Saturday, 19 May 2012

Cally Phillips is reviewing the situation




Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Yes of course. But what credence do we give to it?

Opinion after all is defined as ‘belief  based on grounds short of proof’, a ‘view held as probable’ and where it is personal opinion these are the beliefs/views of one person. Not proof. Not evidence.  Nothing necessarily critical or objective or even based on any relevant grounds.  That’s the thing about opinions. We’re all entitled to them, but they don’t have to be worth much. For them to have a value they need to be based on something more.  The tag line of my last novel Brand Loyalty is ‘reality is what you choose to believe’  so you might imagine, I’ve thought, and written about this quite extensively.  My opinions and reasoned judgements are converted into narrative form in order to address the issue.  If you really want to look deeper, I suggest you read it.  That’s my opinion and recommendation. BUT…

Whereas you probably wouldn’t take the opinion of a person you’d never met and knew nothing about in a whole range of other situations, for some reason it seems to be acceptable in the world of books. And especially now in the world of ebooks.  If someone came up to me and said ‘monkey brains are tasty,’ I’d probably think twice before taking them up on the offer.  If someone said ‘buy a Porsche it’s a really good investment,’ I’d also think twice. If they said ‘this is the best investment in the world,’ I’d want a bit more information on both them and the investment opportunity.  If you question (as you should) why you should take my word that Brand Loyalty is any good, you might also question why you would take anyone else’s opinon.  Yet currently it seems we all gaze like rabbits in the headlights, convinced that reviews on sites set up to shift product or ‘sell’ (yes, even social networks are there to sell – just sometimes more obliquely) are worth the virtual paper they are written on.

Wake up your critical faculties folks. Before it’s too late. (This is another plug for Brand Loyalty by the way.)

Time is money.

In February I put my time where my mouth was and set up the Indie Ebook Review site. It was deliberately set up as a challenge to the Amazon ratings/review system. (and others of that ilk that are springing up everywhere) Since then I’ve been amazed how many times people want our reviews to be added to the Amazon ratings (do people not get irony?). But beyond that, the site offers a serious choice.  You can trawl through Amazon listings and ratings and find stuff you like OR you can go to IEBR and have someone offer you a selection as a start point. We aim to narrow the field down a little bit. The IEBR site has no financial impetus and no axes to grind. That unsettles a lot of people. Too good to be true? No, just a personal belief in the value of informed choice. 

What’s a good review then?

Reviews in general are getting a bad review just now. Because anyone can write anything (and do) on Amazon/Goodreads and the like, they are a cause of stress and confusion. People believe that the good ones are ‘rigged’ and the bad ones put them off reading the work they are looking at. Trolls abound whose purpose seems to be to put everyone down.  And so people are being adversely affected by reviews…. whereas at IEBR we are use reviews for a positive purpose. The reviews are compiled by professional writers (able to balance personal opinion with critical analysis) who comment on books they’ve enjoyed and offer the reader another level towards an informed choice. 


You may say I'm a dreamer...

I wish this kind of site could take the place of having to rely on Amazon rankings and reviews, but at the moment this is just a dream.  In our ‘market driven’ virtual world, until and unless IEBR becomes more visible or more trusted or more talked about, people will keep using the tools they know of (even if they don’t trust them) wasting time and effort (and occasionally money) on things they won’t even enjoy.


Read more books   

IEBR isn’t proscriptive in telling you what to read but in a typical month we give you three or more chances a week to find something of interest.  You won’t like all the books – the range is broad as are the tastes and interests of our reviewers - but if a person finds they like 2 books a month that we’re reviewing its surely worth stopping by regularly and looking at our recommendations?  Even if we give you 10 books a year that you like– and they will probably be 10 books you’d never have found otherwise - isn’t that a good thing?  And hopefully by regularly reading our reviews you will also see how unhelpful a lot of poor reviews are.  You will see that the review is more than a personal opinion or ignorance dressed up in abuse. 

Is free always good? 

