50 Shades of WTF?

The other day, I saw a link on a Facebook page to yet another scathing, snarky review of the book which shall not be named. I’ve seen a lot of these. This particular reviewer put a lot of time and effort into her piece. There were amusing animated GIFs between each few paragraphs of calumny she poured on this ill-conceived tome.

I love snark as much as anyone. I was all good with it until I got to the end. The reviewer said to stay tuned for her upcoming review of the sequel to this book. WTF???

I have nothing against the author of this book. I have nothing against her book (which shall not be named). But she is pulling down a bazillion dollars a week from her book. WHY ARE YOU HELPING HER if you hate her book? WHY ARE YOU GOING TO READ AND REVIEW HER NEXT ONE?

You see, while all you review-type guys are gawking at the circus freaks, there are struggling authors out here on the farm teams praying for this kind of attention. What is it? Is it because we lack the imprimatur of the dying establishment publishing houses? Is our writing not quite execrable enough to suit you? That’s not what I keep hearing.

How about using your power and prestige and influence to help readers discover some amazing new talent? Here are a few you could check out for starters. Don’t worry, maybe they will be just awful. If they’re not, let’s see if you have the chops to write a funny review of a book you actually liked.





That’s just a smattering, of course. There are some more right over there in the right sidebar. If you like these (or hate them), come back by. We have more. Lots more.


Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

41 thoughts on “50 Shades of WTF?”

  1. Hundreds of years from today, future historians will shake their heads and wonder what happened to all the literary talent in those awful, dark, commercial years at the beginning of the 21st century. Then, afterwards, they go and read the-book-that-shall-not-be-named and likely get their rocks off, just the same as today. *sigh*

    Smashing post, EM, very well put

  2. Great post. I think it's important for reviewers to be clear on why they review a book. This person is determined to make anyone who enjoyed the BTSNBN feel like they are stupid. It's not about promoting or not promoting the book, it's about laughing at the fans.

    Herminestrand has a good point. If reviews don't sell book, then maybe reviewers are following traditional publishers into the chaos of a changing world.

  3. I admit it — I read that review, too, and I thought parts of it were over the top. (I gather the book is, too.) But why the blogger took all that time to create the review is a good question. Piling on? Grabbing at the low-hanging fruit? Hoping to boost their own visibility on teh intarwebz by attaching their name to a book that's gone viral? I mean, I agree that the world would have been better served if the reviewer had stepped away from YouTube and just read, and reviewed, a better book. It's not like there aren't any — as you've so ably pointed out, EM. I just think it was a calculated move on the reviewer's part to get eyeballs, and it's working. Sigh. What has our civilization come to…?

  4. While I agree with the sentiment of this post, I think we're overlooking a crucial aspect. Reviewers write, first and foremost, for their fans. You know, the people who read their blog (and-or reviews on other sites). That review was funny. The reviewer's fans enjoyed it. So she wrote about the sequels. As authors, we should be well versed in this concept.

    1. Good point. Let me counter with this: I see the primary purpose of a review as being that of informing the readership as to the merits or failings of a book. To the extent the reviewer can entertain while doing so, that is also good. The wheels come off when the review entertains without informing in any meaningful way. At that point, we are no longer looking at a review, but at entertainment. The book is merely a foil for the reviewer's wit and plays no real role in the substance of the review itself.

  5. There is, actually, a social issue here that goes beyond why reviewers review what they review. This book — if we're talking about the book I think we're talking about — has been No.1 on the NYT Best Seller (Trade Paperback Fiction) list since the week of its release, a fact that has little or nothing to do with reviews. That has to do with the number of people buying the book. So many people, in fact, bought this book and apparently were truly affected by this book, that CNN did a bit on it (CNN does not usually review books during the news shows that I watch). So, recent reviewers, like CNN, are basically just covering the news.

    1. There is always a point at which a fad becomes news, but I am not sure I would consider book reviewers as an arm of the traditional news media. Great comment. Thanks Julia.

  6. Thank you! Too bad most of the enablers of the over publicized will never take the time to read this.

  7. Agreed! I admit to reading the first in the 50 Shades series, but I barely made it past the halfway point and just couldn't take the bad writing anymore. Plus, I got it for free, I didn't pay for it. I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about with these reviews and why, if she keeps getting bad reviews, are so many copies selling? Anyway, it does indeed make me a little nuts to read the work of great indie authors (especially those on IU) and not see them get the recognition they deserve.

      1. Yup. Sometimes the best reviews are the ones that are negative and create scandal. I'm with Monica- I read a little of it and couldn't stand it. It's kind of giving those of us who write smut a really bad name. Or course I only write it to make $ to pay for editing and artwork for my REAL novels!

  8. My oldest daughter has started reading again, much to my delight. Her grandmother bought her a Nook for Christmas, and hardly a day goes by that I don't see her with it. She read The Hunger Games before it was a movie, then gave me a detailed accounting of why the book was better after she saw it in the theater. She's turning into quite the little critic in her early twenties.

