RS: The Problem With Reader Reviews

Ooooooh boy.

I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to let it the hell go and keep my mouth shut. But I can’t. I just . . . I can’t.

By now, if you’re a writerly type, or any sort of social media user you’ve probably heard of Dylan Saccoccio by now. No? Really?!

Okay . . . then look here. And here. Then here! And here. And here. And here . . .

If you can’t be arsed to click on all those links (I’m not sure I would either) then here is the gist of it: Dylan Saccoccio wrote a book named ‘The Boy and the Peddler of Death’. It has been out for about nine months and has raked in a good slew of 4* and 5* reviews. Then one Goodreads (GR) reviewer named Cait comes along and says this:

This was just…so unnecessarily wordy and pretentious. I just did not enjoy it at all. Which makes me sad because the summary says it’s for fans of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and World of Warcraft. Aka three of my favorite things. So how did I loathe this so entirely from page one? I don’t know.

Okay. So she didn’t like it. She rated the book 1* and went on her merry way. Several hours later (if that) Dylan writes a response (sorry it’s a screendump, I’ll tell you why in a tick).

Dylan Saccoccio's response (1)

Oh. My. God.

Now . . . if anyone on this blog is going to be mean and/or savage with their words, it will be me. Not Ileandra and certainly not DSB. I have opinions and, I’m afraid to say, I’m not always careful about how I voice them.

But What The Almighty Fuck?

Calm down, Raven. Reel it all in. Reel it in.

I understand – I really do! – the pain and one feels knowing someone out there doesn’t like your work. It hurts. Oh, god it hurts. Something you slaved over, gave sleepless nights to, poured over again and again to make sure it was perfect. And someone doesn’t like it.

Well . . . it happens!

I titled this post ‘the problem with reader reviews’ and I’m starting to question myself as I think that’s a bit misleading. There is no problem with that reader review. Cait was brief and she was honest. She said what the problem was. Yes, perhaps, she could have gone into more detail, but why? She’s not a professional reviewer or reviewing books for blogs, she’s just some chick on GRs who likes to share her opinions on the books she reads.

Readers’ reviews like the one above are painful, for sure, but completely legit and in line with ever reader’s right to review a book. Dylan’s response was just . . . if you haven’t visited the comment thread itself (the link in bold above) the comments for that review go on for 16 pages. 16! And that’s just as the time of writing.

Dylan himself stopped commenting by page 3 (probably because GR deleted his account) and even his earlier comments have been removed. There are more screen shots like the one included in the image link, but you’ll have to visit page 8 of the thread to find them.

I don’t even want to talk about the rest of this guy’s behaviour. About how he offered free books to people who gave him 5* reviews presumably without even reading the book (yes, he did this. Don’t believe me? Check this out). How he attacked everybody in that comment thread and asked Cait to remove her review.

. . . Okay, I clearly do want to talk about it, but only because I’m so upset about how this guy is making the rest of us indie authors appear to a world that doesn’t quite trust us yet.

Reader reviews are a necessary, valuable tool for other readers to help decide whether or not to try something new. Reviews are not for authors! Yes, they can be a good ego stroke but they can also make you feel like your entire life’s work is good for no more than lining the cat’s litter tray. Read them at your peril.

Personally, I treasure every single review I get. Even the less good ones. I’m small and unknown, so getting a review at all is cause to leap up and down and sing, no matter what star rating it is.

Vicki & Lara 2* review


This is a review on ‘Vicki & Lara,’ my very first indie release. Click the image to visit the Amazon page if you like.

I remember when I got it thinking, ‘Fuck, I got a review!’ Then I remember reading it and laughing all the way to bed because I then thought ‘Good jerk. Hur, hur, hur.’ Yes, I’m a child, but you’re missing the point. This review tells me that to satisfy this reader, I needed to spend more time exploring the personalities of both characters, and building the depth of their relationship before getting to the naughty-naughty. For this reader. Another set of reviews from about the same book, looks like this:

Vicki & Lara 5* reviews


You can’t please everyone. Nor should you try. But reader reviews should not be a place an author ‘expects’ to be applauded and praised if their work doesn’t suit the pallet of the person reading.

