BlueInk Review: Unprofessional, Dishonest, (A)pathetic

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BlueInk Review Scam[UPDATE 11/11/2015: I have just received a phone call from Patti Thorn, owner of BlueInk, indicating that she has refunded my money. She has apologized for the review, apologized for the way BlueInk handled my complaint, and admitted the review should have been handed over to another staff member and re-written. I am thankful for her honesty and willingness to admit error, even as I indicated that, out of fairness, I cannot take down this post, only amend it with this note. To BlueInk’s credit, they did not ask me to alter this article in any way, nor guilt, manipulate, or entice me with any promises.]

A couple of months ago, I submitted my book, Woody Allen: Reel To Real, to a popular pay-for-review site called BlueInk Review. Now, I knew the risks, for I’d seen the complaints against Kirkus and other ignoble book-review services; I smirked at BlueInk’s poor website design which accosts you with its ‘legitimacy’ as opposed to a sampling of good writing that can speak for itself; I saw the 300 word-limit rule for reviews, an obvious labor-saving measure dishonestly presented as some sort of charity to “busy readers” and “industry professionals”; the Google searches which turned up nothing — nothing — except de facto ads written by its own staff, rather than any real analysis of the service and its benefits; as well as the reality that most of the books they’d push as ‘good’ were actually selling fewer copies than my own — with many not having had a sale in months — despite Reel To Real getting almost no press upon release. This last fact, especially, alerted me to the true extent of BlueInk’s pull, for if I could make something out of nothing, purely on the strength of reputation, and personal outreach, what’s preventing BlueInk from forging their own reputations, and minting new ‘names’ as per their stated goals? At any rate, I didn’t have to wonder very long.

My review came back on time, but anonymously written. People, as a rule, do not wish to attach their names to garbage, and this was no exception. Jesus, I thought; where does one even begin? I mean, I had to proofread the thing, myself, pointing out obvious errors in everything from pagination (they printed out a 12-pt, Times New Roman MS Word document and counted that as the completed work, reducing the true page count by half!), to the odd misuse of universally-understood phrases, to the reviewer’s allusions to things that simply never occur in the book, to the fact that I was continuously quoted out of context to argue against ‘points’ I’d never made. Ridiculously, I was openly accused of everything from ad hominem to refusing to provide evidence for claims, despite that the book — this not an opinion, now — gives a scene-by-scene evaluation of many films, provides hundreds of references to 50+ years of Woody-related writing, and responds to dozens of critics virtually line-by-line, and claim by claim. This is, by definition, the exact opposite of ad hominem, and quite unprecedented in Woody Allen studies, as a whole, even if one were to take issue with the particulars of my argument. And that’s precisely the point: an argument exists — a footnoted, methodical one at that — whereas BlueInk Review, against all reason, insisted there was none. Yet if The Telegraph refuses to amend an error-laden hatchet job on a celebrity like Steven Pinker, despite the outcry, then why would BlueInk give a shit about their own demonstrable falsehoods? Here is the review — errors of pagination, book title (!), etc. — in full:

Woody Allen: Reel-to-Real
Alex Sheremet
Take 2 Publishing, 247 pages, (ebook) $7.99, 9780991588725
(Reviewed: April, 2015)

In this critical assessment of Woody Allen’s films, Alex Sheremet combines the obsession of a good detective—he’s watched and dissected every frame of the canon—with the fervor of an evangelist. “The world,” he writes with no shortage of hyperbole, “is better off for Rembrandt’s existence, Plato’s and Woody Allen’s, due to their wide contribution to humanity.”

Sheremet’s passion is admirable, but he doesn’t always substantiate his opinions—or those of the like-minded Internet movie critics he cites in his text. If Allen’s semi-obscure Another Woman (1988) really is “one of the greatest ‘pure’ dramas ever made,” Sheremet doesn’t make his case for that—or for the claim that Gena Rowlands’ character in the picture is Allen’s “greatest fictive creation.” If Manhattan is superior to Annie Hall—and it may be— do abstractions like “deeper situations, deeper dialogue, better and more daring visuals and fuller characters” suffice to convince us?

