an e-reader. I hope you enjoy your kindle. I LOVE mine.

    What I would advise is download the sample. You can try before you buy and you should get a reasonable feel for whether you like something from the free sample.

    • That’s quite an incredible approach – leaving a one-star review just to bag the genre! If ever there was proof that you can’t please all the people all the time, that’s got to be it.
      Very good advice about the sample though – I will try that next time.
      Thanks! :)

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