Sunday, 8 November 2015

Troll alert - or just a bad review?


I got a bad review today:

Very poorly written book with a non existent storyline. It reads as though it was written by a five year old for five year olds. The worst type of pulp imaginable, and I like chick lit!
I have had the misfortune to read some rubbish in my time but this book plunges new depths of dire.
It was so bad that I placed my iPad in a drawer, locked it and threw away the key.


It's on Dream On ~ which is one of the best reviewed of all my books, with a blah blah blah amount of four and five reviews across many sites.

~~~~~~
**Update!!*** 
Definitely a troll ~ he hated Dream On so much he bought and 'read' Full Circle, the sequel!  And I discovered who it was because he added his Twitter handle to a review of another book he bought: 'How to use Twitter to sell your book'.... 

Second update ~ he's now removed both reviews.  Turns out he was miffed at being blocked by me on Twitter....  be careful who you block!  Actually, I wish he'd left the 1* ones on, they were funny (not in the way he intended them to be, of course).
~~~~~

  ....continuation of original post....
When I first read the above, it made me feel a bit pissed off (okay, and totally talentless and useless!), as bad reviews tend to.  Then I looked again, and checked the other reviews by this 'Amazon Customer' - no other books reviewed that I could see, and thought, oh, might be a troll, then.  Especially as it doesn't say anything about the book apart from how awful it is ~ and, really, even if it's not your sort of thing, I can't believe anyone could think it was this bad!!  So my second emotion was amusement.  This was followed, a few minutes later, by annoyance.  Then, thank goodness, by 'hey, what the hell, nobody died'.


The purpose of this blog post is to advise anyone who is new to this game and has received their first bad review (and it ALWAYS hurts) to recognise the difference between a bad review by someone who just didn't like your book, and a possible 'troll', ie, someone who wants to do you down for whatever reason.  

Troll reviews tend to trash the book totally, without saying anything to indicate that they've actually read it.  Bad reviews might just say 'boring', or 'couldn't get into it'; they're not spitting venom like the one above.  Bad reviews are just life; not everyone will love everything you do, and all the best writers have them.  Having them doesn't necessarily make you one of the best writers, but you know what I mean!

If you don't start throwing your toys out of the pram and screaming 'troll!', you can use your bad reviews to improve.  I had a two star for Full Circle that said it was too slow with too much back story.  I had a three star on Kings and Queens that said there was too much telling, not enough showing.  Fair enough - I learned my lesson about chunks of backstory (even though I still love it, I've toned it down because not everyone does), and took heed about the Kings and Queens' complaint when I wrote the sequel, Last Child; a couple of people had said in reviews that there was too much reporting of an event by a character, rather than showing the actual scene.

To sum up:
  • Not all bad reviews are from trolls
  • You can't and won't please everyone
  • Some people just won't like what you do
  • Learn from the bad reviews
  • Ignore the trolls

And even if today's horror was a genuine bad one, it still doesn't matter that much.

 

51 comments:

  1. Really good advice, TT. I've had a couple of one stars: one said 'didn't read it'. Amazon took that one down, thankfully. The other trashed my book, but I suspect they didn't read it either and just commented on what they could pick up from the blurb. Yes it hurts, but if you know you've done your absolute best to turn out a good product and have received good feedback from readers both before and after publication, all the points you've made above should apply, e.g. you can't please everyone, some people won't like what you do etc. Sadly, my bad reviews haven't offered anything I could really work with. I wish they had! I was writing about the wrong country for one reader and the other didn't like the boat stuff, so I just had to take those on the chin! Roll with the punches as they say :) I shall be sharing this.

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    1. Didn't like the boat stuff... what a sensible choice, then, to read your books...!!! The didn't read it probably happened because Amazon sends emails to customers asking what they thought of products. If the person replies to the email 'didn't read it',, that is automatically printed as a review. Ludicrous, but true.

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  2. Hi Terry - I hope other potential readers will read the reviews with common sense - and realise that nothing was said about the book's content, and thus to 'ignore' that one review.

