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I Gave 5 Stars to a Book I Never Read

March 28, 2011

Bullying. It’s in the headlines a lot lately. And most of us watch in horror as the evidence (cellphone videos, FB comments, etc) makes its way onto the internet. “What’s wrong with those savages?” “How could people stand by and watch?” “This world’s going to hell!” So what has prompted this blog post? If you’re an author, you’ve probably already heard that you shouldn’t comment negatively to someone who writes a bad review of your book. But one such author did exactly that, even going so far as to tell the reviewer to F*CK Off!

Did the author make a mistake? Yes, I think so. Did she hear about it? Yes, to the tune of 300 plus comments and counting on the original review by a blogger. Did a fair number of people rush to Amazon to teach her a lesson by posting 1-star reviews, some even comparing her to a “mentally retarded monkey?” Yes. Did I give the book 5 stars without reading it? Yes.

Do I care? No.

People manipulate those silly ratings all the time. Authors rate their own books under fake names. There is readily available info on methods to make your Amazon ranking soar. It’s all silly. Am I getting slammed for “faking” a rating? Pretty much, based on the voting mechanism that allows people to voice whether they believe a review is helpful or not. Someone even reported me for abuse. But it got people to read what I had to say. And what I had to say on my amazon review was this (I’m posting it below because Amazon may decide to delete my review):

This Is Bullying. Stop it. So an author had a temper tantrum in the worst place possible…the internet. And her rant has gone viral. Yes, she was unprofessional and certainly got an ear full in the comments of the original review that so upset her. I imagine she is now 10 times as distraught as she was upon reading the AL review in the first place. But to have everyone rush over here and post 1-star reviews is bullying. We all make mistakes. Have some humanity, reviewers, and back off now. Please. Want to criticize me for giving 5-stars to a book I’ve never read? I can take it, but I bet this author’s had enough. I just wanted to get your attention and make my appeal. Thanks for reading.

So there you have it. I lied. Abused the system. As one disgruntled commenter of my review put it, I was “generating a new class of problems.” But somewhere out in the real world, away from the keyboard and the anonymous commenters, Jacqueline Howett is a human, a woman who had a dream and probably tried for years to make it happen. And when she defended that dream in what most of us would consider a very unprofessional manner, she made a mockery of herself. A mistake. A big one. Is there any among us who haven’t done the same and wished we could make it all go away?


Update: Amazon did indeed remove my review. Plenty of 1-starred reviews that admit to not reading past the description remain. Conclusion: Mean People Suck.

Updated Again: I added a 2nd 5-star review, copied below, the purpose of which was lost on too many people. Here’s what I wrote. Now I’m done with it…

What if…just what if…

I’ve read the sample pages on the author’s blog and agree THE GREEK SEAMAN is wrought with grammar and syntax errors. I agree the author reacted in a heinous way to the blogger who posted the 2-star review. But what if the author, by ranting about the review, was really conducting an experiment on human nature. Liken it to the supermodel who dresses in a fat suit to see how people ridicule her. Or the Caucasian dressing as a minority to experience bigotry. Just how cruel can people be? How many names can be hurled? How many people will resort to mob mentality and go after her because she made a public mistake and needs to be taught a lesson by whom? Those of us who have NEVER made an egregious error in judgment? How many sophomoric jokes about her title can come from those with the least imagination? How many people are laughing and cheering from the stands as this woman is publicly lynched? What if you were unwittingly part of this grand experiment? Now, how fast can you mark this review as unhelpful?

(Edited to add: this is an exercise in self reflection, not a real theory. Where do YOU fit in? Hope that helps.)

34 Comments leave one →
  1. lishacauthen permalink
    March 29, 2011 9:56 am

    I’m glad you posted this. I knew about the meltdown, but I had no idea people were sabotaging her ratings at Amazon. That’s just strange, people would care enough to spend time doing that.

    What ugly, primal button did this woman push in these people? Why does it matter to them if she self-publishes a book that doesn’t come up to their standards? Ignore it, and that will be the end. What is this need to grind her into the dirt? I sincerely do not understand.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 5:07 pm

      Crazy human behavior. It’s why we write, isn’t it??


      • lishacauthen permalink
        March 29, 2011 7:25 pm

        Crazy human behavior is what I live for.


  2. March 29, 2011 11:20 am

    I read the meltdown yesterday and thought, wow, what a way to shoot yourself in the foot. And then she just kept going on and on and I thought worse things. But I never imagined people would head to Amazon to blast her like that. There’s probably a very limited number of people who would have seen the original review, and a slightly bigger number who would have seen the meltdown. To move it to Amazon, where it has a much wider audience, is unfair. Glad you posted.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 5:05 pm

      Thanks so much, Tara. Yeah, the initial meltdown was definitely painful to witness.


  3. March 29, 2011 11:42 am

    Thanks for posting, Laura. I read the original review and accompanying rant(s) and was admittedly disappointed and distressed that the author responded this way on-line. While I know this went viral, I had no idea people were “bullying” her on Amazon.

    That’s even more distressful and disappointing. Bullying is NEVER okay.

    You, however, are more than awesome for posting this.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 5:03 pm

      You are a very nice lady, Lady. Thanks you!


  4. Pam Calvert permalink
    March 29, 2011 1:52 pm

    I couldn’t find your review on amazon. Did they take it down? Or am I just not seeing it?


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 2:17 pm

      Yep, they took it down, but left other reviews up in which people admitted not reading past the book’s description. Boo.


  5. March 29, 2011 4:36 pm

    Mean people do suck. And all of this nonsense doesn’t sit well in my stomach at all. I don’t agree with anyone rating a book with out reading it, but I understand what you were trying to do. Obviously it got someone’s attention. The only thing we could possibly do would be to report all the reviews that say they didn’t read the book. I have a feeling when the dust settles will remove most of them.

