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text 2018-03-08 13:42
Another Bad Review "Club"

After seeing an author recommend "Reader's Favorite" to other authors as an inexpensive alternative to Kirkus for editorial reviews it set off warning bells for me when she also mentioned she'd gotten some reviews posted to Amazon from it.

 

So, of course I decided to check it out.  Here's how it works for authors:

 

Authors can request a free review, or pay a fee for an "expedited" review.  The author's book is submitted for member readers to chose to read - I'll get to how it works on the reader's side further on.

 

The free service doesn't guarantee the author will get a review, the paid service does guarantee a review.

 

The review will be provided to the author and they can post the review in the "editorial review" section of Amazon if they want. If the review is at least 4 stars Reader's Favorite will also post the review to their site, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

 

I haven't (yet) verified if they're posting to Barnes & Noble as a consumer, but if not so far this is no problem.

 

However if you keep reading in the author area you see at least one glaring red flag.  They facilitate author review swapping:

 

 

Which we know, and authors should know, violates TOS for sites like Amazon and GoodReads, and I presume Barnes & Noble, and probably everywhere else that allows consumer reviews.

 

I also strongly feel that any author considering doing business with a company like this should not simply look at the author information, but also the reader information, and ensure the service is in complete compliance of various TOS as well as FTC regulations, prior to doing business with them.  The authors I warned about this were distressingly unconcerned about anything other than the fact that they didn't feel they personally were violating any TOS by requesting reviews by this outfit.  Nevermind the rest of how this site functions, and how those reviews are posted that do violate various TOS.

 

Which takes us to the Reader's side.  What do readers get and what are they expected to do?

 

There are some stipulations I find bothersome, but don't violate TOS, so I won't detail those here.

 

Firstly, they are required to provide a review for a book they choose to accept within 3 weeks.  But then it goes on to say if they need more time that's not a problem, and if they decide not to review a book they can just remove the book from their list.  So, that's a bit confusing.  I'll point out that requiring a review in exchange for a free book violates Amazon and GoodReads TOS.

 

However, if these reviews were simply being used as editorial reviews, this still wouldn't be a problem.  So, hang in here with me.  Moving on...

 

RF tells readers, "We will post your review on Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest, as well as on our website. The author can post the review in the Editorial Reviews section of their Amazon page. You can post your review anywhere you like except Amazon, Google Books and Barnes & Noble because your review will already be posted there."

 

This is problematic. They cannot post the review anywhere they like, because their reviews will violate GoodReads TOS, and probably TOS of other retailers. They cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews. They can only post them as professional reviews where professional reviews are allowed, such as their own blog or their Facebook, etc.

 

Additionally I know for a fact that these reviewers do still post their reviews as consumer reviews on Amazon, at least sometimes.  Here's why:

 

"Although this is primarily a volunteer position, we also pay a small amount for each review and a little more for priority reviews. But this money is not enough to be considered payment for your services and should instead be thought of as a gift that can add up to a tidy sum over a couple of months. In addition, every month one lucky reviewer will win $100 in a raffle-style giveaway."

 

Not only are authors paying Reader's Favorite, but the reviewers are being paid per review.  They're also being entered into a cash drawing.  THIS means their reviews cannot be posted as consumer reviews on Amazon or GoodReads, and if/when they are they are violating TOS.

 

 

And, a chance to win free books.  Also means posting these reviews as a consumer review would violate TOS:

 

 

 

 

And, it gets worse.  Reader's Favorite only publishing a review if it's a least 4 stars is one thing, since presumably they're doing it as editorial/professional reviews. On the reader side I saw no stipulation that they could not post a less than 4 star review wherever they choose to post the review.  Although from information provided on the author's side, which you'll see below, it strongly suggests that member readers will be advised not to post a less-than-4-star review publicly, possibly in verbiage not visible until/unless one is a member.

 

However, Reader's Favorite does allow authors to "review the review", and "provide feedback" so the reviewer can "improve".  Which is problematic, when these reviewers are not specifically and firmly advised they cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews.

 

The information about this provided to authors is even more problematic:

 

"If a book receives less than 4 stars no official review is given. Instead, the reviewer will write constructive criticism to let the author know what problems they had with the book and offer any suggestions they may have to improve it. This will be about the size of a regular review and will be sent to the author privately; it will not be posted publicly. We are here to help authors, not hurt them.

