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Evolution of Reviews

Social media and the Internet are radically changing our society in so many ways. The notion “word of mouth” takes on a whole new direction. In the past, it moved at a slower pace. Now with the Internet, “word of mouth” can spread like a virus on steroids. Hence the term…gone viral! Before the Internet if an author came out with a new book, the popularity of it was usually slow going. I remember hearing about a book from someone else who told them … and on and on. The best publicity tool back then was spreading the word around that you enjoyed an author’s book. Sure, you had the NY Times bestseller list. But I never bothered with that as well as the reviewers for books, film and music. I never really read them much. I always figured that I’d make my own decisions. Why should I listen to someone review a horror movie or book when you can tell they really don’t even like the genre? And who says their opinion is so important anyway?  As a kid, I simply picked up a book first because the cover grabbed me and then I read the back description. Oh yeah maybe there was a famous author who endorsed it, but half the time I didn’t even know who they were. I made my choice by the teaser and then when I was done reading the book, I either told friends or not.

Jump ahead 50 years and now we have Amazon and other book web sites, complete with their review systems. With the social media, Amazon and many other on-line retail outlets, a person can post a review and it’s up for the whole world to see in a matter of seconds. One of the big things I’ve noticed is that it seems that there are more people who are quick to do a negative review than a person who was satisfied. When you start reading lots of reviews, you begin to notice that some people can sure be picky, unintelligent, or flat out inaccurate. I actually read a very negative review posted about a novel and the person admitted they hadn’t even read it. What??? Hunh??? I think it was from that point, that I really began taking all these reviews with a large grain of salt. It’s particularly funny reading a review that criticizes an author’s writing, and the reviewer’s review is riddled with misspellings, grammar errors, and sounds like a 5th grader wrote it. Yikes! At least proofread it before you hit the send button…sheesh.

When it comes to movies, music, and books, the fundamental tenet for me is that I want to be entertained. And I have to say that I am easily entertained and that’s why my reviews are generally all pretty positive. I think some people just like to criticize for the sake of criticizing. I had a colleague who would blast movies saying, “Oh, that could never happen.” Hello…it’s a movie! When I go to a movie, I check any sense of reality at the door so my imagination can be titillated and I’m entertained.

The bottom line when it comes to the arts is the subjective nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s ­music, literary, film, theater, visual, etc.  The arts touch us all differently and to varying degrees. As they say, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” However, now people can spread that opinion around like manure to fertilize other’s opinion. I, for one, will make my own opinion.

As an author, I remember getting my first 1 star review. Gulp! I was devastated. Sure I had many 5 star reviews, but that one review made me want to stop writing.  I had to remind myself … why should their opinion be so important? Then, I began to look at some of my author idols–Lo and Behold, they too had 1 star reviews as well. It just goes with the territory.

So I think the whole review system, for me, has come to be a hate/love relationship. I try hard not to read them, but it’s like a moth and its attraction to light. When I’m looking for a new book, I read the teaser first and look at the cover. Okay, I might glance at a few reviews, but I am trying hard to wean myself off them.

Social Media is here to stay. How we let it influence our lives is up to each one of us. Personally, I kind of like Betty White’s SNL monologue when she commented about Facebook ­­–"I really have to thank Facebook ... I didn't know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.”

While I have your attention, I’d like to put in a shameless plug. My recent novel, HECKEL CASEY, is up for a free download from March 12 – 15 as part of Amazon’s KDP Select program. Hope you’ll download it and are delightfully entertained. Happy reading!