Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Everyone's a Critic

When I grew up, "critic" was a job. Someone had to have some level of experience to land it. Critics worked at newspapers and magazines. They even had their own TV shows.



We knew we could trust them because, out of all of the people in the world, they were chosen to be reviewers. Whether it was true or not, there was a feeling that they had an expertise in movies, books, or whatever else they might be critiquing.



Then came the Internet. The only credential required to review something was a username and password. Goodreads, Amazon, your own blog...doesn't matter. You're officially a reviewer. Congratulations.



You can say anything you want and it's out there. Forever. Add a few fun GIFs to your review on Goodreads and other users will vote you up until you're on top. You now reign as a supreme reviewer because you can post things like this:



These reviewers could have their own agendas. Perhaps they want free books. Or maybe they want attention. Many of them, though, simply want to warn the world about bad books and become a respected authority--the person everyone comes to for good books to read.



And I fully respect those people. I'm just concerned that we seemed to have lost the filter. When I look through reviews now, I don't know if it's a family member of the author, the author's worst enemy, someone wanting to get attention, or someone who legitimately wants to leave an objective review of a author's work.



How do you feel about reviewers and critics? Do you read reviews before you read a book?

65 comments:

  1. And yet, no statue has ever been erected for a critic.
    You're right how it all de-evolved into what we have now. We don't know who is reviewing or why. (The people who read bad books to the end just so they can bash them in a review baffle me. Life is too short to read bad books.)
    Look at the reviews we trust now though - ones from people we know or trust. When it comes to book reviews, I don't pay much attention to the big, traditional reviewers. How much did my friend like the book? And of course, reading the reviews will tell me why people did or didn't like it. Ultimately, I don't pay a lot of attention to the reviews anyway.

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    1. Yes, even though Goodreads and Amazon reviews come in by the truckloads, we do now use social media to recommend books to friends. Even on Goodreads, you can scroll through the books your friends have read and find good ones to read. It has boosted the word-of-mouth that you used to get from your in-person friends and let you also get recommendations from people you know through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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  2. I do read reviews but to me what they like, I may not like. And what they do not like, I may like. Not all thinks alike. Have a happy day!

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    1. Exactly...and that's why I NEVER read reviews before I read a book. Same with movies and TV shows. I'd much rather form my own opinion.

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  3. yes, internet gave voice to many.... to too many :) It is like with all them sites and portals where everybody can leave comments on all kinds of issues usually voicing prejudice and stupidity.

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    1. I agree! Thank goodness for blocking, though. On Facebook, I'm guessing more people get blocked (or at least notifications turned off) during political races than any other time! I've never seen such crazy closedmindedness as I've seen recently.

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    2. I've seen such things at Facebook, within comments at Daily Mail and such big papers, the things that leave me scared for humanity. Like 'close the tunnel under Lamanche with refugees in it and burn it' and it had like hundreds of likes... there is more and more fascism voiced around the net and it just freaks me out.

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  4. After awhile, I get a sense of who - a reviewer, a book newsletter, etc - likes the types of books I do, etc so when I see them review or recommend something, I pay more attention than I do to just general reviews.

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    1. That's the great thing about social networking-based reviewing...we can find our circles and stay within those.

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  5. I have rarely agreed with reviewers of movies, and it is the same with reviewers of books. Even with my own books, one friend will say, "Oh, I loved the last part best" and another will say, "last part wasn't great - loved the first part." It's so subjective. Someone else can't possibly tell me what I will like or not like and why. It's strictly that one person's opinion, even if they are a so-called expert. I'm with Alex, I try not to pay attention.

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    1. Me, too! And if a book is really popular, the reviews will all be split between people who LOVE it and people who HATE it with such a crazy fiery passion. Never in between with those books. I loved Gone Girl (the book, not the movie) but I've seen just as many people who hate it as love it.

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  6. I heard on Market Place on TV about some people set up fake reviews of products for a fee. They praise the products and endorse them but it's not based on true review. These people get paid to write up some positive reviews. I'm not sure if the practice is used in publishing but I don't believe every thing I read or see. They showed how easy it was to design a logo with advertising on the side of a truck all done in Photoshop and then advertise as real for something that didn't even exist...

