On the How & Why of Amazon Reviews – by RES

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On the How & Why of Amazon Reviews – by RES

We’ve all read them and on occasion most of us have written some.  We each have our signals for which to ignore and which we attend to, and why.  As there is little that a reader can do which will so much help move an author’s books (that is, keep the moolah flowing to encourage an author to give us more) as writing a good review, it behooves us to give some practical consideration to the mechanics of reviews, in order that we might write more and more helpful ones in support of books we’ve enjoyed.

Some elements of reviews seem obvious.  We’ve all seen and shrugged off the reviews that condemn a writer for Bad Think™ and denounce the author as an apologist for oppression of [Womyn, Homosexuals, Minority Religions, non-Cis-Gendered Persons, People of Venusian Ancestry, Other] and proves the author is a racist/sexist/something-phobe hatey-hate Mchater.”  Just so, we have also read and discarded reviews from obvious drooling fangits who will buy and praise the author’s shopping list.  [I take offense at this. My fans would buy my shopping list, and they’re not fangits- SAH] But the question remains: what should we put in a review?

The first step seems to consider what our intended purpose is in writing/reading any review.  For such things as DVDs there is useful information to convey regarding such technical details as whether the video transfer is crisp or so muddy that the action is impossible to follow, and whether the audio is mixed so that when the sound is turned up enough to follow the dialogue the music and effects will damage your speakers, eardrums, and relations with the airport three miles away.  But these issues are not relevant to books, which is the primary concern for the moment.

Mostly we want our reviews to promote sales of books we enjoy and ward off unsuspecting readers of books we found tedious and/or offensive.  Thus a positive review should offer some sense of the elements of a story; we might note that characters are clearly drawn or that it becomes difficult to keep track of them.  We would properly describe the plotting, employing terms such as fast-paced or intricate – or as unduly complicated, bogged down for pages on end, confusing or downright not credible.  We might even describe characters as stereotyped, two-dimensional, or tepid versus vivid, credible, multi-dimensioned and “people with whom we’d like share a bottle of wine.”

It is best to eschew spoilers, although it can be fair game to give away minor plot elements, such as “The section of the novel depicting Thorby’s assimilation into the Free Traders was exciting and thought-provoking.”  Such a statement does not give away anything critical and alerts the reader that there will be such a section without giving away how Thorby gets there nor how he assimilates.  Saying “I cried for hours at Old Yeller’s death” probably crosses the line into TMI.

It is certainly appropriate to warn readers that an author’s head has found its way into tight malodorous places, warning of such egregious inaccuracies/improbablities as having Hopi Indians raiding White settlements along the Ohio in the 1640s, but what about lesser transgressions?  A mighty swordswoman (e.g., Belit or Red Sonja) could be tolerable (as long as she isn’t wielding a claymore) where an entire legion of gorgeous gladius-wielding warrior-women is likely too much to accept.  Certainly any prospective reader deserves to be warned if elements of the book are likely to result in damaged walls.

It is sadly true that realistic review ratings are not really possible.  Anything less than five stars is often interpreted as negative no matter how hard reviewers strive to reserve that status for the truly exceptional reads.  A four star review with a very positive title (subject line) might be a fair route to go, providing a very positive response while still recognizing that the real five star book is rare.  Perhaps some among us is sufficiently familiar with Amazon’s algorithms to enlighten us as to how the stars affect sales?

I find in my use of reviews that some of the best information is found in the one star reviews, knowing that what infuriates an SJW is likely to delight me or, at least, be something which will disturb me not in the least.  Just as I often find the effusive praise of some five star reviews is as clear a warning as a Hugo nomination.

What are elements you rely on in judging reviews as guides for your book purchases?  Do you find brief reviews more effective than several lengthy paragraphs?  Keep in mind that a well written review is one of the main ways you can help a favored author move enough books to write sequels – and that as the publishing world moves further toward Indy the review becomes an increasingly important way of promoting the sorts of reading you like.  We are all likely insufficiently diligent about providing reviews, and a part of that is probably a consequence of early school experiences writing book reports.  The Amazon review acts more as a blurb and ought be approached as such.  Leave us work on ways to help our favored writers make more money and sell more books.

[Thank you, oh Wallaby of Wisdom.  And you guys: listen to him!]

193 responses to “On the How & Why of Amazon Reviews – by RES

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Wallaby of Wisdom?

    Are we talking about the same person? 😆

    Seriously RES, nice article. 😀

  2. Things I look for reading reviews: are they reviewing the contents or the packaging? With e-books and CDs/ DVDs there are one-stars because of file problems, formatting problems, or scratched disks. Those don’t help me. Is the review a re-hash of the plot? Do they lavish praise, then add some qualifiers (“there are some typos but you can read past them easily” or “the protagonist’s sister whines a lot, but you can skim that without missing anything.”)? Does the review make sense? I’ve encountered a few that start with “This was a pretty good book…” and then wander into the reviewer’s meditations on the genre and so on.

    When I write reviews, mostly non-fiction but some fiction, I give a quick overview of the story without spoilers. Then anything that really stood out that was good or bad, followed by who would enjoy the book or find it useful. If there are major flaws, I try to be polite, especially if they can be ignored and the book’s still fun. (With non-fiction it’s different, and then I’ll go into some detail if the book is still useful or if the problem is terminal.)

    • There was one edition of Pride & Prejudice that I gave a negative review to while being very clear that it was for the edition. Lord help us, it was a teaching edition, and it was full of typos and other easily-fixed issues that should have been caught by a halfway-competent copy editor. When you have a classic that is widely available in correct format, creating a teaching edition full of errors is unforgivable. I basically pointed readers towards any of the other numerous correct editions.

      • A very good point and an important distinction. When there are multiple editions (or, as with many a classic film, transfers) it is useful to warn against/praise versions that distinguish themselves for reasons external to the work itself. Technical competence is certainly one topic for reviewing.

        One can also provide useful information about supplemental material. This can involve “bonus” content on a Blu-ray disk not included in the DVD release — helpful to folks contemplating whether the former is worth the extra dollar or two.

        Similarly, I am reminded of a (not so recent) reissue of all Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, each paperback offering a uniform cover design and a brief, three to five page, introduction to Nero, Archie and (possibly) even the book in hand, each by a different mystery author singing praises of Stout’s prowess. These were written by such genre luminaries as Lawrence Block, Sara Paretsky and others constituting a gallery of practitioners of the Mystery arts. Each was an enjoyable introduction or bit of trivia about Stout and his creation and served as an enjoyable appetizer to Archie and Nero’s adventure. While not quite a justification to re-purchase every Nero Wolfe mystery in a unified format (admittedly, a mighty temptation; it would be an excellent approach to a commemorative re-issue of the series in collector-edition hardbound … pardon me, I’ve drool to wipe away) it would certainly be an excellent starting place for the newcomer to those tales, and ought be recommended as such by a reviewer.

