Phoning in a bad editorial review


I’m going to be very careful with this post, as getting a bad editorial review is one of the hazards of paying for reviews: your book could be crap, and a proper reviewer is entitled to say exactly what they think of it.

This reviewer sends you the review as a courtesy, so you can tweak any problems before it gets published.

Sometimes you have the recourse of requesting that the review be dumped, and I have exercised that right.

So any quotes I list from the to-not-be-published review are my only product for my money – as only the reviewer and I should have access to the content, and therefore no one should be able to search for the quotes on the internet, and identify the person I’m complaining about here.

Got it?

I will leave off any identifying information

and write only about the substance of the review, which is the subject of my complaint in a general way (I can already see readers wondering how bad Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD was, and whether I simply can’t take criticism).

Indies like me need a few impartial honest editorial reviews and we need to pay for them. They – in full, or quotes from them – go in the Editorial Reviews section of the book’s Amazon page.

Having a decent editorial review legitimizes you as an author, gives you some credibility.

We need to choose our source, as it can get into real money (for example, a Kirkus review is almost $500), and it will take a lot of sales to make that review worth the expenditure.

There are many other reputable review services available to self-published authors (SPAs), less expensive ones, but the field is, like literary agentry, completely unregulated, even taking into account that the ultimate result, the review, is published for anyone to see.

One would hope for some self-regulation, but the standard thing for an author to do if you don’t like a review is to let it sink like the millstone it is and hope no one sees it.

FIGHTING a review is not done, and will get you branded a ‘difficult author.’

Again, got it?

So why am I taking the risk?

Because I had expectations (silly woman?) that a professional reviewer would at least read the book.

Or enough of the book to be able to say something real and thoughtful about what I spent 7 years of my small supply of good energy producing.

When I was offered the draft review to tweak

my heart sank.

I wrote back, after a bit of reflection at the complete mismatch between my understanding of my book, and the review:

…I have been looking forward to your review for a long time.

And now I have to ask you to completely cancel publication.

If you have any interest, let me know, and I can provide you with a list of all the points your review did not mention that are critical to the story continued in NETHERWORLD.

I don’t know what to think, but the review below in the email you just sent me is not something I would want published if I have any choice in the matter. It does not represent the continuing story nor the characters.

Email, 11/5/22

I did NOT expect a response other than cancellation; what I received was:

Oh my! The review can of course be put on hold.

Please let me know what was wrong or missing. I will go over my notes and re-read, and re-do the review to get it right.

Sometimes I leave out some points in a story in favor of trying to preserve some elements of surprise for the reader; but in this case it sounds like I missed too many and was too general.

Please let me know specifics, and I’ll work at identifying where in my notes I went awry, and will redo the reading and notes as needed.

Lovely offer, so what’s the problem?

I’ll go into specifics of a few things below, but ‘missing a few points’ was not my interpretation.

In fact, when I started to make a mental list of the ‘few points,’ I quickly realized that the entire book had been left out, and a completely generic Romance review was what had been supplied.

If anyone knows Pride’s Children, they know that it is NOT a Romance, was never intended to be one, and misses every trope that a Romance reader expects from a satisfying Romance. Romance is a perfectly viable category with dedicated writers and MANY more readers than literary fiction – and enviably lucrative – but I don’t write Romance.

I’ll let a reviewer for PURGATORY comment:

…And the development of the central attraction isn’t a “romance,” except in the sense that a Jane Austen novel could be called one (and allowing for differences in setting and literary conventions between the early 19th and early 21st centuries, a comparison to Austen isn’t entirely inapt!), nor is it predictable or syrupy…

In fact, as much as I respect Romance writers and readers for knowing and getting what they like to read, I have been fighting Pride’s Children being categorized as a Romance everywhere that crops up, including Goodreads, where the librarians refused to do anything because some READERS had chosen to include PC on a shelf with ‘romance’ somewhere in its title.

Pride’s Children is a LOVE STORY embedded in a mainstream trilogy set in the intersection between Hollywood and writers

From the same reviewer:

…This is solid general fiction of a very high order, in the best Realist tradition, exploring human interactions and relationships between enormously well-drawn characters who come fully alive, as real, intensely human people. These relationships do include romantic attraction and love (and even have it as a central focus), but it’s not the sole focus; family relationships, friendships, working relationships, etc. -some healthy and some not– come under the lens as well…

Op. cit.

And now for a few review details, so you can judge for yourself

The whole mention given to Bianca, arguably the most important character in NETHERWORLD, is “And then there’s Andrew’s film co-star Bianca, whose debut film is starting to make its mark on the world,” followed by a single reference to ‘the dance between these three’ and one to ‘a triangle of connections, ambition, and obsessions that embraces scheming, film industry politics, and love and friendship alike.’