    Have a great day Stephanie.
    hugs
    JB

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    1. Yep, sadly I've seen those jobs posted on sites like Elance and Craigslist. "Will pay $.50 per Amazon review." Crazy that people would game the system like that...but Amazon just launched a massive lawsuit against a large number of people for doing that:

      http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/18/technology/amazon-lawsuit-fake-reviews/

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    2. Stephanie, I can always count on you to be in the know. Thanks for the link.
      JB

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  7. And then there are critics like the middle aged man who started reading my girly teenage romance and decided he HAD to review it after quitting because it wasn't his thing. Reviewing is SO subjective. These days I look at overall review ratings and maybe one or two actual reviews. That's it.

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    1. OMG, if I had a dime for every weird review that made no sense. Someone gave 30 Days of No Gossip one star and wrote "I don't like drama, so I didn't like this book." Someone got mad over an article I wrote for XOJane that had nothing to do with my book...after writing about 1,000 negative comments on the article, she finally went over to Amazon and gave 25 Roses one star, writing "Unimaginative." She hadn't even read the book...she hadn't even known the book existed until five minutes before she wrote the review. For that reason, you really have to find reviewers you trust and listen to them. It's too easy for anyone to leave a review nowadays.

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  8. Sometimes it's hard NOT to read the reviews before reading a book. When I'm on Goodreads marking the book as Want to Read or Currently Reading, there they are, staring at you. One time it almost caused me not to read a book I already owned (although I got it free), because not all my "friends" had good things to say. I ended up loving the book, which tells me I really need to stay away from the reviews until AFTER I've read the book.

    And knowing reviews are so subjective, I still want to read all the reviews of my own books. I guess I'm just looking to see if I reached my audience. Or I'm just into the self-torture thing. Probably more of the latter! :)

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    1. I don't look...but I will admit that I've gone to Goodreads and Amazon when I DIDN'T like a book...more of a, "Did everyone else find this book as puzzling/dull/rambling as I am finding it?!"

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  9. I've noticed that too. Everyone has an opinion and sometimes it's not a fair evaluation. There is good in almost everything and if a review has no good parts at all I'm immediately suspicious.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. I personally just don't keep reading a book if I don't like it. Mostly these days I read blogging buddies' books and books published by my own publisher. If you see it in my "Best Books," that means I finished it and loved it--and it also means I left five stars on Goodreads and Amazon for it. I guess that means I follow the adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?!"

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  10. I often read reviews but whether I'll read the book or not depends on certain variables. Like if I like the cover, the short synopsis, if I like the genre, etc. So despite if the reviewer like or hate the book, if it's my cup of tea then it's my cup of tea.

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    1. It's funny how often we go by the cover...and how often a cover we like means a book we like! They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but as long as the cover matches the overall tone of the book, often you can.

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  11. I don't always look at the reviews, but if I happen to, I concentrate on the ones that are written with some level of thoughtfulness or intelligence. It gives me the impression that the person who has written the review is making a real effort and is being very honest. Even so, everyone has different taste. Sometimes books or movies that even the professional critics rate highly don't interest me. I prefer to just take a chance on my own if the story interests me enough.

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    1. I do appreciate thoughtful reviews from people who really know what a good book is. When they start peppering it with gifs and trying to be all humorous and "look at me," though, as entertaining as it is, it feels to me like they just want attention.

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  12. Generally, I have to really, really love or really, really hate a book to leave more than a star rating. But if I do write a full review, I use evidence from the book and reasoned critique to back up my opinion. I hope that way it's obvious I read it and it's an honest opinion.

    I have read a few reviews where I really wonder if the reviewer actually read the book because they mention things that didn't even happen in the book. I scratch my head and wonder if I got a different copy! lol

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    1. I was talking to someone at a writing conference who said she read a review that said, "This book left too many loose ends. The writer didn't tie anything up. So I didn't finish reading it." HUH?!

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  13. I normally only read reviews if I know the person who wrote the book, OR if I either really hated or loved the book and want to see if others agree with me. :)

    The family member and friends' reviews are usually pretty easy to spot.