Although we as a company do not interfere with what rating a reviewer gives a book, as the rating must be what the reviewer feels is appropriate, we do monitor the average ratings of our reviewers to ensure they are being fair and honest about their ratings to maintain the integrity of our reviews."

 

"Because it is critical that reviewers provide quality reviews, we invite you to Review your Reviewer. When your review is complete, you will be able to login to your Author's Area and rate your reviewer on a 5-star scale and provide a short review, just as they did for you. Your feedback is presented to the reviewer to help them improve their skills, the same way book reviews help authors improve theirs. The information is also passed to the Readers' Favorite staff to help us ensure the quality of our reviewers and reviews."

 

A lot of red flags there, this careful language suggests that reviewers will be monitored and rewarded/penalized if the "quality" of their reviews is not considered "fair", by the company, which I don't think it's unreasonable to consider it likely to mean keeping their overall rating/review average high, to keep authors happy.

 

And even more problems - an author I was talking to about this quoted information from their site that I have been unable to locate, it's possible it's visible only to those that have accounts in a member's area.  This is what she posted and said was from their site:

 

"Goodreads also has restrictions regarding reviews posted by professional review companies, so we ask our reviewers to use their personal Goodreads account to post your review. If you do not see our review on your Goodreads page then the reviewer does not have a Goodreads account. However, you can post the review yourself. You can either post an excerpt of your review in your book's description or you can post our complete review like any other reader's review. Be sure to keep the first line showing the review is from us, then it makes no difference who actually posts it."

 

Those of you familiar with GR will see how this is problematic.  Sure, if an author quotes a professional review in their own review space with the designation "Review From Author", GoodReads might let that fly, although it definitely still is a violation of TOS and should only be posted in areas where promotional information is allowed, not a review.

 

The statement also doesn't specify this definitely would not be acceptable for non-authors.  GoodReads doesn't allow people to post professional reviews as long as they do so from their personal accounts, or as long as they credit where the review is from.  GoodReads doesn't allow commercial/professional reviews to be posted as reader reviews, at all.

 

 

Unfortunately this service is attractive to indie authors who think editorial reviews are important, and the cost of Kirkus is prohibitive, or the review they received from Kirkus was not suitable for promotional purposes. The authors I spoke to who used this service hadn't even bothered to look at the reader side of things, although did admit to being pleased they'd received reviews posted to Amazon as consumer reviews.

 

In my opinion this service is very close to the scam the coupon clubs had been running, convincing the unwary they were in compliance with Amazon TOS when they were very much not.  And I wanted to warn other readers about this particular service, what it's doing, why it's a problem. I also think it's a safe bet there are many others like it out there.

 

 

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text 2018-02-11 22:58
Vidal Update: Feb 11, 2018

Update posted to the end of her Trolls & Negative Reviews blog post:

 

Please note: Only one of the people shown in these screenshots is known to be a teacher.  I am not.  Although Ms. M. has been, she also is not.

 

Her utter lack of self-awareness when accusing others of indulging "in behavior worthy of high school bullies" and "acting in such a juvenile manner" is almost deliciously ironic, and flagrantly hypocritical.

 

She's the bully crying "victim" when her targets refuse to be intimidated.  She is the one functioning in a professional capacity gleefully spewing unprofessional garbage on her author's blog, and author's Facebook page.

 

Add this to the list of things Ms. Vidal is apparently unaware of: Readers have more of an interest than simply "merits or demerits of the books."  Authors targeting and harassing readers over negative book reviews is an interest to readers and is a valid consumer issue.  YES, readers are going to take note and share with each other about authors that target readers and attempt to intimidate them into removing reviews.

 

The first two screenshots are of Ms. M.'s reviews and the comments on those reviews (minus those that were deleted for GR TOS violations).

 

First link: https://screenshots.firefox.com/Bq1A2Bb8UqMwbHAO/www.goodreads.com

Second link: https://screenshots.firefox.com/DxNbjaezlqsj7mNB/www.goodreads.com

 

The third link is to a "Discussion" of one of her books. What she fails to mention is that this "Discussion" that is not about the "merits or demerits of the book" was started by one of her supporters, using the name "Soraya". At the time of this screenshot the original post had already been deleted by GoodReads, and the poster had been booted from GoodReads.

