On Writing: Reviews and Stuff

Hey, thanks for stopping by today. Grab a cup of coffee, it's always hot! And I regret that I'm in the stage of life where I've decided to watch my food intake in lieu of actually exercising in the hopes that I'll stop putting on the pounds, so yeah. Long story short, there's no baked goods today.
*sigh* Normally, I don't court controversial subjects. Today isn't normal. I’m a bit stunned by something that I saw last night, and much as I’m usually of the opinion that when it comes to reviews and reader's responses, it's all good, I find that I'd just like to chime in my two cents on something that happened last night.
Let me first clarify by saying that I believe a reviewer has the right to his or her opinion whether it is complimentary or not. I also believe that kindness and respect are key factors in communication between people. Some say that civilization began when groups of nomadic peoples settled in one area and towns began to grow. I'm of the opinion that civilization began when people learned to deal with one another kindly and respectfully. Manners and a code of behavior are the basis of civilization, not housing and infrastructure.
Anyway, back to the point at hand, which I hope is connected to that little ramble somehow.  A friend last night shared a review from Amazon for some book, chastising the author for charging 99 cents for a 13 page short story. Apparently, stories that long should be FREE, and if they aren't then you're ripping off the readers.
Here's the review
Downloaded this for free, but it sells for .99 any other time, You Have To Be Joking!! For Only 13 pages!!!! You are another author who Rips Us Off!! Posting on all of your sites!! Just Stop!! Buying books are a luxury! You all sit back and laugh at the poor suckers who fall for this, not me I watch out for you, author who write 4&5 part books who charge the readers outrages prices. If I met you I would tell you right to your faces!!

Now, there are a lot of things that don't cost 99 cents to produce. A cup of coffee, a cheeseburger, an order of fries, and a print of a photo…The list goes on. A book though? Even a short one? Not the case. Cover Art isn't free. Editing isn't free. ISBN's aren't free. And that's only part of the expense of producing a story, even a short one.
And, on that 99 cent short? The author made a grand total of 35 cents for each copy sold. Do you have any idea how many 35 cent short stories it takes to pay for producing a book?
Add to that, Amazon doesn't allow for prices below 99 cents. So even if an author wanted to charge 50 cents for a short story, they can't.
This spreading belief that authors are ripping readers off by pricing their books to cover costs of production bothers me. But what bothers me more is that the only reason this reader was able to get that book for free was because the author made it free. And if you've dealt with Amazon lately, you know it takes a LOT to get a book that is not on their KDPS program free.
So the author is eating the cost of editing, cover and ISBN, and dealing with the corporate monster in order to give this gift to her readers. And this is the response?

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  1. I understand the frustration. It takes time to write and set up an ebook: cover, IBSN, formats, promo and of course to write it.

    On the other hand readers do not see that, they make some calculation and .99 for 13p means 7.61$ for 100p. Yes .99 is definitely not expensive but it is also a matter of maths.

    In the end, I am not sure why people complain: nobody push them to buy anything. They made a choice to buy or not when they read: blurb, book infos and price. Why complaining afterwards?

    1. The point is- this book doesn't actually cost 99 cents. It was FREE. Amazon doesn't let you price a book as free, it has to be 99 cents or more. The only way to get it free at Amazon is to have readers report that they could buy the book cheaper elsewhere, and it takes a lot of reports to get Amazon to pay attention to that. Complaining about the price when you PAID nothing? SMH

  2. This is something I see SO much when looking through reviews. I wonder, if this person (or others of similar mind) purchased a cup of coffee for .99, and it was dishwater-terrible, or only half full, or turned out to be tea instead, would they write a letter to the restaurant? Stand outside picketing to warn away other customers? That is, of course, assuming they could find a cup of coffee for only .99 anywhere.

    In defense of the reviewer, though, Amazon does a really BAD job of posting page numbers. I try to remember to put something like 'short story' or 'novella' into my blurb, so readers know what they are buying, because I know as a reader that can be frustrating.

    The real problem with this reviewer's comment, though, is the rude tone. It's too easy, I think, for people to be hurtful and mean when hiding behind the anonymity of their keyboards. I highly doubt this person would actually say this to anyone's face.

    1. Extremely rude. I agree. And yes, Amazon needs to do better with the length clarification.

  3. The last statement Mary made is the crux of it. No one forced them to, so they have free will to spend their money how they see fit or wish. And then feel that because they spent that money, they have the absolute right to say what they will. Which is fine. But don't expect anyone to listen when you don't honestly know what you're whining about.

    Review a book for the plot, the enjoyment, or the grammar. Don't complain about things like the cost. That is purely on the buyer for spending it. No one forced them to buy a Lotus to drive. No one forced them to spend that dollar, either.

    But everything costs money to produce. Cover art can run from less than $50 to a few hundred dollars, depending. The cost of the item to produce isn't part of the consumer's equation. It's the cost to them for the gain of the product.

    Sorry, rambling before coffee.

    1. The cost of production is part of the equation for many people. No one goes into a restaurant and expected a never ending cup of coffee for 99 cents. My biggest problem with this review is that the author of the review didn't even pay the 99 cents!

  4. Kudos to you Lee for discussing this matter. It should be put on facebook, twitter; wherever our readers are. You were quite respectful and didn't point out the obvious errors in the writing, which I would have done. (It's a professor thing). Letting the reviewer know if he/she is going to rant then do it with correct spelling and grammar otherwise, the reviewer has lost favor with me right off the bat. But again thanks for your thoughtful discussion.

  5. I absolutely agree, Lee. I have a friend who has a 99¢ book on Amazon and she recently received a 1-star review. Now that reviewer did make mention that the writing "wasn't even good", and I can't venture an opinion on that. But the complaint originated with the short length (15 pages...which in this case is clearly shown on the product information). The review then ends up with "I will never buy from this author again." That's one part that gives me trouble. The old "one strike and you're out". And the "strike" in question is pretty arbitrary in this case.
    But overall, as you've said, what annoys - angers, even - me most is the tone. The whole "how dare you" nature of these reviews. It's a book! It is NOT a personal insult to the reader. If you do not like it, tell us so, and tell us why. But don't make out like the writer has duped you somehow.
    Boy...I'm getting a headrush being up here on my soapbox...

  6. what a great post!! I sometimes wonder if people feel more bold because they have anonymity online. It really bugs me that someone won't blink an eye spending .99 cents for a candy bar but balk at buying a book that someone's blood, sweat and tears on. I know this one was free and that makes this even worse! I just don't understand others sometimes. Oh well....but thanks for addressing this. I hope it opens others eyes.


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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955