Thursday, September 24, 2009

Online reviewers

I like to browse writers’ discussion boards. On one of these recently, I saw a topic where a new writer (printed through a vanity press) mentioned she had received a “Professional Review”. Capital letters and all. I was curious and checked this out, wondering if it was perhaps Kirkus Discoveries.

Unfortunately it wasn’t. That made me decide to write a little about some online reviewers who may provide praise for free but who are unlikely to do much else.

1. Ghostwriter Literary Reviews

Ghostwriter Literary Reviews has a webpage with a dark background that makes it difficult to read reviews, some of which are in a small pale font. There also flashy pixels that continually stream across the screen and are distracting. Their mission statement also doesn’t contribute to a professional appearance.

GhostWriters Literary Reviews, is mostly a group authors who are committed to helping other authors, others are avid readers who enjoy a good book, and though some may have literary credentials, most of us are just trying to help the less seasoned authors.

What’s odd is that they offer paid editing services. I wouldn’t pay anyone who constructed sentences such as the above.

We have criteria for book ratings, and very often will explain the problems found in the read to the author- before posting it. Some may not find this fair to potential buyers; however, if the review is not posted on our site, we can not recommend it.

What’s the difference between a review that is not posted on the website because Ghostwriter Literary Reviews cannot recommend it, and a review that is not posted on the website because no one has read the book (or has read it but not written a review)? How can readers tell the difference?

Anyway, a review site that refrains from posting negative reviews is not serving the needs of readers – at best. At worst, it’s an ego-stroking site for authors. And the vast majority of reviews on this site are four- and five-star reads which tend to be short and are unlikely to do the books justice.

2. Allbooks Review International

Allbooks Review International (is it just me or are the names of these sites a bit on the long and flowery side?) has a website that wasn’t easy to navigate when I was trying to get to the reviews. And in their “Review Showcase”, Fiction is a separate category from Mystery.

I’m also a bit leery of any review site which declares that it is “helping Authors” or calls itself a “your professional review and author promo source” – professional by whose standards?

On the plus side, though, these reviews do include the publisher’s name and cost of the book, which is more than the Ghostwriter reviews do. But I read a few reviews on each site to see how well they were written, and here's what Allbooks had to say about A Crucible of Innocence.

The author, Mr. Forsythe, has used his poetic gifts to create a special experience here. Reading this book is not something that can be done in an evening or on a weekend. It must be done with no timeframe of completion in mind.

So it’s the poetry version of The Never Ending Story?

It is written in a style where time must be taken for re-reading, contemplating, and savoring. Only a poet can do this.

Not the best way to attract readers who aren’t poets.

This book is recommended to any reader who wants for something more in a book. It is definitely not ‘popular’ fiction. It is not a ‘good read.’ It does make for great and worthwhile reading and that is what this reviewer seeks.

It’s possible that this book is highbrow and rarefied to the point where regular readers like me can’t understand it (the review also describes the genre as “poetic fiction”, whatever that is).

3. Million Dollar Books Reviews

I couldn’t even find a webpage for this one, so I looked them up on Amazon, where they have a profile and award books either four or five diamonds : <> <> <> <> <>

All the reviews except one are by Leandus Poe, described as “CEO/Author/Critic”. A couple of the reviews start out with gushing tributes from the reviewer about how wonderful it was to meet the author on MySpace, where the author went to college or about how fantastic a person they are. One ends with the prophesy that the author “is destine to make her mark on the world if she continues to write with this quality!”

After reading comments like “I could actually sense the emotion as being a true emotion and not a made up emotion”, I wouldn’t recommend this reviewer.

There are online reviewers who offer honest and meaningful reviews (All About Romance, SF Book Review, etc); there are others who offer empty flattery. And readers can tell the difference.


Anonymous said...


My favorite part was your commentary under the poetry review.

Marian Perera said...

Toned down quite a bit from my original reaction. :)

I wonder, do people who use these services (and then include the subsequent flattery on their websites) not know that it sounds hokey?

Or are they aware of this but hope the cachet of "Literary Review" or "Professional Review" will overcome that?

Hazra said...

Writer Beware, a segment of SFWA, has a list of such "professional" agencies. SFWA are geared more towards protecting aspiring writers from such frauds, but I guess they are useful for readers too.

colbymarshall said...

Don't stroke my ego! It's skittish! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the free press on my review site ladies.

Anonymous said...

Just because you're attending medical school you have a gigantic head...let some air out Marian

Mary Witzl said...

Wow. I had to read some of those blurbs half a dozen times and I still couldn't make head nor tail of them -- glad it isn't just me!

Free press? FREE PRESS? With free press like that, who needs negative critiques?

Marian Perera said...

Just FYI, Anonymous, I'm not attending medical school. I'm enrolled in a Medical Laboratory Science program.

Marian Perera said...

"Free press? FREE PRESS? With free press like that, who needs negative critiques?"

My thoughts as well, Mary. But perhaps Anonymous prefers negative feedback to (well-deserved) obscurity.