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Monday, May 26, 2014

Reviews - Guest Blog with author Rayne Hall

I have the pleasure of following author and editor Rayne Hall on Twitter, and I always find her conversations very informative and engaging. Rayne has written many books, most of which are designed to help authors strengthen their writing, which, as a writer myself, I appreciate. She has offered two previously published pieces for this blog, both about reviews. I have split this blog up into 2 parts. The first part is for readers, and the second part is for writers. Enjoy!

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The question Rayne tackles in this post is "Are Indie Books Worth Reviewing?" When I hear this question, my mind automatically screams, "YES!" If any book needs reviewing, it is an indie book, and I don't think indie books are any less worthy of reviews than other books. Here's what Rayne Hall had to say about it:

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by Rayne Hall

Certain book blogs state categorically that they won't review self-published books.  I understand their motivation: They get inundated with submissions and are trying to keep the numbers down.

However, No Indies is as arbitrary as No Jews or No Women.

The reviewers aim to filter out low-quality works - but is the publishing method a valid quality filter?

It used to be. In the late 20th century, the established path to publication was author-agent-publisher-bookseller-reader. Each book had to pass three gates on its journey from author to reader, and each gate represented a quality test. Self-published books were inevitably those that had failed at the first two gates.

Times have changed. E-publishing makes it possible to reach the readers directly, and many authors choose the direct route instead of queuing at the gates.

Without gatekeepers barring entry, many poorly-written and under-revised books get published. A lot of indie (i.e. self-published) books are not as good as their authors think. Frankly, there's a mass of indie dross - but there are also many indie gems.

The boundary between “good book” and “bad book” doesn't happen to coincide with the frontier between indie-published and traditional-published books.

Consider the authors who use both publishing models: Amanda Hocking, John Locke and Michael Stackpole submit some of their works to traditional publishers and self-publish others. Are these authors' traditional-published books better than their self-published ones?

Or how about the authors were successful with traditional-published books, but then decided to go indie? Consider Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, and Dean Wesley Smith. Have they lost their ability to write good books?

Then there are the authors who took their previously traditional-published out-of-print books and self-published them as ebooks -  Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Piers Anthony, for instance. The books are the same, so how can they suddenly be less worthy?

Over three decades, I had twenty books published by several traditional publishers before choosing the indie route. Does this mean my old books are worth reviewing, and my new books are not - even though I have grown as a writer?

Not long ago, a book blogger approached me. She had enjoyed the stories in Six Scary Tales Vol. 1 and asked for review copies of Vol. 2 and 3, so she could review the series. Shortly after I sent the books, I received an email “Your books are self-published and therefore not worth reading or reviewing.”

Excuse me? When she assumed that the books were traditional-published, she liked the stories and wanted more. On discovery that they were indie-published, the same stories were suddenly not worth reading. What does this say about the reviewer's judgement?

Most stories in the Six Scary Tales series were originally published the traditional way in magazines and anthologies. Did inclusion in the self-published collection damage their quality?

I appreciate that book bloggers decline to read certain books, e.g. No Erotica, No Horror or No Romance, because if a book isn't to their taste, it would be tedious to read and difficult to review.

But to decline all indie-published books because they can't possibly be good is like refusing to read books penned by women or by Jews because no woman or Jew could possibly write something worth reading.

So how can a book reviewer assess which books are worth reading? I think the answer is obvious: by looking at the book itself. Reading the first few pages will show the reviewer whether it's their kind of book. Often, a quick glance at the first paragraph is enough to weed out the obvious dross. If reviewers can't form their own opinion of what they're reading, they shouldn't be reviewing books.

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If you've ever published a book, you probably know what it's like to receive a negative review. I haven't published yet, so I haven't had the "pleasure" of negative reviews yet, but I know I'll get them. Who doesn't? Not everyone will love your book. That doesn't always mean it's bad, it just means it's not for everyone. What I plan to do, and what I suggest other writers do, is to #1: See negative reviews as a learning experience (at least the ones that are negative for a good reason), and #2: Learn to laugh at negative reviews (especially the ones that are negative for silly reasons). Here are some hilarious negative reviews from Rayne Hall:

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I love it when readers who enjoyed my books post positive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and elsewhere – but negative reviews can be even more fun.

