This morning I woke up to a phone call from Terry Brooks.
It was a bit odd.
He gets up at dawn to write and never calls me that early; I let the sun enjoy an hour or two without me as I snore. But since being diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, all of a sudden I have multiple sets of parents who are looking after my well-being—no matter the time.
Terry, of course, was doing just that. Checking in on me. Also letting me know a few things that are going on in his life, professionally and otherwise. After getting off the phone, I realized I had a few things I had to get done, namely finishing his website’s redesign for the release of his forthcoming book, The Measure of the Magic (publishing August 23). It will require me sitting in a chair with a laptop, expending very little of my own energy.
I smiled at the irony this morning. The very thing that cancer has a tendency of reducing people to is sedentary non-movement. Which means I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands to do website stuff!
So this morning I reinserted most of Terry’s 30+ books back onto the website—summaries, reviews, excerpts, covers and purchasing links to the various online bookstores. But when I got to Dark Wraith of Shannara, his graphic novel that was released in 2008, I came across something that actually angered me quite a bit on Amazon.com.
Like most online booksellers, Amazon gives their customers the ability to write reviews. This is a good thing. People often like getting feedback from people who are not biased (the biased being publishers, authors, agents, etc.) and its that fan feedback that helps someone decide whether or not to buy the book.
But I saw something very different this morning while updating the page for Dark Wraith of Shannara and using the information on Amazon. There were seven 1-star reviews.
Curious, I delved into the one-star reviews to see what people didn’t like about the graphic novel—and none of them had to do with the actual book itself.
I rolled my eyes more than once.
The one-star reviews for Dark Wraith are customers angry that either 1) the Kindle doesn’t display the graphic content of the book in a clear way, or 2) the customer thought they were getting an actual prose book despite Amazon stating clearly that Dark Wraith is a graphic novel.
No mention of the artwork. No mention of the writing. No mention of the story or the pacing or if they liked it or not. They hated things out of the control of Terry Brooks and Del Rey Books.
Those seven 1-stars help drag the overall rating down.
And the sad thing? If those customers had merely read a bit closer to the production description or tried the excerpt before buying, they would not have been annoyed—and those 1-star reviews would likely not exist.
In short, their own idiocy is hurting innocent people.
Before you say anything, yes, I’m biased as well. I’ve been a Terry Brooks fan since I was 13—22 years—and I hate seeing fans not like something. But if that hate comes from valid reasons that are associated with Terry’s work, I’m fine with it. People have different tastes and not everyone will like everything Terry does all of the time.
But Amazon has no filter for these kinds of reviews, reviews that hurt the very authors the online bookstore depends on to make a living.
So this begs the question:
Does something need to be done about the Amazon rating system? In this time-constrained culture we live in, can the initially glanced at overall star rating hurt an author who doesn’t deserve it? Does Amazon and other online booksellers who rely on similar systems lose out on sales because of their own system? Does the author?
What do you think?