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March 30th, 2009

12:33 AM

Self publishing authors and reviews

Not to be mean here, but 99% of review sites that claim to honestly review self-published books are drivel. If you think Romantic Times-style of ra-ra-rah review is bad, wait until you see self-published review sites, where every book is oversold as the next (insert trendy Pultizer/Booker prize-winner's name here). It is amusing how these same people would turn their up their noses at mainstream writing, considering everything that ever charted on the NYT Bestseller lists as trash for mindless people, when at the same time they indiscriminately slobber over every self-published book that they are given to review. The only review sites I take seriously nowadays are POD People and PODBRAM.

But for the self-published author, such a comforting environment is good for the ego, but it also makes him ill-prepared to deal with the real world, where people are so mean and cruel to, gasp, find his book not up to par.

So we have N Frank Daniels, one of those guys who think the world needs another story of some white guy who battled drug addiction and triumphed, and his book was picked up by Harper in what is pretty much a POD Idol contest where you get your friends and families, oops, fans to vote for you as the winner. Hello, mainstream publishing. Hello, mainstream reviews. And N Frank Daniels is still experiencing culture shock as of February, as you can see from his overreaction to a mildly critical review ("See you at the reading. Make sure you introduce yourself Wyatt.") complete with grammatical and spelling mistakes. It doesn't help that some people in the POD community enable his behavior, because clearly, reviewers don't understand authors, yadda yadda yadda.

And then the other day I saw someone started a blog for reviews, with the specific selling point being that he is a self-published author himself, so he understands the pain and tribulations undergone by those poor fragile lambs in the business and as a result he can relate to them. In other words, he is writing reviews for these authors, not readers.

True, review don't sell books, but they aren't even pretending to mask the fact that they are writing reviews to convince readers to buy those books regardless of actual merit of those books. And they wonder why they find it so hard to attract casual readers to buy their books?

And finally, just for laugh, here is a most amusing thread in Lulu. Delusional author attempts to sell his work for $80.07, apparently because he went through "hazards" to write the book and therefore he couldn't price it as low as his other book (only $30, folks!). Some people pointed out that his writing is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors to the point of unreadability. Then, abruptly, the author insists that he is withdrawing the book from sale, only, he can't really withdraw it because he doesn't know how to, so there. Weird but too funny.

30 user comments.

Posted by LKCampbell:

Veinglory, I just found your kind comments. Thank you. Mr. Daniels has unfortunately proven why self published authors are looked down on. I guess he has not learned that insulting reviewers is not the way to build readership.
April 13th, 2009 @ 10:42 AM

Posted by Tuscan Capo:

At one point in his colorful and spell-check free commentary Frank wrote, "Try writing a book and getting it published then maybe somebody will give a fuck about your 'plight.'"

Frank, if your goal is to raise the bar in the field of Ignorant Slutdom then congratulations are in order! However, if your intention is to be the world's biggest prick tease, please don't tell! Readers of this blog might just DOA on the disappointment.
April 9th, 2009 @ 5:14 AM

Posted by Charles Emery:

I can attest for a fact that Mrs. G reads POD books, she reviewed mine. Look folks, when you write a book, poem or anything else there are going to be people that don't like your work and will say so. You need a thick skin in this business and try to see the others point of view, no matter how vicious it may be. I do my work knowing that I'm not Hemingway; I'm going to make errors and unless you are a deity of some sort, you will too. We are at a disadvantage as POD writers in that we do not have the resources (professionsl editing, etc) because, frankly, we do not have the $$$ to get it done. So we do what we can and we're going to have errors in grammar and punctuation in our work. Most people outside the publishing business will overlook minor errors and enjoy the story. Anyway, in this instance, I'm going with Mrs. G and veinglory on this one. Calm down folks and just keep writing and working on your stories, that's the only way we're ever going to come out on top.

Charles Emery
April 4th, 2009 @ 9:13 PM

Posted by POD Author:

I wasn't trying to bait you, Mrs G. I was trying to see if your argument has legs. It obviously doesn't. You can't cite a single POD book that supports your case because you obviously haven't read any. You now try to hide behind a reluctance to "name names", but you didn't mind naming N. Frank Daniels, did you? Why so coy now? Didn't expect him to respond in kind, I guess. Didn't expect anyone to call you on your non-argument. You've got nothing. Case closed.
April 4th, 2009 @ 7:11 AM

Posted by Frank:

Pity poor fucking you. Yout took the gloves off, I responded in kind. You assume that because I recieved a generous number of good reviews that my book was being soft-balled. It's a bullshit assumption. In the end, regardless of whether or not you name POD books that you find to have gotten soft-balled --in the end it doesn't matter because a critic is still just a critic and we all know what opinions are like. And 'pro' critics are a step below that. Its all subjective. Ive been slammed in a 'review' by Creative Loafing and that very same day had a reader send me an email tell me that my book had literally "saved [his] life." So whose opinion do you think meant more to me? Point is, you are going after people who already have two strikes against them and I find that malicious and sad that you can find nothing better to do than bash poorly written books that are labors of love and passion. It says everything about you that really needs to be said. Still, in the end, you never named a SINGLE book that you thought was given unfair good reviews. If you feel the need, veinglory, to hand out hatchet reviews for books that most people are never going to here about anyway, more power to you. But you arent doing anyone a favor. Youre just being a dick. "It gets tiring, it really does." Woe is you. Try writing a book and getting it published then maybe somebody will give a fuck about your 'plight.'
April 4th, 2009 @ 4:53 AM

Posted by veinglory:

As a p.s., I guess I just relate to how Mrs G feels as a reviewer who wants to support good self-publishers--and is not one myself.

For every wonderful professional like Eric Knapp and LK Campbell there is someone who will email to let me know I am a pornographer and will surely go to hell, or to hope I get breast cancer. Yes, both of those were self-published authors. Stereotype or no stereotype I don't get this kind of hostile and purile response from authors at Hatchette et al. Mostly because they don't really care what I say about their book so long as I show the cover.

But it gets tiring, it really does.
April 4th, 2009 @ 4:26 AM

Posted by veinglory:

"You ignorant slut" trumps "get off your high horse", meme or no meme.
April 4th, 2009 @ 4:19 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Henry, PODDY, and gang, you have to joking. If this is how you overreact, imagine how you will be react if I actually go all out and name names. If you ask me, the lot of you are trying way too obviously to bait me into fighting with you guys some more.

Seriously, if you really want to win and declare some kind of victory for yourself, I'm not stopping you. Frankie is already popping open the champagne, Henry. Feel free to join him. I'll let you all have the last word. Just... go away.
April 4th, 2009 @ 3:07 AM

Posted by Henry:

I don't know veinglory, some of this has been rough, but the response to POD Author saying "get off your high horse" when the person said something perfectly reasonable speaks of someone who enjoys being negative for the sake of it. It's an honest question: has she actually read the books that she think review sites are being too complementary about. If not, she can't really make the proclamation that reviewers are being too positive.
April 4th, 2009 @ 2:30 AM

Posted by veinglory:

I am sorry guys, but the one faceplanting here is not Mrs G. It is the people who, as usual, insist on living down to the reputation self-publishing in general has by a display of poor logic and bad manners.

@ Jane. I would suggest looking at LK Campbell's self-published romances if you haven't already. They have a kind of old-fashioned style but I think they hold their own with the mainstrean of romance publishing.
April 4th, 2009 @ 2:20 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Good lord.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 3:12 PM

Posted by Frank Daniels:

Wow. The POD Author above has pretty much made the best point of all. This IS a giant faceplant for Giggles. POD didnt ask you to name sites. POD asked you to name books that were oversold. Just as your rhetorical and analytical abilities are sorely lacking, you also seem to have severe comprehension problems. I think all of us have 'won' here except for you--which is pretty sad considering you started this mess and then had your ass handed to you. TOTAL FAIL. Giggity=0, Rest of World capable of holding debate based on evidence and normal back-and-forth idea flow=19. You start a blog by saying that POD book review sites are 99% shit, then don't have the balls to try to back up that claim or really defend any of the ludicrous shit you say. So sure, we'll leave. Your site's a joke. More importantly YOU are a joke.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 2:55 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Evidence for what? "Lying"? I'm talking about POD-centric review sites that oversell and overpraise the books they review as the best thing ever. You want me to name names? It's so obvious what websites I am talking about and if I do call them out, I will only have more delusional people like you coming here to pollute the peace in my blog.

If you think you have won, then just savor your victory and go somewhere else to play. I'm done humoring twits like you.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 2:27 PM

Posted by POD Author:

Falling off MY high horse? That’s rich. This whole post is turning into one giant, slow motion face plant for you, Mrs G. You can still recover some dignity if you take the opportunity I’ve given you to present some EVIDENCE for your claims. I want specific examples of POD books you’ve actually read that have been lied about – sorry, "oversold" – in their reviews. Or haven't you read any?
April 3rd, 2009 @ 2:20 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Frank, darling, your lack of self-awareness is dazzling. You honestly think I will respond seriously to your post?
April 3rd, 2009 @ 1:38 PM

Posted by Frank Daniels:

I proved your point beautifully? Sounds like a response from someone who has no valid response. You used this same technique a few comments above with Kristen. Might want to add another tool or two to the old arsenal. Pathetic.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 12:50 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

"Overselling" and "lying" are two different things. Try not to overreach or you may fall off your high horse, honey.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 11:49 AM

Posted by POD Author:

Mrs G -- No one disputes there are a lot of positive reviews for POD books out there, and reps of those sites can explain why: they only review the good ones. But you seem to be accusing these reviewers of lying. You say they "indiscriminately slobber over every self-published book" and are, basically, posting positive reviews of POD books that are demonstrably shit. Can you give us some examples? And please don't just say, "Oh, look at any POD review site and you'll find plenty!" I want to know which POD books you've read and found unworthy of their reviews.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 11:28 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Frank, baby, you proved my point beautifully. Thank you!
April 3rd, 2009 @ 10:26 AM

Posted by Frank Daniels:

willingly misinformed and makes you look like the asshole you obviously are. Methinks I see the seeds of a failed writer in you. So you come out here in the blogosphere and bash anybody else who still has the balls to kick against the picks to get their work recognized. You are pathetic. I have absolutely no respect for you or anyone trying to sell the type of shit you are peddling. In the end it doesn't mean a goddam thing if there are POD reviewers handing out soft-ball reviews. The only way any book, self-published or not, realy has a chance to make it is through word of mouth. I didn't sell a thousand self-published copies of futureproof because I have a thousand friends. I do not. Those readers, and the thousands of readers who have since bought the Harper version of my novel did so because somebody told somebody else it was worth reading. Find a fucking real issue and make a scene with that. On this issue you are dead in the water. There is no point in posting a negative review of a self-published book. Not because these writers need their fucking egos stroked, but because as a self-published author you start out with everyone believing your writing sucks. For someone to post a negative review of your POD book is just salt in the wound, and honestly makes the reviewer come across as the asshole he or she obviously is. I dont go to a self published review site to read bad reviews. If a book is that bad nobody will ever hear about it anyway. PODdy Mouth was the first, and her example still stands the test of time. Review the books you find have some merit, let your silence on those that do not speak in volumes. Two thumbs down to you, Giggles. And a couple of raised middle fingers.
April 3rd, 2009 @ 2:31 AM

Posted by Frank Daniels:

Giggles, you ignorant slut.

As one Kristen already alluded to, when somebody attempts to write a coherent piece on a given topic, then peppers the piece with complete bullshit throughout, it's hard to take any of what might have been some valid points seriously at all. You called the CL review of my novel "mildly" critical--let me quote this douchebag: " Mildly amusing chapters about Dragon*Con or Nirvana or cooking crack might as well be unrelated blog posts, especially when paired with banal insights such as "The Acid is really fucking good." Taken in whole, Daniels' novel is just as unfocused and messy as the drug addicts within its pages. That isn't a clever metaphor. It's just bad writing." There was not one positive thing said about futureproof in that "review" (and I use the term "review" loosely, as that was nothing close to what a book review should be, as I noted in the comments beneath the article, and won't bother reiterating here on what a critical review NEEDS to consist of), so for you to call me out as reactionary over its "mild" criticism is willingly obtuse on your part. Yeah, I get it: you have a point to make, but I will be goddamned if you are going to make it on my back. I fucking broke my ass writing and then trying to publish futureproof. I literally lost everything in the process. So my reaction to this dipshit at Creative Loafing fronting as a serious book reviewer had nothing to do with being "thin-skinned." It had everything to do with wanting someone who is getting paid to analyze lit to actually do his fucking job. Same goes for you (though my instinct tells me that you aren't getting paid dick for this pathetic attempt at a conversation-starter of a blog.) I didn't win some kind of fucking American Idol-esque competition for my Harper deal. No such contest exists. For you to belittle the trials I went through in trying to find readers for my book by straight-up saying it was "friends and family" who made my book popular is willingl
April 3rd, 2009 @ 2:29 AM

Posted by Kristen:

Never mind. Until you actually have anything to say, Kristen, I'm not going to start splitting hairs with you.
April 2nd, 2009 @ 11:25 PM

Posted by Kristen:

"Did you just rebut my use of hyperbole and judgmental generalization with one of your own?"

Did I? Where?
April 2nd, 2009 @ 10:30 PM

Posted by Jane Smith:

Ooops--I was chopped off in my prime, there. Here's the rest of what I had to say:

My intentions aren’t to upset self-published writers: I’d honestly love to find a few good self-published books. But from the evidence that the self-publishing community has itself presented to me, the books are bad, and the authors are either silent or argumentative; and neither the writing, nor the argumentative writers, have a hope of succeeding in the mainstream publishing business, which I have worked in for over a quarter of a century now.

And just in case I’ve not upset you all to the point of conniptions, here’s a link to my main blog, How Publishing Really Works, in which I bang on about the complexities of the publishing world and yet somehow manage to hang onto a few followers, despite my frequent dullness:

April 2nd, 2009 @ 8:30 PM

Posted by Jane Smith:

Like Henry, I also run the Self-Publishing Review:

My little blog predates his site by some months!