        The basic rule of thumb, of course, is to point out whatever aspects of a work you would consider pertinent if you were thinking of buying.

        • I first encountered movie versioning with Star Wars. What was shown on the East Coast on release wasn’t necessarily the same cut as was shown on the West Coast, and what was released in the U.K damn sure wasn’t the same cut as either of the ones in the U.S. The crap that goes into country-centric censorship is unbelievable; and most people I talk to haven’t a clue that it exists.

      • Of course with Amazon, there’s the problem that they tend to aggregate the reviews of different editions, so I’m not sure whether that sort of review is helpful there.

    • Related to the content vs, packaging argument is something the publisher pulled with the textbook my mother co-authored. The publisher decided to release an electronic edition, but didn’t have releases covering electronic publishing of about 5% of the graphics. Rather than obtaining them, they published the electronic edition with big placeholder boxes in their stead. The only poor reviews came from folks who’d been saddled with that electronic edition.

      Then there’s the GIS textbook that was required for a course I took. The printed version exemplified every rule I’ve ever heard about printed vs. screen typography – by violating most of them.

  3. When I write a review, I try to do the Ebert style of “what are they attempting, and are they successful at it?” If I can target exactly the recommendations of “people who like X will like this”, it’s the best, because it’s helpful.

    I’ve come across gushing reviews for things that I found humdrum, possibly because I am very well-read, so I’m usually able to find an instance of where someone did it better. Heck, when Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear was up for a Hugo (2011), I didn’t rate it as high as some of the other books because she had done it better in a previous novel. (Still love it, but high standards and all.)

    I will sometimes not write a review because I’m unfamiliar with the genre, too. A friend of mine writes paranormal romance, and I had trouble writing a review for one of her books because the expectations are different than for urban fantasy, which has a lot of superficial similarities. I wasn’t sure what was a genre expectation, so something I liked or didn’t like might rub dedicated readers of the genre the wrong way.

    • Prime example of ‘What are they trying to do, and how well do they do it’

      In 1988 I was living in the BW corridor, and taking the Washington Times, in some part because of their film critic. BLOODSPORT (a Jean-Claude Van Damme film) and PERMANENT RECORD (a film about teenage depression and suicide that was that summer’s Film That Must Be Praised) came out the same week. The Times’s film critic panned PERMANENT RECORD on the grounds that (as far as I can remember the wording) ‘there’s something fundamentally wrong with a serious film about teenage suicide that makes a teenage audience laugh’. In the same column, he gave BLOODSPORT a good review, saying something like ‘this is a karate film of the International Tournament sub-genre. If you like such films, don’t miss this one’.

      Now, BLOODSPORT is never going to be mistaken for HAMLET, or even CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON. But it’s a pretty good karate film. And PERMANENT RECORD was a piece of Woke Trash.

      The same critic had earlier made himself immortal, in my mind, by panning FLASHDANCE on the grounds that it was all sizzle and no steak, and by later reviewing FLESHDANCE (the X-rated knock-off) well, on the grounds that it at least delivered.

      I think this is an important point for reviews: make it clear what you are comparing the subject to. Very few books are five star worthy if compared to all of English Literature. But some are absolute gems in their own field. If you are reviewing a a book that is really good solid pulpy action, say so. If you are reviewing a book that has ridiculous pretension of being Lit-rah-cha, then make that clear.

  4. Sadly, I’ve quit writing reviews on books, for the simple fact that I don’t want to get caught in the quid pro quo issues that Amazon seems to be hunting where authors give reviews of other authors books.

  5. Brief reviews are completely acceptable if they include verbiage along the lines of “…and I’m off to buy the rest of the series” 😀

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    I take the negative reviews into account. Sometime they’re enough to convince me the book is what I’m looking for. 😉

    • I sample both the praise and negative reviews. Sometimes the book blurb doesn’t give me enough information. There are some authors I avoid like a plague because they got into writing “smut” just because it sells, but they are writing in Urban or Paranormal genre; I am sure I am missing on some of their other books/series, too bad for them. Sure, anything marked in addition with “romance” is going to have sex scenes. But, please, I do not need to read step by step, for pages; and yes, either gender lead can be walled for being a “smut slut harem fetish”. At best I’ll skip through those pages. I appreciate reviews that give a heads up.

  7. Dear Sarah,
    Attached is my edited version of your shopping list. With all typo and grammar corrections it runs a full three pages.
    Note: I did not change the entry for salt carp although I suspect what you really meant was salt cod.

  8. I most hate this review: “Not my cup of tea.” Why in the world did they waste their time and mine with that?

    I second/third/fourth/ … everyone who checks the 1-stars for clues from SJWs, etc.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      What about “not my cup of tea but I still enjoyed it”? 😉

      • And posts that on every book. As a verified purchase. Dude! If you like it enough to grab the next one the day it’s published, maybe you should at least give them 4 stars!

        At least “that guy” for me, never gave me worse than 3 stars. I was shocked when I finally got a five star from him.

      • “Not my cup of tea” and “not my cup of tea (but I enjoyed it) are both valuable clues to a marketer, about the audience that is seeing this book, vs. the audience that should be seeing this book.

        Peter’s first western got reviews like this:
        “I haven’t read much Westerns, one or two of my dad’s paperbacks many a year ago, so didn’t know what to expect going in. I was pleasantly surprised.”
        and
        “Going into it, I wasn’t expecting much from this book; I’d never read a “Western” book and I’m not a big fan of “Western” movies, but Mr. Grant’s science fiction novels have been fairly entertaining and I was bored, so I gave it a try.
        And I must say, I am very glad I did. This story was incredibly entertaining and I look forward to not only the remainder of this series but also other new books in this genre. If “Brings the Lightning” is a good example of the “Western” genre, then this genre deserves to be much more popular.”

        This tells me that he’s got fans interested enough to make a leap of faith across genres into one they don’t know. That’s asking a heck of a lot – and he managed to deliver a tale that was still entertaining enough they liked it.

        It also told me, when he was getting mostly reviews like this, that he hadn’t penetrated the western-genre-reader-pool. So as a marketer for Peter’s books, I needed to pay attention to why that wasn’t happening, and how to change it.

        …which isn’t the same thing at all as reading reviews as a reader. When I see that as a reader, “not my cup of tea” is null data. I’m not going to check the other things the reviewer has reviewed, to see what is their cup of tea. “not my cup of tea, but I liked it.” says ‘it might be good enough to reach across genre. Potentially good.’

        • Second attempt, WP having relegated the first effort to cyberlimbo …

          Thanks, Dorothy, for that important point. Feedback for the marketer is indeed a critical function of Amazon reviews. An array of angry feminist screeds attacking a John Norman Gor novel is an indicator the book has been aimed at the wrong market (or that it is aimed correctly and internet scolds are engaging in an effort to demonetize the author.)

