Jules Jones

Yog's Law: Money flows *towards* the author


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Are we still ranting about this? lmao! You had me ranting too by the end of the day. However, when it comes down to it, what percentage of people actually read and/or are influenced by reviews? The majority of the over 2000 books in my library were bought simply because I enjoyed that particular genre, the cover was cool, or the blurb on the back sounded interesting. If I didnt like a particular book, I simply didnt get anything else by that author again. It wasnt until I ran out of room in my house and had to either start getting ebooks or start sleeping on the print ones that I became more choosy about what I was getting.

No, "we" aren't.

I posted yesterday about the rant I was preparing on the subject of review writing. The post you responded to, remember? This is that rant. It pre-dates anything you've said in my blog, although the conversation yesterday was useful and helped me clarify some of the things I wanted to say.

I have no idea what percentage of people read or are influenced by reviews. I do know that I personally will use reviews in certain circumstances, and that so do a good many of my friends. As mentioned at the start of the post, what switched me from muttering "I must write a rant" to blocking out a draft was going over to Amazon a couple of days ago to check out a book, and finding a load of willy-waving "I'm a bigger geek than the author" reviews of an O'Reilly manual -- reviews that did nothing to help me decide whether the book might be useful to me.

I don't buy/not buy a lot of books purely on reviews, but there are times when they are useful. I'm much more likely to rely on a review when it's a reviewer whose opinion I have some reason to trust. That doesn't mean "someone who agrees with me". One of the seeds of this rant was a conversation last year between some rascafarians in which one mentioned that she found another's reviews useful even though his taste in books was very different to hers, because he wrote thoughtful, accurate reviews which gave her enough information to decide whether she'd like the book.

I'm much more likely to rely on a review when it's a reviewer whose opinion I have some reason to trust. That doesn't mean "someone who agrees with me".

So true... and why not all ecstatic reviews are good news. As Mary Renault has her actor say in The Mask of Apollo: "there is praise, after all, which makes you wonder what you did wrong, to have caught the fancy of such a fool".

I once bought a Kazuo Ishiguro novel on the strength of a bunch of reviewers all of whom hated it - because their description of the plot premise sounded like exactly the sort of thing I like. It was, too. Their opinions were useless to me, but the factual description wasn't. In my main genre, poetry, criticism is immensely important: it determines to a large extent what gets anthologised, reprinted, written about, and therefore what lives on. Sad but true, so it matters that it's done well.

Once upon a time I wrote a scathing review of a new york times bestseller. I really, really hated it, and couldn't understand why it was getting such raves and sales. However, I didn't say "I hated it" and let it go at that. I said why I hated it, citing carrative flaws, character shallowness (in depiction, not in the character itself) and all that.

A month or so later I went back, reread it, and decided it was simply too vitriolic to be of any good -- I'd had too much fun dipping my keyboard in poison electrons -- and yanked it. It was too vicious to be really useful.

But I do ahve to say, it was fun writing it. All in all, it was probably the "Hate email" that one should write and never send.

Oh, they're fun. The Making Light thread a few weeks ago that was devoted to shredding Dan Brown was really fun. But it was fun because a bunch of people with decent litcrit skills were explaining in detail why they believed his books to be dreadful schlock -- and were also analysing why the books sell well anyway. A string of people just saying "the books suck" wouldn't have been either informative or entertaining.

Sometimes it really is too vitriolic to post in public, but by God it makes you feel better to write it. The reviewer's equivalent of bottom drawer fic...

The Making Light thread a few weeks ago that was devoted to shredding Dan Brown was really fun.

I should drop in on that thread. I thought TdVC was pretty dreary, and actually started a very, very funny epistolary spoof of it with a fellow with whom I'm no longer in contact. I wrote a chapter, he wrote a chapter...

Basically (beside being ready to scream if I read the term "The Divine Feminine" ONE MORE TIME), the thing that set me off was the entire "he researched this so carefully" promo blitz that happened before and during its release. Part way into the book I read a comment he made about "The Burning Times", when they theoretically burned umpteen million witches in Europe across two hundred years.

