I just have to get this off my chest. I hate reviews. I hate pretty much everything about them. I hate writing them, I hate reading them to choose a product, I hate asking people to leave them for my own stuff, and I absolutely despise being asked to write them.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do really enjoy putting reviews together for fellow artists and small businesses in order to attempt to assist them in gaining more exposure, but the actual act of writing them…it’s torture.
You see, the problem is, I really just hate the whole idea of reviews in general. Back before the Internets ruled our lives, we didn’t have reviews, we had personal recommendations. Well, we had reviews through things like newspaper critics or consumer reports, but they didn’t hold nearly the esteem that a good ol’ personal recommendation did. Of course, neither can hold a candle to what a giant list of product reviews can mean for a product.
The problem is…you can’t really true product reviews on the internet, right? I mean, there are companies that exist purely so you can pay them to flood your product listing with fake and positive reviews. You know what sucks for those folks who go that route? The only reviews I can ever know to be true for them, which they’re pretty darn obvious, are the ones that aren’t glowing…meaning I only end up reading the negative reviews for those products. Sometimes they still make the cut, but the glowing reviews didn’t help them out any, that’s for sure.
Of course, the other part of the problem is that you can’t do business with anyone anymore without them wanting you to review them or their product. Download an app on your phone and within five minutes of using the app, they’ll be begging you to hit up the App Store to give them some stars. Right next to the tip jar in most retail establishment is a sign telling you to like them on facebook, or follow them on twitter, or whatever else, all being methods in which you are effectively putting your stamp of approval on them and their product.
The world is begging for validation today. The world needs the almighty Thumbs Up.
And I hate it.
Not too long after the release of my first novel, The Legend of Buddy Hero, I found myself in frequent conversations with other authors about the fact that I had very few reviews showing on my Amazon page, or that I had almost no likes on my facebook page, no followers on twitter or whatever else. None of this really reflected how many people were reading (and supposedly enjoying) my books, as I would receive feedback on a fairly regular basis from new readers. Yet, I found myself being sucked into the idea that these reviews would be necessary for great success. So, I created a bit of a promotion, something in which I had hoped people would see I was not actually looking for validation, but just numbers. I offered a signed copy of my book to a randomly selected winner of folks who would put a review stating anything about my book up on Amazon. I don’t remember specifics anymore, but I had offered examples along the lines of “This book looks really good sitting on the back of my toilet.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love validation as much as the next guy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be one of those people who would guilt their customers into saying nice things about them. It’s just not the way I work.
But, that’s not quite how things worked out. Instead of a bunch of goofy notes, I got several wonderfully written reviews that glowingly expressed love for Buddy and his band of heroes. I’m not complaining. I read through them often to try to remind myself that someone out there must actually like my writing. The problem is…more than one of those people had never actually read the book.
So now, I look through my reviews and I see those couple of reviews stating how amazing of a title THE LEGEND OF BUDDY HERO is, knowing that they read, at best, a chapter or two of the book I had placed on a website back in the day, and I feel as though I have fallen into the trap of paying for fake reviews. I feel as though I’m cheating my possible customers because there are reviews on there that are, to some degree, lies. I don’t blame the folks who wrote them. They were friends who wanted to help me out and I definitely appreciate it. It just made me feel a little dirty in that although I was in no way attempting to scheme to get more positive reviews, that was the actual outcome of it.
I hate reviews.
As you have, I hope, noticed, I don’t do much talking about reviews. If you’ve dealt with me as an author whom I’ve reviewed, you’ll know that I’m rather standoffish when it comes to discussing a tit-for-tat (because it’s very hard to receive a nice review and not feel as though you should return the favor). They feel too much like a powderkeg filled with troublesome ethical dilemmas.
I write reviews for things I appreciate, and I’m trying to get even better about that. I stray from writing too many bad reviews as I don’t want to be the reason something fails (I don’t generally write reviews in situations where the review I would write would be bad). I try to highlight things I really enjoy even more on the site here (and there’s a ton more I’ve been intending to highlight here and just haven’t gotten to yet). I intend to keep what I do on the internet (as well as in life) honest. I’d prefer not to be someone who can’t be trusted because I’m too busy trying to please everyone (was that sentence confusing enough for you?).
And so I come to the whole point of this message, a point I urge both creators and consumers to at least ponder. Reviews on the internet are the new form of personal recommendation, especially now that places like Amazon directly link to facebook and twitter and broadcast your feelings toward everything to everyone. I do believe that reviews can make or break a product, I’m not trying to say I don’t. What I am trying to say is that we, as a people, should work toward trying to be more honest as consumers and producers so that we can be seen as trustworthy allies, instead of being seen as either a place begging to be loved, or a shill for a product that may or may not be worthwhile.
So, with all of that being said, I refuse to beg anyone to review my books. If you read them, awesome, I hope you enjoyed them and come back for more. If you do choose to put your thoughts about them on the internet, be honest. I’m not so thin-skinned that a bad review (or 100) would break me. I realize that what I do is incredibly subjective and I’m certain that whatever you might say is bad about my books is much less than I’ve already said about them myself (I’m hyper-critical of my own work, even if I don’t mention it much here). I believe in honesty more than most things and I hope we can work to be honest with each other. I know I’ll try to continue to be as honest as possible with you here as well as whereever else you might find me.
Alright…that’s more than enough on that topic. I’m outta here.
Have fun out there!