        • Okay, third effort. Truly, I am at a loss as to why WP does not want this said!

          Thanks, Dorothy, for that important point. Feedback for the marketer is a critical function of Amazon reviews. An array of angry feminist screeds attacking a John Norman Gor novel is a signal the book has been reached the wrong market (or that it is aimed correctly and internet scolds are engaging in an effort to demonetize the author.)

        • This is a fourth effort, and when sometime in the unforeseeable future all these replies to Dorothy appear I apologise to Hundom Assembled (Hoyts Huns! Some Assembly Required!). Truly I am at a loss as to why WP does not want this said! It is the idea of feminist reviews of Norman’s Gor novels, isn’t it?

          Thanks, Dorothy, for that important point. Feedback for the marketer is a quite critical function of an Amazon review. An array of angry feminist screeds attacking a John Norman Gor novel is an indicator the book has reached the wrong market (or that it is aimed correctly and internet scolds are engaging in an effort to demonetize the author.)

        • Happily, thanks to you all I am so spoiled for choice, I am not tempted to pick up Mr. Grant’s Westerns. I really dislike the setting and don’t want to visit. But I guarantee that if I ever try reading one again, he’ll be my first go.

    • In the ’70s and ’80s, the film reviewer for the San Jose Murky News warranted a careful reading. He hated most films that I liked, but he gave enough detail (usually*) that one could judge if the movie was purely dreck, or just out of the the genre he liked. It was an early use of the one-star principle in many cases.

      (*) This was the reviewer who gave a poor review for Return of the Jedi solely because he didn’t like science fiction** movies. OTOH, there wasn’t much he could have done to decrease turnout. Half the engineers in our department could be found waiting in line for the Friday Matinee the premier week. We had fun. 🙂

      (**) Well, space opera/fantasy, but who’s counting?

      • When I was growing up, there was a film critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer like that; with one notable exception, he was totally reliable. Anything he liked, I would hate. Anything he loathed was worth at least a look. He completely bought into the hype about THE WARRIORS and praised it to the skies. I avoided it until the VHS revolution, when I tried it and concluded it was tripe. He HATED the Richard Lester THE THREE MUSKETEERS. It’s one of my favorite films of the ’70’s.

        The one exception was STAR WARS. He gave it a lukewarm to warm review…two weeks late. The rumor in Cleveland was that he had turned in a scathing denunciation, and been told by his editor that, seeing how there were lines around the block, he could retract that review…or kiss his career goodbye.

        • That’s why I miss Siskel and Ebert so much. If Siskel liked it, and Ebert didn’t, I knew to avoid it like the plague. If they both liked it, it was okay, probably a good care movie. If Ebert liked it, and Siskel didn’t, I knew I needed to put my butt in a seat, right now.

          • Good date movie.

            • Isn’t auto-wrong a hoot?

              I need to start keeping a list of the messages my husband sends me with utterly funny “auto-correct” selections. (His fingers tend to hit the ‘accept’ button on accident)

              • In similar vein, I got a chuckle from a robocall this afternoon.

                Duke Power phoned to assure us that they are preparing for whatever Dorian might bring (we’re well inland but still in the projected cone of the storm) but we should still prepare by having seven days worth of water, etc. etc. etc.

                Then the call asked I confirm ours was the phone number associated with service at [1234] [Something] Drive … except, as we commonly abbreviate that last one to Dr. what it ended up asking was that I confirm service for [1234] [Something] Doctor.

              • I still have in my active vocab a commemoration of an example of M$ Word 1.0 autowrong. It claimed the correct way to spell “Congrats” was “Cong Rats.” So, many times a year, to this day, I’ll wish someone “Cong Rats on making another lap around the sun. Happy Birthday!”

              • His fingers tend to hit the ‘accept’ button on accident

                The device I use requires me to over-ride the auto-correct or it helpfully replaces my text automatically. It doesn’t help that the authors of the device’s database are semi-literate barbarians. Or that I cannot seem to perceive typos on a screen.

                One wouldn’t believe it from my com-box writing, but proofing printed text seems dead easy and usually goes well.

                Is this more of my freak-of-nature-ness or is the print / screen copy-edit divide of broader application?

                • They did a study on that! They didn’t know they were, but they did…it appears to be connected to how much you view the screen as totally separate. So folks like my mom– who has tapped the page of a book to get the dictionary to bring up a definition, so very tiny degree of separation — proofs the same either way.

          • I miss Ebert’s written reviews so much. We didn’t always agree, and in his last years he showed a disappointing tendency to toe the Woke line, but his honest delight in the occasional piece of enthusiastic schlock like GAMERA, GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE charmed me. And, just occasionally, his work would approach lyricism, as in the wonderful review of STORMY MONDAY.

            I suppose there may be an acceptable heir, one day, but I haven’t found one.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        There have been plenty of times I’ve missed out on a book or movie because of negative reviews I heard/read when younger. The Starlog reviewer kept me from reading a lot of Baen until I was older and learned not to trust critical opinions quite so much.

        Seriously, that guy* just hated Baen. From memory, I know he hated David Drake’s The Sharp End and David Weber’s The Armageddon Inheritance, both of which I’ve read and loved.

        *I don’t have the issues in front of me, so it could have been more than one guy.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Chuckle Chuckle

          The thing I remember about Starlog (magazine) was glowing talk about Special Effects concerning TV shows like “Space 1999”.

          Nothing about “how good the stories were or how good the science was”.

          Basically, it helped form the idea in my mind that if somebody can only talk about the “Art”, “Special Effects”, “Space Ship Design”, etc and doesn’t talk about the story, then the story is fairly poor at best. 😈

          • I remember hoping SPACE 1999 would be as good as UFO. UFO had managed to generate some seriously creepy atmosphere, and the writing was decent. Certainly as good as or better than most of the SFTV that was out at the time.

            SPACE 1999 didn’t live up to that. It was better than THE STARLOST, but so was the average Coke commercial of the era.

            I’ve often wondered whether THE STARLOST would have been a lot better if they hadn’t screwed Harlan Ellison so thoroughly. Or if Ellison ‘s flaws as a writer of serial narrative would have just made it bad in another way.

            • In fairness, the average Coke commercial of the era likely had a hiigher budget than the typical episode of THE STARLOST

            • I don’t recall seeing any episodes of The Starlost. That was an intense semester for college. I doubt that our small market TV stations would have been interested, and the only TV in our apartment was the 9″ black and white one I had.

              I preferred my Ellison in small doses, and didn’t keep much around through moves. Still, Harlan’s rant about The Starlost was one of the epics. “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas, Toto”, is worth reading. (It’s collected in Stalking the Nightmare, available through the ‘Zon.)