 

Therefore the posts that remain are in response to the original post started by one of her supporters. 

 

I don't have a screenshot of that OP, but I do have the text:

 

"It is shameful how Mrs. Vidal has been treated by certain trolls on Goodreads and Amazon. Read about it here: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2017.."

 

Here's the link to her screenshot: https://screenshots.firefox.com/JLDvvI7tR2uVzJpm/www.goodreads.com

 

In the comments of her blog, Ms. Vidal seems to think a lot of hits to this blog post is a good thing.  She's apparently unaware of how many are checking it out to verify she's really posted the awful things that have been reported, and wait with their popcorn handy for the next bat shit crazy thing she comes up with (good idea to use Proxy Servers when visiting folks!).

 

She reports 1638 hits to date, and yet has only a handful willing to post in support on her blog and/or on her Facebook page.  Although she also mirrors over on Twitter, and has over 1,000 followers there, she's getting 0 responses, retweets, or likes.

 

I'm not sure those high numbers are in your favor, Vidal.

 

 

 

She also cross posted this to her Facebook page:

 

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review 2018-02-06 14:25
Review: Operation Hail Storm
Operation Hail Storm - Classroom Edition - Brett Arquette

Due to some unethical and TOS violating marketing this book caught my notice and I decided to take a look at it. Is this book truly as good as the author claims, and some glowing 5 star reviews assert?  Well, in addition to the spamming, and strange claims of being well suited for fans of very dissimilar books, it will probably not surprise you that more honest reviewers also state it is in serious need of good editing.


Looking at the Kindle Sample, so far the first 9 pages are one big Info Dump. *Snore*.

So far, the sketchy info we have about the two "girlfriends" of the high ranking North Korean official that are hanging out at his pool is that they're unbelievably interested in the eagle-but-we-know-it's-really-a-drone they see flying. Like, seriously, in between huge info dumps about this drone, it's mechanics and functioning, etc, these girls just keep repeating things like,

"Look at the pretty bird,"
"Oh, I see it," "Is it an eagle? I think it's an eagle!"
"I think it is an eagle,"
"Do you see the eagle, Mr. Kim?"
"Look, Mr.Kim. The eagle is right there."
"Do you see the eagle?" [Yes AGAIN...] "she asked Kim again."

Now, I admit, I'm not an expert in how nubile young "girlfriends" act and talk about when hanging out at the luxury pool of a powerful and wealthy man in what is a very poor country. But I really do expect this isn't it.

And, back to some unnecessarily detailed info dumping...

And then, "Understanding if he didn't look at the eagle, the women would continue to pester him,"

Are these "women" eight years old? Mentally challenged in some way? On drugs? Or maybe this guy has a fetish for ornithologists?

'"It's so beautiful," his girlfriend [inconsistent - as we're already told there are two of his "girlfriends" present, so...] said. "It must have a nest close to here. Around and around it goes. I've seen it every day for the last few days."'

Really, I'm shaking my head, sure, mention the bird, but this is really ridiculous and unbelievable behavior by women in this situation. I'm getting the impression the author here just wants the characters to serve the plot - which is calling attention to this "bird" (and talking about it on and on and on), and didn't put much thought into making these "girlfriends" believable as actual characters, or the situation of hanging out at this pool very believable. He's also insulting his readers, because he apparently thinks they are too stupid to notice something important unless he repeatedly hits them over the head with it.

So far, Mr. Kim has only grunted. Twice.

"Did you see it?" "Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if you could just float on the air like that? No worries. No problems."

Mr. Kim laughs.

Now we get more telling and not showing.

(I'm bored.)

The First Chapter: A drone that is made to appear to be an eagle is flying above the estate of a North Korean official tasked with building a long range missile. The official and two of his "girlfriends" notice it. And pages and pages and pages of info dumping about this drone, and the hot water this guy will be in if he doesn't deliver.

That's it. (I'm still bored).

Ok, the eagle-really-a-drone is being shot at, and the drone operator says, "Don't those idiots know that the eagle is a protected species?"

