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Saturday 23 February 2019

When a book review is blatantly and deliberately misleading...

For a totally independent article about this same subject - visit the Alliance of Independent Authors who posted a very enlightening article .... 
click HERE>

Many authors, indie especially, and several publishing houses (indie and traditional) have received, over the span of a couple of years now, unsolicited spam emails from a certain freelance proofreading company complaining about errors in various published books and offering their services and/or a list of the noted errors. Obviously, a ruse to tout for business. Naturally, such unwanted junk spam mail gets dumped without hesitation into the bin. But a few weeks later, as if by magical co-incidence, a scathing 'review' appears on Amazon mentioning, and often listing, these supposed errors and typos that this proofreading company has 'spotted'. (Doesn't he have enough work to do? Apparently not.)

quote:  *Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.*

What, you wonder, as do I, is the intention of this person from this company? Is it, as seems at first glance, to assist authors to produce good, quality books by pointing out the missed typos? Or is there some other, far more malicious, intention going on here?

Most genuine review sites (e.g my own Discovering Diamonds) do not review books that do not reach a certain standard. Giving poor or scathing reviews is a pointless exercise - there is barely enough time for volunteer reviewers to write constructive reviews for the good books, let alone the poorly written ones. At #DDRevs (Discovering Diamonds Review) if a reviewer gets back to me saying the book she/he has read is really good but what a shame about the far too many errors/grossly incorrect formatting etc., I privately contact the author and suggest a thorough re-edit/reprint/republish - which can be easily accomplished for indie writers. Alas for traditional/ mainstream where quite often it is the publishing house's fault that a bit of a mess has been made, there is nothing that can be done. Several thousand copies have already been printed and until the glorious height of another print run or the paperback edition is reached then grin and bear it with a very red face is the only option for the author. (Which is a huge reason why I prefer to be an indie writer. Bloopers are my own bloopers.) Occasionally the authors I contact rant back (somewhat rudely - I delete and block). More often than not I get an appreciative thank you for taking the trouble to respond,  BUT ... and this is a BIG BUT... these authors have submitted their books to #DDRevs for possible review. I do not contact strangers out of the blue, nor, unless the author particularly wants to continue communicating do I follow up with further e-mails.

THAT's the difference between being helpful 
or an outright spammer!

Unfortunately, this Proof Reader Person doesn't think like that. His  apparent selfless wish 'to help' takes on a sinister turn when he then goes on to harass and bully his victims by posting suspect tweets like this one to me:

Way back when (2017?) I did a talk at my local library (it went very well!) By chance, a few weeks ago (January 2019) I discovered an unread message dated from a few days before the talk in my Twitter inbox from Mr P referring to this event. (Mr P take note: I don't read/respond to Twitter DM messages.)

It said something like 'I intend to be there.' 

Well, he wasn't there (which in hindsight was very disappointing because I would have relished the face-to-face fisticuffs.) So what was the intention of his message? I can't believe it was meant as convivial support, so I can only conclude the purpose was to intimidate.

*Laugh* blimey mate, I've been doing talks for over 20 years at many and varied locations, (a highlight was one to the deputy British Ambassador and various big-wigs in Le Hague!) I've spoken in the US, fronted various conferences - I'm one of those authors who can Talk For England, so I'm an old hand at the job. Add to that, I'm a 65-year-old London East-ender!
As a friend remarked when I mentioned this somewhat crass attempt at intimidation: 'Poor guy, if he'd come along he wouldn't have known what had hit him.'  

I think the second one applies....
My Pirates Truth and Tales received a 2-star comment on Amazon from Mr P. Now I'm NOT claiming 'foul' regarding the facts of his comment - he was quite right about some of them. There are errors in the hardback edition and I'm mortified about them; the publisher printed from an uncorrected file. Result. Big Mess. But not my fault (I did not see a final proof copy until it was too late to do anything about it.) 

So I strongly reiterate that I am not complaining that someone had posted on Amazon about the errors, they are there, fact. (Very annoying fact!) but I am drawing awareness to his method, the motivation and the underlying reason for doing so. His comment and the dozens of similar ones for other author's books was left because I did not respond to his spam mail touting for business - to use his proofing service.

The publisher and I worked hard on ensuring the paperback was better proofed. Undoubtedly we did miss a few minor things (I think there's a 'too' instead of 'to' for instance) but the erroneous Marie Celeste (Mary) has been corrected, ditto coke (Coke), desert/dessert, the back to front date corrected blah blah blah. We also re-formatted the layout and I think the result is super. (Just a pity this wasn't done for the hardback!) 