              Sounds like Ben Bova (as science advisor) was also quite ticked about the show. In his case, he did a novel about his experience: The Starcrossed. I haven’t seen that one.

              • Christopher M. Chupik

                Ah yes, the great shame of televised Canadian SF. That was a real yawner. I first encountered it on a Saturday afternoon in the mid-80s, in the form of two episodes edited (not well) into a “movie”.

    • Is “not my cup of tea” followed by anything at all? Even if not, at least it allows the possibility of “it might be your cup of tea.”

      “Not my cup of tea because of what happened to the cat…” is probably really useful. (I know at least one person that was so horrified by the living cat blanket in Bujold’s Vorkosigan books that I don’t think she ever got to the cat tree and Ivan’s unsuccessful attempts at rescue.)

    • Useful if you are familiar with the reviewer. There are review readers who will faithfully buy every book with such a review from a trusted reviewer.

    • The new harassment? They’re flagging my books as having problems… on 3 typos.

      • I’ve taken to reporting “This author is a BadThink NoGoodnik” reviews to Amazon as harrassing hate-speech.

        In theory, I ought to be an equal-opportunity reporter but so far I have yet to read a “This author is a Commie” review. It’s SJWs all the way down.

        “This book is communist / sexist / Jewish / racist / [ x ] / etc. ” is a fair go.

      • Typos I can handle. Highlight the word, screenshot it, e-mail to the author, along with whatever version of the story/publisher you got it from as I imagine some of you have the same story out there in multiple locations, and may not be 100% identical.

        On the other hand, bad research drives me nuts. A certain superhero author I’ve read recently knows zip about handguns, munitions, or explosives; and it’s enough that I want to whack him upside the head with a rolled up newspaper.

  9. “Author responses” to reviews can be fun to read.

    Hi, Sir. (Grin) “Willing and Able!”.

    • For values of “interesting” = “cringe”…?

      Responding to a positive / negative review ought to be like handling a small business review on Yelp. Only with bonus word-smithing charm and humour.

  10. I admit to not paying attention to much more than review average. Occasionally I look for a review that tells me something I want to know that wasn’t in the description – does the dog get killed?

      • Oh!!

        I suppose that it’s a spoiler of the worst sort but I will not watch movies where they die at the end (okay, Rogue One actually pulled that off) and I will be legitimately angry if I get to the end of the book and the heroes don’t win.

        How does a person balance that? Because “children get hurt in this book” might be a deal killer for quite a few readers but may also be a spoiler.

        • Sometimes having everyone die at the end (or implied to die) is what works. But it can be a downer, and even more so if it’s just to be ‘edgy’.

          I REALLY get tired of the syndrome in Anime. Ok, I get it. The Japanese market is societally programmed to accept the ‘noble death’ idea, from the 47 Ronin and other Japanese folk classics. But, damnit, I want to see the hero LIVE and ‘you die, she dies, everybody dies’ gets old fast.

        • Child murder and child death were a Theme in this year’s awards season nominees.

          • Oh, like chronic disease was for YA a few years back. Because obviously that’s why The Fault in Our Stars did so well, not because it was a well written book with decent characters. *resets snark-o-meter*

            • There’s a theory being aired that the Big Workshops like the Clarion are teaching people to write to the awards, and that including a trans character for no particular reason or going with the child death thing (or both) are check boxes they tell people to hit.

              Useful if your purpose is getting a Yugo nomination, perhaps not so much if you want a paying audience of excited fans.

              • I, um, noticed the pathetic state of our local library’s scifi/fantasy section, and delicately asked about if they accept donations– basically, yes, and they’d be delighted to get some more scifi, but they stopped order it about 15 years back because they noticed all the stuff with awards WAS NOT TOUCHED BY ANY LIBRARY PATRONS.

                Have I mentioned they’re really, really good librarians?

                • I started writing partly out of the frustration of having nothing to read. It worked, now I hardly read at all, that time goes to writing.

                • Fox, send me library’s address. Will send care package.

                • If they aren’t already using it (they aren’t cheap) hook your librarians up with http://americanwestbooks.com.

                  If the book can be purchased on paper, they can nearly always get a copy. We have Drive, and Stand Still Stay Silent and other Indy title’s like Take The Star Road.

                • The local city library takes donations… they go to the main library in Little Rock and get auctioned off to “Friends of the Library” members. The local hospitals don’t accept book donations; they have “charities” that staked out their territories with “volunteers” selling from little carts two or three days a week. The prisons don’t take book donations.

                  Even friends don’t take books; not after the first hundred or so…

                  • I kind of delicately asked about that. One, I’m addicted to those sales, two, there’s a free-book box right by the front door.

                    They put ANY fiction book in “not missing pages, obviously written in” on the shelves; they’ve got a nice little barcode printer right there, it takes roughly 30 seconds. (we’ve donated several audio books)

                    Any books that are torn up, a text book over 3 years old, a reference book over 5, all Reader’s Digest editions and National Geographic magazine donations go straight to the Free Books box; if a donated book is a duplicate, they figure out which one is in better condition.

                    • It is my understanding that our local library, and many others, accepts book donations but NOT for their shelves. They get resold to the public with receipts going to purchase books for the collection.

                      On the matter of resale of donated books, there are several churches religious organizations in the community which have book sales of donated volumes, typically at excellent prices and often selling them in bag lots for set price (some venues offering such bargains only on the last day of the sale, sometimes throughout.)

                      From my experience there will be a plethora of popular authors — e.g., James Patterson — and a relative paucity of selection of authors f interest to me, but then I’ve been compiling a personal collection for over fifty years and pretty much have all I expect to read before I go to my tomb (although I might consider putting together a little list of books to go in with me, just in case …)

                    • Geeking out a bit… seriously, our local library is run by hard-core book lovers, the kind that I pictured being when I was in high school and considering being a librarian.
                      (Before I found out about what the schools were like.)

                      Clerics of the written word, seriously.

              • A Yugo. I LIKE it. I haven’t struck that usage before. How VERY apt.

            • It seems like chronic diseases have always been big in YA, or at least come in fashion on a regular basis. I remember that there were times when I went into the bookstore and it felt like all of the publishers were requiring that at least one character must have leiukemia.

    • Is it a critically praised book with a dog in it? Then of course the dog dies.

    • I killed a kid once. I don’t think I’ve ever killed an animal

      • I met Robin McKinley once, and was telling her how I’d read every book of hers but one – (Gah. It’s the one with the Dawn Wilson cover and the silky-looking sight hound*) – it came up because we were talking about how publishers (and to our discredit, librarians) pigeonhole books. This simply wasn’t a children’s or teen book – but it got stuck in “kidlit”.

        I said I’d not read it because not only did it start with the rape of the viewpoint rapist, he also killed her dog.

