The Colony by A.J. Colucci My buddy A.J. Colucci wrote this kick-ass horror/thriller called THE COLONY. I've been blabbing about it on the Twitters and the Facebooks for awhile now, and the book came out Tuesday.

I've never met A.J. in person. I only know her through this novel, which my agent, Byrd Leavell, asked me to blurb. I fell in love with the book, probably because it has a similar structure to my stuff, and you all already know what narcissist I am. I also saw a couple of things in the book that needed tweaks. Plot-structure stuff, mostly, because her science was spot-on. Stuff that it's crazy-easy for an author to miss when he or she is heads-down for years, looking at each word and sometimes missing the bigger picture. 

For my work, A Kovacs catches these problems in second-draft form (as does Big John Vizcarra, Jeremy Ellis, Joe Albietz, Tom Merritt, J.P. Harvey, Chris Grall and more). Trust me, when you are writting a novel-length thriller, where hundreds of plot threads have to line up in a "real world" fashion, it's very easy to miss a thing or two. 

A.J. impressed me because she was very excited to get this feedback. Some authors will get their feathers ruffled and be offended. In my opinion, these authors are more worried about themselves than the reader. Not, A.J., though -- as we went back and forth, I heard over and over again phrases akin to "oh, that would have so annoyed the reader." She is out to create the best product possible, because she wants people to get their money's worth.

You need to understand that when I received THE COLONY to review, it was basically finished. A.J. had to work hard to make final changes, because publishers do not like changes at that point. She also worked with Chris Grall, who does some of my military and weapons consulting, to smooth out some issues with guns (yeah, just like me, A.J. lives at the range and knows everything about firearms ... it's just what we writers do). 

I was pretty impressed with how A.J. doubled-down to fix these small issues and make the best story possible. On top of that, it's a kick-ass book. If you liked my novella EUSOCIAL NETWORKING, you will eat this one up with a spork.

So in A.J., I think I found a kindred spirit: an author who cares about you the reader first, and everything else second. That's why I consider her a buddy, even though we've never met in person. That, and she send me a bottle of Macallan's as a lil' thank-you gift. I'm easily swayed by the single malt. 

AMAZON BANS REVIEW!
J.A. KonrathI did the video above as an Amazon review, so it would appear on the page for THE COLONY. Guess what we found out? Amazon bans book reviews by other authors! I'm not the first to discover this; the awesome Joe Konrath blogged about it here

Konrath (pictured at right) is far more active in prosthelytizing the indie eBook world than I, and also knows more about the publishing biz. If you're curious why Amazon would ban authors -- people who might know a thing or two about what makes a book "good" -- than read his post. He kind of sums it up here:

The fact that a binder can get a thousand fake reviews because of Romney's comment, but I can't honestly review one of my peers because I'm an author, is a bit silly, don't you think? Amazon allows 1 star reviews from people who haven't even read the book, but deletes positive reviews from people who honestly enjoyed it, and somehow that's improving your review system?

That's some of the frustration I feel as an author. I do have a parade of douchebags, people who haven't actually read the book, giving me bad reviews because of some political statement I made, or because they don't like my slightly over-the-top, bloated-ego-boasting on the podcast (keep in mind, I also get plenty of one-star reviews from people who did read it, and just think I suck, which is fine), or people giving me one-star reviews because they didnt like the eBook formatting, or even people giving me one-star reviews because they don't like the PRICE of the book. Yeah, that happens. 

So those uninformed, misguided or even downright malicious reviews can stay, but reviews from authors are banned. Awesome.

Amazon did this, I believe, because some authors would organize two kinds of campaigns:

  1. A "review circle," where 10-15 authors review each other's books in order to stack a ton of 5-star reviews in quick succession. This is common practive in the business and self-help book fields.
  2. Attack reviews, where an author (and/or his or her buddies) would try to sabotage a book that was in the same category but doing better by posting a crap-ton of one-star reviews.

Those are real problems that Amazon has to deal with. I can see the flat-out banning of author reviews solves these problems, but it's throwing the baby out with the bath water. Authors spend their entire careers learning what makes a good story, and an honest review from an author is a great way for potential readers to know if they would or wrould not like a particular title. 

So, imma go back to writing. What are your thoughts on this Amazon banning of author reviews?

Click here to download the video.

18 Comments

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I heard rumours of this but what a joke. I've just been published and have some positive reviews, a couple are from author friends, so I guess they'll be gone by the morning!

How are you supposed to get a foot up in this business? Most people who read books aren't interested in reviewing. If I like a book, I review, but I guess, as I am registered as an author on Amazon, my reviews will suddenly disappear too.

Anyhow, great to hear you are backing The Colony, I'm off to purchase a copy now and see if I can't review it in the future.

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Considering the reviews that they do allow, not just for books but in general I find this humorous and sad at the same time.  Someone can post a review about a "banana slicer" and write a small novel in the review on why it is the best invention ever.  But you posting a legitimate review about a book is not welcome?  I get the premise you mentioned above where authors abuse the system, but Amazon is kind of a big company and I would think they could afford to scrutinize reviews rather than the shotgun approach of "nope, no authors reviewing other authors!"  Can ARealGirl post the review?  It is dumb to need to resort to that, but I enjoy your reviews of other authors.
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FWIW, you already have a pulpit and can do more to raise excitement (or sling feces) via your blog, podcast, etc., than any lost in a sea of user reviews on Amazon can accomplish anyhow. Baby with the bathwater? Sure, but that baby already has a 20' speedboat and a cooler full of beer.