The rest of the review tries, generically, to make a two-character Romance out of the friendship between Andrew and Kary: “… recommended pick for prior enthusiasts of the tale, who will find the ongoing growth and connections between Irish megastar Andrew O’Connell [sic] recluse author Dr. Kary Ashe continues to introduce challenge and revised their visions of life…” and “…As each makes their way through dates, other life connections, and events that test their talents and perspectives, readers receive an intriguing contrast in personalities and love that will especially delight prior followers of Andrew and Kary’s worlds.”

The ending tells libraries that NETHERWORLD has “… thought-provoking escapades and interpersonal conundrums where all the characters are both villain and hero will welcome the nicely-developed tension and psychological insights…”

All the characters are both villain and hero?

Excuse me while I gag. The whole point of Pride’s Children is that integrity and morality are NOT relative, not subjective, not ‘opinions,’ but fraught choices with consequences even for those who don’t get to choose.

What do authors do with bad editorial reviews?

Distinguish here first between the REVIEW being bad and the BOOK being so bad the review which says that is good, but this can be irrelevant unless the book is so hyped people go to the original source to see what was actually written, which could lead to a firestorm of sorts until the internet finds the next flaming pile.

The most obvious and most common response is to find some chunk of words in the review that can be used as a pull quote – words to put on the cover or in an ad – that are TECHNICALLY not a lie, because those words, in that order, appear in the review, even if the review context clearly negates the pull quote. Easy? “…one of the best thrillers…” from an original “Nowhere NEAR one of the best thrillers…” Usually a bit more subtle, but you get the idea.

Or if lucky or money is available, a bad review can be buried by several good ones. With the additional fillip of implying the unwanted review is somehow sour grapes.

Dropping the review completely means the loss of whatever was paid for it, which is sometimes the only option.

Arguing about the review in public, WITH names, is best left to well-paid PR pros, because of all the positive and negative ramifications. ‘Going to war’ is expensive, with pitfalls.

Another option, mine, is to use the review carefully as a cautionary example of what can happen, for the newbies to learn from and more experience writers to commiserate about. And then to put it behind you. And, of course, never use that reviewer or editorial review service again.

I briefly considered one OTHER final option

Complaining to the service managers or owners about the review and the reviewer.

Not probably the best option – the reviewer may have been bringing in cash for the service for a while.

Possibly an excuse for the review service to dump the reviewer (usually added to other examples of the reviewer cutting corners or losing their touch).

But extremely dangerous to the individual unarmored AUTHOR, because people won’t necessarily remember that there was some justification for a complaint, only that a certain AUTHOR (those horrible people) had the nerve to complain about a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER, followed by closing of the ranks of the pros and more complaints about, in this case, entitled indie AUTHORs.

So I’ll stop at ‘cautionary tale,’ hope I get some feedback and not too many people trolling (if you are not a regular, that behavior will get you banned before leading to any posting of your comment; regulars are welcome because I know they will be civil).

I can’t be the only one unhappy with a paid-for review that seems entirely unrelated to the book.

Am I?


Oh, and don’t forget to BUY the book (or going to Booksprout to request an ARC if you are even considering writing a review), so you can make your own decision if my happiness with NETHERWORLD, and especially its ending, is a crock.


67 thoughts on “Phoning in a bad editorial review

  1. Jeanne

    Hmm. I have thoughts. When I write a paid review, I work harder on it (more than one draft, for instance, whereas my blog writing is usually a first draft) and I feel more responsible for getting it right. There’s really no excuse for not reading carefully if you’re a paid reviewer.
    I recently had the experience of reading a novel and seeing lots of word choice and phrasing problems (to the extent I wondered if the writer was an English language learner, especially because they cleared up after the first 70 pages). I kept reading and taking notes because the author had sent me the book and I’d accepted it (not quite getting paid, but a bit of obligation there). In the end, I sent an email about the problems I saw (including some with plot and characterization). I tried hard to be positive, because we all know writing is hard. I said I could write a review, but that my preference would be not to write one. I thanked the author for sending the book.
    I got a snippy email back explaining that everyone else who read the novel loved it and asking what was the matter with me?
    Professional editors must get more of that. There are a lot of people who allow their ego to get tied up in their writing–they see writing as an art, a mysterious process that flows from the muse. So maybe those editors go a little deaf to the protests of writers who work on their craft, as you do, and know that you have to put in a lot of practice and try to listen to readers in order to articulate what you have to say in the best way you can.
    Sorry this happened to you. Book reviewing is not in a good state right now.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I imagine that time constraints make it hard to spend as much time on one book as a reviewer would like, and really surprised that the genre seemed to have been changed.

