Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Great Harriet Klausner Debate

If you’ve ever browsed for books on Amazon you’ve no doubt read a review by Harriet Klausner. She is the number one reviewer. At the time I wrote this blog, Harriet had reviewed 16,630 books.

Not only is Harriet quite prolific (on December 9, 2006 she reviewed 59 books) but she loves everything she reads (she rates a book as either a 4 or 5 stars out of 5 stars).

The great debate is over whether or not Harriet is a real person. Now on Amazon, Harriet has one of those “real name” badges on her profile but I’m just not buying it because the math doesn’t add up.

Despite her claim that she is a speed reader, I find it impossible that someone could not only read 59 books in a day, but also write a review on each one.

To get a grasp of how absurd this is let’s say the average book is 300 pages. So 59 books x 300 pages = 17,700 pages. Let’s say each page has 250 words so 250 x 17,700 = 4,425,000 words. Let’s then assume she is a ballistic speed reader with a rate of 500 words per minute (200-300 is considered average) so 4,425,000 divided by 500 would be 8,850 minutes, which would be 147.5 hours.

Far as I know there are only 24 hours in a day. Mind you this doesn’t include the time it took to write the review. Well, maybe with all that speed reading she’s developed a device that slows time.

Even if I make the numbers extremely conservative with an average book at 200 pages and only 200 words per page and up her rate to 1000 words per minute I still end up at 39.3 hours. Sorry folks, but the numbers just don’t compute. And numbers don’t lie. I know this as an accountant. You can get creative with your numbers but numbers themselves can’t be forced to lie for you.

And don’t think for a moment I’m the only one to notice this. Below are several links to others who have pondered this most compelling mystery.

Harriet Rules
Google search
Harriet Klausner's Home Page

So why did I bring this up? Well, it’s been bothering me for a long time. I expect people to read the books they review. I dislike “puff” reviews just as much as I dislike “revenge” reviews--that’s where one writer will trash another writer’s work out of jealousy or an overactive competition bone.

Harriet reduces the fine art of reviewing to a simplistic formula. (Er, to get what I mean, all she had to do was read the back blurb, the promo material, and one or two lines of the actual book) When I see her reviews, I ignore them, because in my humble opinion, they are meaningless.

Will we ever know who the real Harriet Klausner is? Does it even matter if she’s a collective of reviewers or simply a tool to give good reviews to almost everyone’s book? I guess the reason why I care is that I like to read reviews but I always take them with a grain of salt. Harriet Klausner annoys me because her reviews are “puff” without any real insight.

I open the floor to comments.


Mel Hiers said...

And not only is there no insight, but she frequently gets things wrong. Important details, character names. Whole main plotlines.

It says on her bio that she's a librarian. If she is, indeed, a real person with that background I sort of understand her reviews. They read like a sub-par attempt at readers' advisory. But even if that's the case, they should NEVER be labeled reviews.

One way or the other, her work shows a great lack of respect toward the books and writers she talks about. That's just my $.02.

Evonne Wareham said...

As so many actors say, "I never read the reviews, darling." But in my case it's true! I'd much rather go by recommendations from a friend, or simply browsing the shelf, whether it's in store or library - I've found a lot of favourites that way.
I've no experience of this lady, but she must be a prety speedy reader.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Mel--I totally agree. Sometimes her reviews are so off base I'm stunned they are posted at all. If she did what you suggested and called them a readers' advisory I wouldn't be so irritated. Calling them reviews is absurd.

Evonne--I love reviews because I enjoy reading what other people think but it never changes my mind about a book. If I like the blurb or the author I'll buy it. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Shows you where my head is -- I didn't even a 'Harriet Klausner' existed.
Gee, if she ever reviews one of my books, I'll know to hit the ignore or giggle button.
I did do a Google search last night because Rachel at Liquid Silver recommended to do a check every month, to see if your books are reviewed. I didn't find any reviews, but I did find All Shades of Blue Paradise listed beautifully and with it's own page on ParaNormal Romance ~ ~ with an Amazon link. My book was awaiting it's review, a possibility which may never occurr. But it looked darn cool there.

