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Advice > How to earn a bad review, when your writing is pretty good.

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message 1: by Rafael (new)

Rafael (rafaelnyc) | 115 comments Bravo Darrell !!

A situation that needed addressing and you did it well.

Professionalism matters !!

message 2: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 3183 comments Mod
Thank you for alerting those you may be reviewing as to your personal issues with books you review.

Those who find themselves in a group with you who are unable to correct their formatting or are anxious if they have chosen the correct genre for their book or believe the mid-series book is a good 'entry' but are not 100% sure, can all withdraw and avoid you.

Perhaps we should all post our pet peeves in threads so people going into review rounds with each of us would be able to know in advance what each reader is going to be expecting and can duck out if they think someone is going to dislike their work in advance.

I would not mark people down a star for these things automatically and I think to say they are all in some way intrinsically 'wrong' rather than to make it clear it is your own personal take and opinion is very unprofessional indeed.

I think if this was listed as 'My Pet Peeves' rather than as 'How to earn a bad review when your writing is pretty good' it would have been a lot more appropriate.

message 3: by Erin (new)

Erin Daniels | 101 comments E.M. wrote: "Thank you for alerting those you may be reviewing as to your personal issues with books you review.

Those who find themselves in a group with you who are unable to correct their formatting or are..."

I completely agree.

message 4: by TaM (last edited Jun 05, 2017 11:57AM) (new)

TaM D'Lyte (tamdlyte) | 36 comments I agree with the agreements above... I read your rant a few days ago, and it's been a nagging bother to me since then. Not in the sense that it was a personal opinion, but that your personal opinion may sway others into believing it's their right to be so self-righteous and authoritative about their pet peeves.

The reviewer's audience is the readers. When I review a novel I have to think how the readers of that genre will take it. Not on what I feel like reading today. It wouldn't be fair to Stephen Hawkins if I felt like reading a tale about a Kitten who has to survive the evil monster who want to pet it, and picked up A Brief History of Time, and gave it only one star because it had no Kittens. The same is true if I read an awesome Supernatural horror set during a war and the author had it under the category of War Thriller. I'm taking a star off.

It would seem that you are reviewing without bias, but your whole idea of "fair" seems a bit skewed. Once you start whittling down to the end product with genres, there are so many different directions it can go depending on what each individual writer and/or reader might think of the scene and characters. Even a "non-fiction" memoir can't really be considered "non-fiction" truth. There is always bias as soon as the writer puts pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) and the viewpoints of the other people in the story may have told the story completely differently, and then the bias of the reader, taking it all in, may be skewed by their own life story. So if you take a star off for the supernatural horror set during a war because you think it's in the wrong genre, I may think the War Thriller part of that story was the most important part.

Every single one of your points above, can be counterpointed by, "And those are the things that don't bother me." I don't care about the Table of Contents, whether it's there, static or not or if the author "needs a clue" about how to make chapter breaks. (That was just rude, dude! LOL)

I do care about consistency with whatever set of rules the author chooses. I am adaptable enough (*wink wink*) to be able to pick up any book and immerse myself into the world of the author as long as the author follows their own rules. Consistency is key. Not the rules themselves.

I don't "think" I've committed any of your pet peeves, but I wouldn't want to take the chance of you reading my story and feeling the need to take off stars for pet peeves verses the quality of my work. You might be missing out on some awesome, life-altering moments, but because of your admitted bias, I hope you never get the chance.

So, here's to hoping you never have to read another story with any of your pet peeves again. Not for you, but for the authors of the stories you are cutting with your star system.

We are all in this together. Well, except for maybe you. You already know how to do this. Perfectly. So why are you here?

Unfortunately, when you make negative comments about personal opinions, you get backed into a corner and you may find yourself in a small sphere of like-minded cronies gravitating towards each other, patting each other on the back, regurgitating the same rhetoric (as demonstrated by the comment following yours) and failing to appreciate the individual stories and diversity of life around you.

But that's okay because the rest of us will be reviewing your story, too. Not the story you've put on the screen and are trying to sell, but your life story. It's all right there. Right or wrong, I now have an opinion of you. As you do of me, now, I'm sure. Writing something for public consumption is soul baring. I've seen your soul.

You are allowed your opinions/pet peeves. That's not the issue "I" have with your comments. But as soon as you become self-righteous about them, trying to show your authority, about how they are "truth," then people's claws come out. Unfortunately, again, your negative opinions and negative star system have been given authority by Goodreads and Amazon. I thought when you mentioned, "The reviewer's audience is the readers..." that that was a typo and you meant to say, "The writer's audience is the readers..." But no. It looks like you consider the part of the reviewer more important than the part of the author. And that's a shame.

