DSCN4661Dandelions. They’ve got deep roots and seem to be able to grow just about anywhere, even on the sides of walls in tiny little pieces of dirt. Give them half a chance and they will wriggle into what looks like absolutely hostile territory and by the end of the summer, not only have they conquered it, but they will  prepare for wide-spread invasion of what ground is not yet under their control . White puff balls  will spring up with their seeds tied to valiant wings,  ready to take to the wind and infiltrate the next lawn over, the garden  at the end of the block, and  the hill at the very end of the neighborhood.

Which is why I’m   rather aggressive in our war on these sunny sentinels.  Ruthlessly I tear them up,  leave them to wither on the sidewalk, and then  go after their tender green budded family members who are not yet open.   I dig with a spade until I find the tap-root and then I let it sizzle on the hard white concrete, bleeding out the last bits of its  life and moisture under the relentless beating of the summer sun.

Why am I so heartless with these yellow petaled intruders? Because if I give them even a tiny inch of space, they selfishly take over the entire garden. They just won’t play nice with others.

Having worked now for two years as a reviewer, I can say that the reviews on most books-for-sale-sites are the same way. Like dandelions, the fan written, fan squealing, five-star friend written reviews are choking out the thoughtful assessments of books. Memes like “Remember, reviews are tips for authors” are as dangerous as the September breeze over the bobbing white launch-pads in my garden.

No, reviews are not tips for authors.  Authors don’t get tips. They aren’t wait staff who are paid less than nothing and have to stand on their feet all day dealing with hungry people, food, and money. Tip your wait staff, not your author.

Reviews aren’t about the author at all actually, the good ones anyway, they are about the story that has been told. And the more that authors jockey to get fans to leave four and five-star reviews,  the less authority those reviews are going to have. Just like printing more paper money in a bad economy eventually is going to make the paper money worthless, so the more that authors push for four and five-star review, the more those four and five stars are going to drop value.

I think what makes me so angry about inflated reviews,  is that they really don’t do anyone any good. Readers stop trusting reviews all together, and authors start losing sales because people aren’t buying their book; the book that might be a really nice three star book.

My plea to authors and reviews is this: help me kill the internet  review dandelions by being honest.

Authors,   stop making “positive” reviews a way for fans to gain points towards rewards.  Stop pushing people you know socially to write reviews of your books. Submit your work to independent review sites. Stop using gushing fan reviews to sell your work on your social media pages.

Readers, don’t get sucked into the social vortex of “I like this author and they private messaged me or mentioned me in a post, therefore I owe him something because he acknowledged that I exist”, and embrace the freedom to write what you really believe about books. Write reviews of books you didn’t like. Write reviews of books you absolutely hated. Continue to express yourself, even if you are the only one saying that the book bombed.

Because in the end, truth is more important than success and being truthful is better than being liked.

Also, I think it would be a great idea if authors really wanted to set out a tip jar, to do what Ryan Bliss of Digital Blasphemy did; he set out a tip jar. On Digital Blasphemy you can literally give him a tip through Paypal, whether you’re a member, or not.

What do you think about the rise of four-and-five-star reviews on Goodread, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble Scribes? Do you believe it when someone writes a high review for books now? Or do you look at the one and three star reviews for the truth about a book?

Until next time Encourage one another!

  1. Gee says:

    I like C. S. Lewis’ approach to literary criticism. While he didn’t write about book reviews as such, his approach to literary criticism could also work for reviewing–at least, to some extent, much of the time. When it just won’t do, there’s always Flannery O’Connor’s strategy. LOL

    • Let me expose my ignorance here, and ask you, “What was Flannery O’Conner’s strategy for reviews?”

      • Gee says:

        O’Connor’s own book reviews are collected in “The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews” (University of Georgia Press, 2008). She wrote most of them for Catholic newspapers in her home state, Georgia, during the 1950s and 1960s. Typically, she would select a passage from the book she was reviewing, the selected passage standing as something of a synecdoche or, for her purpose, as a representative sample of the whole, and then offer her insights concerning the passage’s merits or demerits, as she saw them. In general, she was a tough judge, as her statement that “there’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good English teacher” suggests. Lewis, of course, saw it as his duty as a critic to focus upon helping readers to appreciate the better qualities of a book while not refraining from also indicating what he considered the book’s faults or flaws.

  2. Megan says:

    So first I read “tips” as in “helpful hints” and went, What? Well, they should be. I always write reviews with a list of things the author should’ve done to make me happy 😉

    And then I realized tips like, tips . . . and I’m like, uh . . . that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of.

    I’m glad I have no idea what most of this stuff is 😀 Living in almost total isolation is good for something.

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