A fellow writer gave me some useful feedback on my first self-published book, Sector Storm. I appreciated her honest and insightful assessment of my work, as such honest critiquing helps me to improve as a writer. This however has not been my experience with Amazon thus far...
After putting my book on a five day free promotion I received 3-star reviews from two critics, who although indicated that I had worked hard on it, were basically saying that they hadn't enjoyed reading it. They stated things about my book which suggested that they had not actually read it, but had skimmed through it and were nitpicking things which barely applied to the book.
One reviewer, Richard, stated that it "contains all the elements of Captain Kirk's Star Trek sexual escapades amongst alien females." My character falls in love and has sex, once, with one female character. He doesn't even flirt with another woman. How does this constitute him having "sexual escapades?" Richard makes other minor points which were necessary to getting the story (and characters) where I needed them to be for this particular story. His remark about me killing off “the red shirts” strongly suggests that my book is both familiar and predictable. I find that difficult to believe because I rarely knew what would happen next when I was writing it.
Imagine someone reading Animal Farm and complaining that the relationships could have been more complex or that the farmer seemed too stereotypical. They would have been missing the point of the novel entirely. Sector Storm is a philosophical, spiritual and semi-satirical examination of reality, science fiction, but most of all, ideology. I found it interesting that these free eBook critics had nothing to say about the intellectual ponderings of the book; whether or not they found them interesting, insightful or amusing. They ignored all the meat on the bone as if they'd merely skimmed through the surface content.
Looking at their other reviews, it seems that they only read books which are cheap and likely listed for free when they reviewed them (both reviews appeared for my book just after the free promotion ended.) They will make comments where they claim that a book was good because it was "easy to read" and they were able to finish it in "one day." I fail to see how this necessarily makes for a good book, but it no doubt makes their job easier. What better way to build oneself as an Amazon reviewer than by reading free eBooks? It's a lot cheaper than paying for stuff. Once they're established, they can be handed all kinds of items to review for free, or even get paid to review them.
In the meanwhile they storm their way through free eBooks, complaining when a book is too long or complex for them. Indie writers like me work very hard on our books. A professional and honest reviewer would only review a book of a genre that they either enjoy or are knowledgeable of so that they can give an honest, clear interpretation of what they'd read (from their perspective) so that customers can be better informed.
I welcome honest criticism. Besides being an indie author, I’ve been a blogger, forum debater and have expressed personal opinions in YouTube videos, etc. Believe me, I’m used to taking strong arguments and receiving disapproval for my views or content, even personal attacks. I can take it. Normally I would never pick at a reviewer for expressing an opinion, even if they hated my book, but I do not find these two critics to be real book reviewers. They did not review my book; they muttered on about bits and pieces they’d noticed while breezing through.
Hopefully I’ll receive better quality reviews in the future (be they positive or negative.) Writing, like any form of art or expression, is only worth anything if it’s honest.
"My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent."
-- Ulysses S. Grant