Trusting Reviews: Only as far as I can throw the REVIEWER

I came across a Kindle Select freebie awhile back, read it, and left the following review on Goodreads.

The Three LettersThe Three Letters by Robert Ruisi

I received an event showing this would be offered for free. It sounded interesting, PLUS it’s short… something I could knock out in a few minutes.

I imagine it was a heartfelt endeavor for a father to take the opportunity to write letters of love to his daughters. Kudos to him. Not everyone takes the time to say, “I love you” to the ones they care about.

The letters were told in a fairytale fashion–once upon a time. I can imagine in later years his daughters sitting with their children at bedtime and reading the letters. One child might even ask, “Who is he talking about, Mommy?” And the daughter would say… “Me.” Or “My sister.”

So what did I think of the work overall? Well, it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t fond of the story telling and couldn’t get into the once upon a time style. It also had an air of repetition. I think it’d work for a children’s book, as I mentioned, a bedtime story, but not so much on an adult level. And since the letters were written for grown daughters, I think it missed the mark when it comes to the adult audience.

For the most part, I think these letters are something his daughters would appreciate. Perhaps the letters would even appeal to his family and friends, since they’d have a background knowledge. As for me the reader, I didn’t connect with the work.

One last item I’m adding. This work could use another round of editing. It’s short enough that a pass through a critique group would likely do the trick. As it is, it makes me wonder if English is the author’s second or third language.

Just my opinion: An interesting conversational piece and keepsake for the author’s descendants but lacks commercial appeal.

An interesting discussion followed in regards to the author’s personal life and the purpose of his publication.

In the past, readers (and writers) have put up a stink about dishonest reviews. It’s a common practice for some writers to endorse their buddies writers with 5-star reviews regardless of the quality of the writing. I suppose it’s the mentality, I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.

When I first got involved with the indie community (as a writer, that is), I saw a lot of this. I’d read through reviews and recognize the names of other indie writers. In fact, I noticed a trend where little cliques had formed. I knew those reviews couldn’t be trusted because they weren’t based upon the quality of the work but rather a cross-promoting scheme.

We hear about writers purchasing 5-star reviews or even writers adding their own fraudulent 5-star reviews under fake names. The lack of integrity is sad. Even sadder are the reviews which come after the book was top-loaded with the 5-star reviews which state something to the effect “I purchased this book because of all the great reviews, but when I read it, I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it because the quality was so bad. I can’t believe people rated it so high.”

I’ve seen the effects of the other side also where writers will do the opposite to the competition–pay for negative reviews or write them under fake names to lower the rating of other.

It used to be finding great books was a matter of following the review trail. Not so much these days. It’s reached the point general reviews one finds on retail sites can’t be trusted because one can never be sure which is a fake review and which is an honest review.

What are your thoughts on the matter? How do you overcome the lack of integrity prominent with reviews these days?

0 thoughts on “Trusting Reviews: Only as far as I can throw the REVIEWER

  1. Hi Renee a very interesting and worthwhile post. To me, the review schtick is a necessary evil – it’s pretty bizarre when people write reviews extolling the virtues of their work under assumed names or do the opposite with rivals. One of the surprising things about this is that the ones I’ve seen exposed have been “mainstream” supposedly reputable writers and even scholars..

    The real problem is the PR companies running off bulk laudatory reviews by fake people giving some non-indie authors an immense advantage. That drives indie writers into a corner.

    Me I write five star reviews if I like a book, and don’t write any reviews if I don’t. The number of five star reviews of at best ordinary fiction makes giving five stars to anything remotely decent obligatory if one is to be fair to the book in question. If it’s not much good, I just don’t review it. It’s a pretty sad system, but it’s not fair to quite reasonable writers to give them say three star reviews when there are so many “five star” books out there I would cross the street to avoid.

    In my internal ratings system, my books are all about three stars out of five, some maybe four; I don’t think any are worse than that and none is a classic which is what five stars would mean to me. But I think people who review them feel trapped in the same way I do and pass out fives…apart from one of my friends who is much more honest.

  2. It is tough giving that not so great review. Like you, there are many reviewers who have a policy to ONLY review the books they like. As an author, I love those reviewers. 🙂 It’s comforting going into a situation knowing a reviewer won’t spend time ripping on one of my works, yet still knowing the reviewer will give an honest opinion if s/he does decide to review the work.

    But you’re right… traditional authors have been exposed for purchasing or creating fake reviews also. Virtually known authors as well as authors at the top of the chart have been known to cross the lines of honesty.

  3. An honest review that is unbiased and thoughtfully written can only be of benefit. Not just to readers, but to the writer as well.

    I don’t rely on reviews on Amazon, for example, because you just know that SOME were ‘bought’ in some way. Too good to be true. Which is a shame for those who do deserve the praise.

    Book blogs I find to be a lot more open & honest. I have come to rely on several reviews before I commit myself.

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