Formatting and genres are guidelines. Not absolutes. Your way is NOT the only way.


PS: I know I've singled the author of this discussion out, but mostly this is MY pet peeve about reviewers who review a story on things that I think don't matter. See? We all have opinions! LOL

message 5: by J.B. (new)

J.B. Trepagnier (jbtrepagnier) Formatting errors are relatively minor and since this group is normally done by the author sending copies in the format the reviewer requests, can also be dictated by the readers device.

I had an older model kindle and any time an author only had a PDF copy, if I loaded that directly only my kindle, what looked like a single spaced, 200-300 page document to the author ended up being a 600-700 page double spaced wonky formatted nightmare on my end. This has nothing to do with the author not formatting their document correctly, it was how my kindle was displaying it. Before I upgraded my kindle, I had to open PDF's in word, save it as a word doc, convert it to mobi, THEN add it to my kindle to see it how the author intended

message 6: by TaM (new)

TaM D'Lyte (tamdlyte) | 36 comments Exactly J.B.. I've had that happen to the point that when an author says they only have a pdf, I sigh, and think, ugh, ok, and I drag to my kindle... but, I persevere! Because it's about the story. And formatting makes ease of reading but it doesn't make the story. I'm better, stronger, more powerful that mere formatting! LOL

Have a great day!

message 7: by TaM (new)

TaM D'Lyte (tamdlyte) | 36 comments LOL I only mentioned memoirs as an example of possible genre crossover. Not as a specific. I don't watch Oprah so I don't know what she said but if she said that, shame on her! LOL

You mention in message 9 that "It's not like give one star reviews for these things, I feel a one star review is harder to earn than a five star. To me a one star book can't just be bad, it has to boldly go where no bad has gone before." But in your opening message 1, you state, "I have no problem giving what could be a Four and a half to Five star work a one star." And yes, I understand that could be taken out of context of the surrounding paragraph, but honestly, to me, "Them's fighting words!" LOL You, not having a problem giving a one star review seems blase about author's work and ... I'll leave it at that since it seems it was more a rant because of your frustrations of a particular book rather than an over-arcing judgement to all books?

My "rant" to your "rant" had more to do with the flavor of your rant than any specific thing you mentioned. It just seemed condescending, (as you can tell from some of the feedback) and not fair. But life's not fair and hopefully you didn't mean it the way it came across (to me.) ;)


message 8: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 3183 comments Mod
I think the issue Darrel, is not in what you say you desire of a book you review, but in your implication that these things are pre-requisites for all. To say 'This is what I think' is a very different thing than saying 'This is how it is'.

We all have pet peeves, as does every reader of every book, but we don't all parade them as absolutes that everyone should see as 'star cropping' issues.

message 9: by TaM (new)

TaM D'Lyte (tamdlyte) | 36 comments Yes, that, E.M....

message 10: by TaM (last edited Jun 05, 2017 03:11PM) (new)

TaM D'Lyte (tamdlyte) | 36 comments LOL! I totally burst out laughing @ "I have no problem giving a four star work, a three star!"

And, yes, I have committed the faux pas of leaving a comment in for myself to expand a description but thank goodness it was only to my beta reader and we both knew I was still working on the manuscript. Because I would have been horrified if it had been published that way! Hopefully you gave a head's up to the author??? Even if you weren't reviewing it???

I apologize for my rant-to-your-rant rant. But, as I said, how you said it had really been bothering me for a couple of days. But now, I believe it was just because the written word has a hard time conveying inflection unless you choose to write in a fictional setting and use all kinds of "feeling" words! (she said with an offhand laugh... Ha ha haaa) And even though I don't hold you personally responsible, there are other reviewers out there that do review by petty, half-hazard standards that they consider absolutes and aren't.

Well, onward to reading my next book in line!

Have a Great Day!

message 11: by Rafael (new)

Rafael (rafaelnyc) | 115 comments @EM. I feel no need to establish my bona fides. You are already well aware of my abiding respect for your integrity as a human being and your prowess as a writer.

@Erin. We have never 'met' but since your entry into the Review Group, I have come to enjoy your reviews and general commentary. Their formulations and insights are strong evidence of a steel-trap mind and a tremendous skill for crafting beautifully flowing sentences.

I wanted to PM you with my thoughts but feared my motivations might have been suspect. Since in this venue no such misapprehension is possible, I'm happy to avail myself of the opportunity.

@Tam. We also have not met but I admired the subtlety with which you kept the contentiousness within the boundaries of passionate discourse. :-)

I did not come away with a sense of Darrell's comments being nothing more than a petty rant in which he allowed emotion to cloud his approach to reviewing. I sensed an outcry against the growing acceptance of mediocrity within society in general and indie publishing in particular. A growth made possible because those who feel differently are cowed into silence lest everyone else round up their toys and withdraw from the arena.