        She got (understandably) upset with me. Very firmly: “I would NEVER do that. The dog is alive. The protagonist just THINKS it died. You should finish it.”

        So yes. There are line one doesn’t cross 🙂

        * auto-wrong: Light house.

        • The viewpoint CHARACTER The which rapist also killed.

          Sigh. All on me. Off to bed.

        • Deerskin.

          And high holy heck, YES, NOT FOR KIDS!

          Freeking creepy, though.

          (IIRC, the dog comes back and licks her wounds until she heals.)

          • I have gone back and re-read parts of that book, but there are sections I absolutely cannot touch. Once was more than enough, and I was in college when I read it the first time.

          • DEERSKIN struck me as an extremely creepy but totally believable answer to the question “Take a woman so beautiful that she attracts the kind of attention that gets you locked away behind magical mazes, and the Prince obsessed enough to rescue her. Just how dysfunctional will THAT family be?”

            The answer being ‘FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC’ level, crossed with Grand Guignol.

          • Nods. I still only read it once. Very hard book.

      • This is the sort of statement that makes my brain want to take it out of context and run with it.

        “I killed a kid once. I don’t think I’ve ever killed an animal” – Sarah Hoyt, 2019

      • You may not kill many “kids,” but the Darkships are 3/5 “teenage boy sacrifices himself at the climax.”

        • It’s different, I think. (And I thought it wsa 2/5) self-sacrifice is redeeming. Being killed isn’t.

          • I agree, but still snerked at that.

            For me, “Kid” is… like my eldest, or lower– starting, but still not able to function as any kind of adult.

            16-ish, acts as adult, just painfully young.

            25 or so, yeah, really a grown up, even if they’re still painfully young.

            **********

            I took the “killed” to be a “killed,” not just a “died.”
            Like….oh, the death is Because Drama.
            As opposed to because the character did X, Y and Z, and there was a REASON for it besides “in teh FEELZ!!!!”

          • Darkship Renegades, Few Good Men, Darkship Revenge.

            Agreed that self-sacrifice is redeeming whereas murder isn’t. Still, I’ve decided to not get strongly attached to any new character in that universe who’s a teenage boy with a sense of responsibility.

      • Er… I KILLED A KID IN A NOVEL. Dear Lord. Not in reality

  11. And of course (Dorothy shared a link to an author pointing this out so I just read it today) a star rating and single line review is awesome and wonderful if a person doesn’t have time or know what to write. Reviews aren’t writing contests and you won’t be judged on style!

  12. I don’t know if this is Urban Legend or True Fact, but one writers’ marketing group maintains that you have to get at least ten reviews in the first week of publication for Amazon’s algorithms to pick up and push the book. So, reviews consisting of only a couple sentences are entirely welcome.

    You also have to get lots of sales, of course, but there is a firm belief about the role of reviews. It shows enthusiasm.

    • In such situations, of course, the content of the review might be considered irrelevant. Five stars, “I really liked this book” will not get you any Reviewer Cred, but it will serve to promote an author’s book.

      Similarly, a negative review in the first week of publication, even one with minus stars (as if Amazon permits such!) will still promote a book, according to the (presumed) algorithm.

      Ans now I am imagining the use of negative reviews to promote a book … In Monster Hunter: Guardian the authors provide a character with Zero regard for Monster Rights, treating them as predators with NO redeeming characteristics, ignoring the more refined elements of their philosophies and motivations. The one “positive” monster character, the monster equivalent of the “Magic Negro” Mr. Trash Bags” is reduced to comic relief, shrugging off a tragic back story which has produced the character’s present diminutive status (given that Mr. Trash Bags is described as ebon he obviously represents the proud heritage of Africans as it has been ablated by the American South, of which the author obviously approves.) This simplistic novel clearly endorses White Supremacist philosophy and Female Domesticity, presenting a main character who is white and desperate to regain her maternal role even if it means denying her son the much healthier situation offered by a vampire grandmama who is clearly better able to provide the child a secure environment and diverse, expansive education.

      • “Ans now”???? And now, you flupid stingers, and!

        BTW – has anyone else found that sometime in the last month or so WP has stopped providing an adequate window in which to type replies? Used to it expanded as the reply required, but now it remains fixed at about five and a half lines, making it more difficult to see the full though one is attempting to express.

        Seems that WP used to open the reply window just below the comment to which one is responding; now the window is all the way to the bottom of the web page! Is this a general situation or is it simply that WP hates me and desires my ever greater frustration?

        What next torment, WP? A reply window that only permits me to see a single row as I type?

        • Hmmm, before I logged in, the text box has a little resizing icon, but after I allowed scripting, it disappeared, on the other hand, the box is auto-expanding.

          • The usual quirk with WordPress is that it will take several seconds to minutes for it to bother to post my prose. Looking at the comment field by the post title, when WP does this, several posts may be delayed until the hamsters get through the backlog, then all will show at once.

            If it were predictable, it would be less frustrating. OTOH, it seems to be less of a problem early in the morning (4-6AM Pacific time).

        • WordPress has stopped letting me post links at another site but works normally on this one.

        • The resize icon at the bottom right of the window went away about February. And none of my browsers seem to be able to autofull the email+name fields since then, either.

        • I only get that if I have two reply windows open at the same time. It really crosses up the posting and even confuses me!

      • Having done the heroic work of binge reading the Monster Hunter Mainline novels through Siege, I am now courageously reading through MHI Guardian. I am not entirely sure that such overdoses of gun-geekery firearms-fanaticism explosive-entertainment use of such un-woke appliances to abuse the undead/Old Ones/differently-naturaled characters in the book series.

        Whew! Much more of that and I’ll never have to apply fertilizer again. In the real world, I’m having a blast reading these. Being confined to The Comfy Chair for several hours a day is tolerable with the library, of which MHI has contributed several days worth of reading time.

        For what it’s worth, the expanding window issue is a non-issue for me. I simply cannot reproduce it. Correction, it can happen if I cancel a reply and then try to reinstate it, but for the usual circumstances, I have a window perfectly capable of dealing with a wall-o’-text. In the special case, if I start at the top and do a highlight and cut and paste, it reverts to normal.

        I am not using any of the WordPress of anti-social media logins to submit this. No idea what would happen if I went through a WordPress login. Your mileage will vary. Void where prohibited.

    • Urban Legend to some extent – Gold on the Hoof only has 9 reviews, but today I got the “New Release from Peter Grant, an author you follow”. The latest western released on the 26th, so it’s a week late, but… not 10 reviews.

      That said, I really appreciate those 9 reviews, because marketing things with less than 5 reviews is harder than marketing things with more… to people who aren’t fans yet.

  13. Sigh. I am not yet a complete fan.

    Sarah, I would buy your shopping list – but only if it includes the recipe. Depends on the dish, too.