Pretty lousy research. Being somewhat witchy myself, I know the number's false. It was made up by a woman in the late 19th century, and has, for some reason, been quoted as fact (or factoid) ever since.

I spent five minutes on the web, with google, to find that, if they had indeed burned that many people in that length of time, they would have killed one quarter of the population of Europe.

Wouldn't someone have noticed?

Don't even start me on Anne Rice or The Bridges of Madison County.

But enough; that's off topic. Yeah, they're fun to write, those poison pen commentaries. I just imagined the woman who wrote the book I trashed reading the review, as I know authors do sometimes, and being hurt or upset by it. I'm an actor; even if I scorn bad reviews, they wound, and I hate to cause anyone unhappiness.


Yeah, they're fun to write, those poison pen commentaries. I just imagined the woman who wrote the book I trashed reading the review, as I know authors do sometimes, and being hurt or upset by it. I'm an actor; even if I scorn bad reviews, they wound, and I hate to cause anyone unhappiness.

I'm certainly not a member of the Cult Of Nice, but I agree that it's not nice to post a poison pen review if it's not actually going to contribute anything useful to people's knowledge of the book. If you had far too much fun writing a review that trashes a book, then it may well be too emotionally involved to be a good review. And I know that both as reader and as writer I don't have much regard for reviews that appear to be motivated be personal spite against the reviewee.

Write it, gloat over it, and then stick it in the bottom drawer along with all the other stuff you had to get out of your sytem but that shouldn't be inflicted on the public at large. :-)

I have never bought or not bought a book because of a review.
I do know people who will only buy books that get stellar reviews.
I used to review until I realized I couldn't be honest anymore because I knew most of the authors, so I stopped. I will review books by total strangers occasionally - or just post a blurb about what I'm reading and if I like it or not (and usually say why - like the Sookie Sackhouse series sucks because Everyone loves Sookie and I just don't see why...)
I wish no one was affected by reviews but I suppose that's wishful thinking.

I go to read Mrs. Giggles from time to time because she makes me laugh - but she's never influenced me about a book.


A lot of books and films I'd never even know about if I didn't read the reviews.

I do know people who will only buy books that get stellar reviews.

I have a word for people like that, and it is not a nice word. I can understand using reviews as a quick and dirty way to cut down a massive stack of potentials, but to refuse to consider a book unless it gets stellar reviews? Do they not understand that some reviewers are idiots most of the time, and all of us are idiots at least occasionally?

"Knowing most of the authors" -- I understand that one. It was a major factor in why I never explictly admitted to one of my fanfic pseuds (although nowadays you can work it out readily enough from information on my pro website, if you know the fandom). It went both ways -- it made it easier for me write honest reviews of other people's work without worrying about them trashing my stuff as a tit-for-tat (and there were people who *did* trash anyone who didn't praise their stuff), and it made it easier for people to review my stuff without thinking "oh shit, that's Jules, better be careful what I say."

It took a long time before I hit the the problem of not _wanting_ to write a review because I knew the author and couldn't deal with writing a negative review of someone I liked as a person, but that aspect did eventually catch up with me as well. Fortunately it's not something I've yet had to deal with in profic, but I recognise that sooner or later it will.

I do regularly use reviews, mostly for non-fiction rather than fiction though.

In fact I did that very thing yesterday. I'm at the research/noodling stage of the next novel and I've decided that the protag will have a dog. I've done cats two or three times already so I want to do something different this time. As I've never kept a dog, I need to research the subject and I used the reviews on Amazon to check whether a book that happened to be on offer was any good.

So basically for non-fiction I usually find reviews helpful, though with fiction it's a lot more iffy.

I quite often use them to check out non-fiction to see if it a) is any good, b) suits my needs. It's rare that I would use a review to decide whether to buy fiction, but it's fairly common for a fiction review to draw my attention to the book's existence.

I do find Making Light to be a major contributor to my Amazon wants list. :-)

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