I daresay no one here would ever think of inviting someone to visit and upon arrival breezily ask them not to mind you haven't picked up or cleaned anything. On a certain level, one might argue it's superficial, but we do so in consideration of and out of respect for our guest.

Similarly, I go to great lengths to insure anything I put forth as representative of me, is the very best it can be. In the case of book reviews, not just out of respect and consideration for the reviewer, but also for myself.

An author who feels he or she should be immune to judgement for not making the effort to provide a working TOC, proper formatting, minimal typos, and coherent grammar, is prima facie evidence for the mediocrity I referred to. And worse, its acceptance.

Whether a reviewer chooses to ding a star for it is entirely within the purview of the reviewer. Or more accurately, within the professional wherewithal of the author to avoid.

I would also like to caution against the careless use of the word 'absolute'. One cannot deny a truth by asserting it. To suggest pet peeves are not absolutes, is, an absolute. The very denial establishes the truth of at least one absolute and thus invalidates the argument.

Lastly, I welcome a response from EM and Erin. Be forewarned, however, nothing, I repeat, nothing you say will dissuade me from my very high opinion of you both. Indeed, reading them will be a great pleasure. :-)

message 12: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 3183 comments Mod
You are assuming, Rafael, that there is an absolute standard which is universally agreed by every reader in the world as being essential in an ebook. There is no such absolute standard - not in formatting, nor in genre definition and certainly not in the accessibility or otherwise of a mid-series book. Readers vary, their expectations and wishes from their reading experience vary. If this were not so then books would be read by one reader, given a universally agreed 'absolute' star rating and that would be that.

I am not challenging Darrell's right to dock a star - or more - for these perceived shortcomings or anything else he dislikes about a book. It is his choice to do so, but it is only a choice and not one every reader would agree with.

My issue is that Darrell wrote his original post with what I suspect he thought was impish good humour, but which sadly came over as a very unpleasant mocking manner. Stating his views as self-evident truths rather than personal opinions added a tone of self-righteous superiority.

I, and others here, have responded by pointing out what he says is far from self-evident and is an opinion not a truth.

A constructive post in which Darrell offered advice to people on each of the issues he highlighted, explaining where to find help with the formatting issues, how to find advice for good selection of genre and suggesting that a mid-series book be run past a new beta-reader and so forth, would have been more appropriate, warmly received and contributed more helpful advice to the boards here.

message 13: by Rafael (new)

Rafael (rafaelnyc) | 115 comments "...assuming that there is an absolute standard which is universally agreed by every reader in the world as being essential in an ebook."

For any who may fall upon this thread, the link below will provide guidance in what is expected of a properly formatted ebook.

For any who might believe genre definition is an exercise in subjective relativism, the below link to Writer's Digest may help plant you on firmer ground.

For those who feel reviewing a mid-series book should not be problematic, I refer you to this lively discussion on just that subject by a group of ladies who review for AAR.

Now, should anyone take these subjects as 'universal absolutes' they must adhere to? Certainly not. Every author is free to format an ebook any way they want, define their genre category any way they want, and present mid-series books unable to stand on their own for review any time they want.

Do, however, grant the reviewer, without judgment, the same freedoms.

message 14: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 3183 comments Mod
No one is denying any reviewer those freedoms or disputing they can be potential issues, Rafael. Thank you for providing helpful links on formatting and genre selection, and the opinion piece from is a diverting selection of views.

I can only regret this thread did not start with Darrell saying he had noted people have issues with such things and including these (or similar) links as sources which might help those who need further guidance.

Then we would all have appreciated his contribution.

message 15: by Darrell (new)

Darrell Nelson | 340 comments EM if can make an edit to your last sentence, "...would have been more appropriate, warmly received and contributed more helpful advice to (both people who read it) the boards here.
The sad thing about reviews, advice posts, or even general knowledge articles, is 98% of the people who write them want the subject to succeed. 2% want to criticize people for things that the critic hasn't bothered to learn themselves. Unfortunately, it is the 2% that get the most views.
When I review something, I start out wanting to give it a 5-star. I really hate it when something keeps me from doing that. In real life it's easy, "If you can't say nothing nice, don't say anything at all." When reviewing I don't have that option.
So, while I modeled the post after 2% that get views, I figured the saying "If you want me to give you a bad review" over and over again would show that I would rather not give a bad review. Probably too subtle, and the fact that I really do get upset when I can't give a good review over something easy to fix, overwhelmed that view.
My real purpose for writing this did work. I get explanations by the authors if they have those problems (outside of their control) it's like a "Pardon our dust" sign in a business, an acknowledgement of the problem, so I can focus on other things.

message 16: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 3183 comments Mod
I am glad you succeeded in your intention with your post, Darrell.