      Bianca would have been quite annoyed that her part was reduced to a line! She’s pivotal – and knows it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lee McAulay

    Great post; I can tell this is a sore point. Great comments too. A few things I’m prompted to join in on:

    Your novel “misses every trope a romance reader expects from a satisfying romance” – that’s crucial. If your story is a complex read, it has to match expectations elsewhere – not have those expectations a hurdle.

    Two books is more than most people manage so you are ahead of the flock; you have others planned, yet to write, so you will build yourself a nice little bookshelf of works you are proud of. We’re all doing the best we can with the skills we have (reminder to self also :-)).

    “when a reviewer nails your book: you have found a kindred soul, one of your potential ‘true fans.’ And that is an awesome feeling.” – Yes! Still to find one. Mind you, I have a nonfiction book that has nothing but 5-star reviews and positive comments, which is rather satisfying. Fiction is more difficult to nail.

    I have a middling review from a Goodreads giveaway for SHADOWBOX, where the reviewer *hated* my lead character so much they wanted to punch him. Yay! Character-building skill level-up! Now to try making up characters a reader will like…

    “a recommendation from a friend whose tastes you like is the best form of advertising. And why people will buy the ‘next book from their favorite author’ long after that author has ceased to be able to write.” – guilty of both, although friends have very different tastes, so I’ve tried to stop them recommending *anything*… and sometimes we want to spend time with the “voice” of our favourite author, even if their story fails to thrill us any more.

    “NYT bestselling author” – I think this is why mainstream publishers have advertisers writing copy for the back blurb of books, instead of authors. It’s hard to think of your own novel as just another product to be pushed to strangers when you’ve spent many hours fretting over the story and characters. And most readers don’t care.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Sounds like your lead character was very real – struck a familiar nerve in that reader. One goes Yes! and smiles. And hopes to do it again.

      I have friends online who write everything from gothic horror and steampunk to cozy mysteries and clean romances – because we’re indies, and that’s what we have in common.

      In the other publishing world, people congregate by genre and can do blog tours and exchange newsletters. I only know one or two other indies writing literary fiction – they haven’t been similar enough for us to push each other’s work. One I positively hated. I think of us as all very far, but in different directions, from the writers of the popular indie genres, which have most of the volume.

      Amazon has made people like me able to publish – but it’s a business, and it gives that facility to many other writers, creating a huge arena for competition for readers.

      Better than nothing. Better than competing for the few slots in the traditional publisher’s catalogues with all the other writers on the planet. But you have to remember the trad pubs reject upwards of 95% of what is submitted, and most books apparently live six weeks on a bookstore shelf and disappear. Whatever can be done to make a book stand out is done.

      I’ll figure out marketing – but I have a feeling luck will be involved.

      I hope to have found a kindred soul or two already in the reviewers – we’ll see.


  3. acflory

    What a miserable situation. 😦
    As I’ve mentioned before, I have had a 1 star review, and I wear it with pride, but I’ve never been able to afford a paid review so know very little about the process.
    I will disagree with you about one thing though, I’m not sure that actual readers even glance at those professional reviews. I know I don’t. If I’m thinking about taking a chance on a new writer, I’ll go straight to the ‘real’ reviews and check out both the positive AND the negative ones.
    I honestly don’t think Netherworld will suffer for not have a professional review. -hugs-


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I don’t think it will suffer – but I walk a narrow line because I write mainstream as an indie, and the readers who trust the big traditional publishers (who put out their share of junk) may think those credentials mean something more than your more relaxed indie omnivorous reader.

      I need to be taken as a serious contributor to contemporary literary mainstream fiction, and that means at least the appearance of traditional vetting, i.e. reviewers from recognizable services. THAT demographic may need more reassuring appearances, until I have some name recognition, which is an incestuous circle, but helps once you’re in it.

      In my opinion, Darcie Chan, with The Mill River Recluse, used up the slot I would have liked to have – she sold a lot of copies at 0.99, was a sensation, got a traditional contract. Then she sort of vanished. Even I bought a copy and read it – not my thing. I know she put out three books, but haven’t even seen her name in the years since.

