How You Can Help

January 3rd, 2012 by Max Allan Collins

Okay, so it’s 2012, and I know what you’re wondering – what can I do to help Max Allan Collins. “Buying all of his books just isn’t enough,” you’re saying to yourself. “What more can I do?”

Thanks for asking. And the answer is one that applies to every writer you like to read, not just me. With publishing in chaos right now, nothing matters more than grass-roots word of mouth, Internet-style. If you like a book you’ve read (particularly the books by me), comment at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites. These don’t have to be full-fledged reviews – just a line or two and a rating.

At Amazon, those ratings are key. Amazon pays attention to customer ratings – they make decisions based upon them – and of course browsers are often swayed by the star-rating of a book. Unfortunately, Amazon ratings are one of those places where democracy goes a little too far – there is little or no supervision. Routinely people give books lousy ratings (recently Return to Perdition suffered because of this) due to the reader having problems with receiving a damaged copy or other complaints having to do with mailing or other aspects of service – not the content of the book. You can balance this out – for any writer you like – by posting a brief review…again, a positive line or two and a high star rating will do it. If you have a blog or any kind of site where you review books, be sure to post those reviews on Amazon (Barnes and Noble, too).

And if you see an unfair or in particular an inaccurate review on any web site, write a comment in response. I’m not saying argue with somebody’s taste – just their fairness or accuracy. I do this myself, and a lot of people (including my son Nate) tell me not to. But I don’t respond to negative reviews unless they are unfair or especially inaccurate.

These are challenging times for authors. Support them not only by buying their stuff, but commenting favorably on it. If you’re disappointed with a book, you should also comment, but strive to fair, accurate and avoid glibness. If you accuse a writer of something – using cliches, maybe, or poor dialogue or anything really – be sure to give examples. Avoid what we used to call in English class “glittering generalities.”

Here are some nice things that appeared on the web over the last week or so.

Terry and I made a Best 10 Graphic Novels list for Return to Perdition. Once again, I consider such lists nonsense, useless, pointless and offensive…unless I am on one.

Dick Tracy

Read online at Go Comics

The current team on DICK TRACY gave me a nice shout-out in the strip recently. Thanks, guys!

Here’s a thoughtful if a little patronizing review of CHICAGO LIGHTNING. Look below the review for my comment.

Every now and then a CRIMINAL MINDS novel gets review. Here’s a nice example.

This is actually the first writing for me of 2012. I’m doing this update in advance a day or so, because Barb and I (and Toaster, who we’ve been dog-sitting) are about to head to St. Louis to see Nate and his girl Abby. We’ll spend several days there, and probably will see the English-language version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Recently we’ve seen the new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (outstanding), the new Downey Holmes movie (I fell asleep), TINTIN (wonderful) and, on Blu-Ray, ATTACK THE BLOCK, one of my favorite films of the year. I am dismayed to see the abysmal DRIVE topping many Best of film lists for 2011. I told you those lists were worthless.


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4 Responses to “How You Can Help”

  1. JSweet says:

    I always try to comment on those … and will make sure to keep doing so! Nothing annoys me more than when people leave a comment on the buying experience as a review of the product.

  2. Andrew Hudson says:

    I believe that Amazon and other sites’ customer review systems were created with well intentions. But like most things well intended, they have gone badly awry. In a perfect world, the reviews would be all over the place in star ratings, people would check out those well written reviews, read between the lines, and decide whether or not they want to give the book a chance.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the customer review system. Most of the reviews are divided into a five star “LOVE IT!” or a one star “HATE IT!” without many real reviews in there. Even if the reviews were more diverse and better written, people would still just look at the average star rating instead of reading the reviews. Which means that anything that averages four stars or below is the kiss of death for sales. Regardless of the reasons of why it has the average.

    All of this means that it’s up to the readers to give positive reviews to the books they love. Because for everyone five star review, there’s plenty of trolls and angry people out there that will give a book a one star just for the hell of it. Or worse yet, I hear there are some writers out there who hire people to give their “competitors'” books one stars in an attempt to drag down their average rating. Hopefully the customer review system will be improved over time.

    Also, thanks for commenting on my review of the Dick Tracy novelization. I really appreciate it.

  3. Cathy Craig says:

    I must be the only person not writing a book. But I read a LOT. I don’t understand the following: “with publishing in chaos right now” – can you explain that? Also: “these are challenging times for authors”? I would like to understand more about these issues. Thanks.

  4. Cathy, publishing is in chaos for a number of reasons. Book stores are closing (the whole Borders chain is gone) and Amazon is thriving. Indie bookstores tend to hate Amazon, but readers like to save money, and some of us don’t have any bookstore in our town (the local indie closed here last year). E-books are flourishing, which tends to benefit Amazon because of the Kindle, and e-books are a hard thing for bookstores to sell (Barnes & Noble sells a lot of Nooks, but that’s a gizmo not a book).

    Advances for authors are lower than in many years (except for blockbuster authors), and where I used to get three-book contracts, I now get a two-book contract or evena one-book deal.

    Things are changing. I have been lucky to be in business with Amazon on my Nate Heller backlist, but I will tell you frankly that some bookstores and some of my publishers are unhappy with me doing business with “the enemy.” Considering that my publishers sell to that enemy, and even count on that enemy, that should be an indication of the chaotic, challenging times for authors.