As for masquerading as one of those 2% posts - I am left with if it quacks, waddles and swims like a duck then....

You are a very talented author who I have had the pleasure of reviewing and maybe next time you want to make a point you could come up with a witty, non-disparaging, eye-grabbing title for the discussion and give helpful, supportive hints for improvement embedded in non-diminishing, good-humoured prose.

message 17: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 47 comments WOW what a thread (wtf did I just read?)

I came here thinking I would read about groundbreaking findings that would help me as an author.

I'm actually nervous about asking for reviews here in case I get knocked down for someone's pet peeves. Does a lack of TOC really affect the quality of one's writing? I would have thought that it is the actual writing that is being reviewed. That's kinda like saying a star should be removed if the appropriate copyright message was not put at the front of the book. Oh well, what do I know? To each his own.

I find it amusing how some reviewers get so serious about the books they review. I think that reviews are meant to be beneficial to the next person who wants to read the book.

When I read book reviews, I personally go for:
Short summary
What did you like
What did you not like
Only include if the book is FILLED with typos and grammatical errors

Can someone borrow me a TARDIS please? I need to get the time back that I wasted reading this post

message 18: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Clark (tlcauthor) | 78 comments I'm not going to jump into this heated debate.

I just wanted to let those people struggling with pdf's know that when you email the file to your kindle if you type 'convert' into the subject this should help your Kindle display it correctly.
Not sure if this still works, but it's worth a go xx

message 19: by Erin (new)

Erin Bomboy (erinbomboy) | 55 comments I recently covered a forum (I’m a dance writer) at Lincoln Center devoted to streaming the performing arts, and I thought one portion may be relevant to this thread. It centered on Millennials and their expectations of interacting with technology. I’m paraphrasing here, but Vimeo’s VP of Engineering said Millennials absolutely demand ease of use. They’re looking for any reason to abandon what they’re currently reading or watching in favor of something simpler, more pleasurable. Any type of friction causes an immediate and negative response.

Some of the elements the original poster listed like not having a TOC, not having said TOC interactive, and/or not having chapter breaks could affect a rating. A Millennial who’s used to books being presented and accessed a standard way may respond by leaving a low-star review, saying something like, “The story started out good, but the TOC wasn’t interactive. I gave up halfway through because it was too hard to go back and find subplots I wanted to revisit.” Alternatively, a reader could leave a glowing review but mention the book has formatting issues. Both reviews could turn off potential readers.

Obviously, everyone is different, and many of us might not even notice if a book did or did not have a TOC, much less write a negative review of an otherwise good book because of that TOC. I know I wouldn’t. But I do think the forum helped me, at least, clarify Millennials’ priorities (and likely Gen Z, who’ve been swiping since they were tots) — ease before content.

On a personal note, I’m not particularly technologically savvy, but Vellum (for Macs) is amazing.

message 20: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 47 comments I do get both your points and yes they are very useful points. I think my prob was with the title of the thread because it didn't manage my expectation of what I would find in the thread.

I think as a reviewer, you could start off your review saying, this book has 5 star potential. I took off one star because there was no TOC and I wanted something to easily refer back etc etc

I took off another point because, there was a number of punctuation errors and it caused me to re-read several sentences to fully grasp the meaning.

When written in such a clear manner, I feel a potential reader would benefit a lot.

Obviously, a lot of reviews are subjective, so when I write reviews I base it on my enjoyment factor. Was it so amazing that I struggled to put it down? 5 stars. Was it really good but didn't have that wow factor 4 stars. I don't finish 3 stars books unless it is a review request. 1 star if there's a stupid amount of typos.

I write this way because I acknowledge that not everyone has perfect (written) English and minor typos may be lost on them.

message 21: by Christian (last edited Sep 22, 2017 04:30PM) (new)

Christian Nadeau | 61 comments A lack of table of contents does seem a strange grounds on which to knock off a star. In my mind, it does not affect the quality of writing at all. GRRM's chapter titles are always just the name of the character we're in the POV of, and I never felt a loss there, some other authors have just numbered chapters. For those, there's just no point in having a TOC interactive or otherwise (And I wouldn't dare call them unprofessional either). And then there's others like Robert Jordan who do some foreshadowing with each chapter's title. Where I would concede is that the order in which the chapters are presented do affect the experience though.