    Such a pain ... good luck ..and cheers Hilary

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    1. It has 48 x 5* and 13 x 4*, so I imagine it will be seen for what it is, Hilary - and thank you!

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  3. "And even if today's horror was a genuine bad one, it still doesn't matter that much."

    Absolutely - we win some, we lose some. Life too short, and all that.

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    1. Exactly, Jo. The amount some people stress over a less than perfect review never fails to amaze me - even when it's balanced!

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  4. This does not read as an acceptable review to be displayed on a public website. It is abuse which should be removed by the site owner.

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    1. I agree completely, Liz; however, I've just written to them about the missing good review for The House of York, so don't want to push my luck! I think this says more about the 'reviewer' than the book, anyway :)

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  5. Really great advice for everyone, most real readers who have spent time on a book say something about what they've actually read even if it didn't work for them.

    It is hard to remember that not everyone will enjoy your book and taking it on the chin can be hard, but I think this review is definitely one that most sensible readers will know to ignore.

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    1. Yes, or they just say they didn't like it, without really getting the claws out! I've only got 2 other reviews that are definitely 'troll' as opposed to just someone who didn't like what they read - one of them made the mistake of saying the book was every bit as bad as the other one she'd read by me.... so why read another???? Surely if you think a book is really horrendous you'll just stop reading it, not go to the trouble of buying and reading another one... to do so is either masochism.. or trollism!!

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  6. It's a hard lesson to learn isn't it, Terry. My novel isn't out there yet but I can only imagine the anguish if this happened to my 'baby'... but I know that at some point it will. This is why a lot of actors never read the reviews in the papers. I don't blame them!

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  7. Yes, I don't keep track of my reviews on Goodreads, because I know people can be more harsh on there, for some reason!

    It won't necessarily happen, it depends how widely it's read. Dream On has been out for 3 years and has been free a few times in the past; bad reviews often follow free downloads. If it is a troll, I'm not surprised; in my role as a reviewer for Rosie Amber's book blog, I have given a few 3* reviews with some fairly negative remarks. I think part of the trick is to stop thinking of it as your 'baby', if you can, and just move on from it and write the next one!!! Thanks for commenting x

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  8. Yep..am pretty sure one of my one stars for D&D that just states it was 'an awful awful book' could be tracked to a certain writer in the same genre who blocked me when it came out as they objected to my publicity. Could take it down, but why? I think it makes for a more interesting review page if there is a spread. If I see a book with 98 Five star reviews I am always suspicious. re reviews: S**T happens.Move on.

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    1. I totally agree re the more interesting review page!!

      The mistake that trolls make is being too insulting. No-one could call any of your books 'awful, awful', even if they hate Victorian murder mysteries, the present tense, subtle humour, etc etc - because they are so well written and researched. Dream On is not understood by some because of it's references to the music world, and rock musicians, but there's plenty of relationship stuff in it (and Alzheimers, even!!! ~ and it just isn't BAD; indeed, after 3 years I am still getting muso guys saying to me "I read your book Dream On the other day, spot on!".

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    2. Crap!!!!! I just did an it's that should have been an its!!!! It's a TYPO, people, not me being thick!!!

      Oh yeah, and Dream On has a desert in it that should be a dessert. :)

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  9. I have a book review blog and put my reviews on Amazon,etc. I wouldn't review a book on a genre I don't like because no matter how good the book was it still would not be to my taste. Some of the books I have loved have had bad reviews from some people but that's just taste. Reviews which say they haven't read it or read the first two chapters should be taken off the site and so showed one or two worded reviews say excellent or brilliant as I suspect they are from friends of the author who haven't bothered reading the book. If I didn't enjoy a book I would always say why and then find something positive to say.

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    1. Ah, now, this is where I disagree, Anne - not all one line reviews are from friends at all. Look at the most popular chick lit books, they have tons of one line reviews just saying someone loved the book; no-one has that many friends!!! I have a few regular readers who read and enjoy everything I write, but only ever leave a one or two line review because they are not naturally disposed towards writing reviews. I've heard 'I never know what to put' so often!! We're writers, we're used to expressing ourselves via the written word, many people aren't. I'd be most annoyed if some of my regulars' reviews were taken off - and so would the reviewers, I think ~ "just because I don't know how to write lots of clever literary stuff, does it mean my view doesn't count?"