    Ah, well. I have put up a sticky note to review Guardian that landed on my doorstep Thursday. I do have to get back to those. (Contrary to Dorothy and Synova, I do put writing effort into reviews.)

    • I posted the link in reply to Synova, so you can see what I was talking about. It wasn’t quite as simple as “Don’t put effort into reviews”, it was more “Even reviews that say ‘I liked it’ are useful for authors.”

    • It would be interesting to see an epistolary work of fiction centered on shopping lists and recipes. . . but a trick to write.

      • Bad muse! No! I have two WIPs I’m trying to finish!

        …but I can totally see that as a mystery or thriller, “The Shopping List”, with, ah, home rehab / highly suspicious items. It’d feature each item as a section / chapter header, relating to the next plot turn and twist.

        Butcher knife
        drywall putty
        100 feet of rope
        waterboard (scratched out, replaced “greenboard”)
        lye
        candlesticks
        9mm ammo
        shovel

      • Hmm. Most of my really “interesting” recipes are from Depression-era cookbooks, or my grandmother’s clippings. (Or scribblings. I had to retype the sugar cookie recipe when I realized that Gram had never written down the baking powder – it was obvious to her, and to me, but not the daughter… At least it wasn’t misread salt, and I at least like crispy cookies.)

  14. regarding the 5 star thing:

    I drive for Uber and Lyft. both require drivers to maintain a certain rating which varies slightly depending on area. basically, a minimum of 2/3rds of your ratings have to be 5s… ( and even on that, th e rest would have to be 4s)

    When i asked about this at the local counter, the little millennial girl behind the counter couldn’t conceive of 5 stars being reserved for a ‘perfect’ ride and a ‘standard ride where there is nothing wrong with it’ only being a three or four.

    So, giving your driver a 3 can literally cost them their livelihood, because they assume that people are going to give out 5 stars all the time…

    I feel bad for both sides because you can’t review a driver accurately and can’t be expected to be reviewed accurately

    hey where’d this soapbox come from?

    • Same thing with call centers, help lines, etc. Five stars is the only really acceptable grade.

    • Three stars is a reasonable rating — or ought be. That permits four stars for a better than average and five star for truly exceptional. If five stars is the base how can you appropriately recognize the driver who recognized you were choking on a bit of hot dog and performed the Heineken maneuver, a tracheotomy and CPR to restart your heart?

      Three stars means performed at the expected level. That should not be difficult to explain to reviewers. Four stars represents one standard deviation above expectations, two stars is one STD below expected* performance.

      *expectations = consistent with prescribed performance standards

    • Bought a car from a dealership lately? They are dead serious, that if you can’t give them 10’s across the board for the sales, closer, dealership, service tour, etc., to call them first, please, pretty please, with sugar on it. They count on those reviews being perfect. It affects their bottom line. What? The fact that we’ve now bought not one, but 4 vehicles from this dealership, have all 3 of our current vehicles (still owned) serviced there (okay soon to be 2, only because one has to be replaced and the replacement won’t be the same brand.

    • We’ve entered the Lake Woebegone era, where all rankings, like all children, have to be above average.

    • Ford dealerships have the same rating bias. Any company to pushed that sort of thing is totally wasting their customer’s time, and their money.

      • Both Subaru and Honda have the ratings requests, but I’ve tried my best to ignore them. The dealership group (used to be Chevy/Honda/Subaru, but lost Chevy due to Obama’s maneuvering) changed hands after the first Subaru, but we’re still with them. The new iteration of the Honda dealership was stuck with a crufty legacy computer system, which made the purchase a bit clunky, but they’re redeeming themselves at the service counter.

        (Hmm, I think I just wrote a review. Who’da thunk it?)

        • Yup Local Honda dealership has the same thing. 5* or nothing. It’s fricken grad inflation gone berserk. So I don’t rate them at all. In any case I’m a libertarian and think information == money. Why should I give them information, I wouldn’t just hand them a $10 bill for no reason. My view on survey’s is similar. Except Political ones where I try to figure out what demographic and answers I can claim to throw their data analysis into a snit.

          • Exactly my response to those things: I’m not your HR department. You want your employees rated, do it yourself.

  15. “ My fans would buy my shopping list, and they’re not fangits- SAH]“

    How much is Dark Sarah’s shopping list going for these days?

  16. “…where an entire legion of gorgeous gladius-wielding warrior-women is likely too much to accept.”

    Oops. I have that. ~:D They’re giants though, and mine is a brigade, not a legion. Totally different thing.

    • Giants? Well, that’s a different thing, ennit? Of course, it depends on how giant they are, as above a certain point they tend to break their pelvises. I recall an Asimov TV Guide article explaining the problems with the Land of the Giants TV show. I don’t recall the math, but anybody over twelve feet tall is likely to run afoul of the inverse-square rule.

      Of course, a sufficiently tall legion of giantesses wielding gladii might find a shield wall of short men cutting them off at the knees.

      • They maintain their fabulous (and I do mean fabulous) figures at 20 feet tall by having unreasonably strong bones made of carbon nanotubes, with iron whisker crystal reinforcement and unreasonably clever construction arrangements.

        They deal with soldiers primarily with the strategic use of the too-short skirt, on the theory that its difficult for men to fight a giant when they’re trying to see what she’s wearing under that leather mini.

    • A few nods to the irreality of it all suffice.

      I have a Gamelit sword-wielding damsel in a work in progress, and another character tells her she couldn’t fight like that without magic, to which her retort is, “And if the sky wasn’t high up like it is, dragons couldn’t fly and would have to walk like the rest of us.”

  17. There’s a theory floating around that I think is worth mentioning here.

    If a particular book is the one that “everyone” is reading this season, and you see a review that mentions a particular scene in the book… then that scene is as far as the reviewer got before getting tired of the book and setting it aside.

    • It’s somewhat like watching movie trailers these days. “Okay, I’ve seen all the good parts (assuming they even managed to find that many to fill out two minutes) – why do I want to shell out to see all the dreck?”

      • It’s more like, “I need to post a review to prove that I read this, so I can maintain my status/peers/whathaveyou. So I’ll prove that I read it by commenting in my review on something in the book. And including something from later in the book will make it look like I didn’t just read the first chapter, and then put it aside.”

  18. Great post and great timing as I have been reading more KU books by those of you who write/comment on ATH and MGC posts, and trying to write reviews for them if I like them.

    In August I read all six books of TXRed’s “Familiar Tales” series. And I gave each one a 5-star review, because I really enjoyed the books. I did not find any reasons to down-check any of them. They are good stories, and they get better as the series continues.