In the end, as long as the reason why you're taking off points are clear, I guess it's all right because someone's pet peeve will be another's treat. What ticks me off are hollywood style rescues, breakneck pace, monologuing villains and deus exes, but going from a few books I've read recently, I'm in a minority. I just hope that it comes across that way for anyone who reads my reviews. That way people who like or don't care about this will know these books might well be for them.

message 22: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 47 comments Darrell, you seem to not understand that you cannot force your point of view on everyone else. Your way is not the only way. Yes, it may take an hour or so to set up a TOC and your explanations for why it is important seem valid enough but it is the author's choice to do so or not do so. And it is also your choice whether or not to take off a star for it. If someone purchases a paperback and feels shortchanged without the TOC, guess what? It is that person's choice to return it or not. You are also at liberty to ask someone upfront if there's a TOC and decline to read the book if there isn't.

Again, everyone has a choice!

If the success of a book is based on immaculate written English and formatting, a lot of English professors should be bestsellers. Wait, even you should be a world-renowned author.

message 23: by Christian (new)

Christian Nadeau | 61 comments Darrell wrote: "I feel I have to state, once again, that it only takes an hour or so to set up your TOC.
Christian, The things you state tick you off could tick me off as well, even though I write them, if they ar..."

It's not a matter of how much time it takes to set one up. A table of content is not mandatory, the comparison with dressing your hair doesn't stand either. It's more like a choice between adding a piece of jewelry for some desired effect or choosing not to wear it (hell the formatter I hired even told me that for fiction physical books, it's actually recommended not to put a TOC anymore). I could continue to name drop New York Times bestselling authors who haven't TOCs for their books, just to press the point. In other cases, the table of contents only shows the parts or acts and not the chapters. So by your original posts, these would be "bad" too since you can't rifle quickly to a precise earlier moment.

Now, are you entitled to not like a book because it doesn't have a TOC. Yes, it's your enjoyment that's affected, not mine. I just find it peculiar. The same way I'd find peculiar someone who knocked a star off a book's rating because of the cover's look or images between chapters. For me those asides are "extras". If they're well done, they can add to the book's attrativeness/feeling, but even the worst cover, TOC, images or maps won't spoil a story for me.

message 24: by Darrell (new)

Darrell Nelson | 340 comments Here's a few more tips to get a better review:
Don't use no double negatives.

Don't never use no triple negatives.

No sentence fragments!

Complete sentences: important.

One-word sentences? Eliminate.

This sentence no verb.

Be more or less specific.

All generalizations are bad.

Take care that your verb and subject is in agreement.

A preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with.

Contractions haven’t been and still aren’t formal.

To expertly write, it is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

You should never use the first or second person in formal writing, and I mean it.

The passive voice should never be used and is to be avoided because it has made writers look weak.

Avoid clichés like the plague; they’re old hat.

Don't use a big word where a diminutive one will suffice superlatively.

Stamp out and eliminate redundancy and using more words than are really necessary—sit down in your chair and delete them with your backspace.

Avoid those run-on sentences that go on and on and on and never stop, but just keep going, like the Energizer bunny, and these sentences, as stated previously, not only do not stop but instead keep going on and on, endlessly, as it were.
Don’t obfuscate your theses, you know, with extraneous verbiage.

Never use that totally cool, radically groovy, out-of-date slang.

Avoid tumbling off the cliff of triteness into the black abyss of overused metaphors.

Keep your ear to the grindstone, your nose to the ground, take the bull by the horns of a dilemma, and even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

Never go off on tangents, which are lines that intersect a curve at only one point and were discovered by Euclid, who lived in the sixth century, which was an era dominated by the Goths, who lived in what we now know as Poland.

Avoid those abysmally horrible, outrageously excruciating exaggerations.

Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

Avoid accumulating any and all awful, awkward, and aggravating alliterations.

Don't use question marks inappropriately?

Excessive use of exclamation points can be disastrous!!!!!

Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, aka abb., etc.

In todays’ world, its good for writers’ to use correct apostrophe’s and possessive’s.

Who needs rhetorical questions?

Never use parentheses (No matter how important they are).

message 25: by D. (new)

D. Thrush | 19 comments Ha, Darrell! I break a few of those clever rules in my books.

I review every book I read unless I don't finish it or hate it for reasons of preference and not quality. I try to let the reader know what they're getting into by briefly describing the story and my experience. My pet peeves are typos and misspellings. Points off for those! As a writer, I appreciate thoughtful reviews and constructive criticism.

message 26: by Matt (last edited Sep 25, 2017 07:52PM) (new)

Matt Cowper | 25 comments Darrell is correct in one area: TOCs are required, if your ebook has chapters or sections.

"A working table of contents allows readers to go directly to chapters or sections by clicking links in the table of contents (TOC).

This feature is so important to Kindle customers, Amazon requires all Kindle eBooks with chapters or sections to have a working TOC."