For Sheremet, “even the lighter comedies” such as Bananas or Take the Money and Run are “a few notches above the typical schlock.” Fair enough. And Stardust Memories really may be vastly underrated. But an Alex-against-the-world posture compromises the book’s scholarly vigor. In a dozen instances, the author claims that Woody Allen movies other observers disliked have simply been “misunderstood” because of “the blinders that so many critics have willingly put on.” His primary targets? The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, who’s said to be “perpetually lost” and the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, who “writes strictly for Rosenbaum.”

Filmmakers as talented as Allen will always provoke spirited debate (in fact, a Publisher’s Note here invites readers to participate in a continuing online discourse about Allen). But while Sheremet’s book occupies the same niche as The Films of Woody Allen (Charles P. Silet, editor) and A Companion to Woody Allen (Girgus and Bailey), it isn’t their equal. Depending more on ad hominem attack than reasoned argument, this labor of love ultimately falls short.

Now, for those who’ve in fact read the book, and know the definitions of phrases like ad hominen: huh??? I e-mailed co-founder Patricia Moosbrugger about this stupidity, the outright deceits, the willfulness, not only outlining these issues one by one, but even linking her to textual evidence demonstrating the absurdity of the above:

Alex Sheremet <>
To: Info <>
Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 8:44 PM


This is a joke, right? Does BlueInk have NO professional standards for their reviews?

I don’t care about general idiocy and/or difference of opinion, but your review of Woody Allen: Reel To Real is factually wrong, and demonstrably so:

In this critical assessment of Woody Allen’s films, Alex Sheremet combines the obsession of a good detective—he’s watched and dissected every frame of the canon—with the fervor of an evangelist. “The world,” he writes with no shortage of hyperbole, “is better off for Rembrandt’s existence, Plato’s and Woody Allen’s, due to their wide contribution to humanity.”

Hyperbole, how? Plato influenced thousands of years of literary, philosophical, and even religious thinking; Rembrandt modernized visual thought and set the standard of portraiture for centuries hence; Woody Allen is generally regarded as one of the world’s best filmmakers, meaning, as consensus, and has been for decades. Say what you will of the contributors, themselves, but this stature ensures the world’s been moved, influenced, modernized, and even bettered, etc. etc. etc., in and beyond their respective fields. This is mere cause and effect, as understood by infants, chimps, and not enough adults among us. To say otherwise is simply wrong.

If Manhattan is superior to Annie Hall—and it may be— do abstractions like “deeper situations, deeper dialogue, better and more daring visuals and fuller characters” suffice to convince us?

Uh, of course they don’t suffice, which is why there are no “abstractions” in lieu of argument. In fact, this quote comes at the end of a several-thousand word analysis of the film, which, too, is preceded by another several-thousand word analysis of Annie Hall. Did the reviewer REALLY ignore the analysis, itself, the dozens of pieces of evidence, the quoted dialogue, the careful dissection of other critics’ viewpoints, the comparisons of musical and narrative choices, etc., in favor of a 1-sentence summation that was never meant to stand alone? How does a half-literate person NOT see the dishonesty and misrepresentation inherent in this? How about actually tackling the arguments, themselves, instead of engaging in ad hominem? (See below.)

But an Alex-against-the-world posture compromises the book’s scholarly vigor.

And yet, if the book was actually read – not skimmed – I make clear that most of my judgments are actually fairly close to the judgments of contemporary viewers, as opposed to critics 30-40 years past – many of them now dead, irrelevant, and hardly (if ever) read. This is the entire point of quoting, you know, the dozens of contemporary sources within that come to similar conclusions? Or were those not noticed, either?

In a dozen instances, the author claims that Woody Allen movies other observers disliked have simply been “misunderstood” because of “the blinders that so many critics have willingly put on.” His primary targets? The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, who’s said to be “perpetually lost” and the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, who “writes strictly for Rosenbaum.” … Depending more on ad hominem attack than reasoned argument, this labor of love ultimately falls short.