OK, my 'chatty' style isn't to everyone's taste - fairy 'nuff, (although I did laugh at someone's comment of 'This isn't Patrick O'Brien' (sic - it should be O'BriAn). Well, thank goodness for that! Mission accomplished! I set out with every intention of ensuring Pirates and my Sea Witch Voyages were absolutely nothing like Mr O.B's novels. His books are engrossing but highly detailed, somewhat serious (and I have to say, in places a little dreary). They are a "mens' read" type books. My Sea Witch Voyages are meant to be a light, fun, tongue-in-cheek read with a blend of fantasy and romance. So I agree, absolutely nothing like Patrick O.B.

Back to our Proof Bully... this is the gist of his original comment for the hardback:

" 2 out of 5 stars Too many errors
March 2017
Format: hardback Verified Purchase
*Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher (Amberley) were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.*
The book contains 249 errors of spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation. The errors begin on the copyright page and increase a few pages later in the Timeline where ‘Hans Sloan’ should be ‘Hans Sloane’ (p10). Here is a brief selection (with examples) of what this reader found: "


Skip forward to January 2019... Determined to continue his 'helpfulness' Mr P has developed a new strategy: repost the original comments to make them look like new ones - this, of course, brings them to the fore where no one can miss them. (Again why? To what point? How does this, as he claims, be of help to authors?)

I protested that this was 'bad form' (to quote Captain Hook) and some changes were made: (in bold here)

2 out of 5 stars Too many errors
17 January 2019
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a review of the original hardback edition, purchased on Amazon in March 2017. *Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher (Amberley) were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.*
*** UPDATE: a paperback version has been published and some of the errors have been addressed, but a huge number - at least half - remain. ***

but the rest of his comment is, as far as I can tell ... totally unchanged. 

So apparently there were originally 249 errors, now there's half that number  = 124.5. Well being blunt 124.5 minor errors out of 75,000 words isn't bad going! Especially when I bet that the majority of those 124.5 are picky and debatable (e.g. not taking into account author style etc) I occasionally ignore the split infinitive rule... sorry but I'm with Star Trek here: to 'boldly go' sounds much more 'every day' and comfortable than the correct 'go boldly'.  The use of ... or .... is personal preference, and often where a comma should/shouldn't go is also personal preference - all of which are not understood by a computer generated proof checker. (I use Grammarly, it's good but it doesn't pick up my personal style - it's picky-pedantic.) So I reckon a good half of the 124.5 so-called errors aren't errors at all, which gives us 62-ish, out of which half are probably tiny things like a missing space as in 'JanuaryTwenty-First' or a missed -  twenty six  instead of twenty-six .... so that brings us down to 31 possible errors... I mean does 31 small errors really deserve a 2 star review and public trashing?  Blimey, get yourself a life mate! 

Anyway, I responded thus: 

"Polite response: Do you, PP, really care about the several authors who decline to use your proofreading services? From the tone of this, and many other similar 'reviews', you have written your comments portray many books in a very poor light. The publisher of this book (and myself) worked hard on correcting the errors, which I have said many times were a result of printing from an uncorrected file (which I was/am cross about - and yes, the person responsible no longer works for the publisher. In fact he left during the final stages, hence the muddle.) The paperback is not 'a mess', it has been reformatted and I think looks most handsome. You say there are 'still'  half the original errors - that makes about 124 errors, most of which are very probably minor things picked up by the pedantic programme that you use (not a human reader's eye/brain which allows for style and author's voice.)  Out of over 75,000 words 124 minor, probably debatable, errors is annoying but not wholly unacceptable, and probably not even noticeable to a reader - certainly not to the extent of deliberately giving a false impression about a book. I am not debating the original hardback but I would appreciate a sense of honour and fair play from you PP regarding the paperback edition by upgrading this NEW review of yours (a copy of the old original) to at least a 3 star. 
Incidentally, thank you for purchasing this new paperback edition in order to re-proofread it, I wonder at how you find the time or inclination to do so? It is a most odd thing to do as you clearly have no real interest in the book, so what was your intended purpose? Or is the impression of repurchasing and re-reading in order to find a mere 124 minor errors somewhat false? I am baffled as to your motive? I leave sensible readers to reach an obvious answer..."