Now, onto the other stuff:

"The TOCs that are just Cover and "Chapter 1" or "Prolog" or "A" and nothing else make me think the writer didn't care. Maybe I'm missing their Artistic Vision or something, I'm open to having someone enlighten me as to the artistic merits of a TOC that just says, "Cover" and "A". But I just don't see it. Maybe it's just me."

It is just you.

I don't care about my TOC. I don't do anything pretentious or super-duper snazzy, because my goal is to get the reader started on my story ASAP.

All my TOCs are interactive. But if someone dislikes my novels because of a "bland" TOC, I care not. They represent 0.0001% of the reading population, and aren't worth pandering to.

As many have said, you're hellbent on shoving your ideas down everyone's throat.

A TOC is required because Amazon says so; it has nothing to do with any artistic merits. It's purely a business decision to make the reading experience smooth for their customers. Your argument is basically, "You have to have a TOC, so it should be jazzed up." You're attempting to use Amazon's policies to reinforce your own opinions - and failing.

"For writers who are purists, who believe having a TOC compromises their artistic vision and won't put in this minimal TOC on principal...."

I won't put in your minimal TOC because it's rubbish. It's a waste of words, time, and effort, and may even confuse and/or infuriate the reader. None of it's clear besides "Cover"; it's just a way for you to show off how clever you are.

"...I have to ask, "Why are you reading this?" reviews here have to be posted on Amazon UK where a TOC is mandatory. "

I have a TOC. It's just not your suggested TOC, which apparently irks you to no end.

You remind me of Trump: a man who can't understand why everyone doesn't do what he says exactly when he says it.

message 27: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 47 comments You remind me of Trump: a man who can't understand why everyone doesn't do what he says exactly when he says it.

someone give this man a medal, you broke the internet today with that comment.

message 28: by Matt (new)

Matt Cowper | 25 comments “Matt, that is a understatement. I looked at your TOC for THE CLERKS, It is excellent. Two header levels, very easy to navigate. I'd give it a gold star.
It contradicts your earlier statement about not caring about it. If you didn't care, why did you spend half an hour making it?”

I'm glad you find my TOC for “The Clerk” (not THE CLERKS) adequate.

I didn't make it; my book formatter did. Polgarus Studio, located down in Aussie land. Great team, quality work. Highly recommended.

I need to clarify my “I don't care” comment. I do care, as you noted. I want my TOC to be easily navigable.

However, I DON'T care about the “artistic merit” of my TOC, which is why I responded to that particular paragraph of yours in that manner.

“Artistic merit” and a TOC don't go together, in my opinion. I believe a TOC should be functional – click “Chapter One” to go to Chapter One, click “About the Author” to go to About the Author. There's no need to reinvent the wheel here.

THAT is my problem with your posting: you're concerned about “artistic merit” in a TOC, and criticize authors who aren't innovative.

As you said yourself:

A Page for People who Forgot What Book they are reading.
A note from my lawyer
The reason you bought the book

This is a TOC that would have me excited to read the book.”


Title Page

(Some of his books have actual parts in the TOC but we can ignore those.)

I would give the TOC above a C+ and it wouldn't effect my review in one way of another.”

So an author who formats a standard, easy-to-navigate TOC gets a C+, while someone who gets cute with it creates “excitement.”

But then you give my TOC for “The Clerk” a gold star, and I didn't gin it up in any way. It has a link for “Cover,” then links to all the chapters, then a link for “End.” Nothing innovative here – it's purely functional.

I hope you can understand my confusion. You state “X is good, and Y is bad,” then you say, “Actually, Y is good too.” I'm mystified.

Re: the Van Halen M&M story....

One of the silliest stories I've ever heard. The M&Ms have nothing to do with the pyrotechnics. Someone could have removed the M&Ms and forgotten to double-check the pyrotechnics – which is very possible, since you state the line about the M&Ms appeared in the middle of the manual. They could've gotten the M&Ms right, and screwed up everything in the second half of the tech manual.

“To me the TOC is like the M&Ms bowl. When I see one that has zero effort put into it, I know I'm going to run into other errors in the book.”

If the M&Ms served no purpose besides acting as a trigger to tell the band something was amiss, then I fail to see how you can compare them to TOCs, which you regard highly. It takes zero effort, and certainly no artistic ability, to remove M&Ms from a bowl.

If the M&Ms were largely superfluous, then a TOC, by this new argument of yours, is largely superfluous, and your comments about “artistic merit” (which, as detailed above, I'm still confused about) are contradictory.

“I'm sorry you found it It's a waste of words, time, and effort, and may even confuse and/or infuriate the reader. None of it's clear besides "Cover";
What part of it is unclear, you didn't specify. (, it's George R. R. Martin's)”

Martin's is perfectly clear. Your jazzed-up version is what's unclear. “BTW it's not mine as you claimed” – I claimed that because I was talking about YOURS, not Martin's.