    OMG! This was so awesome! This is the best book I've ever read and it kept me turning the pages, for realz.

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    1. Ha, ha! That's about right! And if you click on their name, you'll discover this is the only review they've ever written.

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    2. Some of my family members have even identified this. "My aunt wrote this book and I thought it was great!" It's like, "Ssssh. Don't give that away!" But a writer said when she got her first three-star review, she was actually excited because it was the first time she realized a stranger had actually read her book. I totally related to that! If you can look at bad reviews that way, they're much easier to take!

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    3. I have one bad review and I love it! It's awesome. It was posted 20 minutes after my book was released.

      "I would not recommend this book to anyone at any time for any reason."

      Gotta love it!

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  14. Haha. I do read reviews, but I take it with a grain of salt. The worst are movies. I've seen people TRASH movies I thought were not too awful.

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    1. My brother-in-law pays attention to reviews. We were about to watch the latest Vacation movie while he was here and he was skeptical because it had bad reviews. I said, "If ANY Vacation movie got good reviews, I'd be surprised!" The types of movies I like don't ever get good reviews.

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  15. I like to make up my own mind about things I read, see and about people, too. For example, Highway to Heaven....Michael Landon ignored the critics' bad reviews and wanted to see what the viewers thought. It turned out to be a very good show, and rightly so! It was! I loved it and so did many others, too!

    Critics are well, critical. But this is their job. I prefer to make up my own mind and ignore what they say, because, after all, I am the one who is paying money and I will decide if it is money well spent...or not.

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    1. Often critical and commercial success are at odds with each other. But even something that is pure literary genius will be trashed by some critics...and, of course, the public will have plenty of negative things to say about it. "Not enough action scenes!"

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  16. Taste is such an individual thing. I tend not to read reviews - or pay them any attention if I do. So many 'experts'. Sigh. So much that the internet gives us is positive, but reviews by those with a hidden agenda are one of the negatives.

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    1. Yes, it's impossible to see the motives behind what you're reading, whether it's reviews or social media.

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  17. I went through a phase of reading book reviews (both good and bad) avidly before I would even consider buying a book. Now though, I may read one or two reviews, but I tend to base my judgement on the book blurb instead. However, I do make sure to avoid books that have been hyped up beyond belief - whenever I've succumbed to buying a book like that, I've always been severely disappointed. So now I just don't bother ;)

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    1. The book blurb is everything, for sure! Although most of the time these days, I'm reading my blogging friends' books and books from my publisher. So I'm usually reading it without even looking at the blurb first, which makes it a fun surprise. (Most of the time I helped promote it and read the blurb then, but I forget by the time I read it.)

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  18. Reviews are subjected. Everyone has their own tastes on reading.

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  19. Sometimes I think reviewers just want to become famous and get their names slung around for recognition, and the only way to do that is to try and be as entertaining and/or obnoxious with their writing up of their review. It's sort of like reality television, the more drama and negative train wreck sort of thing they throw out there, the more it sticks and draws a crowd.

    If I notice a name associated with being notorious for bad reviews, I don't listen to that critic as I'm instantly immune to their opinions because of the reputation. I don't like to pay attention to attention whores.

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  20. I often read reviews before deciding to read a book, but I can usually tell an honest review from one written by someone with an agenda. And negative reviews written by people who are obviously reading outside their preferred genre/age group, I disregard entirely. (Although a positive review from someone who says, "I don't normally read books like this, but ..." will get my attention.)

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  21. I never read a review before I read a book. I make up my own mind. I will walk into a book store and drift along in merry wonder. When something catches my eye, I will pick it up and read the blurb and then read a bit inside to see how the style of the writing is. I don't think critics have as much pull because 50 Shades of blecch would never have become a bestseller. On the other hand, there are many great books that do go unnoticed and that is a shame

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  22. If I'm reading a review and it's extra praise-worthy or extra-critical, I look at what else the person has reviewed. If they don't review often, or they appear to have different tastes than me, then I give less weight to the review.

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  23. I do read reviews, but I've come to recognize which reviewer's likes/dislikes help me best get a feel for if the product/book isn't for me.

