Anne Rice Vs Amazon: more on reviews (with flowchart)

Anne Rice, among others, is calling for Amazon reviewers to be forced to give their real identities. ‘The Interview with the Vampire author is a signatory to a new petition calling on Amazon to remove anonymity from its reviewers in order to prevent the “bullying and harassment” it says is rife on the site,’ says The Guardian.

There’s no point going into the stupidity of this because it won’t happen. It would cause the number of Amazon reviews to drop like a rock (silencing not just those who don’t want to be harassed, but also anyone who doesn’t want their parents, partner or potential employer to see what they’re reading), and if there’s one thing Amazon likes other than gouging for gigantic discounts and exploiting workers, it’s onsite reviews. So that’s not what I want to talk about here. What I’m baffled by is…

Anne Rice reads her Amazon reviews and gets upset by them.

Think about that for a moment. Anne Rice, who bestrode 1980s fiction like a colossus, with estimated global sales of 100 million copies, a movie with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas and Christian Slater, a career spanning over 35 years – Anne Rice reads her Amazon reviews and gets upset by them.

I can’t italicize this enough. Anne Rice, who presumably has enough in the bank to spend the rest of her life on holiday, instead hunches over her computer and reads Amazon reviews. And gets upset. And encourages her own fans to attack negative reviews, because she cares that someone called HissingSid32 says stuff like:

I didn’t like this book because it was boring. That’s all that needs to be said. It was very very very very very very very very very very very boring. If you have to read this book shoot yourself first.

Oh, sorry, that’s not an Amazon review of Anne Rice, it’s of Anne Frank. That was what someone posted about Diary of a Young Girl.

Here are some other Amazon reviews:

I actually found it impossible to like or even dislike any character in this story. Everyone is quite boring, 1-dimensional, and stale. The result: an 800 page “masterpiece” about characters that are impossible to care about. (Anna Karenina)

 

I hated having reasonably high expectations for a so-called classic, only to have to suffer through a drab chain of non sequitur events, thoroughly lacking any explanations at all. (1984)

 

A great read if you suffer from attention deficit disorder, as the author must. That, or you’re a crackhead. Skips from one scene to another with no transitions, and no unity in plot. A disaster. (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

 

Amazon reviews for the best books you can think of all include this sort of genius. Go on, try it yourself, find me one single acknowledged masterpiece on Amazon.com without a one-star review. And it’s worth noting that these books have managed to struggle on, somehow, despite HissingSid32’s opinion. Anne Rice evidently feels her position is less secure.

Of course Ms Rice says she doesn’t want to stifle negative reviews or critical comment. She only want to silence the “gangster bullies” who the petition’s creator acknowledges are a “tiny minority” of Amazon users. But even if we take this at face value, she wants everyone to have to identify themselves publicly if they are to comment on a book, because of a handful of trolls who – and I can’t stress this enough – she chooses to read and to engage with in the first place.

The very definition of using a sledgehammer to crack some nuts.

 

In the hope of resolving this problem, I present a handy flowchart.

How Authors Should Deal with Negative Amazon Reviews

Image

 

KJ Charles doesn’t read Amazon/Goodreads reviews or harass reviewers, so say what you like about Remnant, a free story written with Jordan L Hawk and coming out 11 March!

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48 thoughts on “Anne Rice Vs Amazon: more on reviews (with flowchart)

  1. And I like Rice’s earlier works. I have yet to read anything she has written after he husband died, but own one in my TBR pile. I think I would take a different approach. I’d want to encourage people who enjoyed my book to leave reviews. Encourage the positive, ignore the negative “trolls.”
    There are times when I think a good story doesn’t have enough good reviews. It felt like only the negatives wanted their voices heard. So, I’ve committed myself to leaving positive reviews for the books I enjoy starting this year. That is me.
    As a reader I do care how books are rated. It skews the “recommended” books which is what I often use to find new authors. This impacts the visibility of an author too, but I’ll let them fret over that. I do what I can. If I loved a book, I leave a review. Again, that my choice.

