Monday, March 19, 2007

Harriet Klausner

Apparently some people are a tad upset with Harriet Klausner's reviews on Amazon. They've decided that instead of just, oh, clicking the "not helpful" button on the page, they're going to dissect her reviews and parse her sentences. (Here's an example.)

I suppose if you think there's not a real person behind those reviews, it's a lot easier to be snarky. Or maybe they just don't care. Which is a sad statement on their outlook in life, and I sincerely hope I never meet any of them in person, because really, are there no better things to do with one's time? Like, maybe, read a book?

Anyhoodle, about Harriet. She is a real person. I know this because I've talked to her. Once, many years ago, when I was just starting out and my kids were small and the call waiting beep went off and I, trying to be a Professional Writer, ignored it and it turned out to be my child's school calling to say she wasn't feeling well and wanted to come home and was anybody there? Oh, did I feel terrible about that, and ever after, even if I was talking to my editor in NY, if the call waiting went off and my kids weren't home? I excused myself and took the call.

Now, granted this was a phone call, and it could have been somebody pretending to be Harriet Klausner, but somehow, I doubt that. There was no Amazon then, for one thing.

As for Harriet's reviews, apparently she may have had a stroke. I hope that's just a rumor, although it would explain something about her reviews I've noticed over the past couple of years.

How does she read so many books? Does she actually read them cover to cover? All I can say about that is that I understood she was a "speed reader." To be honest, this is likely not the best thing you want in a reviewer. I think reading too quickly means that the reviewer will miss the things, or make errors, which is certainly one of the beefs people have against her. But as far as I know, she does read every book.

And here's the thing about her reviews when it comes to my books: my readers don't seem particularly keen to post reviews of my books on Amazon. My books are selling, so somebody's reading them; they're just not the people who then go to Amazon and review the books. So many times, the only review of my book on Amazon will be Harriet's. Now, if she's gotten a story detail wrong (like the year, say), that makes me want to smack my head on the computer. But overall, because she does take the time to post a review at all, I'm grateful.

Like her, love her, hate her or think she's way too generous with her assessments, she is a real person, and I don't think deserving of the level of vitriol being hurled her way. If you don't like her reviews, don't read them. If you think they're so much garbage, hit the "not helpful" button. Then go read a book, and post your own (no doubt perceptive, astonishingly well-written) review.


Kimber said...

I wouldn't get too concerned about your lack of reader reviews. On one of my blogs, I have over 3,000 readers. I will go months without a comment. That's a good thing. I only get comments if I write dumbness. I figure if your readers don't like your books, they'll let you know.

Michelle Styles said...

I will believe you that HK is a real person. A friend of mine is a book publicist and had some recent dealings with her.

I believe she now only reads things on her computer.

Part of the problem is not of her making, but of Amazon's. They chose to rank reviewers by how much postive response they garner. List a lot of positive reviews, get glowing reports back (and which author doesnot like to support a glowing review?) and she gained her position. In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if she is the number one reviewer or not? How much influence does she have, particularly as she usually gives postive reviews.

Her position stays more because of Amazon's system then anything else.

Amazon in any case accounts for about 4% of sales for most mass market paperbacks. Not as much as authors might think.

I thought it interesting in the Telegraph, they have done a survey about why people buy books -- reviews rank lower than back cover copy but higher than the front cover.

If you don't like a review, don't give the oxygen of publicity. Otherwise, ignore it. Dissing the reviewer is not very nice at all.

Michelle said...

I have noticed the Harriet backlash and think it's a little sad for the people who seem so obsessed with unseating her as the #1 reviewer. I've heard that she reads the first 2 chapters and the last chapter and skims the rest. One of my reviews of hers was very off -- she got the hero's name wrong.

But seriously, what does one get if they're the #1 Amazon reviewer? Is she paid for her time? Maybe by the websites she reviews for but I can't imagine she gets anything out of the ordinary for her position at Amazon. Just snarky comments from other jealous reviewers. I think the comments on reviews was a horrible idea. I wouldn't be surprised to see it end soon.

Margaret Moore said...

It's not that I'm concerned about the lack. They can be a two-edged sword -- falls under the "be careful what you wish for" category! I was just saying why I don't mind if Harriet reviews my books even if she gets things wrong.