    As a reader, I rarely compare a book or a series to any non-related book or series that I may have also read. I read each one as its own world. I would down-rate a book in a series if it displayed serious discontinuities in the settings or characters from the prior volumes – e.g., MC John is blond and blue-eyed in book 1, but black-haired and green-eyed in book 3. But if characters change rationally as the series unfolds, I have no issues with it.

    Now if a particular telling of, say, “Cinderella” is a good read and at least shows a connection to the original fairy tale, I don’t compare it to some other author’s version of the story, especially not in a review. Each version should be read as its own thing, IMO.

    So if I enjoyed the book I’ll give it 5 stars, or very rarely, 4 stars. (Note: I only review KU books, and only those that don’t already have dozens or hundreds of reviews. And I don’t bother to leave a review less than 4 stars. Not worth the effort, and it might be just my own reaction.)

    In the title or review itself I may mention something I particularly liked. I don’t write long reviews, because I’m not the author, it isn’t my place to echo the jacket blurb or paraphrase the plot. If a short one-liner like “Very enjoyable and shows real empathy with the problems of housing over-size skunks.” works for you all, I may make them shorter, because longer ones are WORK for me to not sound awkward.

    I do also mention at the bottom that these were KU loans, in case they don’t count with Amazon as being a “verified purchase”. I want readers who check the reviews to consider mine valid.

    Would appreciate any suggestions or assurance I am on the right track. I have a long TBR KU list! 😉

    • IMHO, you are definitely on the right track.

    • 1. Did you enjoy what you’re reading? Then Yay! You’re on the right track.
      2. Did you mention whether you liked it or not? Yay!
      2A. Did you mention at least one reason why you liked it / one cool thing in it? Yay! It’s now helpful to other readers!

      I always figure, you see, that reviews are for readers, by readers. It’s not a book report. So you can be as short as “Very enjoyable and shows real empathy with the problems of housing over-size skunks”, and it’s awesome. You can be as long as Pappa Pat, and it’s awesome. Whatever makes you happy!

      As an author/wife of author, when people set out to make the review not just for the other readers, but to help the authors – this is like, say, getting a meal where you pay up front… and then the reader liked it enough to come back afterward and dropped an extra tip. I’m not complaining about the size of the tip when that happens – the fact that it happens is enough to thrill me.

      (Okay, unless it’s the drive-by review that leaves me scratching my head and going “but… there weren’t any aliens in this book, much less an invasion, and it’s not set on earth. Um, what?”)

  19. In other words: Shut up and e-mail write a one-line review

  20. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I am glad to see the Democratic Party come around to support my position, because I am unaware that the Babylon Bee is a satirical website.

    https://babylonbee.com/news/bernie-sanders-praises-china-for-eradicating-poverty-by-killing-all-the-poor-people

    Look, we’ve been at war with poverty for sixty years, and haven’t won. It is time to face the fact that we need to be being more ruthless in addressing the root cause of poverty, poor people. It’s not that I’m particularly callous, murderous, or insane, it is objective reality. Dehouse the poor.

    Either that, or we should declare victory and go home.

    • Look, we’ve been at war with poverty for sixty years

      Mark 14:7 7 For ye have the poor with you always …
      Matthew 26:11 The poor you will always have with you …
      John 12:8 The poor you will always have with you …

      Contrary to the Gospel According To Pastor Buttigieg* it would seem that waging a war on poverty is against Christ’s teachings. We should stop, rendering them succor instead, to lift them up that they might support themselves.

      WP wants to correct this spelling to Butting. I think I can see its point.

  21. Meredith Dixon

    I rarely write reviews on Amazon these days, but sometimes give a star rating: when I do, three stars are “Well, I guess it was worth what I paid for it;” four stars are for a book I might reread (or, often, have reread), and five stars are reserved for the handful of books I reread over and over. In the other direction, two stars are “Well, it wasn’t worth what I paid for it” or, if free, “Gee, I could have been doing the laundry,” and one star is for books that are a complete waste of electrons — though in practice I rarely finish the 2’s and 1’s to get to the prompt for leaving a review.

    As for how I evaluate reviews when considering purchases on Amazon, I automatically ignore all the five-star reviews completely (they’re probably astroturf) and I usually ignore all the four-stars too, unless the book has very few reviews, as I chiefly read reviews to be warned against things I might not like, rather than as adjuncts to the back-cover blurb.

    In the critical reviews, I’m chiefly looking for complaints about authorial soapboxing and/or about grammar, mechanics and usage. If I see a review that complains about either of those, except perhaps in the unlikely case that I agree with the opinions being soapboxed, I won’t be considering the book further.

    Beyond that, I watch for complaints about typos (as distinct from GMU), unhappy endings, sex scenes and cliffhanger endings (though I’ve found that a surprisingly large number of Amazon reviewers use the word “cliffhanger” when they really mean only that there is a story hook for the next story in that world, which is not at all the same thing). Those aren’t automatic downchecks but they are strikes against the book: too many strikes and it’s out.

    • A “cliffhanger” ending means the author did not write a complete story in the book and is trying to get away with charging you for two books and delivering one (in two volumes).

      George R. R. Martin did something arguably worse with the (thus far) last Westeros novel: he simply reached his word count and stopped typing.

      Call me old-fashioned (better yet, mix me up an Old Fashioned) but I cling to the idea that, for my money, an author had better deliver me a beginning, middle and end. I am not particularly fussy about the ordering but I do want all three. Call it the Holy Trinity of story-telling, with variations only permitted in special circumstances, such as threat of beheading in the morning.

      Oh dear …

      I’m getting beheaded in the morning,
      Cling-Clang the guillotine will chime!
      I’m getting beheaded in the morning,
      So get me to the scaff’ld on time!

      NURSE!! Coffee, STAT!

      • I can think of one way that a cliffhanger isn’t a cheat– the classic “K, we got it all wrapped up, the Big Bad is dealt with, everybody’s out eating the ramen/shawarma/burgers, and someone says: “Hey, what’s that?” “Uh-oh.”

        Finishes the story, but gives you a To Be Continued.

        • As you and M. Dixon observe — that’s no cliffhanger, that’s the next story.

          A cliffhanger is a story without an ending, inconclusive, bereft of closure, suffering plottus interruptus, short-changing the reader, in medias res (acceptable for an opening but not an ending), incomplete, unfinished, pining for the fjords …

          • I’ve seen it used both ways– covering all books that end with a “what happened next!?!?” and covering the “part 1 of 2” books.

            On consideration, it’s probably because of old radio shows, which seemed to have a much higher rate of hanging-from-cliffs than I’ve noticed in day to day life.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              But then, there can be “cliff-hangers” where it isn’t the author’s fault.

              One Barbara Hambly novel ended with the main character realizing that the “authorities” captured the wrong person.

              The problem was that there was nothing to indicate on the cover or elsewhere that this book was the “first of a series”.

              I saw that as the publisher’s mistake.