      But I want to do that – with staying power. One must have ambitions, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. acflory

        Be careful what you wish for! I was a huge fan of Hugh Howey [scifi] and he became very famous as an Indie. Now he seems to have faded away too. I do wonder whether these trad. pub contracts aren’t really just designed to buy up any competition, and then strangle it. But then I have become a bit of a cynic where large corporationa are concerned. :/


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Hugh Howey is very much alive and enjoying the fruits of his success; I get a post from him every once in a while.

          Whether he’s still writing much fiction, I can’t tell – he’s gone a bit celebrity. It was quite a lot of money – he and his wife live on a yacht, IIRC.

          Managing fame and fortune is tricky; Bianca made sure a lot of her earnings went into her mansion – and being able to keep it forever. She’s a smart cookie.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. acflory

          This topic reminded me that I hadn’t read any of Howey’s stuff in quite a while so I went on Amazon just now and had a look. He has a new book out but…he now has a trad publisher who has jumped on the price gouging bandwagon – only the hardcover available, at least to /me/ and one of the comments [1 star review] complained about $15 for the Kindle version so I assume it is available as an ebook in the US. Fans are only loyal until they start feeling cheated.
          In the past, Howey self-published the kindle version of each book, leaving only the paperback to the trad. publisher. This does not bode well for his longevity.
          I know I won’t be buying at that price.


        3. acflory

          Hmm…I haven’t seen any marketing at all. I think the days when a publisher would flood the media with marketing are long gone, even for the the A listed writers. They all seem to be coasting on their past ‘fame’, or fading into obscurity.


        4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I don’t love it, but it is very hard to find my readers – marketing is one way. They are scattered like chocolate chips in cookies, surrounded by readers of other books.

          I’m starting to wonder whether SOME of my readers aren’t keeping me all to themselves! Just paranoid, right? RIGHT?!

          Liked by 1 person

        5. acflory

          lmao! Chocolate chips is about right. My problem is that there isn’t an Amazon category called ‘Boomer scifi’.
          An Aussie friend actually asked a bunch of young people to read Miira, to see what they thought of it. And they did NOT like it. Most didn’t even finish it, and Miira is not a big book. I don’t know what age they were but I assume they would have been in the young adult zone. So clearly my old fashioned /style/ doesn’t appeal to that demographic. -sigh-
          Honestly? I’ve given up. I’ll do the odd giveaway but mostly I just talk to friends I’ve made online.


        6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          All I can think of is that MOST of the people in charge of SF organizations ARE older – and would enjoy reading a book with some depth.

          Ball rolling kind of thing again – how to get some basic exposure to the influencers who might be tired of junk?

          Let me know if you figure it out. Don’t get discouraged. Keep poking when a possibility seems interesting. The quality is there – but it is a niche product, and those niche squirrels hide in very big trees.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. acflory

          Niche squirrels! Love it. And yes, you’re right, which is why being an Indie has become the only real way to go. Trad pubs are now all owned by massive multinationals that don’t give a $hit about books, so it’s all about ‘bestsellers’, and most bestsellers are not written by the niche squirrels. 😀


        8. acflory

          That’s where writer-reviewers like Diana Peach and Berthold come in. Most of the books I read have been recommended by people I trust. The old word-of-mouth thing. 🙂


        9. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I don’t have the energy to read – it all goes into the writing – so I don’t worry. But we have a library downstairs and people dump their bestsellers there when they move in. The public library in Davis is a source of almost anything I want to borrow, online. And I have access to Princeton U.’s library for anything special I need.

          Wish I’d had this kind of access when I was young and read mountains.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I know so little about Australia when it comes to the day to day stuff – so I can’t comment intelligently. I can only mention our decisions, and why we made them – your situation is going to be quite different.

          I’m 73, he’s just hit 75, and I’m in my forever home with a lot of like-minded people – if I choose to open my door and go out (we all do VERY little in-home visiting, so it’s a treat when it happens).

          The combination works so far because we ARE independent; I hope I’ll accept care gracefully when it becomes necessary.

          Like you, I hope not to need all the built-in stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

        11. acflory

          Ah. I’m 69 and still in reasonable health so I haven’t been forced to think that far ahead. Let’s hope we both have lots of productive years ahead.


        12. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I didn’t have that luxury. I was just past my 40th birthday when I got sick. Our youngest never knew a healthy mother, and the two oldest were 4 and 2.

          But we moved here early, and are one of the youngest couples – and I’m still glad. We really didn’t need a 4 bedroom house, not big enough if all the kids came home for Christmas, and way too big the rest of the time. Plus the upkeep!

          We would have kept it much longer if I’d been able to garden – it was gorgeous, but I couldn’t help any more, and it was way too much for the husband, even retired, to take on by himself, and no point in paying a lot of money when I couldn’t even go out and enjoy weeding!

