Monday, July 1, 2013

Out of Balance!

by Jodie Renner

Do you have one or more books published on Amazon? Do you check regularly for reviews by readers? Has your heart plummeted to see a negative review? You're definitely not alone.

Okay, we all get reviews we don’t like from time to time - hopefully very occasionally. It’s life and the cost of publishing on Amazon. And forget trying to get Amazon to take them down, even if they’re obviously not fair. It ain’t happenin’. (Or have you had any luck with that?) So suck it up and keep on writing! Kelly Miller offers some great advice on dealing with criticism, in her post here over the weekend.

HOWEVER, and this is my point here: What I really think we should all protest to Amazon about is their policy of highlighting one bad review in a box along the top, even if it’s the ONLY bad review, and the book has 20 or 30 or 50 or more great reviews!

That’s just not fair. When they prominently feature and contrast two opposing reviews along the top like that, there should be some kind of equal 50-50 division among the responses and opinions overall in the reviews, as that’s definitely the impression that kind of placement gives the readers.

For my book Writing a Killer Thriller, for example, I have 32 5-star reviews, including several glowing ones from bestselling thriller writers (see below), and 6 4-star reviews, for a total of 38 very positive reviews out of 40. So 95% of the total reviews are 4 or 5 stars. Recently, someone read (or skimmed) only the first 3 chapters out of 23 and wrote a nasty 1-star review. Now there is one 1-star review and one 2-star review, for a total of 2 negative reviews out of 40, or 5% of the total reviews.

So on one side of the scale we have 95% very positive reviews versus, on the other side, 5% negative reviews. That is not a balanced scale! Yet Amazon promotes one of the two negative reviews to 50% position by displaying it along the top beside a 5-star review. In effect, they’re giving the impression that readers are divided down the middle about this book.

This is just not fair.

If we all protest this unfair physical placement of reviews, maybe Amazon will change their policy.

What do you think? If you agree, please send Amazon an email about this unbalanced policy. Numbers can make a difference!

Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, with the updated, expanded edition now available in e-book and paperback on Amazon; and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER, available in paperback, for Kindle, and in other e-book formats.

For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter: @JodieRennerEd 
 Praise for Writing a Killer Thriller:
“Finally, someone who understands the thriller! More than ever an author must also be his own best editor and Jodie Renner is there to help. Writing a Killer Thriller should be on every thriller writer’s desk. It breaks down the thriller into its must-have component parts to write a scintillating, edge of the seat novel that will get readers buzzing and sales flowing.”
~ Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of The Jury Master and Murder One

Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner is an in-depth journey through each component of the thriller. Renner breaks down the process into key elements, each essential to keeping the reader turning those pages. From character development to building suspense, Writing a Killer Thriller should be on the desk of every thriller author out there. A staple for the beginner, a refresher for the pro.”
~ Joe Moore, #1 Amazon and international bestselling co-author of The Blade and The Phoenix Apostles

“Writing is hard, editing harder, and self-editing almost impossible. Writing a Killer Thriller demystifies each of these steps on the road to a published manuscript. Read this book. It will help you now and for many years to come.”
~ DP Lyle, Macavity Award winning and Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Benjamin Franklin, Scribe, and USA Best Books nominated author of the Dub Walker thriller series

“Jodie Renner is a terrific fiction editor who is constantly updating her craft. She’s edited several novels for me, and I highly recommend her services and books. Even if you don’t write thrillers, her advice is applicable to writing a compelling story in almost any genre.”
~ L.J. Sellers, bestselling author of provocative mysteries and thrillers

A killer of a thriller guide! Jodie Renner lays out, in clear, easy steps and lists, how the best writers craft their works of art – and shows how you can do it, too. A terrific how-to in avoiding the pitfalls and burnishing the gotta-haves of writing a bestselling thriller novel, by an editor who knows her way around action, drama and creating characters so fresh and real you’ll swear they were your friends.”
~ Shane Gericke, national bestselling and No. 1 Kindle bestselling author of Torn Apart

“With years of experience as a professional editor to many successful authors, Renner knows what it takes to write a good thriller, and she lays it all out here in a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand manner. From building excitement and suspense on every page, to adding tension and conflict to each chapter, this book is packed with information you simply can’t afford to miss if you want to gain that ever-elusive competitive edge in the world of fiction.”
~ Andrew E. Kaufman, #1 bestselling author of The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted and While the Savage Sleeps

