Posted in articles, novels, Plain Jane, review, writing

Plain Jane 231015: The power of reviewers

Plain Jane 231015Intriguing news from giant online seller Amazon, who are planning to sue 1,100 “fake” reviewers in a bid to claim damages for their “manipulation and deception” of customers.

While I am all for paid-for feedback being clamped down on, I am more stunned that a few fictitious paragraphs of praise can have such a wide-reaching effect. In an undercover investigation by the Sunday Times, a book was propelled into the Amazon bestseller lists via £56 worth of bought-in approbation.

Are we all such sheep and where on earth were the trolls when we needed them? Reviews can be interesting – particularly when by journalists or “experts” we respect – but surely we need to remember that now everyone’s a critic it is best to take all views, both favourable and otherwise, with a pinch of salt and a mind on possible agendas.

If 453 members of Trip Advisor say the Hotel De-Spotless had cockroaches and faced an open sewer, it is probably prudent to stay elsewhere, but my heart goes out to the small family-run bistro that gets slated by a rival establishment or some resentful ignoramus whose wife’s just left him, and sees its bookings plummet as a result.

Yes, anybody with a product to sell, a song to sing or a book to write, is well advised to develop a skin of rhino thickness as part of the territory but as a buying public should we not remove the power of those warped or nasty enough to attempt manipulation by vowing to “Take As We Find”?

I rarely heed either extravagant praise or bitter criticism unless it comes in shedloads, but know to my cost how powerful even a small amount of toxic opinion can be.

I once had six negative reviews in as many days – all clearly written by the same person and all declaring I had been reviewing myself. A strange accusation (and one which Amazon took down as defamatory), as I have my fair share of detractors as well as fans. Particularly across the pond on amazon.com where they don’t hold back on the forthright appraisals. A habit, when it’s honest, that I rather applaud.

Yes, I winced at “this is the worst book I have ever read” (although there is a certain cache in topping any sort of list) but I remain cheered by the kind reader who praised my novel One Glass Is Never Enough (set in Thanet) for being “well written” with characters that were “engaging”, and summarising her response with the glowing and unbeatable accolade that my tale was “exactly the type of mindless fluff I like…”

I’m sorry to smirk further, but it is quite entertaining, is it not. We all suspected the shiny new Kipper council might not be quite the answer the short-sighted voters who elected them might have been hoping for – not least because only a handful of them had any sort of experience of local government – but even I expected Chris Wells to keep control a little longer.

Yet a mere five months after the slightly chilling raised armed cheering and flag-waving that heralded the Ukip crew taking office, we once again have a hung council in Thanet, thanks to the five defectors who have set up the Democratic Independent Group, DIG (a hole maybe?). In my idealistic, happy-clappy over-simplistic way I now have a small dream whereby DIG makes friends with the 18 Conservatives, four Labour members and the lone Independent, to form what is basically an alliance (however informal) to keep the Kippers proper at bay (they can get Manston up and running again with my blessing but I don’t trust them let loose on much else).

I was all for the Want Action Not Kippers agreement, but I was vetoed. Not in a family newspaper, said the lovely Ed sternly. So I had to think again. “Want Inspiration Not Kippers” perhaps?

***

Read the original at: http://www.thanetgazette.co.uk/Plain-Jane-power-reviewers/story-28034113-detail/story.html
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Posted in books, events, fiction, humour, interview, novels, review, writing

The Ab Fab ChipLitFest :-)

Well what a lov-er-ley time I had at this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival – a treat indeed. You would never believe the festival is only in its second year from its big-name line up and terrific organisation but it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be there for both of them. This time I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of being “in conversation with”  the super-best-selling Peter James on Saturday, who talked about his forthcoming Dead Man’s Time  (I got to read a review copy – bloody brilliant!)  fascinated us all with his police tales and amused greatly with his unique revenge tactics on Martin Amis (ha ha!). Peter is a dream to interview!