Some time ago I was criticised for saying that most self-published books were dreadful, over on my other main blog (link below). So I decided to test myself, and offered to review all self-published or vanity-published books sent to me—but with conditions. I’d look at them from the point of view of the mainstream editor I once was, and stop reading if I didn’t think the book was good enough.

Knowing how nebulous that phrase “good enough” is, though, I provided rules: I’d count the errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation, the lapses in logic, and the instances of sloppy, dull or confusing writing; and once I got to fifteen, I’d stop reading (when I was a mainstream editor I wouldn’t have been nearly so accommodating), and announce in my blog how many pages I’d read.

In addition to the books which have already appeared on my blog, I’ve got a couple of months’ worth of reviews scheduled to appear. Sadly, I’ve only read ONE of those books right to the end.

I’ve been argued with by authors who, I suspect, live in the world that Mrs G described when she wrote, “the review culture of the self-publishing industry does not cultivate self-analysis, much less self-awareness. Which is why, more often than not, too many self-published authors behave like thugs in the face of a review that is even a little critical. They are too used to having their egos stoked - they believe their own hype.”

If I don’t read past page six of a book that’s over 400 pages long, then getting me to change my mind over one of the problems that I found isn’t going to suddenly transform the remaining 394 pages into brilliant prose.

My intentions aren’t to upset self-published writers: I’d honestly love to find a few good self-published books. But from the evidence that the self-pub
April 2nd, 2009 @ 8:28 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Did you just rebut my use of hyperbole and judgmental generalization with one of your own?
April 2nd, 2009 @ 7:31 AM

Posted by Kristen:

You had me until this:

"It is amusing how these same people would turn their up their noses at mainstream writing, considering everything that ever charted on the NYT Bestseller lists as trash for mindless people, when at the same time they indiscriminately slobber over every self-published book that they are given to review."

After that flagrantly hyperbolic and judgmental generalization (as much as I can understand why you would want to write it; frustration does that), I figured I couldn't really trust the rest of what you had to say. Many of the self-publishers and self-published would all too happily praise good fiction. But I think they're also simply expressing their impatience at seeing good fiction passed over by agents and publishers for so long it ends up being self-published, and - at the same time - finding god-awful, big-name Published, fiction on bookstore shelves.
April 2nd, 2009 @ 2:51 AM

Posted by Cheryl Anne Gardner:

I don’t think that mrsgiggles’ comments were meant to turn this into a cock-fight. We have a unified purpose, and that is to assist the Indie-publishing community at large, and from a reader-centric standpoint, find excellent books we can talk about and pass along. How each of our sites manages to that purpose is a little different, but all equally valid. Yes, The Pod People site doesn’t do a review a day, a review a week, or even a review a month sometimes. Out of the emails we receive, from individuals and PR firms, only a properly formatted query or press release gets looked at, and out of those, maybe one in ten fits our genres of interest/expertise, and maybe one in twenty of those captures our attention enough to read it and review it. So yes, we are spare, but like word-count, quantity doesn’t always equate to quality.
I agree with Emily. While hers was/is a reader-centric goal, my personal goal and reason for joining the peeps was not to help someone sell a book, either. Selling a book is a completely different ball game. My goal was and is more academic in nature, to help authors look at their work with a critical and analytical eye, just as someone helped me once with a detailed and well-balanced review of my manuscript. Not to mention that our site is news, views, and reviews, so we aim to keep that balanced as well. And “Scathing” is a rather subjective term; what’s scathing to one author might be construed as constructive to another. It’s all in how you say it. My own work has been reviewed positively, negatively, and not at all after submission. Why should our sites be reviewed any differently? Some will like us, some won’t. Whatever the adjective used to describe our reviews or our sites is completely reader-centric, and every reader is different. We need to keep that in mind and focus on our purpose.
April 1st, 2009 @ 11:55 PM

Posted by veinglory:

The goal of Pod People is only secondarily to help anyone sell a book. As the founder, I read but do not write self-published books. My goal was to identify books readers might like, from the point of view of a reader. I think Mrs G has a point about the goal of the review site. Those that aim primarily to promote differ from those that aim primarily to inform readers, even though all of the review sites do both to some extent.

As for not publishing many reviews. Pod People has published 115 reviews of self-published books. Other post them faster, but longevity does count for something in the blog game.
April 1st, 2009 @ 10:49 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Which makes my point about how self-published reviews seem geared toward authors, whether it's for constructive purposes or anything else.

Incidentally, I was talking about reviews that try very hard to oversell a book by praising it to a level that is very unrealistic. Interesting that some of you guys are assuming that I am talking about scathing reviews. I wouldn't include PODBRAM if that is what I'm talking about - their reviews are (to me) fair, balanced, and realistic, with the reviewers pointing out the most significant flaws in a book without raking the author through hot coals.
April 1st, 2009 @ 10:50 AM