Pretty simple, right? It bloody should be.

Raven's Signature In Black

About Raven ShadowHawk

I take great pleasure in writing erotica and am merely one side of the proverbial coin. My other half, 'Ileandra Young' writes fantasy and the occasional comedy piece. My six-part series 'Meeting Each Other' is available in full, through Amazon and Smashwords while my debut novella 'Sugar Dust' is now re-released (!) available through Amazon via Little Vamp Press.
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7 Responses to RS: The Problem With Reader Reviews

  1. Wayne says:

    Great post and spot on. My take on reviews or any kind of audience feedback (I sing in a band, too) is that if it’s constructive I’ll listen, mull it over and if necessary look to make improvements. If it isn’t constructive (GET OFF, YOU SUCK!!!) I just laugh it off and remember that at least I had the balls to put myself out there, to create something and face criticism. I admire the same quality in others – anybody that gets off their backside and makes something is alright in my book.

    Rant over. Keep up the good work.

    Kelly’s Eye – Writing, Music, Life


    • That’s a key point I wish I’d remembered to mention. So many people ‘wish’ they could do what we do. Or they ‘would if they had the time’. -_- Don’t get me started on that one. Point being that we have gone out and done this ‘amazing’ thing that other people wish they could do and some of the the time, the heckling, jibes and jeers are just part of the old ‘Haters gonna hate’ mentality. It isn’t always about us or our work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sallyedmans says:

    That’s interesting. I had never heard of Dylan Saccoccio, but as you started this post I found myself thinking that it sounded like my cup of tea. After reading his response to a negative review, however, I can’t help thinking that I wouldn’t want to read anything he’s written. If he is so petty, manipulative and whiny, can his books really be any good? How you conduct yourself in the public eye is just as important as the content you produce in my opinion.


    • Yes! Yes, yes, yes!
      There is so much talk in the indie world about ‘sell your brand, not your book.’ All Dylan has managed to do is destroy the credibility of his brand. I wanted to read the books – honest! – but now, I don’t think I could bear it. Why would I want to read the words of someone who treats others that way? And why would anybody else?

      I am firmly of the opinion that when I sell I book, that’s not all I’m selling. I’m selling me. I don’t try to (and no one should) force people to like me, but the truth of it is, consumers are far more likely to buy a product from someone they know and/or trust. So I present myself, at all times, as exactly who I want to be known as: someone with firm opinions, a sense of humour and (hopefully) a smidgen of intelligence.

      *sigh* I dunno. It seems to have blown over now (this all took place across the weekend) but I just wish I could be a fly on the wall of this guy’s life, just for an hour or so. I’d love to understand what’s going through his mind because I like to believe that no one is so volatile and petty without some sort of reason.


  3. I think that when you get a negative review, there are some positive things that you can do.

    First of all, you can let it stand and allow the readers to decide whether it’s a relevant review.

    Second, you can ask the reviewer for some more feedback. Like Dylan tried to do above, but with much less whining.

    Third, you can thank the reviewer for their time and tell them what you can do to improve your future books. It may be that you can’t satisfy that particular reader, in which case you can say that you’ll continue to write for your core audience, with occasional forays into other kinds of story if you can work on them.

    Negative constructive feedback is very useful – you’re likely to be able to do something about it, while positive feedback simply tells you that you’re on the right track.


    • Agreed. And that’s why I look forward to negative reviews. Yes, they’ll hurt, but how else will I grow without that feedback? I find it’s also a good measure of whether or not I’m pleasing the people I want to please. As you say, core audience are the ones I should be most concerned with and, occasionally, if I can draw in fresh readers, that’s not a bad thing either.


  4. Pingback: RS: I Haz Planz 11/06 | Writing: A Conversation Without Interruptions

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