Jane and Peter Chip Lit 2013 small

(Thanks Liz Fenwick for the photo of us at the Crown and Cushion!)

As is the gorgeous and delightful Fern Britton. I met her for about a minute before we started our event around her latest entertaining novel The Holiday Home but she was as warm and relaxed as if we were old friends. What a totally lovely, natural and generous lady. The audience adored her and so did I. She had some hilarious stories too… (Was Chipping Norton ready for the word c*ck?  Certainly seemed to be…. :-)) We all laughed lots.

Fern and Jane

Thanks Jan Harvey for taking this one

So put next year’s dates in your diary now. Chipping Norton Lit Fest 2014 runs from 24th – 27th April and I’m excited already….

Posted in books, fiction, humour, novels, review, romance, writing

With friends like Mike :-)

Whenever I give one of my friends one of my books to read (some  are too tight-fisted to cough up for one themselves :-)) I always say the same thing: you can be brutally honest. Of course, people still feel they can’t be. One pal took months to admit she hated my third novel with a passion, after loving the first two, thinking that by saying that, she’d upset me. Actually I was fascinated. It was illuminating to hear what had affected her so badly and we had a really interesting exchange as a result.

Refreshingly, My-mate-Mike, my fellow-columnist on the Isle of Thanet Gazette DSC_3476has no such inhibitions. I wouldn’t normally shove a review in front of you but the running commentary spread over several emails, made me laugh so much, I thought I’d post  the edited highlights. (The dots are where I’ve removed a spoiler – just in case after reading this, anyone still feels like braving the PRIME TIME. The Italics are mine. ) It’s been good to see how one of my books – primarily aimed at the female market – goes down with a chap too. Could he possibly empathise with the heroine? It seems not…

cover - prime-time (med)

“I’m enjoying the plot but developed an early and intense dislike for the central character. No wonder hubby cleared off.”

“Not a difficult choice when the alternative is a wine-saturated busybody, always wittering about her internal workings.”

“Too much wine and whine in first 100 pages.”

“What the hell’s it got to do with her if he….? Surprised he didn’t smack her when she started quizzing him.”

“I trust you have planned a suitably hideous end for her.”

“Don’t like the sulky son or the oily television bloke, either.”

“Really enjoying it, especially now she’s …… Very droll and picking up pace splendidly. Still hope central character comes to a distressing end.”

“I reckon oily tv bloke will turn out to be a ******” (NB he was wrong)

“Looks as if the raddled woman might finish up with ….. Serves her right.”

“Your best book so far, by a mile. Can’t understand why it was nominated in the romantic comedy section…”

“Didn’t find a typo for more than 200 pages, then two more followed quickly, but three in 300 pages is a miracle nowadays. I trust they sacked the myopic work experience dunce who allegedly roof-read ……” (Insert title of one of my previous books) (Not sure if this is Mike being hilarious or he really left the “p” out…)

“I shall be sad when I’ve finished – which is the highest compliment anyone can pay an author! ”

“Wonderful! So the two ghastlies finished up ….”

“A very good modern morality tale, which I think is too profound to deserve a rom-com tag. ”

“Wonderful! Apart from the beginning….”

Thank you, Mike! Reviewer to the Non-Faint-Hearted.

Am sure if YOU’D like a no-holds barred review for your magnus opus, I can probably persuade him to oblige… 🙂

Posted in books, fiction, humour, novels, review, writing

text from terry

Text comes in saying “great review” (see yesterday). Also adds “let’s hope you sell as many as Fifty Shades of Grey…”

Terry is a mate so do not tell him I have heard this quip 356 times since publication day. With previous books, it was the Harry Potters. (Sold as many as JK Rowling yet? Ha ha ha.) Bloody hilarious.

Luckily I am not the sort to be bitter. There is room for us all. And 0.01% of EL James’s sales would be a fine start…. 🙂

Standing in the way seems the only solution…

PS  I still have a vile cold and a dodgy shoulder. Does anyone feel sorry for me?

(If so please send chocolate…)