    Would I read reviews of my book (hypothetically). Probably. If I got to be a household name like Rice…I doubt it. Would I respond in any way or go her route? I highly, highly doubt it. I can’t say for sure, because insanity may run in my family. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
    • I love people who bother to leave reviews of any kind. Engaging with books, having a conversation, talking to others is so important. I never read/respond to Amazon and GR reviews myself (for reasons I’ve blogged about elsewhere), but I appreciate it hugely.

      I only tend to review positively because I don’t review DNFs (many do, that’s just my thing) and I don’t often finish books I don’t like. So I probably look like Pollyanna Positive on Goodreads, but hey. As you say, encourage the good.

      Reply
  2. I’m doing a panel on “Handling Criticism” at RainbowCon–if you have a larger version of the flowchart I can print, I’d love to hand it out. That way my part of the panel will consist of something more than just “Don’t read reviews. I don’t and yet my life has continued on. So will yours.” ;)

    Reply
  3. Rice’s idea is utterly ridiculous. You’re so right, most readers would never comment with their own names. Even if you don’t care if others know what you are reading (and it’s not just parents, it could be employers, neighbors, co-workers, your church, or just anyone you don’t necessarily want to know about what you’re into reading about!) there’s the whole issue of people who don’t like your reviews stalking you in the real world!

    I had to laugh at your examples above at bad review of great literature. Particularly the one about Anne Frank, which so sounds like some teenager forced to read the book for school ;-D

    Reply
  4. Damn, that was brilliant! You would think, as you indicated, that someone as accomplished as she is would have thicker skin. This is such a bad idea and utterly ridiculous. Did you forward this on to her? If she cares so much, she definitely should read this. Open her eyes to some common sense.

    Again — BRILLIANT!!!
    :-D

    Reply
    • Thank you!

      I think once an author is attacking people for leaving Amazon reviews, common sense has shut up shop and gone home, and the best thing to do is not engage at all. Nothing to be gained!

      Reply
  5. We are in the era of thin skins, wounded feelings, and “ME” as the center of the world. It all plays into the ego supports of trolls.

    Reply
    • Although I’m reading a book about famous Victorian opera singers now (what, don’t judge me) and it seems that quite a few very famous musicians stopped composing and withdrew from the world because of bad reviews. Nothing changes…

      Reply
  6. I’ve shared this super awesome flowchart on my FB timeline. Though I assume that certain authors (aka the ones needing this flowchart) probably won’t be reading your most excellent post. Common sense is so elusive these days.

    Good work. Will now check out your books.

    Reply
  7. Well she may have been ranting about reviews for a decade, but, this latest is timed perfectly to generate buzz for her announcement that she is returning to writing her vampire books and will be releasing “Prince Lestat” (It think that was the title). Convenient?

    And, I’m sorry, but a petition against reviewers is fine for Rice to sign (no relation, I swear) because if she never got another customer product opinion on retail sites again (even if older ones were pulled) it would have no effect on her sales, popularity or career. A lot of lesser known and indie authors, judging by their passionate for/against stances, do rely on reader’s reviewing and sharing those reviews for book discoverability and to develop a fan base.

    I wish Rice would take time away from the forums, the reviews and the petitions to actually spend some time with and hear research from bully prevention and internet safety groups.

    Reply
  8. Just as an aside to what you’re saying here can I say that I get irrationally angry at the appropriation of the word “bullying”? I fully acknowledge that the anonymity of the internet has allowed people to troll like they have never trolled before BUT I think that A) the word “troll” often gets misapplied and B) “bullying” has somehow gone from being a serious issue that can carry devastating consequences for victims to the battle cry of the butthurt.