          So many losses. I try not to think about it.

          Liked by 1 person

        13. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          As I tell myself and shrug: I didn’t DO anything or neglect myself to make it happen, so I don’t feel responsible any way – it could have happened to anyone, so why NOT me?

          And then I deal with it.

          No point in ruining what I have left by being morose.

          Liked by 1 person

        14. acflory

          ‘why NOT me?’ That is probably one of the most insightful questions I’ve heard in a long time. We may be the centre of our own worlds, but the real world is indifferent to our…-chuckle-…self importance!


        15. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          And, if you think about it, I have already had more than my share of privilege.

          I didn’t get born male, but the next best thing is oldest daughter in a family with no sons. I was born ‘white’ (my 1/4 Mexican heritage doesn’t show; my Hungarian 1/2 dominates). I got to pick up a second (and third) language easily. I was loved and the constraints weren’t too bad.

          I had a fabulous education – as far as I could take it. I worked at the premier place for Plasma Physics Research, Princeton U., for ten years. I got to the finals for astronaut selection.

          My children are healthy – and we figured out the youngest’s sleep problem so she doesn’t have to fight it the rest of her life, not knowing.

          So I should have every other privilege, too? I already have access to more healthcare than most of the world, and we can pay for where we want to live.

          And I WRITE – the biggest privilege ever.

          It is already far from fair – so Why NOT me? is my acknowledgment that I am not entitled to anything, and have had much.

          Liked by 1 person

        16. acflory

          Oh my god….I’m Hungarian by parentage and birth. I’m an only child whose father treated her as he would have treated a son. My parents gave me the best education they could afford. I have university degrees. The list diverges from that point, but my life has been highly privileged too. I’ve often felt that the ‘bad’ stuff is the counterbalance to the good. Perhaps not quite fate, but certainly the middle of the bell curve statistically.
          We are lucky. 🙂


        17. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Not counterbalanced – life is what you get – but we got a good solid loving start, so I try not to whine. ‘Privileged’ should not lead to ‘entitled,’ as it does for certain people.

          People forget they didn’t earn any of this – some of us were luckier than others at where we started, and who our parents were. I feel we need to share that, and, if we have a chance, to vote for and help others getting the best start and help possible.

          A little hard to do when you barely have energy to brush your teeth…

          Liked by 1 person

        18. acflory

          Shorts aren’t my forte. I do have one small book of shorts that I published but I have no interest in writing /for/ an anthology. I don’t read shorts very often so I’m not attracted to anthologies as a Reader.


        19. acflory

          Gawd….I haven’t set foot in a library in…almost two decades? Probably not since I got my first Kindle. I confess, I like to /own/ my books so, no, I’ll be living without Howey’s latest.


        20. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Most libraries here in the States – and because of the pandemic – have made almost all digital works they own available through the internet. Do yours in Australia?

          We can borrow without ever stepping foot in a library, INCLUDING the New York Public Library (you have to register).

          Liked by 1 person

        21. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I believe what is borrowed from libraries comes with digital restrictions: you get it for the normal borrowing term, and can renew some number of times if you haven’t finished it, and then it disappears.

          You can then put yourself on the list to borrow it again, if you need to. Libraries buy a certain number of digital licenses – they can lend only so many copies at a time. These are traditional publisher contracts, quite restrictive and sometimes expensive.

          But worth a visit to your library’s website or a call to find out what you have available.

          Liked by 1 person

        22. acflory

          I see. Okay, that makes sense, but I don’t like the idea that books on my Kindle just ‘disappear’. That strikes me as creepy. Anyway, it doesn’t matter as I still like to own my books, in so far as any digital copy can be ‘owned’ these days.


        23. acflory

          lol – I sideload all my books so I have a copy on my pc and don’t have to rely on Amazon. But I’m with you on the ‘keepers’. I hate having to go through and delete stuff off my Kindle.


        24. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Worth it for a few books you want to keep. Mostly I read books when I get them – or skim for the few good bits in non-fiction books I buy for writing.

          And the ones I reread for comfort are mostly in paper on the shelf next to my desk.

          Liked by 1 person

        25. acflory

          I built this house with cat 5 cable in the walls. As a result we really didn’t get into wifi for a very long time. The result of /that/ is that we had to sideload all our books and it’s a habit that’s stuck.
          My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of books I and the Offspring love and MUST keep. lol Sadly I find them very hard to read these days. I’m starting to develop cataracts so it’s just so much easier to read everything on the Kindle.