It seems to me Harriet Klausner is a perfect name for a reviewer, designed to stick in your memory banks. So, gosh only knows what's really going on -- one mad hair-frazzled librarian who is going for infamous status -- or just a fluff promo designed to sell books???

Neat blog, Anitra

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Thanks Sav! I think the puking pumpkin sums up my feelings perfectly!

Lexie O'Neill said...

Once again, I'm struck by how much I don't know! I'd never heard of this--makes me wonder how many of the reviews are done by real people.
I haven't read reviews, but I will say I'm often (probably foolishly) impressed by cover quotes. I've often wondered how so many people can get them...
So much to learn,

Savanna Kougar said...

Anitra, I meant to say how much I 'liked' your puking pumpkin -- I might have to steal him...ya know, halloween is not that far away...

Mel Hiers said...

Well, it's not even good readers' advisory. Most of the time the info is too innacurate or vague to do a prospective reader any good.

I do think it's funny she's becoming a verb though. I've seen the phrase "I've been Klausnered" around the blogosphere a couple of times recently.

Hey, Savanna! Congrats on the ParaNormal romance listing!

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey! Just for fun. Check out the youtube vid:

Trash Talking Romance Novelists: Bring on the RITAs, baby!

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Hi Lexie! Most cover quotes are legitimate and I love them too. But so far this year I've seen three authors use quotes by Klausner. I wonder if they know anything about the controversy--I can't image they would use them if they did. :)

Oh, Mel, I love that they've turned her into a verb! I hope I never "get Klausnered."

And Congrats, Sav, that's very cool! Hopefully they give you a great review soon. And you are more then welcome to use the pumpkin gif! Oh, and I loved the youtube vid! Very funny and creative! Smackdown at the RITA's!

Mel Hiers said...

If you do get Klausnered, we can just consider it a rite of passage. lol

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Mel--that's the way to look at it! I was thinking I'd demand Amazon take it down but your way is the better way to handle it; with humor and sly wink. ;)

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Oh, and just for the record, I don't want any author to think I'm putting them down for getting "Klausnered"--I'm not. No author has control over the reviews posted on Amazon or anywhere else. I personally find her reprehensible but that won't ever stop me from buying your book! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Gee, if I'm ever Klausnered, at least, I won't have to worry about Klausner prejudice.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

:) Not at all, Sav! The whole point is that even if people know she's a fake, we don't care what she says, so it doesn't impact our buying a book.

If people don't know who she is, her "good" review could actually help sales.

Either way, it's a benefit to the author.

I just wanted to make sure authors didn't feel embarrassed or stressed about getting "Klausnered".

Honestly, she is not deliberately seeking to hurt authors in any way. She just has some pathological need to be "famous."

She just pisses people like me off because I know she's lying about her reviews. When I did reviews (for local papers, on-line sites, etc) I took it very seriously. I read those books, sometimes twice, just to make sure I was accurate and honest.

The most I ever did was 11 books in a 7 day time frame. I guess I'm just a high-octane serious person where she is a computer program spitting out crud. GIGO, so they say.

(er, Garbage in, garbage out)

Savanna Kougar said...

I know what you mean, Anitra. Whenever I judge contests, I take extra care to do the best I can, because I actually care.
And, if I did reviews, I would take the same kind of care. Because that's what the author and the readers deserve.

Tiffany James said...


I have often wondered about Harriet, too, because of the sheer numbers.

I do a bit of reviewing here and there, but I only review books I like. As an aspiring author myself, I know the blood, sweat & tears that go into the work. I just can't bring myself to say something negative, so I follow my mother's sage words of advice: "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all".


Tiffany james said...

P.S. I love the puking pumpkin picture and enjoyed the "RITA Trash Talking" video!


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Hi Tiffany! And I agree with that: if you can't say something nice . . . :)

But I think there is a way to be critical without being mean.

P.S. I love that gif too. I've been dying to use it and I finally found the perfect blog!