    A person is not a “troll” or a “hater” (and oh how I hate how THAT word gets applied online) because they dislike something. You don’t think Wayne Brady is funny? OMG how dare you! You’re such a hater. You’d rather have a root canal than listen to even one note of a Miley Cyrus song? You’re just jealous because Miley is better than you’ll ever be. Everyone and their mother loves a book. You read the book and for whatever reason you just can’t feel the love. You write a review detailing YOUR reading experience and explaining why the book didn’t work for YOU. The next thing you know, the author and the author’s fans have assembled their torches and pitchforks and descended upon your review ready to rumble because how dare you not bow down in the presence of such literary greatness! They then proceed to tell you how very, very wrong you are, what a horrid little troll you are, how you just aren’t smart enough to “get it”, and how sad your life must be that you spend your time “bullying” poor authors on the internet instead of doing something constructive.

    Oh and you’re jealous. Because disliking something on the internet immediately means you’re jealous. Those are just the rules.

    I absolutely understand how much it can hurt to put every ounce of heart into creating something and only to have someone dislike and dismiss it. But you can’t please all of the people, all of the time and you can’t expect everyone to love your work. There will be people who dislike it. They may even dislike it for reasons that you don’t think are fair or valid. But that’s their right. And it’s okay. There are other readers. There are other reviewers. Focus on the positive. It makes for a much more pleasant experience for everyone.

    *sorry for the novel length reply. Apparently I had a lot of feelings lol*

    Reply
    • That’s not irrational anger. I know people permanently scarred by the legacy of actual bullying. Voluntarily choosing to read reviews and start fights with people who write them is not the same thing as being bullied, *ever*. And, as it happens, one of the people dearest to me was made the victim of actual cyber bullying – as in, the kind where you have to go off the internet or anonymise because of people hunting you down and defacing pictures of you and stuff. So I endorse the hell out of this comment. And also plan to appropriate the phrase “the battle cry of the butthurt” as my own.

      Reply
  9. I don’t knowingly buy, read or review books from authors who consider that a star rating or a book review makes them a victim of bullying and entitled to all attendant sympathy, support, compassion and legal remedies. So, for that, I am grateful for the petition for identifying authors I need to avoid bullying with my reading experiences.

    I find it loathsome and despicable to demean bully and stalker victims by equating a negative review falling within site guidelines (which prohibit attacks and either remove or turn over to law enforcement when found) with bullying. Or to tell the public they should give up privacy in order to go online and participate anywhere.

    Or to let pet journalists (another amazon forum discussion) call readers explaining real life stalker problems (including some with court records as proof) paranoid, schoolchildren, bullying and preying on the weak — not that it’s particularly bright of either one to be calling posters bullies based on messages in that thread being voted down (amazon does not display who voted on a forum message or a review, could be lurkers or Rice’s legions). About as bright as not recognizing that a good number of the posters on that “top reviewers” forum thread were authors, or that there were posts amazon found bad enough to delete before or after they were downvoted — most posts from the author we were supposedly bullies preying on (who had already been banned from other book communities and spent jail time for stalking, pedophilia and other charges) were deleted by amazon, particularly the ones where he though he recommended defendants in two of his stalker cases but kept mixing up the attacks he usually made on them (it makes for a confusing thread to read because of deleted comments but he actually thanked someone for reminding him that person a was the one he usually made fun of her disabled child and person b was the one he meant to make fun of as an ugly fat … ).

    Of course, while also known for using sockpuppet accounts, that particular author was posting in the forum under their “real name.” A point also ignored by a Rice and her fan page writer who had asked for reviewer comments in order to write reviewer’s side article. Somehow using his “real name” in the forum did not stop him from mocking and threatening reviewers (and a child) publicly even after court battles and jail time. But, duh, somehow that proves Rice’s point that reviewers were bullying weaker posters in that thread (again, amazon deleted posts so must have agreed did not add to discussion or are currently turning over to law enforcement) and that by forcing everyone to use “real names” no one would attack anyone … Surreal.

    Reply
    • That sounds disturbing on an epic level. And you may well be right in your earlier comment about timing/publicity. Consider me kicking myself for that.