        26. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          How long do you have to wait to have cataract surgery? I’m assuming that’s covered by your health insurance?

          BTW, it is really hard to get rid of books any more when you downsize. We took box after box of them to our public library – knowing they would be sold for pennies at a library sale, but with recycling the paper as the only other option.

          Our $200 textbooks from grad school – we had to rip the hard covers off so they could recycle the paper. THAT was hard. Especially since they were pristine, and most of the science was still correct (physics and chemistry textbooks really don’t go out of date, except for recent discoveries) and kids in poor countries would have been able to use them, but getting them there was prohibitive…

          At least we placed a lot of the furniture, and most of the homeschool supplies.

          Downsizing is not an easy thing to do – we told the kids they should be happy they wouldn’t have to do it FOR us.

          Liked by 1 person

        27. acflory

          Last time I had my eyes checked – pre-pandemic – I was told I’d have to wait until the cataracts got a lot worse. I don’t actually know why. Perhaps it’s because the artificial lens aren’t as ‘good’ as natural ones so therefore they need to be contrasted against natural ones gone bad?
          I do feel for you. We had to downsize from a four bedroom home to this one, and then we had to clear out Dad’s house as well a year or so later. Am I allowed to say ‘never again?’ or will I just jinx myself. lol


        28. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Still sure they’re working on a real vaccine – a flu-type vaccine is just a threat to the elderly. I’m already a target of too many diseases, and can’t fight to stay fit to compensate (the plans of my youth notwithstanding).

          I still think there’s life ahead, and I’m four years older than you are.

          I also think optimism, in general, makes you live longer. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        29. acflory

          Yes, I hope for a truly effective vaccine as well.
          I agree re optimism and would also add ‘purpose’. Dad discovered busking at the age 65-ish and played his violin on trains, planes and in town for another twenty odd years, despite his growing dementia. My job was to facilitate his purpose as much as I could. The engineer faded but the musician remained happy. 🙂


        30. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Good for him – but it sounds like a horror for you.

          You’ve seen my busking find, Cascade, and their Chapman sticks. I can’t imagine the life, but if you do it for the love of music, and don’t absolutely need the income to live…?

          Actually, I CAN imagine the life – hostels, local inexpensive restaurants and interesting food, standing (which I don’t do well), but getting to play your music in so many places.

          I was too much of a chicken to try something like that – Mother raised us cautious and ordinary and well-behaved – and then it was things that lock you down like grad school (no breaks allowed), marriage, children, chronic illness.

          I wanted to live in a tiny house for a while – but can’t because I can’t help with any of it, so it would be my dream, and someone else’s work, and that doesn’t seem at all fair.

          Maybe if the long covid research fixes me.

          Liked by 1 person

        31. acflory

          I was always a Daddy’s girl so at the time it was simply life. That said, it wasn’t a coincidence that I was diagnosed with cancer about 3 months after Dad died. I did neglect myself, but luckily i didn’t have to pay the ultimate price.


        32. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I keep warning people that caretakers who don’t have help and support have bad outcomes.

          A long time friend just had to put his wife in assisted living (I think it’s far more than that – she can’t do anything for herself), and he was trying to do it all with some in-home help and his daughters, but people who are helpless need a LOT of care, and I was worried about HIM.

          That’s the main reason we moved here: for the future, whichever of us might need more care.

          And it is a lot easier not to take care of a house, so Independent Living (except for the pandemic) is also a great idea.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Jack "Blimprider" Tyler

    Well, this sounds aggravating. I’m on team Chris with this one. I’ve never paid for a review, not because I’m snobbish like that, but a paid review, as a rule, costs more than I expect to make over the life of the book. I write genre shoot-em-ups, and have become known to an audience that likes that sort of thing, so my reviews range from neutral to positive, but there are outliers…

    I ran a giveaway back when Goodreads offered them for free and was in the process of spending three months in hospital at the time the giveaway was supposed to be mailed out. My daughter sent an explanation to all the winners, and everyone was content to wait except one young lady who, having never seen the book, gave it a one-star review based on her belief that I had made up the hospital story to get out of sending the book. I sent her copy along with all the others when I got home, but she never saw fit to update her review; I take that to mean she’s proud of it, so I’m not shy about mentioning her name when it comes up.

    My point is that when you are writing, have written, a book, story, whatever, it’s your personal property. Once you send it out into the world and someone pays money for it, or finds it on a bus seat for that matter, and invests the time to read it, they become shareholders as it were, with the right to say whatever they like about it. I’m not sure how my analogy carries over into a paid review. It seems like a paid reviewer is a hired contractor that you should be entitled to dictate the finished product to, but that’s obviously wrong.