“Jodie Renner has demystified the process of thriller-writing with Writing a Killer Thriller. This little booklet is packed full of information which is not just useful, but critical to the success of any thriller writer, whether just starting out or a veteran of many books. ...If you want to avail yourself of the knowledge of one of the best freelance thriller editors in the business, you couldn’t ask for a better deal than Writing a Killer Thriller.”
~ Allan Leverone, bestselling thriller and horror writer


  1. People post one-star reviews for books they haven't read and books they bought accidentally, and Amazon doesn't take those down. I suspect you won't get anywhere with this cause. But I can see why it bugs you! Congratulations on the great reviews!

  2. As I said, LJ, I don't expect Amazon to remove the negative review, as I know they won't. I just wish they'd stop giving one review so much prominence, especially when it's way out of whack with the overall reviews. 5% is not 50%!

  3. Jodie, have you checked lately? I don't know if it's a gradual change or what, but where both the most helpful positive and negative reviews used to be side by side at the top, that's no longer the case on any of the books I checked this morning.

  4. That's good to hear, Peg! They're still side by side on my two books, but if that's the direction Amazon is going, that's awesome! We'll see what happens in the next days and weeks...

  5. What I protest is the star averaging. I had a 1 star review because my book wasn't available for the Kindle (at that time due to contractual obligations with the publisher). I wrote to Amazon, and they DID remove it within 24-48 hours, as it was clearly not a review. I think readers are savvy enough to read the reviews if they're the sort who use them to decide whether or not to purchase. And, if all the reviews are 5 stars, they'll assume your friends and family wrote them, or you coerced people into giving them. A lot of people want to see a smattering of all rankings. I don't mind the chart, because you can see the distribution of rankings, but when the average is pulled down by a few inappropriate low-star reviews, it gives the wrong impression.

    Terry's Place

  6. Yes! My heart sinks every time I see the 1-star reviews for my books along with all those 4 & 5 star reviews with incisive comments that show that the reviewer actually read the book.

    Please tell me how to do something about it.

  7. Mar, I plan to send Amazon an email saying I'm not asking them to take down the negative review, just not to display it so prominently and unfairly. I think if everyone did that, they'd change that policy, which is blatantly unfair.

  8. First, congratulations on the many well-deserved positive reviews. Second, yes, that sort of he-said/she-said artificial imbalance is unfair - sort of like the news, unbalanced and unfair. Remember the old Point/Counterpoint segment on 60 Minutes, made fun of by Saturday Night Live? Political "analysis" today is much the same, without a sense of proportion. Tennis matches with the judge not caring if the ball's in or out.

    There is one active counter, though. Amazon asks "was this review helpful?" Get some friends to say "no" to the obvious hatchet-job (like the person who only read 3 chapters) and "yes" to any of the good ones. I don't mean one should ice-pick all 1 or 2 star reviews - readers are entitled to their opinions - only to those reviews that obviously are literary psychopaths. (Or sociopaths. I get confused by the terms.)

  9. That's a great idea, David! Would you do that for me? I'd really appreciate it if you would! It looks like my blog post backfired on me here, as two people have agreed with that person since this post has been up! Darn! Should've kept my mouth shut. The thing is, a lot of people appreciate me mentioning the diverse opinions of the experts or "gurus" in the field, then adding my own opinion. Kind of one-stop shopping. Plus many of the later chapters are almost all just my opinions gleaned through my editing or reading of thrillers, with examples from my editing (disguised) or popular thrillers.

  10. I've been having trouble leaving comments on Blogger blogs today -- I've left them on 2 different blogs, but they never showed up. The gist was a few 'lower' reviews often lend credibility; if they're all 5 stars, people thing they're all friends and family--or you "coreced/bribed" people to leave them. What I don't like is the fact that they average the stars. I like the chart where you can see the range--a low rating can drop the average number of stars, and that's what shows up at the top of the book page.


  11. Yeah, I don't really like that feature, either, Terry. But the worst, in my opinion, is raising one negative comment to the same level as 30 positive ones! That's way out of whack and doesn't reflect the true situation!


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