      Reply
  10. Awesome post. I love your “Anne Rice reads her Amazon reviews and gets upset by them.” It’s quite ridiculous that she does. Your flowchart is cursing BookLikes and will sail the world. I’m sure. I’m really looking forward to reading your work with Jordan. Btw I would pay for that. ;)

    Reply
    • Ahaha. Well, if it steers one person away from the broad and inviting path to doom, then my maths teacher’s efforts to make me grasp basic diagrams will not have been in vain.

      Reply
  11. I’m now obsessively reading other one star reviews for classics on Amazon:

    Huxley has no grasp on reality.
    It’s his attempt to tie himself to Shakespeare.
    Dont waste a second even reading the forward…
    Use this book for fire-starter at a cub scout camp-out.
    Enough said..
    Brave New World

    As an insight into the mind set of Georgian “Society”, (which persists today in our monarchy, their hangers on and sycophants) there is, perhaps some merit. However, I wasn’t impressed with the literary style and I wouldn’t consider it a “classic”. Pride and Prejudice

    This book should not be placed in the same class with other “classic” authors who deserve their place. This book is a bore, the main character is a whiny cry-baby and the book goes nowhere for a long time. Jane has a very thick skull and all the obvious things fly over her head. This book should not be a classic, and I do not understand why it is one.

    This may be my new hobby…

    Reply
  12. Thank you so much for these posts. I had a bad experience with a newbie author whose unedited book I reviewed (if I had known it was unedited I would have skipped it); the response I got from the author left me with no desire to read anything at all this past week. I’ve been terrified of trying something new and disliking it. Your post and the free story come at an excellent time for me – because I trust your work (and Jordan L Hawk’s) and because you don’t read Goodreads reviews, I finally have something I feel safe reading. Thank you so much for that.

    Reply
    • That’s horrible for you. I’m so sorry. The majority of authors really do have more sense/ humility/ humanity than to go valkyrie on negative reviews and I hope you won’t feel discouraged by one stupid and unpleasant person. People who talk about books are the most important thing in the world for writers, and trying to stifle that conversation is dumb beyond belief.

      Reply
  13. I’ll defend forever the right of people to be anonymous on the internet. Of course it allows some people to troll and threaten, but more importantly it allows people to speak out who need anonymity to protect themselves. There is a price for most things. So trying to tear down such an important freedom over something as basically trivial as reviews is ridiculous.

    Reply
  14. Becky, is that your teddy bear? It’s adorable. Sorry, I’ve already gone all teddy bear on Jordan’s page, I’m just going to start making them again so now when I see one I zoom in on it. It has the cutest little face. Very off topic. So many look grumpy, though, and yours looks friendly.

    One must remember that Anne Rice is the same woman who declared she no longer needed an editor. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it is a publicity stunt for her new book, Deborah. Beware the author who protest too much before announcing major project? Negative publicity is free publicity, especially when you can play the victim.

    That is truly awesome, though–“She reads her Amazon reviews and gets upset.” I wrote a review on Etsy about a seam ripper being smaller than I’d thought it would be and it being the perfect size for mouse dueling. I truly hope the woman who sold it to me didn’t get upset. I did say it would work for what I needed it for…seam ripping.

    And the flow chart–perfect–I immediately flashed back to 8th grade programming with an Apple IIe (if you don’t know what that is, it was a pre iMac, a very necessary evolutionary step. Just don’t go download Mactracker). I made so many of those things. As a screen saver I had “Shall we play a game?” up for a little while until it startled me one day because I thought it was really asking. Don’t–let’s just not go there.

    The crux of the problem is that what Anne Rice is doing, and encouraging to be done, is being done already by too many authors on Goodreads, on a very nasty level, and often simply because of the genre they write, or some other petty detail. It’s like children on the playground, except the children are often better behaved. The sock puppet issue is rampant; a woman told me she had ten and didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with that.