Right or wrong, Amazon tries to automate nearly everything, and this rule lets them avoid making judgment calls someone with more than just a pulse would be required to make.
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I can see the logic behind Amazon's thiniing: a publishing house could use popular authors in its stable to promote some of the dreck it puts out. Just imagine what one review from Stephen King could do for any horror book (positive or negative effect)?

While their logic maybe sound, the execution is impractical. They may have stopped single influencing reviewers from posting, but there are companies where you can hire armies of fake reviewers for your sites. As Kind mentioned, authors have these thing called "websites" and if they ask their loyal followers to launch live baby seals into the atmosphere in plastic bags, most of them will do it. So, asking them to go and post a nice review is even easier and could a lead to a significant number of positive reviews being posted based upon a favor as opposed to a real opinion.

Amazon makes me laugh. Ha Ha.

P.S. For the record, no one has ever asked me to launch live baby seals into the atmosphere in plastic bags.... yet.

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Don't bounce the reality check!
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I will definiently have to give this book a try, sounds interesting.
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Scott, I have to chime in here and thank you for this fantabulous video review of The Colony!  Really, everything you do is from the heart.  I knew when I stumbled upon Infected in a bookstore, I’d finally found a brain that was wired like mine.  Science and horror, blood and guts, ants and parasites. It’s all good.  True, we’ve never met, so I think it’s remarkable that you not only agreed to read my book, but also gave me notes, thoughts on the cover and advice on the publishing industry.  And of course introducing me to Chris Grall, weapons/military extraordinaire, who sent me a dozens of corrections, chapter by chapter, for which I am forever grateful – I’d hate to have errors that might piss off people with firearms (haha, kidding gun people).  I’m disappointed that this antastic video will not be seen on Amazon’s site, and that authors  will no longer be able to share their excitement when they come across a truly thrilling novel.  But as you noted, there are legitimate concerns Amazon will have to address and I think they will find better ways to screen reviews, which don’t exclude such an important segment of the population.  On the bright side, your video will live on my website until I’m dead.

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Might have something to do with this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/sep/04/sock-puppetry-publish-be-damned

mrben

"Carpe Aptenodytes"

http://www.jedimoose.org

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In reply to: A.J. Colucci

Scott, I have to chime in here and thank you for this fantabulous video review of The Colony!  Really, everything you do is from the heart.  I knew when I stumbled upon Infected in a bookstore, I’d finally found a brain that was wired like mine.  Science and horror, blood and guts, ants and parasites. It’s all good.  True, we’ve never met, so I think it’s remarkable that you not only agreed to read my book, but also gave me notes, thoughts on the cover and advice on the publishing industry.  And of course introducing me to Chris Grall, weapons/military extraordinaire, who sent me a dozens of corrections, chapter by chapter, for which I am forever grateful – I’d hate to have errors that might piss off people with firearms (haha, kidding gun people).  I’m disappointed that this antastic video will not be seen on Amazon’s site, and that authors  will no longer be able to share their excitement when they come across a truly thrilling novel.  But as you noted, there are legitimate concerns Amazon will have to address and I think they will find better ways to screen reviews, which don’t exclude such an important segment of the population.  On the bright side, your video will live on my website until I’m dead.

A.J., how nice of you to slum with us Junkies! Loved the book, looking forward to many more. 

Dark Øverlord Media: We Default to the Nuclear Sølution
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Sweet, another book review. I've been looking forward to one of these since you reviewed Year Zero. I'll definatly check it out.

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Har! "Antastic video!" I love her already.

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Gutter Sistren whipping boy, innoventor of words, Life Coach to the Damned.

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I'm still trying to picture what a "parade of douchbags" looks like. Are we talking anthropromorphic douchbags marching on their own volition? Or would all the floats be made of multicolored douch bags? A marching band in douchbag hats and not much else? hmmm.....

"Big Fish," Dark Øverlørd Media In-Høuse Graphic Designer  •  CBBC Røad Captain    scottpond.com  •  Grand Mafioso of NH

Dark Øverlørd Media: We Default tø the Nuclear Sølutiøn

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In reply to: ScottEPond

I'm still trying to picture what a "parade of douchbags" looks like. Are we talking anthropromorphic douchbags marching on their own volition? Or would all the floats be made of multicolored douch bags? A marching band in douchbag hats and not much else? hmmm.....

They mostly look like frustrated writers that live in their mom's basements, I think.

Dark Øverlord Media: We Default to the Nuclear Sølution
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In reply to: scottsigler

They mostly look like frustrated writers that live in their mom's basements, I think.

Ahhh... so pasty bloated anthropromorphic douchbags... now I can see it.

"Big Fish," Dark Øverlørd Media In-Høuse Graphic Designer  •  CBBC Røad Captain    scottpond.com  •  Grand Mafioso of NH

Dark Øverlørd Media: We Default tø the Nuclear Sølutiøn

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This book is going on the Christmas list as well as some other books on this website

You will lose all your sanity too me
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What a fun bunch! I must slum with the junkies more often.

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I've added it to my 'to read' list. Thanks for the hot tip.

CBBC Tigress & Proud member of the Gutter Sistren

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Finally got around to reading it, Great book! Very good scifi horror, I'm always glad to see new talent emerging. I hope you bring more of the gore and suspense in your next title Colucci, I'll be watching for it.

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Thanks Z! You're the first to know, my new novel will be coming out from Macmillan Spring 2014.  It's darker, scarier. I will keep my Guru Scott in the loop as it gets closer.