That’s rich – engage in ad hominem against me, then accuse me of the same? I mean, does the reviewer know what this phrase even means? It is an argument that ‘merely’ attacks the opponent’s character- that is, nothing but. This is the reviewer’s FACTUAL – not subjective – deduction, yet the book has NO instance of such. As with Manhattan and Annie Hall, dismissing Kael as “perpetually lost” comes AFTER one of the book’s longest essays on the subject, taking apart the bulk of her Woody Allen reviews literally paragraph by paragraph, and claim by claim, – not just cherry-picking 1 or 2 sentences across a couple of reviews.

Here is the full text of the Kael piece. Again, forget what you think of Woody, Kael, or anything else, and stick with the reviewer’s claims of “ad hominem.” WHERE do you see a willy-nilly attack on her character, and a refusal, on my part, to deal with her actual claims? I defy you to find a more systematic breakdown of the woman’s career either in print or online, and especially one that’s as fair to her actual claims – as opposed to her notoriously horrific personality, which I go quite easy on.

And here is the full text of the Rosenbaum piece. Same question: please find the ad hominem. Because while you see dozens of Internet trolls complaining about his essay on Woody, no one has gotten beyond anger and emotion to formulate a real argument against. Yet here it is, for the first time, and just as with Kael, it goes through his words, sentence by sentence, film by film, teases out his arguments, punches holes in them, and then – and only then – dismisses him as a critic. The dismissal is in proportion to the argument, not in proportion to the man. The latter is called ad hominem. The former is called good criticism.

Finally, Reel To Real is not 247 pages, as the review states, for this refers to PDF-style MS Word pages, all of which you’ve physically printed and therefore knew about. According to Amazon, it’s 624 “real pages” (a fact I made explicit in an earlier e-mail), possibly 500-550 or so as a standard academic hardback. To list it as 247 is misleading and irresponsible, and does nothing but bolster the reviewer’s non-factual claim that the book has no substance, merely ad hominemand abstraction.

So many errors, from the pagination, to quotations maliciously taken out of context, to downright factual mistakes about the book’s content and general thrust – yet BlueInk is a professional review service that goes out to librarians and academics? Schools, scholars, and general readers depend on you, and you’re not ashamed of this? Jesus Christ. Isn’t your stated mission to separate the wheat from the chaff in independent publishing? You need reviewers to actually read books, and respond to their actual content – not merely what this content is imagined to be – for this to happen.

As for letting the review go live on the site? I’m torn between saying no, due to the gross lapses enumerated, above, and saying yes, so that I could dissect this review and publicly rip BlueInk a new asshole across multiple media platforms.

Please advise.


Now, forget what you think of Woody, Kael, or my ‘style’ of attack, and simply look at the argument that I’ve made. I’m not asking for a re-appraisal, nor that they state that they ‘look’ at the book. I want them to consider what they’d written, and evaluate that against the book’s actual content. Sure, I bet it’s hard for illiterate types to see the value of a great novel or poem, but false claims about a scholarly, non-fiction book like this are REALLY easy to denude — especially when the author is being accused of things that, logically, do or do NOT happen, with no room for any sort of in-between. But does Patricia Moosbrugger ‘condescend’ to review my points? Is there an apology for such gross, dishonest conduct? Hell- does BlueInk even look at the evidence provided, or respond to a customer’s (again: this was a transaction) specific claims? Let’s see:

Patricia Moosbrugger <>
To: Alex Sheremet <>
Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 1:24 PM

Dear Mr. Sheremet,

We have received your complaints about our review of Reel to Real. Other than the page numbers cited, the issues you note are well within the realm of personal opinion, rather than fact, and reflect the reviewer’s overall impression of the book – an impression that is necessarily condensed to our required 300 words. (We keep the reviews short purposefully, so that busy readers and industry professionals can read them quickly.)  In that amount of words, it is impossible to provide the detailed context you are suggesting below for every comment. The review is intended to offer a summation, rather than dissection of the book, which could easily end up as long as the book itself.

We will refrain from posting the review unless you tell us you would like it posted. At that time, we can amend the page numbers, should you choose that option.