              • I suppose that might be a Downer Ending if it wasn’t?

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Nod.

                  Fortunately, I trust Barbara Hambly to not “pull that sort of garbage”.

                  Of course, that ending included the Main Character thinking that it was up to her to correct the situation (and she did in the second book).

                  • I don’t know which one that is, but I know I stopped reading one of her series in high school when I peeked at the end of the third book. See, I thought it was a trilogy. I was much relieved later in live to discover it was not. I should pick that back up and finish it, come to think of it….

            • I would be more inclined to source it to the old movie serials, although it may coincide with radio’s golden age. I have a vague idea that the cliffhanger was a staple of silent movies — thinking of The Perils of Pauline — but don’t see it as worth the while to dig down into it. There can be no question of it being an accepted, even expected, element of such movie serials as those featuring Flash Gordon and Gene Autry — an expectation spoofed by the campy Sixties Batman.

              • *chuckles* I almost said “And TV shows. And I think Penny Dreadfuls…”

                Black and white serials seems very likely, yes; getting seats in the seat every week would also explain the heavy use of the literal cliff-hanger.

        • That’s what I do with the Luna City volumes. The main plot thread is always wrapped up and stowed away, but there is ALWAYS a foreshadowing of the plot thread in the next book, and a teeny cliff-hanger at the very end.

        • Only if it’s not like a rabbit out of a hat. The issue should have been a possibility earlier.

      • This got really irritating with the last few Honor Harrington books until the most recent one that came out. I get that the universe got too big, with too many characters and subplots that all had to be checked in on and kept up to speed, but four different books literally ending with “and a big attack is going to happen in the next book!” got really old. The one that began with the foretold battle, did a brief check-in with the characters that barely advanced their plots, and then set up the next battle that would be in the next book (“A Sound of Thunder,” I think) was especially annoying. At a certain point, just bite the bullet and publish a longer book. “Shadow of Victory” was even worse, because the whole thing felt like the bits that had been cut out of the other novels.
        It was such a relief to read “Uncompromising Honor” and finally, finally, get a novel that felt like it had a proper ending, even of course as it had plenty of sequel hooks.

        • Model form short review of cliffhanger: As the author couldn’t be bothered to finish the novel, neither can I and therefore I will pass on the concluding book.

          In large part this is a publisher failure, as it is (supposedly) the job of publisher and editor to ensure a book meets basic standards. A rant on the failure of the industry to uphold those standards — and the false standards (e.g., “diversity”) they do maintain would require another blog post and an writer with more direct experience of the publishing industry than I hope to ever have.

          I will cite one instance of a (semi-) permissible cliff-hanger in John Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata series — the book that ought have been the third and concluding novel of the initial trilogy, When the Devil Dances was left to be finished in the (unplanned) fourth book, Hell’s Faire, when the intrusion of 9/11 caused John’s muse to go into a muttering sulk and he was unable to complete the book in time for publication — a circumstance for which he full apologized.

          I am willing to entertain an exception to the rule that books have endings, an exception based on significant events such as terrorist and/or military attacks on the United States and its territories, major volcanic eruptions such as the Yellowstone Caldera, asteroid strikes (size and mass to be determined on case-by-case basis) and major solar eruptions. Extinction level events are NOT justification for leaving your novel incomplete! Indeed, they are an argument for not making your readership experience prolonged waits for the finish.

  22. I don’t much do book reviews now, except for Vine-provided books, mostly non-fiction on topics which interested me, but yeah, I tried to be careful about awarding five stars to only those books which I thought were really head and shoulders above. Four stars meant good and readable, three was ok, two was lacking and one …. I honestly tried to avoid committing to review really awful books, when I was doing reviews for a couple of book review sites. The “look inside” feature was above price, and a chapter or two was usually enough to tell me if I wanted to put in the effort.
    The couple of times that I committed without checking out “look inside” because the book title and blurb looked interesting … yes, those turned out to be the one-stars.
    Other than that, the most important thing in a review was to be specific about why you liked or didn’t like it.

  23. What is my intended purpose is writing a review?

    Okay, I’m going to rain on your/our parade a bit.

    Used to be I’d do a review to tell other people how great, or how terrible, a book was. Unfortunately, with Amazon/KU defaulting to the stars and review form, most of the time it’s merely to put enough verbiage to get the damn form out of the way. You’ll get an honest star rating out of me, because that doesn’t take much thought. (Not like I’m doing a Likert scale on all the various points of story telling and posting the average.) But I’ve got to be really motivated to spend a lot of time on a review, especially if you don’t want to include spoilers; and especially if I’m only one out of several hundred reviews – if my review has such little value, why bother? Or maybe it’s just post Labor Day Blues coloring my response this morning.

  24. Certainly any prospective reader deserves to be warned if elements of the book are likely to result in damaged walls.

    This is especially relevant now that we are in the era of ereaders and suchlike technological terror equippage – back when my reading fodder was paperbacks with the very occasional hardcover, and that latter much more carefully selected, a walled book was likely to result in absolutely no sheetrock damage whatsoever, just as a book thrown-from-the-train would likely not injure livestock or passersby.

    Now, not so much.

    That is why I have been agitating for a “thrown-against-the-wall” button, or better a “thrown-out-the-window-of-a-moving-train” button, in the ereader interface which should generate an appropriate sound effect and auto-file a 1-star review, thus preserving my walls and device health.

    • “back when my reading fodder was paperbacks with the very occasional hardcover, and that latter much more carefully selected, a walled book was likely to result in absolutely no sheetrock damage whatsoever”

      Unless it was a Tom Clancy book, in which case you’d need to patch the sheetrock and the house siding. 😉

      Did any one ever wall a Tom Clancy story?

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        If they did, the impact would be described in exacting technical detail.

      • Two. Though the first one was bad enough, I probably deserved the second one.

        A shining example of why I no longer pay any attention to reviews.

  25. And a bit off topic. I think this fellow is saying something very close to what Sarah has been talking about when it comes to the Dims.

    https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/talking-to-aliens/

  26. I generally only leave reviews on the first few books of a series. If you’ve read books one through five, are you _really_ relying on a review to decide whether to buy book six?
    For Pam, that means she got about five reviews for forty some-odd books. I’ve read and loved them all, though! I re-read the whole series on a recent Alaskan cruise. (Southern Alaska is a rainy swamp; who knew?)
    I, too, had the “3-good, 4-outstanding, 5-can’t live without” rating system until this site (or Mad Genius) convinced me that I was an outlier and pulling down averages. Now 5 starts is “buy it.” If it’s not 5, I don’t leave a review (unless it is truly awful). I almost always leave a star count since it’s happens automagically at the end of the book with both Kindle and phone app.
    Did I review Bad Dog? I don’t remember. If not, I’ll do so, now. Bought it for the cover and loved the whole series.