With ebooks I’ve noticed a growing trend. It seems some readers will write a review based on the price of a book or on the merit of a few typos. I really started noticing this after a girlfriend of mine contacted me not too long ago. She was upset that a reviewer had said one of her novels was “riddled with typos,” which ultimately meant, to this reviewer, “This writer can’t write.”
I felt for her. I’ve read the book and I only noticed a couple of typos. It certainly wasn’t riddled with them. Perhaps it was because the book was on the shorter side. Most readers seem to be more forgiving of typos based on the length of the work. Hell, if I rated every author based on typos – every last one of them would fail. I have yet to read a book that doesn’t have at least one seriously distracting typo in it. Even in big 6 books! If, as a reviewer, you use a few typos to measure which authors are good and which ones suck – well, I guess that’s your hang-up. Typos happen. No author is immune (I speak from personal experience). And not all editors catch all typos either. I don’t think any of my own books are 100% typo free. Of course I’m not defending typos every other sentence. That, I agree, would be a problem. I’m talking about 1-3 typos being blown out of proportion by a reviewer.
Now about the prices of eBooks. Funny how no one bitches about the big six charging $10-$12 for an eBook. But if you’re small press or indie some readers seem to think you OWE them cheap fiction. By cheap I mean $1. Really? Hey – I’m psyched to get short fiction from my favorite authors at $1, but I’d pay up to $3. For actual novels I think paying up to $10 a book is reasonable even though most of what I read is around the $5-$8 range. So WTF is this nonsense of readers writing reviews bitching about the price of a book? I have been disappointed in a lot of books that other people have loved. I had a choice to buy the book at that price. I wasn’t too keen on buying the latest Sookie novel for $12 in ebook, but I did. I have no doubt it’s going to suck, too (because I wasn’t impressed with the last two). But I chose to buy it at that price anyway. Don’t like the price? Wait for a sale or don’t buy it. It’s pretty simple. I know we all like cheap fiction. I do, too. I’m just saying reviewing a book based on price (since good books are subjective anyway) is like trying to argue that the sky is is not purple with a guy who’s blind. It’s pretty pointless IMHO.
Another trend I’ve noticed is people criticising authors directly (as people) and not the books. Criticisms like this are often just sour grapes. Every author has that ex-friend or ex-lover (or jealous ex-crit partner) who can’t stand their success and will do whatever they can to try and ruin it with bad reviews. It amazes me just how many of these kinds of reviews I come across. It’s especially true in the field of esoteric books. You can really tell when someone is writing a review just to be a prick. Some will even admit that they’ve never even read the book. Really? How useless is that, to me, as a fellow reader? Not to mention that once you’re done reading a book and you go to leave a review it’s really annoying to see a bad review by someone who clearly hasn’t read the book when you have. Like they’ll say, “This author forgot to include a section about multi-cat household litter box behavior!” Umm, that was chapter five, dickwad! Did you miss a whole chapter? Either read the book or STFU. Of course that’s a topic for another time.
I’ve gotten off track. Redirecting… so I don’t give any credence to reviews about typos, price or author criticism. What I will do if I see reviews about typos is I’ll download a sample or use the preview feature (I generally do that anyway). If I like what I see – I buy. That usually solves the “typo” issue there. I think I’ve only seen two or three books where the sample was so awful (typo-wise) that I didn’t buy the book. I’m actually more likely to reject a book based on a boring sample rather than the occasional typo, price, length, etc….
I suppose this is why so many creative types say, “Pay no attention to the critics.” Because not all critics are right. A lot of criticism is subjective. Case in point — some of my readers loved my characters in Training Amy, others said the characters were sterile and wooden. Who do I believe? The critics who didn’t like the book? Or the fans who did? It’s a no win situation for an author. Especially when you have a book that consistently sells thousands of copies. It can’t suck that bad if people keep buying it and recommending it to their friends. Obviously you did something right. But I suppose, as a writer, with the next book I can take a harder look at my characters and find ways to give them more depth. This is an example of my next point.
Writers – Pay attention to the critics who have useful criticism. Of course that means having the wisdom to take what’s useful and ignore the rest. If 50 people bitch about your typos and you go back through the book and find more than three – hire a better editor next time around or re-issue the same book with better editing if you have the means to do so (or reconsider your publisher or whatever). But if someone says, “How dare you charge $3 for a novel!” ignore them. They had a choice to buy or not especially on websites where the word count is CLEARLY labeled! Yes, I have actually seen people bitch about price vs. length on websites where the length of the work is clearly stated. ::groan:: And finally, if a reviewer attacks you as a person – ignore them completely. Just roll your eyes and walk away.
Of course we, whether readers or writers, should also remember that the Internet is like a huge bathroom wall. Anyone can write anything they want on it. Or as one of my friends said, “It’s the Internet! Flush often.”