It may be a wonderful feeling to download zillions of ebooks for free (or cheap) just because you can, surely it’s a better feeling to find a book (e or otherwise) that you like and read it! Because it’s not just about owning (or lending) books is it, it’s about reading them. Isn’t it? E-books are not just another futures trading commodity. They offer the potential for the widespread dissemination of many of the great wonders of the world.


Just another opinion?

The above is not just my opinion. Of course my opinion is contained within it, but the opinion is based on a) experience b) study and c) analysis.  I could go into all these in detail but you either trust me or you don’t. If you don’t know me, find out more about me and then decide whether I’m talking out of a hole in my head or saying something worth listening to.  And if you prefer fiction to lecturing, try out Brand Loyalty. Although I often think that the more people need to read it, the less likely they are to want to. But that IS my opinion.

Just do it.


But whatever else you do today, go to the indieebook reviewsite and see what you think. Better than Amazon? Make up your own mind.

Let's all play spot the irony. 

By the way  Brand Loyalty recently made it to #1 in the Amazon Free listings for political fiction both in UK and US. Now THAT is ironic.  Now you'll have to pay £1.95 for a copy. But I think it's worth it. And if you can't make up your own mind, you may as well go along with my opinion, right? 

5 comments:

John A. A. Logan said...

Hi Cally...and as you know, to add irony to even greater IRONY...you have been getting some very good new reviews lately on Amazon for your books! I think IEBR has come a long, strong way for an entity only in existence for 3 months. And my review for your book, The Threads of Time, a novel which I have loved reading, is in the pipeline...(or pipelines depending how many places on the internet it eventually finds its way to!)

Jan Needle said...

people in general, and writers in particular, like to review books. this is a generalisation, based on years of observation, chat, etc. i don't like to review books, because the process worries me. this is a fact.

however, i do review for cally's IEBR, because it's given me the opportunity to draw attention to books that might otherwise have sunk without trace in the mighty ocean we're all trying to swim along in. i've started a couple, and given up on them, which is painful. who knows, the ones i can't get along with might be the ones that are, in fact, 'the best.'

there's plenty of you out there with better, calmer, brains than mine. get in touch with dear ms phillips and see if you can get involved. generalisationwise - most of you will enjoy it. whatever i think of the process for myself, i recognise it as extremely valuable.

Lee said...

I run the other way if I read of a novel written to address an issue.

Dan Holloway said...

Thought-provoking as ever and, as you've alluded to, topical, with the huge story bursting all over the press this week about Amazon reviews being more reliable than the traditional media. I think there are two types of reliable review - once you reach a certain volume, there's something to be said for the crowdsourced review as a rule of thumb. On the other hand, what most of us want is a recommendation from a friend we trust. That's what you're building at IEBR - it will, as time passes, be the case that people look for reviews by particular reviewers whose tastes match their own or challenge their own in ways they're interested in. AS you say, the key thing is to get to know the reviewer first, and that's the real thing a reviewer has to do - get something of themselves across in their reviews. The trusted friend relationship is also why it's so important to be honest in reviews, which is one reason I tend to shy away from writing them - the moment we gloss over a book's flaws for whatever reason, and a reader spots them that's a far worse crime than having a different opinion and we lose a reader's trust forever. So those are the keys - each reviewer having their own identity and clear area of interest and taste which they communicate articulately and conversationally, and absolute honesty

julia jones said...

I love IEBR and I love reviewing for it and yes it has certainly led me to books I wouldn't have discovered otherwise. BUT I dodn't have a problem with the Amazon reviewing options either. As a writer it comes as a real brighten--the-day gift if I discover that some one I have never met has liked my books and taken the time to say so. It's as good as gettng a reader letter. And if they hate the book and say so - well I'm now going to take the advice of the article I read yesterday (on the AE private site) and behave like any other decent retailer or service provider with a customer complaint. Respond, engage and see if I can put it right. Amazon reviews and IEBR are doing different things - in my opinion. When I post a review on Amazon I'm doing a quick voluntary reader response which I hope will give the author pleasure - as it would me. It's a liittle different from the more considered 300 words which I've promised to deliver.