Yours sincerely,
Patricia Moosbrugger
BlueInk Review

Well, shit. To accuse a writer of attacking another human being’s character, page after page, is “within the realm of personal opinion,” rather than a ‘did-or-didn’t-he’ situation? A dislikable argument is, in BlueInk’s eyes, by definition NO argument? Ripping words out of context, and knowingly doing so, then responding to arguments an author doesn’t even make is permissible and fair? I mean, just look at how much weaseling occurs in a mere 2 paragraphs, from the laughable claim re: 300 words as a ‘service’ to others (as opposed to mere laziness and incompetence), to the irresponsibility of agreeing to review a book that, by Moosbrugger’s own admission, BlueInk was simply ill-prepared for, given all the stipulations of length, detail, and context she’s just listed? It’s sort of like a carpenter accepting money to build an ice-sculpture, then hiding behind his job description when the end-product has NO ice and lots of broken nails. Ridiculous, but perfectly acceptable, I guess, if you’re a hustler rather than a professional:

Alex Sheremet <>
To: Patricia Moosbrugger <>
Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 10:21 PM

Hi Patricia-

Other than the page numbers cited, the issues you note are well within the realm of personal opinion, rather than fact…

Then neither you nor your reviewers understand the meaning of basic words. Here is the definition of ad hominem, which is a specific claim the review makes for the book in its entirety:

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, means responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments.

This is what the phrase means. I either directly attack and insult people in my book without citing, quoting, or otherwise addressing their ACTUAL words, or I do not. There is no gray area here, no wiggle room for opinions nor subjectivity. This is a basic issue of logic, not some difference of interpretation. I provided you two links to the passages in question, which reveal dozens upon dozens of quotations, citations, the propping up of others’ claims, and my subsequent destruction of them, point by point, and claim by claim. In many of these cases, I respond to entire essays literally line-by-line, which is not only unprecedented in film criticism in its care and avoidance of the very things I’m being accused of, but logically excludes ad hominem BY DEFINITION.

This is not a legitimate point of disagreement. To claim otherwise is like saying that Patricia Moosbrugger, at 1:24 PM, sent me an e-mail wherein she invited me to a round of goat-fucking at her villa in Kabul. It is simply and categorically FALSE, for there is NOTHING in the content of your e-mail to suggest it. In short, only a psychotic would make this sort of deduction from reading your words- yet in the case, above, you refuse to accept or even respond to the evidence presented to you? Why?

Again, phrases like ad hominem have specific meanings. To say that I go out of my way to insult others left and right without arguing my points is definitionally psychotic, i.e., completely apart from reality. It is NOT open to interpretation, in the same way your hypothetical overture of bestiality in the Mid-East isn’t something that could – or should – be argued by any sane person.

Perhaps the reviewer didn’t personally ‘like’ my arguments, or wasn’t convinced by some of them. Fair enough! But the SPECIFIC claim was that I don’t argue, at all, that I don’t provide evidence, that I don’t provide reasons, and that the book is merely full of insults- NOT that the arguments were simply unconvincing. To the reviewer, the arguments don’t even EXIST. Do you understand how this makes it a factual issue? And if BlueInk Review still contends that is the case, I’d like to see the offending page numbers where this occurs as described, as well as a response to the charges in my initial e-mail, wherein I point out where and how I was maliciously quoted out of context, with the ACTUAL content of my book ignored.

…an impression that is necessarily condensed to our required 300 words.

And, again, the impression is a wrong one, factually, for there is NOTHING in the text to suggest it. Nor is there anything ‘necessary’ about a 300 word limit. The limit is merely there to do the minimum work possible, since a 300 word review of a scholarly 160,000 word book that covers 50+ years of film and hundreds of citations is not a review. It is a glorified Tweet expunged from the anus for a dumbed-down audience that doesn’t care to know the difference.

Interesting, too, that you comment on “busy readers” and “industry professionals.” You know what the pros ACTUALLY read? Library Journal, The New York Times Review Of Books, Atlantic Monthly, Guardian, and others, where book reviews often run for thousands of words. You are, to put it mildly, not them. So drop the bullshit, and do not insult me.

In that amount of words, it is impossible to provide the detailed context you are suggesting below for every comment.

‘Detailed context’? How about NO context? Or malicious and intentional OUT of context quotation, which was willfully done? How about, you know, quoting the ACTUAL content as written, and making deductions from the text, itself, and not merely some phantasm of such?