    And Shelley has entirely valid points when it comes to bullying, cyber and in real life. I have thought about that a lot. I talked to our neighbor’s daughter, who is eleven, and a whole other aspect of the issue came up–she needed me to fix her tablet and we were talking, and she started talking about her ‘friends’ giving her a hard time. That was a whole dimension I hadn’t considered–it’s already hard enough to report being bullied, knowing there will be repercussions, but if they’re your friends (at least they’re the group who have “let you in”). Another flaw in the reporting system. I told her to go to an adult if it ever felt like too much, because at that point she didn’t really care, or to come talk to me or her mom or anyone. And it occurred to me after she left that the system teaches kids to be better bullies. It starts the ball rolling on the system of petty tyranny. Oh. This isn’t my blog. I shouldn’t rant. Ranting is what I do on my poor neglected blog.

    Some people are just never happy with where they are. Maybe Anne Rice would be better off playing Candy Crush.

    Reply
    • “Becky, is that your teddy bear? It’s adorable. Sorry, I’ve already gone all teddy bear on Jordan’s page, I’m just going to start making them again so now when I see one I zoom in on it. It has the cutest little face. Very off topic. So many look grumpy, though, and yours looks friendly.”

      Yep, I own that bear. It’s a barista bear from Starbucks. Wearing the standard “uniform” of Statbuck’s boys – chinos and a white polo shirt. And his green apron of course, with real pockets. I haven’t got him trained to bring me coffee yet though.

      Reply
  15. Last ones I swear:

    I dont like Dr.Suess books because they bore the heack out of me. The illistrations were lame,but after a while of constantly staring at them in discust, they were just really funny. Because they werefunny,Igave them 2 stars.

    He gave it 1*

    This book is SOOOOOOOO annoying! What’s the deal with all the rhyming? That got on my last nerve. I can’t believe this book is a children’s “classic”. This book does for childrens’ books what Jim Jones did for children’s drinks (kool-aid, that is).

    both for Green Eggs and Ham

    By Kayla Hunt – Published Author
    It’s a story about fishing out on the Gulf Stream. An old man has had bad luck and hasn’t caught a fish for 85 days. I felt like I had been reading the book for 85 days. The novel is 128 pages but feels like it’s five times that size and refuses to end. The old man (and young boy that cares for him) sails his boat farther then normal and he hooks a fish bigger then any fish of his life. The story drags on to the end. I recommend this novel for two types of people; fishermen that are obsessed over the hobby or people that have a insomnia. The only benefit I got from this book was a new, quick way to fall asleep.

    Am sure you can guess this one – I just love that the reviewer has “published author” as her title. She did leave a 5* review for her own work however:


    Inspired by George Orwell’s novel, 1984; Caged Eagles takes place in about 2075. The government has deteriorated to the point of socialism. The passion felt by all the characters is inspiring, whether they are fighting for love, acceptance, or freedom. Readers tell me the beginning is slow. I feel this pace symbolizes the main character’s life before he learns about the last rebellion.
    The second half of the book is impossible for readers to put down, including me. I’ve honestly read this book over twenty times and I still get goosebumps when I read the end.
    The story has a lot of dialogue between characters. The points of view shift at times to provide a broader understanding of the characters and their lives.
    I wrote this book ten years ago, based off the way our government’s policies and procedures were evolving. It’s haunting how the stories found in this novel are materializing into reality. Out of the dozens of manuscripts I’ve written and hundreds of books I’ve read this is my favorite novel.

    And now I have to back away from the internet….

    Reply
    • Oh my God I really want to review my own books like that. ‘I was hooked to discover if they could possibly survive! Even though I wrote it!’

      However, I concur you need to stop doing this now, the crazy may spread.

      Reply
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  17. I agree with Ms. Rice. Writers don’t write strictly for money, they write to be read. As an author who has had her free books attacked by trolls, I understand completely. This is a group of bullies who attack books that are highly ranked simply because they can and they can do it anonymously. Even when they haven’t read the books. This is painful for any author. Why should people be allowed to attack without posting their real name? I agree with Ms. Rice and I have signed the petition. I hope Amazon will listen.

    Reply
    • We’ll have to agree to differ, I fear, though I appreciate you putting your view across.

