Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Six Differences between a Bad Review and a Troll Attack

So it was after I had written the post a little while back about Six Things We Should Never Do As Writers that I had some feedback debunking the 2nd point. The argument was that a successful writer had challenged a troll who had been stalking them and posting obscene 1 star reviews about their books on Amazon and such. However I feel that is not a real review. Trolls have to be separated in mind (and in practice) from those of real reviewers and readers. And here are six differences between them both.

1.       Trolls rarely read the book

This is a point which I think people don’t tend to get. Reviewers by name means that the person has viewed (or used) the item and is commenting on their experiences. Trolls rarely spend any money on the person they are persecuting and therefore cannot reliably be trusted to have read the book – meaning they have not actually written a review by definition.

2.       Trolls are malicious – Reviewers give honest feedback

I will admit that reviews can be hurtful, but a true review is never malicious. A troll is setting out to create an atmosphere which you will feel terrible. A reviewer is providing other readers with their experiences – whether good or bad.

3.       Reviewers tend to write and forget – Trolls linger for the spoils

Trolls can sometimes be persistent with their attacks. I’ve seen trolls post a dozen or so reviews on the same book within a short period of time. Sometimes responding to them will only encourage the Troll to write more horrible stuff. What did your mother tell you about bullies – they are after a response, don’t indulge them. This is not what reviewers tend to do. Normally a true reviewer will write their peace and then leave.

4.       Trolls are selfish – Reviewers are Selfless

There is very little reason why reviewers should give reviews at times. After they have said their peace they gain very little from it (unless they implement my advice from this blog post). However trolls are selfish. They have a goal in mind – they want to get a reaction / hurt your sales (and boost their own) / have a laugh at someone’s expense. None of those reasons are particularly selfless; in fact they all serve one purpose – to fulfill the need of the troll. Hence their reviews are selfish, a reviewer’s are not.

5.       Trolls tend to be badly written

Okay so I admit that this is a weak point. Some genuine reviews are not Shakespeare either, but Trolls are generally WRITTEN IN CAP LOCKS and are written in shorthand. Ths iz nt da gud way to rite a review tho. Most reviewers try to write in proper English. You can tell those who have put in the effort to write something meaningful rather than just write something fast to get their laugh.

6.       Reviews have context.

This is a little gripe of mine. As a reviewer myself over at The Indie Ebook Review Site I create reviews that have detail. I rarely give an opinion without a reason, and that is what every review should do. If you don’t like the book; why? Why don’t you like the characters? Why don’t you like the action scene? Why, why, why? Just saying that the book is terrible isn’t good reviewer practice.

I know that some reviewers won’t live up to my expectations and that they might not give reasons, may be a little rude or can write poor English. But that is why I am firm believer that all reviews should be vetted by the companies that allow them. I don’t mean censorship of reviews, but I do mean weeding out the reviews which have no substance or are attacks on the producers of the work. Both 1 star and 5 star reviews have a place in our system, they are helpful to readers and writers alike and can turn a floundering book into a bestseller. Trolls serve no purpose except to appease their creators.

Some big changes may be coming soon. To keep informed follow me on twitter and my facebook page


  1. Hi Dave, I see you've never been attacked by trolls by your comments. I have personally been attacked several times. You says they will linger for the spoils and sometimes post a few dozen comments. That's nothing. The trolls today stalk, bully and harass relentlessly. I know of several authors who have been targets for three years with no let up. Make no mistake this is illegal. There are laws against cyber-stalking, bullying and harassment.

    1. Dear Rick,

      Thank you for comments.

      Firstly I would like to respond to the comment that I've never been attacked by trolls. That is actually untrue. It is just that I've taken steps to reduce the impact that has on my blog. As you probably noticed, all comments are monitored. That isn't so I can just post positive comments as I welcome honest critical and constructive appraisals but to place a 'gatekeeper' for wood-be trolls. A couple of people have attempted to post messages through my blog referring to members of my family and other disgusting imagery that would be far to vulgar for my audience. But once it became obvious that those messages were never going to go anywhere other than virtual trash bins they simply tried other avenues.

      My worst troll attack came upon Facebook when another author decided to deface the cover to one of my books and post it across the platform. Again quick action soon took images off as Facebook removed them before eventually removing the user. This was a hurtful period, but reaction was not the key, it was instead positive action that paid dividends.

      I agree that while some troll attacks can be in the hundreds of comments, this article is focusing on reviews rather than blogs, forums and other mediums that trolls like to stalk about. Through online retailers it is hard for trolls to comment more than a few times as new measures have been put in to stop multiple reviews, reviews without purchases and reviews without substance. As it takes time to set up an account and money to purchase the product several times, trolls will tend not to do this hundreds of times.

      Part of the reason for this blog post was the sheet number of people who would comment that they received a review stating: "Did not like book. [Characters were rubbish / storyline unbelievable / etc]" and describing that as a troll attack. In fact a troll attack is a malicious and often personal comment rather than critical comments.

      I do acknowledge that troll attacks are illegal. However there are also laws against fraud, graffiti, verbal and physical abuse and that has never stopped individuals either.

      Thank you again Rick for reading,

      Kind regards,