    When I asked her what she was reading about a month ago, she replied, "Some stupid book. You wouldn't like it, trust me." — I bet you can't guess which book.

    Knowing that I would never read it based on other reviews posted, I asked her if she would like to do a review of the book for my blog. The thought of having a daughter of mine writing book reviews for the site gave me a proud feeling. After a little coaxing she agreed to.

    She sent me the review a few weeks ago and I've yet to post it for the same reason you mentioned, my dear Evil Mastermind. Why give a crappy book publicity that it doesn't need? It's the same reason I don't post negative reviews after I've read a crappy book. Besides, it feels like a bandwagon at this point.

    If she's going to read a book that's better off in the trash-bin, then I would rather it be a bad indie book; Lord knows I've come across many of those. There have also been a few excellent ones that warranted a review on my site. I've read two of the four books you mentioned, and both are five star worthy.

    Her new challenge is to pick out books from my rather eclectic reading list and then do a review on them. I'm looking forward to posting her first review on my site in the next week or two, and I'm proud to say it will be for a book found on the IU sidebar.

  9. This reviewer plans on reviewing the sequel to a book they trashed for the amount of attention it will draw to their site/reviews. In today's society, making fun of what's big in pop culture is a sure way to draw attention to yourself. If I wanted some blog followers, I'd be sure to make some scathing 50 shades/Twilight/Justin Bieber remarks.

    1. I expect now that you have mentioned 50 shades/Twilight/Justin Bieber all in the same sentence, the bots will find you and catapult you to glory. Or possibly, the internet will explode.

  10. If this is a review by someone well known in the field, that readers actually take notice of, then it could have a down effect on sales. Otherwise forget it!!

    Horrible reviews might hurt the author's feelings, but unless the reviewer is a "name" not so much.

    BOOKS for KIDS – Manuscript Critiques

    1. I really doubt that at this point a good review would help or a bad one would hurt the author's sales. My real question is about why a reviewer would bother with reviewing the next in the series, having gone on record as hating the first. Other books and other authors await.

  11. I'm with those who think the reviewer wants the spotlight and did it for her fans. I won't read the review just as I won't read the book. They don't deserve my attention.

  12. I was at a meeting with the head of one of our biggest bookstore chains here in NZ and he said that *the book which cannot be named* is confounding all sales expectations and just keeps heading upwards with no end in sight. Most books, he said, have peaks and falls but this one shows no signs of slowing down. Seriously? However, I predict the end will come swiftly any day now. Please! Surely the market must be saturated!

    The one good thing about all the hype is that it has put self-publishing firmly on the map and made it appear successful – if only financially rather than artistically. Let's hope book buyers broaden their choices and find more of our excellent indie-pub books.

    1. Bev, you're right that this book has shed more light on self-publishing.

      EM, I read the first two books in the series and have no intention of buying the third. One point I strongly agreed with in the review mentioned was the repetition of the same words over and over again. This made me take another look at the ms I am finalizing to make sure this is not the case.

      I am currently reading "Drawing Breath". A beautifully written book like this deserves much attention.

    1. I agree, Cathy. I also agree with Stephen's sentiments. The problem is that we all have so much to say about things that we can't help pounding out our comments. 🙂

    2. I don't have an issue with the author or the book. I have not read the book. My issue is with a reviewer who hated the book and can't wait to review the next in the series.

      This means another book the reviewer anticipates gleefully hating will get attention while deserving books (or at least books the reviewer might not hate) get none.

  13. No disagreement whatsoever–although it appears that reviews by midlist fellow authors, or even popular bloggers, don’t help sales as much as simply having 20 published works rather than three.

    1. While I agree that the correlation between sales and reviews is weak (to the extent it exists at all), I do think there is a tipping point at which books with enough reviews begin to generate buzz. It may be that the reviews combine with other marketing strategies, but I think they do play a part.

      I am not sure having 20 titles, each with two or three reviews, can accomplish the same type of buzz-quake.

  14. I know that this is slightly off-topic, but I'd like to see a post examining the possible reasons why TBTSNBN has become such a phenomenon. No mystical hand waving "Oh, it's all just marketing" explanations, please. This book is not the first in recent years to be widely criticized for being poorly crafted, yet sold millions of copies. My question is – what's up with that? Is it just luck? Magical marketing? Do most readers actually not care about the craft? Or do these books tap into the cultural zeitgeist in ways that we find difficult to define or comprehend?

    1. An excellent thought, Tracie. I do not know the answer. I don't know if anyone really knows the answer. Maybe it's just lightning in a bottle, a strange and unpredictable combination of moment and opportunity. I would certainly welcome a guest post from someone who does know. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  15. I almost refrained from making any comment at all here. I think we have just added to the bonfire. Way to stir things up, Stephen. My but you’re good at it!

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