      I agree with you re reviewing a genre you don't like. I can't give a chick lit or light romance book more than 4*, however well written it is. Because I review for Rosie book review team, I have sometimes gone out of my 'comfort zone', and have had some (very) pleasant surprises. But I've actually told her not to let me take any more chick lit, romance, light romance, etc, unless it includes a more involved story line that steps away from all the cupcakes and hearts and flowers and predictable plot lines!

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  10. Crikey this must have been quite a shock to read initially T and well done for taking such a well balanced view of it and then to write such a great post that is very helpful to all of us. Having read Dream on this review makes no sense at all and when you read it again you can see it for exactly what it is.

    I think this is one of those things that shows the status of an author as well, when you've 'made it' if you like, someone told me that when I found my books on a piracy site. If you weren't good trolls/pirates wouldn't bother.

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    1. Ha ha, yeah, I thought, Blimey, when I first read it!!!

      Agree re the piracy sites! I think it's flattering, and the people who buy from them wouldn't shell out 1.99 for my books anyway. What I care about is that people read me. Obviously I'd rather get the sale and the royalty, but it's just one of the downsides of the internet - and there are many upsides!!!

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  11. Wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if it's a troll - you're right to just let it go; it really doesn't matter. Just keep thinking about those 60+ 4 and 5 star reviews instead :)

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    1. Aye, Alison - and sometimes you have to stand back and think, it's only a novel. xx

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  12. I would hope potential buyers reading reviews would have more sense than to take any notice of any review which is offensive and not constructive in the slightest. It makes you wonder what these people get out of writing such rubbish.

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    1. Thanks, Cathy; I wonder if it's a result of some of the 3* reviews I've given on RBRT, or the odd 'pass' on Friday Five Challenge, actually!

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  13. Sensible advice, as usual, Terry, for others as well as yourself. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. That one is definitely a troll. Notice how the review doesn't refer to anything specific to your book? That's because the reviewer obviously hasn't read the book.
    It may be someone with a grudge against you personally (because you declined to review their book, because you reviewed theirs critically, or because they're envious of your success). Or it may be what I call a 'professional troll' someone does this to lots of authors, who gets a kick from hurting people, especially if they react with anger or hurt. It would be worth looking at this person's other reviews. If those are similar it's a professional troll. If they did it only to you, then they have a personal grudge. Either way, this reviewer has NOT read your book.

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    1. Hi Rayne - I did look at all the other reviews (it's the first thing I do when I any bad review, troll or not) - I couldn't actually see any other book reviews, though Rosie says there's one much earlier. They'd just reviewed non-book items. I think it's a reaction to a 3* review from me (and I must add here that I only give low star reviews when someone has actually REQUESTED A REVIEW - if I choose to read a book and don't like it, I simply abandon it!). Might be because I've declined to review - I've done that a few times. I hasten to add, all this activity has been through Rosie's book review blog, I don't accept reviews requests aside from this. You're right, they definitely haven't read it!

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  15. Some reviews are written by people who just have no idea how much love, time, and devotion goes into writing a book. I prefer not to write one star and two star reviews because I like to do shout outs about books that I like and love, but some people seem to love being unnecessarily mean.

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    1. Thanks, Marjorie - I don't feel that books deserve a good review simply for being written (it's our choice to write them, after all!), but yes ~ I'd like to know what the person who wrote this actually gained out of it :)

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  16. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Terry. Whenever I'm considering a purchase I read a few five star and one star reviews. In this case I'd read the detailed five star reviews and dismiss the one star since it says nothing specific. Gobsmacked and depressed that anyone would do this.