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  24. I definitely read reviews before purchasing a book. When I review books/products, I try to remain positive, but honest. I know what you mean though--about the filter seemingly disappearing. SMH.

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  25. I usually don't read reviews because I'm afraid of spoilers. Though there have been times when I purposely read reviews for spoilers because I needed to know how something pans out. ;)

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  26. It's certainly important to check the source of the review.

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  27. Funny enough some of the books I have gotten were from bad reviews. The review just got me so intrigued that I had to get the book for myself. Especially when it was obvious by a short peruse of their page/videos that this book was clearly not one for them. I have bought books a lot without reading reviews and usually turn out all right. But I still find a rare gem through reviews.

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  28. Whether I read reviews depends on the book. If it's an author I know and like, no. If I'm unsure about the book, then I'll take a look.

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  29. I seldom read reviews to help me decide whether to buy a book or not. If I think I'd like, I get it.

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  30. The reason I started to be a "critic" was because of a magazine called Electronic Gaming Monthly. It was THE magazine for video game news for many years. I was also a reader before I had the internet, so I had to depend on it for news and reviews of video games.

    The parent company made a website to go along with it with its own community which I was apart of for a good number of years. I wrote many reviews for fun and not many read them. But I always had fun writing them. Then I started to review movies and tv shows.

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  31. I took classes on film technique and film criticism. I enjoy reviewing DVDs, but I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Same with books.

    Love,
    Janie

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  32. I pay much more attention to reviews than I did when I started reading as a kid. However, lately, I'm more likely to pay attention to recommendations from other bloggers these days. There are so many books that I can't keep up, so it makes me appreciate all those other readers. Hugs...

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  33. While there can be many issues with reviews, and the system is often abused, I welcome the fact that anyone is able to be a critic. It means that you are - hopefully - reading the opinions of other ordinary readers/viewers like yourself, rather than a paid critic who might have a particular axe to grind or even writing reviews as a form of entertainment (ie they love the sound of their own voice). Interesting post!

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  34. I do read reviews if I'm buying a new author and I read reviews of authors I know because I'm curious! I always take them with a grain of salt. Not everyone is going to love a particular story. We all have our own personal tastes. There are also those folks who just want to be mean. I ignore those.

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  35. I'm paying more attention to reviews now, because I was told that I would find good books that way. I never did before, because I rarely liked books that critics recommended. The books I end up loving are the unknown ones I stumble unto myself. But that's just me.

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  36. I always read reviews before buying a book.

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  37. I almost never read reviews before I buy a book or watch something, with some random exceptions. But I do like to review things from time to time--mainly books because I know how hard it can be for some authors to get reviews. I do my best to keep them positive at least.

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  38. I don't take them seriously. I like to makeup my own mind. I do read them on occasion.

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  39. Good question. I usually pay more attention to the blurbs and excerpts than the reviews. Reviews are such a mixed bag these days.

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  40. I agree, Stephanie, everyone's a critic these days (which is the main reason I've uninstalled the FB app on my phone and don't sign in anymore unless someone reaches out in a message). Seems inevitable. I leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and read those on books I'm interested in. I've read both good and bad reviews on books by my favourite authors and still bought the ebooks anyway lol. Kept respectfully, it's an exchange of tastes and that's fine.

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  41. I rarely read reviews for books, simply because most of them have 5 star ratings. To me, an overabundance of 5 star reviews always raises a red flag. So I like to go into a book with blinders on, so to speak.

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  42. I'll be honest, I've NEVER taken a review to the bank. If a movie or book gets a bad review, I want to see/read it to see if it's truly that bad. And if something gets an A+++ rating, I'm leery because then it never seems to live up to the hype. Personally, I'd rather read something and make my own mind up. Not many people agree with what I do or do not like, so a review has little chance to sway me.

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  43. I usually read reviews when I am trying to learn about a book, but I always read a lot of them and don't put a ton of stock in them, as I know that reading is sugjective. I tend to pay more attention to the reviews done by the blogs I follow, as I know how they review books and they are reliable reviewers. I am sometimes amazed at the reviews I see out there by people who absolutely hate a book and then I see that they do not seem to read that genre normally and/or may not be the intended audience for the book.

    Interesting post!

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