A Forbidden Love

A Forbidden Love - Alexandra Benedict Initial thoughts: There's a bit to say about James M. Lowrance's "Effects of Unfairly Unfavorable Reviews on Independent Authors". I actually took about 45 minutes to peruse this 6,000 word opinion piece, and I'm still meditating over some of the things I could say about it. There are perhaps one or two notations I could see a point with, but in the collective scheme of things - this is an opinion piece that doesn't really provide an objective viewpoint of its respective subject, nor provide any feasible or rational/realistic solutions to its matter at all. I didn't like the "us versus them" tone of it if it's meant to be an informative and suggestive piece. My collective impressions are that it doesn't do much to inform as much as it is a self-defense and the suggested implementations on his behalf would do nothing but harm.Full review:First thing I want to point out before I start this review is that this was very much a spontaneous read. I saw that someone had reviewed it in my feed, looked at the title, read it mostly for curosity's sake and for the fact it was 6,000 words, among other reasons. As much as I found myself very much at odds with the title and premise (mentally I find myself, as someone who's worked in research, wanting to cut that title down to size and amend it to something far more objective and less heavy with bias. If this were a title for a potential research article, it would not be given a second glance. "Unfairly Unfavorable"? The "Unfairly" shows the bias right off the bat.)I wasn't so much upset as I read this as much as I'm frustrated that this actually tries to pass itself off as a legitimate argument of its respective subject matter. I did read it, I spent a good 45 minutes on combing through this free-kindle read, which is probably a lot more time than most people would before going "Seriously, this book does not know what it's talking about." But I knew what I was getting into, and read it anyway.On a personal note: I write reviews on books of many different walks and genres, it's not something I think twice about in terms of the process because I've been doing it for so many years. I'm a reader as much as I am a writer - the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive or separate spheres. My opinion stands as my opinion, it's left up to those that peruse those opinions as to what they do with a work following reading that review. It's a form of expression, take or leave. I talk about my reading experiences openly and honestly, and I have no qualms about doing so in the way that best encompasses that experience. I think the same can be said for many readers, and I think the vast majority of writers understand that.One thing that I was always taught coming up through school is that no two people read or interpret a book the same way, and no one - collectively speaking - has the same reading experience. I had many people in my life telling me that - from former teachers to the librarians I used to sit with during my lunch hours asking what titles to pull from the shelves and which to put back. There's no wrong way to reflect on those experiences, and to try to control that really represents a suppression of knowledge and connectivity that comes with the freedoms that we have.That said, let me address the complete and utter offense that is Mr. Lowrance's book. I'm not going to go into too much detail with it, but just give an overview of some of the things he discusses and give two cents about it.The one thing I would say that Lowrance touches on that I did see a point to was on commercial bookseller sites where reviews are left for the books in question, reflections that are chiefly customer service complaints are misplaced in those spaces. The "I'm giving this 1-star because it's cover was worn off when I received it or I never received it at all" or "I'm giving this 1-star because the price is too high." They're proper commentary in themselves and could be taken as assessments, but not meant in review spaces meant for the assessment of the work itself, and I can see that point. My argument is that there's a need for mediation to place those comments in their own spaces and separate them from content based reviews, and that's its own issue that can be reasonably moderated with due care in a feasible spectrum.However, Lowrance's claims about "legitimate" versus "non-legitimate" negative reviews are without merit for the fact that there's no qualitative/quantitative measure to determine what he's supposed to claim as a "legitimate" review. How would you measure something like that, when reviews in themselves are individual experiences expressed by a book's consumer base? Authors, whether self-published, with an independent publisher, or with a big name publisher, are required to know their markets and know that even in spite of criticisms that may exist in the market, to let the work sell itself. That's the terms of the profession. It's not an easy industry, and for someone writing in this spectrum, Lowrance's assesments are quite out of touch. He not only creates and contributes to a very toxic view of reader-writer relations (which are far more complex than he approaches it), but also completely misses the mark of understanding that reviews in themselves don't necessarily contribute to the success/failure of a published work or body of works. They can help/hurt, but it's not always predictable, even when you get down to the individual tone of a review - positive or negative - what that effect will be.I thought about quoting specific passages one by one and knocking them down for how ludicrous they come across, but that goes beyond a scope of what I can personally do in this respective review. What I can say is that in my experience as a reviewer and aspiring writer, I have seen - especially this year - instances where there have been attempts at dishonest ways of gaming the system in the promotion or demotion of published works on multiple levels. Enforcing selective censorship of reviews isn't the way to resolve this problem. Nor is pointing fingers and laying blame on a single party (he seems to think this is a reviewer only problem and that authors somehow need "protection" from a so called majority of negative reviewers that he deems as "trolls"). No, I think this is more complex of an issue than that.I think it's more feasible to rather increase awareness of personal responsibility and tolerance of opinion. By understanding both authorial and reader/reviewer dimensions (especially by recognizing the two are not mutually exclusive) and educating people about and knocking down the abuses we see (sockpuppeting, authors who attack/threaten/intimidate reviewers, reviewers who attack/threaten/intimidate other reviewers for their opinions - whether positive or negative, etc.).I wouldn't recommend reading or abiding by the measures suggested by Lowrance here at all. Apart from the few decent points, this wasn't worth the read.Overall score: 0.5/5