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    1. I always read the one and two star ones first; whether or not I take them into consideration depends on what they say! Oh, I'm sure this comes from my having been less than gushing in my assessment of someone else's work; the luxury of being honest comes with a price :) x

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  17. It's a Troll, and to prove it---out of curiosity---I ran one paragraph of your book "Dream On" through the the Kincaid Readability score and it came up with an average grade level readability of 6.5---that's between 11 or 12 years ol----not a five year old who arguably can't read at book at that literacy level at that age on their own---and that is almost the best reading level possible for an author to achieve, because that is why most newspapers shoot for the literacy level of a 10 year old that's the average for the most readers.

    In fact, I struggle to keep my books close to the readability level you achieved. My BA is in journalism and it was pounded into our heads to write at a 5th grade reading level (where 11 year olds should be to be reading on grade level but then everyone isn't equal because they don't roll off of assembly lines) to reach a wider audience. If an author writes to a college crowd that cuts out a lot of avid readers. For instance, if the average reader reads at a 5th grade level and an author writes for a PhD audience, they are writing for less than 3% of the population and will lost out on 60 million avid readers who read for enjoyment and pleasure and not to struggle over words that are a mile long.

    https://readability-score.com/

    Here's the paragraph I used. I few pages would have been more accurate but I couldn't copy and paste from the Look Inside feature on Amazon.

    "Can we stick to the matter at hand, please?" Dave said. Why weren't they taking this seriously? His idea was unique, the best he'd ever had; they were supposed to be stricken with awe by its brilliance. Okay, he knew that calling rock bands by the names of Norse gods had been done before - three was Odin, for a start - but no-one else had actually carried the theme through to the band itself.

    When we look at the reading level of U.S. adults, only 13% read at a college level. It has been this way for decades and no matter what teachers do, it is an uphill battle to get kids to love reading if their parents/guardians aren't into reading because more than two thirds of a child's motivation to read and learn comes from the effluence of the child's life outside of school. Studies have proven that repeatedly for decades and no one has ever proved it wrong. A child's parents/guardians are the key and learning to love reading books starts soon after birth.

    Most avid readers fit in the basic and intermediate range and that makes up 73% of the U.S. adult population and 60 million are avid readers reading at last 10 or more books a year.

    Don't let that TROLL stop you from writing your books at the same reading level you already are writing.

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  18. This is brilliant, thank you so much for that, Lloyd! I really appreciate your time and trouble, and for that fascinating insight, with so much info I never knew.

    THANK YOU! :)

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  19. Great blog Terry, as always. When my very first one star review hit, I went on a little Amazon review reading trip for all my favourite books - some of the greatest pieces of literature ever written - and in finding one star reviews for all of them, many and mostly trollish, I started to feel better right away. Everyone gets them. I now consider them a badge of honour :)

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    1. Heather, I agree completely! I know, I know - I can't believe some of the comments on some 1* reviews for masterpieces. I had a bad review once from someone who'd given 1* to Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, one of the greatest examples of a comic novel of all time. Perhaps he was too thick to understand it. Not saying that everything should be everyone's taste (for instance, although I appreciate how good she is, I am not a fan of Jane Austen), but... oh, you know!

      The massively successful chick lit writer Sam Tonge said to me yesterday that it makes the book's page more interesting if there are reviews of all types. I couldn't agree more. Thanks for reading!

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  20. You can spot a troll a mile off. Definitely a troll. But a great blog for others to read if they encounter a similar experience.

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    1. Thanks, Karen - oddly enough, I actually got a real 1* the next day - haven't had one of those for about 3 years. Just someone who didn't like the book, at all - fair enough! I've had 5 x 1* in 4 years of self-publishing - and two of them were this week!

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  21. The real consolation is that any review, good or bad will push any book up the rankings on any site. It's indifference that really kills a book's chances in the marketplace. When trolls do this kind of thing they're inadvertently giving a book a boost.

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    1. Exactly, Nicola ~ rather 50 reviews of varying type than 10 x 5*! :)

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  22. It's just the curiosity gene that makes us want to turn detective. As you say, there are things that matter a lot more than a bit of creative book slamming. I had a great one for One Summer. It read: 'to stupid'. First thing I thought was, 'my name's not stupid!' Keep writing books that your many, many fans want to read!