      In my view the chilling effect of making people use their real names would be disastrous for authors. Imagine the effects on reviews of erotica, gay fiction, books on sensitive topics (advice books for teenagers confused about their sexuality, or for people in abusive relationships, or books for people with medical conditions they don’t want to proclaim). Nobody would review anything they wouldn’t want to be seen reading, for fear of *actual* bullies, the kind you can’t just not read. How long before teenagers started stalking Amazon to see what their disliked classmate had reviewed, and mocking them for anything remotely personal? How long before the first employer started checking?

      A whole swathe of books would lose reviews, impacting both the authors and the information out there for readers. That’s a big price to pay to silence a few people. Particularly when you can avoid them entirely simply by not clicking.

      I’m really sorry you had a bad experience, and it sounds horrible, but I can only say, if you don’t read Amazon/Goodreads reviews, you will never know. Personally, I trust readers to make their own minds up and discount unfair bad reviews. I do that when I’m looking at a book, I bet you do, and I’m pretty sure most readers do it too.

      Again, thanks for commenting, and putting your point of view.

      Reply
  18. Pingback: Linkspam: 03/14/14 — The Radish.

  19. I was thinking about this today and realised that I’d actually be less “accountable” if I had to review under my real name on Amazon or Goodreads or whatever. My real name means little to most people out there on the internet who don’t know me personally. I’d be just another punter reviewing. I could leave a harsh review and basically, whaddya gonna do about it? About the only place on the Internet I’ve got my real name is Facebook and it’s pretty easy not to see stuff I don’t want to see on there.

    On the other hand if I use my pen name, that links me to my books. People know I’ve potentially got a dog in this fight. If I leave a harsh review I risk a revenge review, or having a writer’s minions coming after me across various sites on the internet with my pen name on them. If I leave a lot of harsh reviews on my “rivals”, or a load of 5* reviews for people I’m known to be friendly with on the net then people will make their own judgement about how impartial those reviews are.

    So yeah, the real name thing is flawed anyway, along with all it’s other issues.

    Reply
  20. This blog is made of pure win. I love the flow chart.

    Oh and my favourite ever one star review on Amazon is this for Jane Eyre: “got it cause it was free, i promptly deleted it. was really not my cup of tea. you get what you pay for…”

    You get what you pay for. Classic :)

    Reply
  21. I love this! I love reading Amazon reviews, in fact I often read 1 star reviews because they often indicate something that might be a ‘deal breaker’ for me. When the author shows up to lambast those reviews, yep, that’s a deal breaker for me. I’m sure it’s saved me money!

    Reply
  22. Well, you just got a 5 star Amazon review from me and I’m desperately waiting for the next in the series. The Magpie Lord has such potential, and I’ll happily break my usual pattern of not ordering in advance for when the next one comes out!

    Must get round to reviewing ‘Possession’ too, which I thought took the story to another level.

    Excellent stuff and not just a sex story, intelligent and gripping stuff!

    Reply
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  25. The deliciousness of a Vampire book authors being unable to see her reflection as the very bully she decries is almost too much goodness. Anne Rice’s history bears her out as someone unable to withstand criticism (she even gave the heave-ho to editors who would dare to sully her precious text), and her claims to welcome “authentic” critical reviews is a charade.

    The notion that requiring names on Amazon would have any effect on the reviewing landscape is ludicrous. Amazon would never verify in a way that’s air tight, and those who want to troll would remain free to troll; the damage would only be to those who have perfectly legitimate reasons to remain pseudonymous. Even were Amazon to require DNA, the rest of the internet would welcome the diaspora of Amazon refugees.

    Anne Rice grew as an author in a different age, and can’t seem to cope with the wired world as it is today. Agents and publishers no longer intermediate or control the relationship with reviewers, and readers can easily speak to each other peer to peer. Rice seems to feel entitled to insert herself in conversations between reviewers and readers (which is more often than not conversations between a reviewer-readers and readers) to which she was not invited. At a minimum it’s rude, and in many cases it’s quite destructive.

    Reply

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