    I recently ran a promo of your series on my blog in which I described it as a romance, and that was based entirely on your own blurbs. Now, comparing what you write to what I write is like comparing fine steak to a fast-food hamburger, and I’ll freely admit to lacking the sophistication to see the nuances, but you may be entitled to expect better than that from a professional reviewer. I made the changes you requested, and if your reviewer missed the mark, he or she should consider doing the same. At least they asked for your opinion before just posting it for all the world to read.

    I’ve heard it said that no publicity is bad publicity, and I’m not sure I agree with that, but one thing I do agree with is the advice to never reply to a bad review. It seems like, if only 10% of your reviews are negative, they’ll fade away sooner if you don’t call attention to them. If only 10% are positive, then you’ve got some work to do. It doesn’t sound like the review was BAD, just focused on the wrong aspects or missed the mark in some other way. If the reviewer is willing to work with you, take advantage, but whatever happens, know that this, too, shall pass.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment, Jack.

      I agree in principle with everything you’ve said – for reviews in general, and even for editorial reviews.

      I did mention that I would not want to identify a reviewer in any way – because, sadly, I’m wondering if the review world has to do that to make its time worth what they charge for it: non-trivial, but still a lot to ask for when the book is long and the review needs to be at least several paragraphs.

      But me ‘working with’ them is not an option because it takes way too much out of ME. Just listing the things 1) that were not correct, factually, in the review, and, as I first thought I could, 2) the major events of the novel that were missed – and which made it a completely different book, would have taken me hours of energy I don’t have, and wouldn’t choose to spend that way.

      But I felt that the contract between reviewer and author had been ignored: read enough of the book so that you’re reviewing that book, and not ‘phoning it in.’

      Unless you’ve read NETHERWORLD, which is probably not in your set of favorite genres, you won’t see how profound the mismatch is. I’ve had a lot of, shall we say fuzzy reviews of PURGATORY? I’m used to people having a hard time, even when they liked it, writing something, and I’m grateful for every word, even from readers who didn’t like it because they probably never should have attempted it in the first place. Because they are honest reactions to the actual book.

      That’s not what happened with this particular review. I’m never going to know what happened. But it was vastly wrong, and I had the option to not accept it, so I didn’t.

      Even after all this time, I’ve only put out two books – I’m still a newbie. I’m sure it gets easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. marianallen

    “Escapades?” I’m wondering if a careful tweaking of the review, pointing out specific passages, might not turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. I find myself reading NETHERWORLD very slowly, so I can suck every morsel of marrow out of those juicy bones. (I must be hungry. I haven’t had breakfast yet.) Funny, but NETHERWORLD really IS a psychological thriller, it’s just that the thrills don’t involve car chases, heists, or dirty bombs; they’re the thrills of life-changing events that are set in motion by seemingly small decisions. Snowflake, meet avalanche.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m sorry (and glad you’re reading slowly), but IF there is a silk purse in there, I have neither the time nor the energy (nor the necessity – Editorial Reviews are optional on the book’s page on Amazon) to do the work of reconstruction. Some projects are better razed to their deepest basement, and something else built thereon. Almost every word, at least every sentence, would have had to be rewritten.

      Off to have my own breakfast. Thanks for commenting, Marian. Love to hear what you think.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris

    The inherent problem with paid reviews is that they introduce a non-organic dimension in what ought to be a purely organic process. In other words, the process of paying for a review automatically invalidates several key aspects that make a review worthwhile.

    Ideally, a review is a result of a reader having discovered the book and being affected by it (positively or negatively) enough to want to express their thoughts. Sometimes, a review can be the result of helping out a friend/fellow author. As long as there aren’t any expectations/rewards involved, this is still a legitimate review – particularly if the reviewer can be honest, which isn’t always a given.

    But someone who is paid to review a book is automatically unable to be in that position of genuine discovery. Ironically enough, perhaps it’d be a book they’d enjoy, but it’s a “we’ll never know” scenario: Since there is money involved, the reviewer must read the book and must write a review. But the process lacks the affective input that comes with genuinely wanting to express one’s thoughts simply for the sake of it.

    I suspect what happened here is similar: The reviewer simply wanted to get through the book as quickly as possible, returning a canned generic response that justified getting paid for it, without even caring to discover the book.

