Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Your book is "too detailed"

One of the basic rules of reviewing is realizing it's not all about you. You may be within the target audience but you are never the sole target of the author. You need to imagine uses of information that are beyond your own needs and wants and be capable of appreciating their value to others. The core act of reading a 400-page scholarly history study alone should commit any prospective reviewer to at least a basic level of prep work and framing of expectations.

These are such easy principles to follow but they're beyond many "reviewers" who unfortunately possess the additional need to express their particular views publicly. Ratings on e-commerce sites usually aren't even worth discussing, but I've noticed an uptick (granted, an unscientifically measured one) in recent years of some of our best authors receiving poor marks for being "too detailed."

Step on down Earl Hess and get your 1-star review for being too good and David Powell you get two of them.

Scott Patchan, Tim Smith, Richard Sommers and Eric Wittenberg, yours are similar in thoughtlessness but a bit more generous in star rating.

It's not all bad. It does show that your books have broad enough appeal to snag bycatch in your paying customer nets and there are often plenty of 5-star raters willing to bury the outliers.

P.S. Michael and I are of the same mind on this.


  1. I read the "reviews" at you-kniow-where primarily for entertainment. Frankly, the stupidity of a "review" which bashes an author for providing "too many facts" is astonishing. The unfortunate aspect of this is that there are actually some competent reviews over there by folks who understand the concept. But they are small eddies in an ocean of incompetence.

    1. We should also point out that the 5-star reviews from the author's friends & family and others who have nothing more to say than "great book!" are just as silly.

    2. Good point. I actually reviewed a book elsewhere which got 7 or 8 ***** reviews on Amazon - it quacked and swam like the author's extended family duck. IMHO, the book wasn't all that good, as it turned out.

    3. John,
      It's also weird how so many raters on the venue are reluctant to use the full range of stars (IMDB visitors have no such problems with nuance). 3-stars is a positive rating but it's treated as a negative by so many people.

  2. Drew

    Are there Civil War comic books available? I think that would be good for some of these reviewers.

  3. Drew, all

    Let me wade in here at least shoe-top deep since I have some experience on all ends of this spectrum.

    1) You are correct, Drew, you can't please everyone and a book is not about the reviewer. I wish you would let the reviewing world at large know that.

    2) There are outlying reviews, and when you get the "this has too much detail for me" sort of review, I never sweat it. Sure, at times I have replied, but I realized a few years ago that is that reader's reality. it is what it is, and if your book stands on its own spine, it will be engulfed in good reviews.

    3) I tell authors to never sweat those reviews either, and if they feel compelled to respond, thank the reader for buying and reading the book and hope they got something worthwhile from it.

    4) The reviews that get under my skin are by people who never read the book. There was one of those a year or more ago (many of you recall). Clearly never read it. There is a comment or two on the new Hood Papers by someone who either did not read the book or doesn't want to accept the book for what it is. That is frustrating. But . . . in the end, so what? That person's loss is how I look at it.

    5) Not all 5-star "great book" reviewers (in fact, I would argue not that many) are family, wives, cousins, etc. It varies by book/author, I suppose. Some people just have no idea how to pen reviews, and can barely use a computer but felt compelled to say SOMETHING. I have met many of these folks at conferences, book shows, etc. Some are pads/plants. Many are not and I no longer jump to conclusions.

    Authors as a group (not all, but generally speaking) tend to be sensitive fellows, which means my job is often like herding cats who are finicky eaters. If as an author you can't stand a negative review or comment--then stop writing. (Take up playing music in front of a lot of people instead. Well, maybe that's not a good idea, either. Never mind.)

    If you want to see macro reviews by readers who think it is all about them, you should publish books in this field and see my email, snail mail, and even fax machine. And by the way, as the publisher, I think the books ARE all about them.


  4. Ted: You're correct that not all 5-star "reviewers" are family or friends. The set I have in mind, however, certainly raised that possibility/"plausibility". The book was not a particularly widely-publicized release. There were, however, 6 or 7 5-star "reviews" which surfaced within a couple of weeks. Aside from the fact that it wasn't close to a "5-star" book IMHO, there was a strong odor of collusion.

  5. Hi John

    Yes, I understand and certainly those cases exist.


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