Sunday, 25 April 2010
Confessions of an Amazon Reviewer
I have a confession to make.
I sometimes post anonymous reviews on Amazon.
Now - before all the lovely YA writers who read this blog rush off to check their rare one-star crits for telltale signs of my competitive claws - I can assure you that unlike the academic Orlando Figes I have never used the anonymous label to savage any of my rivals. First, I wouldn't do that because I'm neither daft or nasty. Second, I set it up long before I had any interest in writing YA, or any idea that I would one day be a published writer.
(On the subject of Orlando Figes – could his attempt at anonymity have been any more useless? If you’re called Orlando and you work at Birkbeck College, then setting up an account labelled orlando-birkbeck is not really all that anonymous...unless the corridors of Birkbeck are packed with guys called Orlando, which I somehow doubt. I mean it hardly counts as anonymous at all)
I set my Amazon reviewer name anonymously because…well why wouldn’t I? That’s what most people do on the internet, whether they are reviewing on Amazon, commenting on the Guardian’s CiF site or strutting around the blogosphere.
And, since I’ve become a writer I haven’t changed it. I don’t often review on Amazon, and when I do it’s generally positive. If I love a YA book I review it under my own name on this blog, or on GoodReads. If I’m not so sure I tend to write a review which lists good and bad points. I’m happy to own my opinions, and come clean about my prejudices too. As with any review it’s only one view.
So, why review anonymously on Amazon? Well, very very rarely, I feel the urge to lay into a book. I feel ripped off by author, editor and other reviewers. I feel strongly annoyed that a book which started well descended into nonsense. I don’t think it deserved its great press.
So I post a one-star review which gives my reasons why. And I only want to do that anonymously, because I don’t want to make a great statement that might cause offence with publishers or writers. In general the comment I want to make boils down to this: you’re a well known writer, who’s enjoyed a lot of success and gets good reviews. But you and your editor have produced something that doesn’t deliver what it promised. I’m disappointed. Please don’t do it again.
Several times recently we’ve been to the cinema and been given a questionnaire to fill in at the end. I enjoyed giving feedback on The Ghost (zzzz) and Date Night (meh). I wish that books had a customer feedback questionnaire. Then I would probably give up posting the odd one star review on Amazon.
The whole question of anonymous reviewing and commenting is discussed in the Observer today. On the whole I’m against it – I agree with the journalist who says it unleashes ‘spite, envy, and hatred.’ I know bloggers who have been pestered by nasty anonymous commentators, and had to make hard choices about censorship. In principle I think that more should be done to stop anonymous reviewing and commenting. But I can’t quite give up the habit myself.