Here's a selection of my favourites I've received over the years:

“This book is too long. I had to spend many hours reading it. I'm busy and have other things to do.”

“The character of Queen Matilda is not believable” There's no Queen Matilda in the book.

“Animal lovers: Do not buy this book! They don't just sacrifice humans, but horses as well.”

“The women in this story are not as obedient as the Bible says women were in those days.”

“The book didn't end how I thought it would.”

“The vampires in this book aren't like Edward Cullen. Most of them totally creep me out.”

“I could have written a vampire story as good as any in this book if the editor had asked me.”

Daughters of the Dragon (non-fiction)

“How dare this author write about women in China? I checked her credentials: she does not have a degree in sinology.”

Living&Working in Britain (non-fiction)

“I've spent three weeks in that country. Trust me, it's not at all like this.”  The author lives in that country.

“If I had time, I'd dash off a book like this myself.”

Living&Working in Germany (non-fiction)

“This is not how I imagine Germany to be.”

“Clearly, the author has never met a real German”  The author is a real German.

How To Be A Freelance Journalist (non-fiction)

“I don't want to do all this work. I just want to be a journalist.”

“I skipped the first twenty chapters because there was nothing of interest in them. I wanted to know how to structure a fight scene and the book doesn't show that.” Chapter 3 is titled “Structure”.

“I don't need a book to teach me how to write.”

“I haven't read this book because I don't need to read it to know it's bad.”

“I had made reservation and on the date I was to go I had a very bad cold and fever and I called them to change my reservation and they refused.”

“I haven't read it yet, but Amazon pressed me for a review.”

“What a rip-off! This book contains only six stories!”

“These tales are not scary. There's not one single chainsaw massacre, not even a disemboweling.”

“I didnt even get through the first story cause when i was reading it to my mom therebwere some inapropreate words.”

“I hate it when writers use British English. They should learn to write proper English before publishing a book.”

“These stories are not 'historical.' Nobody gets married.”


Since some of these reviews were written many years ago and I no longer have access to them, I've quoted them from memory. The precise wording may have been different.


Negative reviews from someone who clearly doesn't get it can be annoying – but they can also be a source of hilarity.

I've browsed some review sites and found these disdainful comments on famous classics and bestsellers:

Pride and Prejudice (by Jane Austen)

“I found the story incredibly dated.” It was published in 1813.

“This is stupid. Why don't those girls simply get a job?”

“Jane Austen left out all the good bits!! Even where Mr Darcy comes out of the water with his shirt wet! It's absolutely the best part and it's not in the book at all!!!”

Rebecca (by Daphne du Maurier)

“This story needs editing.”

“I wish the house would burn down and kill all the characters inside.”

Wuthering Heights (by Emily Bronte)

“There is also animal cruelty, and most of the characters die off at an early age.”

“The book is not as good as the movie.”

Dracula (by Bram Stoker)

“The character of the count is a stereotyped kind of vampire you've already seen in two dozen movies.”  Stoker's Count Dracula is the original from which the stereotype evolved.

Carrie (by Stephen King)

“A bland tasteless book with no debth. The only part I enjoyed was the crazy mother.”

“Where's the Scarey? Boring!”

Grapes of Wrath (by John Steinbeck)

“What should I care about those people's problems? I have enough problems of my own.”

Bleak House (by Charles Dickens)

“I'm on page 300 and there is no end in sight.”

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See? Hilarious! Some of those had me rolling. SMH. 

So in conclusion, readers, please review the books you read, especially indie books. And writers, try to take negative reviews with a grain of salt, and a little humor ;) 

I hope you've enjoyed this review-mashup! Thanks to Rayne Hall for contributing. You can check her books out HERE. And don't forget to review them too ;)

Be the lightning, 
Kylie Kerosene.