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    1. Ah, this time, Bev, the detective work was all too easy! Anyway, since I've named and shamed, he's taken both reviews off. Bet he felt a prat when he realised how easily he had betrayed himself...!!

      Love your 'to stupid'!!! Rayne Hall is bringing out a book about reviews, it's got a great chapter in it featuring all of her most hilarious bad ones :) Thanks xxx

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  23. Great post, Terry!

    Trolls don't realise just how easy it is to track them. They seem to think even though we write books we don't know how to use the Internet ...

    The worst is when they turn out to be people you know, people who have said 'I love your books' - and then given a two star review on Goodreads ... #doh

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    1. I haven't had that- how annoying that must be! I never mind a bad review, but this was trollism at it's most trollish!!!! No other books reviewed, and he clearly hadn't read either of them. Since I 'outed' him (and unblocked him for a moment so I could tell him what I thought of him), he's taken them both off and put a pathetic 4* on that makes it even more obvious he hasn't read them; he comments on something that isn't a part of the story.

      And all because I unfollowed him and wouldn't RT his tasteless, embarrassing book...!!!

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  24. Good for you--you outed your troll! Great advice. :)

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    1. I laughed my socks off when I discovered who it was, Cathleen! Thanks :)

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  25. On Amazon, my real name is there for every review and comment I write and that has attracted trolls to my work when I leave a comment someone, who is always anonymous, doesn't agree with or sees as an opportunity to be mean. If you are posting reviews and leaving comments using your real name, everything you say should be honest and you should provide reasons for why you felt that way but always be aware that there are anonymous people out there who don't always like honesty supported with facts and thinking. Honesty doesn't have to be mean.

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    1. You said it all, Lloyd, once more! The troll removed the reviews once I had told him I knew who he was, and replaced one of them with a 3* one - which also made it clear that he hadn't read either book, as it gave vague mention to a theme that the story didn't include!! I had blocked him on Twitter only a little while before, which is probably the reason. Yes, I always post reviews with my name, too. I'm not ashamed of anything I write, nor do I have any axes to grind!

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  26. Gosh, I'm beginning to wonder if this is troll season! I have run into so many folks lately who have had a nasty encounter with trolls to varying degrees. I even had a few come out of the woodwork and call me a "talentless hack" and so forth in response to some of my photos being published on a site where I was really honored and thrilled to participate. It stung a little, but I also couldn't help but think, "These people don't know me well enough to hate me this much!" Great post, and I hope these trolls crawl back under the bridges where they belong and leave us all alone!

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    1. I'm sorry you've had a similar experience, Tui ~ DO look out for a book about internet book reviews by Rayne Hall, coming soon (I read the proof because I'm in it, ha ha!); there's a really good bit about listing the types of reviewer/troll.

      This guy is arsey because I stopped retweeting him after finding him over-familiar and his book (I read the beginning) so bad I didn't want to put my name to a retweet, even. I blocked him when I found some of his tweets offensive, so he couldn't RT me anymore (I didn't even want to see his stupid face on the list of people who'd Rtd me!). These two reviews follow this :)

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  27. Glad you were able to differentiate - it definitely has that red flag, personal feeling of a troll (My troll exp. is limited, though I did get my first ever troll(ish?) comment on my blog today (I don't screen)....it read simply "Snore!" which actually made me giggle! It wasn't meant to be a scintillating blog post, was just an update about changing my address, but you know, lesson learned, keep it jazzy! ;-) If I ever do write a negative review of someone's work, particularly, I try to keep it neutral/related to the subject. I am less likely to write anything critical about books, just because I know that everyone works hard on their books regardless of what I may think, and no one is forcing me to read it. I am slightly more critical of films and things but I hope not troll-ish! People who put a lot of energy into being nasty on the internet are shooting themselves in the foot, sounds like this person is just bitter.

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    1. That 'snore' is so rude - and how does whoever wrote it know that it won't be of great interest to lots of others???

      The troll thing with this guy is now over, he got quite nasty, but he's removed them anyway. Stupid arse!!!!

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