    I don’t agree with the author’s reaction, but I don’t agree with the retaliatory tactics that people are taking also. It is just a nasty circle of bad behavior. We need more people to think before they act — and thanks for taking the time to analyze the situation before jumping head long with the crowd.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 5:02 pm

      Very nice of you to drop by. I appreciate hearing any perspective as long as it’s without malice. Thank you.


  6. March 29, 2011 4:42 pm

    Good for you, Laura. You put the right label on it. It was really ugly.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 29, 2011 5:02 pm

      Appreciate you saying so, Anne. : )


  7. Ben permalink
    March 30, 2011 6:36 am

    Nice post, Laura. I feel much the same way about it.

    Bad form from the author, but a very nasty feel to all the piling on and bullying.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 30, 2011 8:23 am

      Ben, thanks so very much for taking the time to share your feelings. Glad to hear it!


  8. March 30, 2011 9:00 am

    I didn’t know about the Amazon issue. However, I was still horrified to see people piling on her and bullying her on the site. The decent and civilized thing to do would’ve been to encourage her to stop and leave it at that. Instead people took pleasure in her obvious bad judgement and pain. Kinda makes you wonder that we managed to get past the point of public executions and gladiators… no?

    Thanks for writing the blog.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 30, 2011 9:13 am

      Thank you, Laurie. And yes, some of the amazon reviews and supporting comments definitely smack of mob mentality and public lynching. Not sure what happens to humans’ ability to reason in cases like this, when I’m sure the woman has “learned her lesson.”


  9. response mathematique permalink
    March 30, 2011 1:40 pm

    This is going to last for a few more days, because more serious sites are now picking up the story, the Guardian, Boeing-Boeing, probably Metafilter people will also chime in.

    She may get a request or two for radio or even TV interview – then all will die down.
    I am not surprised that people are cruel and they started piling up on her Amazon page, especially after BigAl closed the comment page – but I am quite disappointed that Amazon did not remove the negative retaliatory reviews. They should have closed the Review page for a day or two until this dies down because this behavior obviously abuses their system also.

    She was not telling the truth when she was bragging in the comments that her book is selling greatly because of this controversy. People keep leaving negative reviews but not many are buying – the Sales Rank Number is climbing steadily.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 30, 2011 7:02 pm

      Agreed. This will all be forgotten on the wider scale (unfortunately, this author’s name will be Googleable forever) until the next person makes the same mistake. I appreciate your insight.


  10. Carmella permalink
    March 30, 2011 4:55 pm

    For whatever it’s worth, I think you tried to do a very nice thing. I probably would have just stood by and watched the poor woman get run into the ground by all those piling on. (Well, since I did nothing, I guess I did.) Anyway. Just wanted to say good for you for stepping up.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 30, 2011 5:14 pm

      Of course it means something. Thank you! At this point, my discontent is no longer with the author whose behavior started all this. We all know how badly she messed up. I troubled by all the pilers on. Maybe the good people are more capable of walking away from a trainwreck than I. EIther way, it means a lot that you dropped by to comment.


  11. March 30, 2011 5:33 pm

    I saw the link to BigAl’s review on a forum and followed it.

    I read the review, then the comments (admittedly only the first visible page of them) and balked.

    Ms. Howett really did a disservice not only to herself, but all the authors who wish to self-publish and seek out reviewers. I was even appalled enough to blog about it. But publish a 1-star review on Amazon to undermine her? No way.

    I think what she’s done is distasteful in a bad way, but I don’t think she deserves to have this kind of fall out.

    At this point, the best thing she can probably do would be to send BigAl an apology and hope it mentions it along with blogging the apology at her own site to help appease the masses. Maybe then it will stop, or at very least, cool down.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      March 30, 2011 6:20 pm

      Yes, an apology is definitely in order, although I wonder if people will use that as another excuse to beat up on someone who’s down, saying she’s only doing it because she got caught. Now I’m off to read your blog post. Thanks you for speaking up here!


  12. Sandy permalink
    April 1, 2011 3:11 pm

    Hi Laura, I appreciate your heartfelt comments in this blog and I find myself hoping the person of interest in all of this will read it. She has to be reeling right now. I read your 5 star review on Amazon and I’m thinking your comments went right over the heads of those who responded to your review. Hopefully the author -and all of us- will learn the lesson in all of this, and everyone can move on. So sad, this. Sharks in a feeding frenzy have always made me queasy. You know?

    P. S. Pardon any and all grammatical errors. I’m not a writer and now I’m not sure I ever want to be.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 2, 2011 10:19 am

      My writer friends are the best friends I’ve ever had in my entire life. Please don’t let the display on Amazon sway you from writing, if that’s your desire. You express yourself very well and have something worthwhile to say, dagnabbit!!! Thanks so much, Sandy, for dropping by to share your thoughts.

      P.S. In your comment, you missed a comma. (I jest! I jest!)


  13. response mathematique permalink
    April 5, 2011 9:23 am

    She finally decreased the price to 0.99 dollars because it wasn’t moving in spite of what she claimed in her angry response.

    I am surprised that she did not pull it entirely for now – she could be working on fixing it and she could later publish it with a different title, or in an improved version even if with the same title, after all, it became really famous with that title by now.

    The flood of incoming reviews stopped, but there are four customer images added.
    I suspected that they were rather ugly. They were.


    • Laura Manivong permalink*
      April 5, 2011 9:40 am

      I’m not familiar with the function of added images. I did notice that the total number of reviews has decreased, so I’m left to wonder if Amazon is removing the really inappropriate ones. Thanks for dropping by!


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  18. lishacauthen permalink
    March 30, 2011 8:20 pm

    If the shoe fits…



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