To which he has left a couple of sarcastic responses, which only show himself up as the t*sspot ass that he is. 
Apparently, I'm to stick to writing fiction (does he mean he likes my novels?) and he has suggested that I make full use of 'the free publicity'. Yes! I intend to! Although, can anyone enlighten me as to what he actually means by that? He's the one giving me the publicity opportunity, and given that I've sold a couple of books on the back of his sniping (readers interested in seeing just how much of 'a mess' the book is...LOL) I can only thank Mr P for this wonderful exposure of what is, to the majority of my readers, an interesting and enjoyable book about pirates. 

So following his advice, please do feel free to repost, reblog re-whatever this article - and please do leave an honest comment for any of my books that are on Amazon. 

Finally, I do have to say thank you to him, because I was stuck for an idea for a weekend topic to write about...

I repeat: I am NOT complaining about the embarrassing errors in the hardback. I AM drawing attention to this man's narsisitic misleading dishonesty, his dubious intent and his bullying harassing tactics. He is a menace to too many authors, some of whom he has grossly upset and even frightened. 

Note: Authors (new authors especially) are advised to NOT respond to this person but to report any harassment to the Society of Authors and/or the Alliance of Independent Authors. For myself, he does not frighten, intimidate or remotely succeed in bullying me personally ... I don't play the narcissistic bully game, nor do I tolerate harassment or attempts at intimidation. After all, I have my very own, very capable pirate (who has a very sharp cutlass) as a constant companion! :-)

#ObviouslyMrPHasNotEnoughWorkToDo #TooMuchTimeOnHisHands

For a totally independent article about this same subject - visit the Alliance of Independent Authors who posted a very enlightening article .... 
click HERE>

addendum: Mr P has 'advertised'...  "all corrections are available on request."
so I emailed him with:

Friday, 22 February 2019 7:43 PM
As 'advertised: "all corrections are available on request."
I request the corrections to my book 'Pirates Truth and Tales' 
Helen Hollick

within 5 minutes (maybe less) I got a reply - a link to his fees ... 
oh so his "all corrections are available on request." is also grossly misleading. You have to PAY to see how he's managed to publicly trash your book!

My suspicion is .... these 'corrections' do not exist because why would he proofread (and therefore purchase) my book TWICE without getting paid for it? Or is he hoping I'll be gullible enough to pay him?  

Sorry mate, I never fall for the con of spammers' spam. 

This YouTube advice is very good for how to deal with people/trolls like this:


  1. Well said, Helen! It is little consolation to know that you are not the only author or publisher to be trashed. I actually retweeted your 'link' to the ALLi report - guess what? MR PP (or is it TP?) gave it a like, although no comment! When we do reviews for DDRevs, we do not do critiques; an inordinate number of errors cannot help to be noticed and are mentioned (in a blanket statement, not a detailed list) as potential readers should be aware. I know of at least one author who followed up our notes, took it all in good heart, reworked the while thing and produced a much better version. I also know that you were instrumental in this. I mention this because DDRevs are there to help new authors, not trash them. Perhaps Mr PP should remember the old saying - If you can't say something nice, don't say anything.....

    1. Thank you Richard. The big difference (as I say above) is that we at DDRevs are _constructive_ not _destructive_. I do also emphasise that I'm not posting the above for my benefit (Pirates T&T hardback WAS full of errors ... the paperback isn't...!) But I'm shouting out for all the new and novice authors that PP has attacked. I know of two ladies who were so upset by his outright nastiness that they will now never write again, which is such a shame because they were good writers. Yes their novels had errors but there is a constructive way of alerting writers or this guy's highly destructive method...

    2. Totally agree with you there. And two authors careers destroyed by this ... person? That is disgusting. I am so sorry for them; I wish they could step back and try again...

  2. LOL. Repost of a message I've received from a supporter: "He's being a knob on Twitter, currently. *rollseyes* because obviously, if I wanted people to use a paid service I provide, I'd show myself up in public as a complete bell-end. Nice business model PP!" Exactly so - talk about did yourself into a hole - then keep digging! so agree *eyeroll*.

  3. What a creep. I cannot imagine an author would take such a person who shreds someone's work so insensitively serious. Such a review shows the person to be so nasty you wouldn't want to know them. But alas, we writers can sometimes be a touchy and sensative and it pays to take a deep breath and move on. (although I would let out a few expetives first!!)

    1. Part of the problem for most authors is that it's such a solitary job - we are on our own so silly things get blown out of proportion: how many of us (very stupidly) dwell on the poor reviews but gloss over the good ones - which is a fact that Mr P Kn*bhead exploits, of course.