Which “minimal TOC” are you talking about in those paragraphs? I certainly thought you were talking about yours, since you rate yours highly and give Martin's a C+.

“Your argument is basically, "You have to have a TOC, so it should be jazzed up."
That's a strawman argument and you know it. My argument is, "You have to have a TOC, so take a couple of minutes to make sure it works."”

I refer you to this line: “Since a TOC is mandatory it is worth taking the time to polish it a little bit.”

You then go into great detail about how you'd transform Martin's “lackluster” TOC to an A grade TOC.

So, again, I'm left in bewilderment. You go on and on about “artistic merit,” and you wrote paragraphs outlining your ideas, then you say, “Oh, that's not my argument. Just take a couple of minutes to make sure it works!”

“Circular Reasoning: You're Hellbent on shoving your ideas down everybody's throat, therefore my TOC must irk you because you are hellbent on shoving your ideas down everybody's throat.”

You are hellbent on shoving your ideas down everybody's throats; your posts make this obvious. Therefore, I could only assume my “non-artistic” TOC would irk you.

That you rate it highly baffles me. See above.

“False Dilemma: Stating I can only except two types of TOCs. When it there is in fact an infinite number of ways to make a TOC.”

Do you mean “accept” instead of “except”?

I don't know where I said you only “accept” two types of TOCs. Care to enlighten me?

“The Psychologist Fallacy: an observer presupposes the objectivity of his own perspective when analyzing a behavioral event. If I were to say, "You should fill your car with gas before going on a trip." and you conclude I want to burn up all electric vehicles.”

Much like the M&M story, a pointless statement.

You have stated you prefer “artistic” TOCs – except when you don't, as is the case (somehow) with my novel. I state that “artistic” TOCs accomplish nothing, and may even hinder the reader experience, and object to your obstinate way of presenting things.

I'm arguing your points – or trying to, since you're inconsistent.

“Poisoning the Well: You say I'm hellbent on shoving my ideas down everyone throat. Therefore all my ideas, (Like having a working TOC) should be discredited.”

Let's rewind: “Darrell is correct in one area: TOCs are required, if your ebook has chapters or sections.”

I wrote that. Did you read it? If you did, how can you say I'm trying to discredit all your ideas, when I specifically agreed with you?

Not only do I agree with Amazon's policy, I personally think all authors should have a TOC.

My qualm (which I feel I have to state for the five hundredth time) is your insistence on “artistic” TOCs – which you love, except when you don't.

“Appeal to Motive: I asked that writers check that their TOC works, therefore I am using that to enforce my opinions on how a TOC should look.”

I've already gone over this, but let's go over it again! You wrote multiple paragraphs changing Martin's TOC to a “better” one – that's “enforcing [your] opinions on how a TOC should look.”

But you're only asking authors to “check that their TOC works”? Then what's this: “The TOCs that are just Cover and "Chapter 1" or "Prolog" or "A" and nothing else make me think the writer didn't care. Maybe I'm missing their Artistic Vision or something.”

“But when Godwin's Law is invoked there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned Adolf Hitler has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.”

From Wikipedia: “For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned Adolf Hitler has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.”


You pulled that quote almost word for word, and didn't bother to cite it.

You're so concerned about the details, and yet this somehow slipped by you?

And Godwin's Law is not, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving a despicable figure approaches 1.” Godwin's Law has to do with Hitler, specifically.

That was obvious from the quote you pulled from Wikipedia, but you apparently didn't process it.

At this point, I'm wondering if you're trolling. Your inconsistencies, pointless analogies, and other mumbo-jumbo are that bad.

But hope springs eternal. Maybe you're not trolling. If so, I hope you can reconcile your opinions in subsequent replies so I can gain some measure of understanding.

message 29: by Matt (new)

Matt Cowper | 25 comments Segilola wrote: "You remind me of Trump: a man who can't understand why everyone doesn't do what he says exactly when he says it.

someone give this man a medal, you broke the internet today with that comment."

As E.M. put it: "I am left with if it quacks, waddles and swims like a duck then...."

message 30: by Matt (new)

Matt Cowper | 25 comments "My posting George R R Martin's TOC and then attempting to place a funnier version of it was my attempt to show my point without it being taken as "Hey, you moron he does to have a TOC." As I know what he meant and agreed with him.
That is when you wandered into this."

I didn't comment earlier because, while your tone had an unearned loftiness, much of what you said had merit. As Rafael put it, "An author who feels he or she should be immune to judgement for not making the effort to provide a working TOC, proper formatting, minimal typos, and coherent grammar, is prima facie evidence for the mediocrity I referred to. And worse, its acceptance."