    The parallel might sound harsh – I am certainly not judging authors who purchase reviews; they do what they feel it’s best for their books – but the whole process reminds me of paying for sex: One ostensibly pays to get what others enjoy naturally, but the act of paying makes it completely impossible to access the very thing one tries to enjoy. Yes, it’s some emulation/approximation, but lacking in major ways, since the provider of the service (whether a prostitute or a paid reviewer) has absolutely zero emotional input and simply wants to get done with it as soon as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      A few thoughts:

      All of the following said, there is a special feeling when a reviewer nails your book: you have found a kindred soul, one of your potential ‘true fans.’ And that is an awesome feeling.
      IF paid reviews were uniformly positive, I would be against them.

      But some review organizations such as Kirkus have reputations, deserved or not, of being experienced at choosing the better books out of those submitted to them, AND BECAUSE OF THIS, there is an aura of impartiality associated with editorial reviews, to the point of wondering why a book has none if it doesn’t.

      It’s all advertising, but it may matter.

      There is little accountability, and the example of many readers rating popular books with good editorial reviews as unsatisfactory. Check the reviews on Amazon – few books with a large number of reviews lack detractors, but having many positive reviews and some negative ones seems to confer respectability on the authors. The title is ‘Real Author.’

      Newbies usually have to have it explained to them that a roster of all 5* reviews and ratings looks extremely suspicious to a potential reader.

      Examination of the New York Times lists of best books have shown how these lists can be manipulated; but authors still like to have ‘NYT bestselling author’ on their cover. It’s all a form of advertising, and is supposed to be worth its cost in the form or increased sales. I don’t know – I’ve never been in the position. Presumably it’s not a BAD thing.

      In the same way a cover does not determine the quality of anything but the cover, but somehow implies that someone with the taste to choose a good cover is also a good writer, a good review from a reviewing organization can seem to confer status as a ‘good book’.

      There’s a bit of ‘this is all we have to judge by’ attached; there’s a bit of ‘vetted by someone important’ attached; there’s a bit of ‘everyone is reading this now’ implied. It can help beyond making the author more confident, and it indicates author progress along the ‘right’ career path.

      Given some of the books with all the kudos which are total garbage, you’d think the whole system would have collapsed years ago – except that there’s nothing to replace it, and readers like a little reassurance EVEN WHEN they don’t like the books they buy this way. Money is involved. One likes to get good value.

      There are millions of books: which ones will get your attention? A little reassurance from a pro is better than being completely lost, and, over time, readers may find which touchstones give them books in libraries and when purchased that they enjoy reading, and which authors at least don’t disappoint too much. With luck, readers will find some of the books they will really like. A good education and an enthusiastic teacher will help prepare them to make their own choices.

      If you think about or read about it too much, the system falls apart. But you still need to choose when you want a story. Some reviewers are better at creating the illusion.

      Which is why a recommendation from a friend whose tastes you usually like is the best form of advertising for books. And why people will buy the ‘next book from their favorite author’ long after that author has ceased to be able to write.

      But indies have to sell their books in the same bazaar as other indies and all the traditionally published – relative advantages may be all we have. We have to play, and pay. Unless we win the virality race and are lucky, or first.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lloyd Lofthouse

    When I read that some readers were treating/reading/judging your novel as if it were a romance, I immediately went to to discover if one of the categories your novel was listed under was a romance category and didn’t find one, not one.

    I ran a category search for the eBook and another one for the paperback.

    I also discovered that there are only two categories listed for the paperback. You may request up to 10 but for paperbacks, its not easy to find enough to fill all 10 spots.

    There were 7 categories listed for the eBook, room for three more if it’s possible.

    It boggles the mind how any reader would think your novel is a romance when none of the categories are romance categories.

    Writers Digest has annual awards and a critique/review is included for every book submitted even if we don’t win any of the awards. An anonymous judge writes it and no one sees it by the author. Writer’s Digest also allows authors to use pull quotes from the judge’s critique/review as long as we mention where the pull quote came from. We can ignore what we don’t want to use in the pull quote we select.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      This was a Goodreads Librarian’s statement that some readers had filed my novels on their shelves with ‘Romance’ in the title.

      I’d take it, but only if it resulted in sales; instead, it has resulted in a few low ratings, and being lectured about being too long and charging too much. 🙂

      If I wrote Romance, I’d be delighted to be noticed. They do quite well.

      Thanks for looking; I used one of those methods, and found I need to add a category or two to the second book, but have more than three for each.

      I think I may have a home in Psychological Literary Fiction, except that it is already stuffed with books that are really Suspense.

      I did a short post about it – – just to bookmark the slot.

      Marketing for the second book, and renewed marketing for the first, are having to wait until I feel more normal; I’ll get there.

      Lots of review services provide awards and reviews – I have signed up for a couple.



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