Telling me he's an idiot since 1. only certain species of eagle are protected and 2. in the US. I suspect the author may have intended that to come off as sarcastic humor, but the way things are written here in context it doesn't come off that way. Probably in part because of a lack of providing important details like facial expressions and tone of voice.

"He'd been recruited by Hail because he was the winner of the X-Wing Fantasy Flight Game Contest."

I just rolled my eyes so hard I hurt myself.

 

I'm a gamer. I'm also a Sci-Fi reader. I know there's actually a place to put gamer-fantasy-fulfillment like this into a story and have a willing audience go with the author, in spite of this sort of thing being unbelievable and unrealistic.  That place is in some forms of Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  It doesn't suit a political thriller like this book is.  Here it simply feels so unrealistic it jars the reader out of the story.  This type of story depends upon sounding realistic and credible, making it sound believable, even when stretching what we currently have as far as present day tech.  This is one example of where this book fails in that regard.

Enter the woman team member, "Typically, she wore a dress that showed off her long legs. [Of course she does *roll eyes*] She was tall for an Asian woman, but she liked being tall. Tall, smart and sexy."

Excuse me while I hurl. Yeah, yeah, I get this is a "guy" story. Puke.

This woman is the member of a para-military team, on a para-military ship, in the middle of a para-military operation. Wearing a dress. Just, no. <= not gonna happen. A skintight, latex, catsuit would make more sense than a dress. Does this ship have an elevator? Because if she's using stairs or ladders to move between decks she's giving everyone a nice show, whether they want it or not. Maybe she doesn't care. *eyeroll*

Then of course she has to look down and check out her fingernail polish. For chipping. Ya know, just to look like she's cool and collected. Or, has her priorities seriously skewed. Again - No.

I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps this woman just slept her way through MIT, because so far she cares mostly about looking sexy, showing off her legs, and the state of her manicure. Sure, those things have their place - but not in the middle of a para-military operation on board a para-military ship.

This is really, really, bad as far as female characters, who so far are either cardboard props just there to cry out "the bird! the bird!", or a book smart woman who clearly has zero common sense, and is so sexual a being she has to walk around on a para-military ship where the guys flop around in t-shirts, wearing sexy dresses so, I dunno, she can be oogled or something.

I'm wondering if the person who wrote this has ever met a woman, like, in actual real life.

 

One reader made fun of this comment, which is part of the narration, not a comment from a character:

 

"...but missile technology was complicated—damn near rocket science."

 

The sarcastic comment about this is well deserved, because of course missile technology is exactly rocket science.

 

Prior to his unceremoniously being removed from GoodReads for TOS violations, the author insulted this reader for not being able to recognize what he felt was obvious sarcastic humor.

 

Well, I have read the above in context and I can confirm it doesn't come off as sarcastic humor by the narrator.  It's rare for a book to have a narrator that breaks the 4th wall to give humorous asides to the reader. And when it's done it's both consistent and clear.  That this statement comes off as stupid, rather than a joke by the narrator, is a failure of the writing, not of the reader.


This book, so far, isn't the worst I've read, although that bar is really, really low, and it may have appeal for a male audience who like female characters to be out of male fantasy rather than reality, and enjoy prolonged and very detailed explanations and descriptions of numerous gadgets and weaponry. But, it's not that great, either.

 

I found the characterization to be shoddy to non-existent.  The writing is way too much telling not showing, with pages and pages of info dumping.  I understand some readers enjoy high tech stories with details about the gadgets, but that should be told organically to the story, and interspersed with the plot and the action.  Here the story grinds to a halt as we're provided a detailed lecture. It's incredibly boring, and very bad writing.  Particularly for an Action/Adventure/Thriller.

 

Don't like the marketing efforts for this one.  This author has been booted from GoodReads for spamming many users offering them this book for free.  In these spam messages he makes claims to it being similar to all sorts of dissimilar popular books, in the effort to entice readers.

 

After being booted from GoodReads this author continues his spam campaign by creating new accounts, sending spam to users, then deleting those accounts.  Rendering blocking useless, and making reporting to GR more difficult.

 

This author is also asking people to "like" positive reviews of his books, which is considered review manipulation and violates TOS.


Additionally, the $9.99 price is also way too high for a self-pubbed ebook.

 

 

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