I commented after message 33 because I felt you'd gone off into another dimension, with talk about artistic TOCs and mocking an author's lack of artistic vision. But you say you were just being snarky (I think). If so, I misjudged your tone completely - while the Internet is filled with snark, sometimes the more subtle snark isn't detected. I apologize if I didn't take your words in the spirit they were meant.

Calling you Trump was meant to shock and offend. But you've done something Trump has never done, and will never do - you've admitted you were wrong. You've edited your original post to clarify your points and mentioned that you could've handled specific reviews differently, among other demonstrations of self-reflection and honesty.

Therefore, I apologize for comparing you to our clueless commander-in-chief.

"Repeal and ..." is correct - they have nothing to offer but a metaphorical ellipsis. I hope your wife continues to get the care she needs, and that the Republicans continue to trip over themselves.

Perhaps one day the grand ol' US of A (Merica!!!!) will have single-payer healthcare, but I don't see it happening in my lifetime, and I'm only 31.

message 31: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 47 comments the edit reads better now

message 32: by J.B. (new)

J.B. Trepagnier (jbtrepagnier) Darrell was actually very kind to me reviewing my very first book, even though it didn't have a TOC and some pretty horrendous formatting errors because I was still learning. I got a bad review, which was to be expected, but he also emailed me WHY and what I had done (we're talking, no page breaks, various other sins). I have no idea if he knew it was my first book, but I was glad he took the time to email me and tell me so that I could fix it to prevent other negative reviews

message 33: by Darrell (new)

Darrell Nelson | 340 comments Thank you J.B.
My intention in writing that was to help writers with these minor issues. Again I realize the one paragraph saying, "I have no problem giving a 4 or 5 star work a 1 star." Overwhelmed the helpfulness. Revising it to. "I add dire warning to all writers who don't follow these suggestions: If you don't do these things you will make me cry. And the guilt of that will haunt you for the rest of your afternoon." Is both closer to the truth, and reflects my true intent.
I truly wish everyone in this group has 5 star books, (that's a little selfish as I am in this group). The small technical errors that bring books down for me, also bring it down for others.
I know the amount of time spent in writing a book, I feel really bad when someone spends all that time, then misses the mark with a few things that looking at the final copy over could be fixed in an afternoon.

message 34: by Ed (new)

Ed Morawski Darrell - I think you're being very reasonable. I'd like to add:

1. Authors who can't figure out how to send a reviewer a .mobi file - or any file except a pdf. Jeez! If you called yourself a mechanic and don't know how to fix a car then you wouldn't be a mechanic. If you're going to call yourself an author then learn how to do these things.

2. Use of the first person POV (I agree with you) I've read too many books where the first person is used then the author tries to hide the character's thoughts and actions! I.e. "I picked up the OBJECT. " "I saw HIM sneak away." What? Whom? If you want to hide things from the reader don't use first person!!!

My biggest frustration is with reviews written by authors who think they rule the writing world. The latest fashionable criticisms by these people seem to be 'Dialog tags' (too many? - there are three people speaking! I'd rather have too many than too few but then get dinged for it.

And my new favorite - 'so called 'passive voice'. Oh my God you have to invent something to criticize? Yeah I know too much 'passive voice' gets in the way but you'd think the world is coming to an end because of it.

When I review I give a lot of leeway if the story is great. A fantastic story will cause me to overlook a lot of flaws.

message 35: by Byn (new)

Byn Always | 11 comments Darrell wrote: "(I just realized there is an editing function so I can put notes in this to reflect on the misconceptions. I wish I had thought of this 5 months ago)
I've written a fair share of reviews, and there..."

Great information. I had NO idea that anyone ever used a TOC in fiction. I've never used them before and always wondered why they were there on kindle books.

I'm literally going to have to go refresh my memory on some of your comments, but this is honestly fabulous. I'm glad I read it, although it is a little late to add a TOC to my current book, I'll definitely do that with the second!

message 36: by Nat (last edited May 30, 2019 03:28PM) (new)

Nat Kennedy | 26 comments Byn wrote: "Darrell wrote: "(I just realized there is an editing function so I can put notes in this to reflect on the misconceptions. I wish I had thought of this 5 months ago)
I've written a fair share of re..."

I'm with you on the TOC. But to jump on the thread as a whole: I think stating someone shouldn't be a novelist if they can't figure out how to convert is harsh. Rating for pet peeves that have nothing to do with the story and its construction astounds me. This whole thread has my hackles up.

I do drop a rating for bad grammar, because that's a true novelist skill. But if I have an ARC from someone and it's not in a perfect format or there is no TOC that doesn't relate at all to how I review the STORY.

I guess we each get something different out of everything.

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