Sunday 31 October 2010


I feel it's time to explain my gripe with the review of Road Closed that has appeared on To begin with, I can't help but wonder why this reviewer didn't post a review of Cut Short - which he admits he liked - but only felt moved to write a review of Road Closed because he enjoyed it less. Are there genuinely reviewers out there who feel they should only review books they don't enjoy ? How is that helpful - or is this just an individual venting his own feelings about life's inevitable disappointments? Well, here's my venting in return!
The second issue I have with all this is that I know I have many fans - including quite a lot in Canada who have contacted me via twitter and facebook. Canadian fans have even complained on facebook and twitter that they were unable to post positive reviews of Road Closed on amazon because they hadn't purchased from there. So the one poor review continues to stand there alone.
Road Closed has received glowing reviews from critics writing for The Times ('confirms her promise as a writer') The New York Journal of Books ('refreshingly compelling and original') even some reviews which prefer Road Closed to Cut Short ('an even better read than Cut Short' to quote The Secret Writer). I could go on, but you can see a host of good reviews for Road Closed on my publisher's website
Of course not everyone is going to enjoy my books and a lot of people may well dismiss them for any number of justified reasons, and that's fair enough.
What I find unfair is that when I wanted to post a list of quotes from reviews in The Times, The New York Journal of Books, etc, on to point out that Road Closed has received some positive reviews, blocked it. As the author it seems I am not allowed to post reviews from journals like The Times - even though the reviews aren't mine. I can't even comment on the review that someone else has posted.
I don't expect everyone to like my books and I'm quite happy to accept some inevitable 2 star reviews among the 5 star ones, but what is happening on does seem to be a complete misrepresentation of how Road Closed has been received.
Is it coincidence that out of Cut Short and Road Closed sales on, and the sales rating of Road Closed on has been consistently poor compared to all the others since that one negative review was posted?
So thanks a lot,, for not allowing me to post anyone else's reviews about my book. Maybe it's time you reviewed your policies.


Chris Stovell said...

Ouch, Leigh. That's a very bitter pill to swallow when you've had such excellent comments from prestigious reviewers. Discerning readers will see past that lone review and your fans won't take any notice anyway. Onwards and upwards.

Leigh Russell said...

Yes of course, Chris. It's just bugging.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leigh – Twitter is just too limited for some things! I apologise for the length. Brevity isn’t my strongest point.
Amazon’s review process is far from perfect. The fact that anyone can write a review regardless of whether or not they’ve purchased the book from Amazon means that anyone could write a review regardless of whether or not they’ve read the book! I’ve written reviews which have disappeared for no apparent reason after a few days. Understandable perhaps if I’d written something scathing, personal and profane but the opposite was the case. The book was “Cold Granite” by Stuart MacBride and I gave it a five star review. First time it disappeared, I thought it had been a glitch and re-wrote it. The replacement lasted only a few days too. Life’s too short so I’ve long given up puzzling about it. Not that it makes any difference because Stuart MacBride is notoriously cynical about Amazon reviews and I don’t think he even reads them.
Regarding your Canadian 2-star review. As I said before, it’s just one review. It’s not even a proper review – just a quick comment. One such review isn’t going to harm your sales (look at the negative reviews received by J K Rowling). What might harm your sales is a strong and public reaction from you because there are people who love that kind of thing. There are even discussion groups dedicated to it and you don’t have to Google very hard to find them. Google Anne Rice and Deborah MacGillvray - both of whom took issue with a negative Amazon review and found themselves the subject of intense and damaging internet discussion as a result. They’re not alone and none of the authors in question came out of it looking good.
I agree with your comments about authors’ friends and family giving reviews. I think a lot probably do but I personally don’t feel this is an issue. I don’t think someone should be barred from giving a book review just because they know the author. Where would you stop? Should someone be banned from giving a review because he/she is a fan who has met the author on a number of occasions? Should bookstore employees be banned? How could it be policed? We also know that many authors abuse the review system by anonymously giving their own books 5 stars and their opponents’ books negative reviews. We know this for a fact because of a famous glitch that had which temporarily showed the reviewers’ real names. Very embarrassing! However, I disagree that the fact many authors do this anonymously is justification for others doing it openly. For starters, not all authors do review their own books anonymously. I’ve read some great books by well-known authors which had no reviews despite having been out for many months. You said that all you did was post reviews of your book, but you did this in the form of a 5-star review. This had the effect of offsetting the 2-star review you take issue with and we know that many people don’t read the reviews, but merely look at the average review instead. I think it’s fair enough for authors to comment or in your case, to provide a list of good reviews but I think don’t think authors should be allowed to influence the average rating.
Bottom line - we don’t know the who or why of Amazon reviews. Since there’s no way of ever finding out or policing it, I think the best thing to do is accept the system is imperfect and weigh its value accordingly. I value sites like Eurocrime and Badsville where you can find very professional critiques of novels (I don’t always agree with them!)
Finally, you questioned the fact that your 2-star reviewer mentioned that he liked Cut Short but hadn’t reviewed it. At least he mentioned he liked it! I only review if I have time and I need to do it straight away otherwise I forget the plot and characters! Just because someone doesn’t enjoy a book, doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. E.g. I’d LOVE to love Alexander McCall Smith’s book because I adore the man himself. But the fact is I can’t get into his books (and I’ve tried several times).

Pat said...

I'm massively behind with everything at the moment and I am not a prestigious reviewer but a fan eagerly awaiting the third. I should go and have a look at Amazon.

Leigh Russell said...

wow - that's a long comment! Thank you for taking the time to write here, JLM.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Pat - good to hear from you. I'm so behind with everything, I hardly ever go visiting the blogs I like to follow. I must make time to do this as I'm really getting out of touch with my blog buddies. Sorry!

Leigh Russell said...

ps Anonymous - Even my publisher can't add to the information on so a book is open to any adverse comment with no right of reply and no way to redress the misrepresentation of how a book has been reviewed. I'm not sure how that squares with the principle of freedom of speech when some people are given a voice and others aren't. That's all I'm saying.