  4. He has nothing better to do? Some people get satisfaction from spewing negativity. Personally, I try to refrain from commenting on reviews from people who seem to have an ax to grind. Not to mention the fact that Amazon fails to adequately screen reviews. I have seen reviews that are a jumble of letters that do not even contain words. These stay up and are never removed. Be consoled by the fact that you are a much better person!

    1. I 100% agree - unfortunately this narcissistic person needs to have his (highly dubious) motives publicly exposed every so often in order to alert unaware writes to not use his (equally dubious) services. His rants ARE to be ignored his motives (bullying and harassment) must be exposed.

  5. Re-posted for 'JimJim' - comment was posted beneath a different (non-relevant) article: Ms Hollick, I have followed this ‘spat’ for a while... I have to say I'm in a quandary. On the one hand, this person’s directness (even bluntness) is breath-taking, and what he says is indeed breath-taking, and on the other I feel that if books are published to this reduced standard, then someone somewhere along the line hasn’t done their job properly. (I’m obviously excluding the author!) The desperate level of spelling in schools (and I'm including teachers) now is something which, as a teacher for well over 35 years I simply lament - glad soon to be retiring! It seems to me no different now in the world of books / publishing / media. Publishers, presumably cash strapped, no longer do things they way they used to in my time. Perhaps it also reveals my age - mid-60s. The man/business in question may well have a point in wanting better standards.

    Also, I would have thought in the final analysis it is not the author's fault that these mistakes seem to be there, but the publishers' if they've organized the proofreading.

    The other thing that occurred to me is that from his website social media etc. he seems extremely busy. I fear that by highlighting his methods you are not only putting down your own books, but quite possibly promoting his services by the back door... I rather hesitate to state it, but it’s not impossible for an author to read one of his reviews and think ‘Goodness me, I’m going to hire him.’ Just a thought... All the best with your writing though. / Frank. (carefully proofread before posting!!!)

    1. All good and valid points Jim, and as I said above, regarding the hardback edition of 'Pirates Truth and Tales' it did have errors, so I am not disputing those, and yes, I agree standards SHOULD be higher and issues of poor production raised, BUT NOT by the highly misleading and questionable METHODS used by this person. What is his motive, what is he hoping to achieve? It is blatantly obvious that he couldn't give a damn about the books or the authors, but is wholly intent on touting for business via using outright blackmail: he emails authors and publishers announcing he has found errors which he will provide a list of upon request (for a fee of course, only you do not discover that until you ask for the list), and when he gets no response (because he is sending out unsolicited spam) he posts a dubious 1 or 2 star 'review'. He then continues to bully, pester and threaten - outright and prolonged harassment, making many vulnerable authors uneasy, upset and even frightened.

      I take your point about is it a good thing to highlight the way he operates? My answer to this is: should we keep quiet about bullying in schools or the workplace? About organised grooming of young girls for sex, child molestation, domestic violence, racism, sexism, antisemitism? No, we shouldn't! It is not right to keep quiet about this bully, he needs to be exposed for what he is doing.

      His latest ploy of re-posting old 'reviews' to make them look like new ones is misleading, is harassment, is not acceptable and needs to be publicly exposed.

  6. Surely there are other ways he can get involved in raising standards? He's hardly going to have an impact by leaving a dozen ghastly reviews for independent authors and publishers. No, his motives are much more personal - anger and ego it looks like to me.

    When I was unhappy with the service he provided on my first novel, (to me his mistakes were significant, though he begs to differ of course), I decided to go elsewhere for my second, and his retaliation was petty and childish. His original review was posted in November 2018, reposted in January, and again in February 2019, keeping it at the top of the listing - I can only guess for promotional purposes. (I'll take that as a compliment, as the book is actually selling well - he hasn't reposted reviews of books that aren't actually selling - get my drift?).

    I have yet to see any evidence - other than a handful of typos sent to me on Twitter - of the 150 errors he speaks of. No-one else has complained of heinous mistakes. I can only assume they don't exist, or are fairly minor, despite his SHOUTY email stating they DO (anger) - in fact, possibly the most patronising email I've ever received in my life (ego).

    This new tactic of reposting reviews shows him up for what I think he is - a chancer and a bit of a bully, using reviews as a way of punishing those of us who challenge him (anger), and promoting himself (ego). I mean, come on. He reviewed "Pippa: Simple Tips to Live Beautifully." To help raise standards? My guess is Pippa received an email or a tweet when she was seeking a proof reader, and she used someone else.

    1. Thanks Nicky - it is very useful to hear from someone who has had experience of this somewhat pathetic person from the 'other' side.


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