In short, I am accused of things that NEVER occur in the book across its 600+ pages, and when I point out the obvious errors, and offer the evidence, chapters, and arguments, above, you hide behind ‘opinion’ and there being ‘not enough space’ to substantiate these completely unfounded charges?

Jesus Christ. Do I REALLY need to point out the issue with this? And if neither you nor the reviewer is willing to read the words, as written, can I at least speak to someone who is literate – or, barring that, someone who could help?

I feel like I’m trying to explain something that is in fact VERY simple: namely, that a reviewer makes charge after charge of things that, logically AND factually, simply NEVER occur in the book. In turn, I offered you the full excerpts of the chapters in question, highlighted the errors, basically drip-fed you everything, corpuscle by corpuscle, and there’s not even the attempt to engage me, or get to the bottom of right/wrong, as PROVEN by the links and the text within them?

We will refrain from posting the review unless you tell us you would like it posted.

Do NOT post it. But, I’ll go a step further. I entered into an agreement with BlueInk, and it has not been met. I was told I’d have a professional review of my book, responding, ostensibly, to the book’s ACTUAL content. Instead, I receive errors big and small, stupid and/or malicious. Then, when I e-mail BlueInk about said errors, provide documentation, etc., you neither engage with it nor even look at it, and are completely unresponsive save for a silly, easily-refuted, and canned response. I mean, I even had to PROOFREAD your own review – that I paid for – for basic issues of pagination, and the like. The former was not what I signed up for, and the latter is YOUR job, NOT mine. So, I’d like my money back, in full, and we could cut off ties from here.

Please let me know what you need from me in order to issue the refund.


To be sure, I’m not fucking around here, nor engaging in whiny bullshit. I’ve made specific claims that I wish to be addressed, because, well, I’d paid for a level of professionalism that BlueInk refused to deliver. And, hell, if you can’t get a straight answer via e-mail, by a competent staff member that knows the definitions of words (or can be bothered to look them up), what’s the chance of a review with self-imposed word limits being ‘professional’ and ‘objective’?

Yet if you thought BlueInk Review was anything but a mere business — one writer familiar with Patricia Moosbrugger had even described her as “a failed literary agent who’s now turned to this scam” — just take a look at her response to the message, above. 90% of my e-mail is an in-depth response to her own claims, yet the ONLY thing that gets addressed, now, is my request for a refund! Unbelievable:

Patricia Moosbrugger <>
To: Alex Sheremet <>
Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 1:24 PM

Dear Mr. Sheremet,

The contract which you agreed to in purchasing the review states:

1. Non-Refundable: Subject to Paragraph 2 below, all amounts paid to BlueInk by the Author shall be non-refundable under any circumstances once received by BlueInk.

2. No Guarantee of Outcome: By entering into this Agreement, you specifically and fully acknowledge that you are aware of the fact that your review will be objective and may consider such facts and style as the reviewer deems appropriate. The outcome may not be positive or to your liking in any other way. BlueInk hereby disclaims all warranties, express or implied, or guarantees or assurances relating to its reviews regarding any specific outcome (whether positive, neutral, or negative) whatsoever. Your sole remedy is to give notice to BlueInk of your choice not to have your review published on its website. You have no other legal recourse. BlueInk will consider revising a review only if it contains factual errors, and then only at our discretion.

I’m sorry that you are unhappy with your review.  We will not post the review on our website.

Yours sincerely,
Patricia Moosbrugger
BlueInk Review

Ok, but I’d read the contract, as well, and if she’s unwilling to argue the relevant points, first, or address ANY of the claims I’d made, I’m still willing to beat her at her new tangent:

Alex Sheremet <>
To: Patricia Moosbrugger <>
Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 9:33 PM

Hi Patricia:

Your contract gives room for a refund. To quote what you’ve written to me:

1. Non-Refundable: Subject to Paragraph 2 below, all amounts paid to BlueInk by the Author shall be non-refundable under any circumstances once received by BlueInk.

12. No Guarantee of Outcome: By entering into this Agreement, you specifically and fully acknowledge that you are aware of the fact that your review will be objective and may consider such facts and style as the reviewer deems appropriate…

I’ve bolded the relevant parts. On the one hand, I’ve agreed to give up refunds. On the other, YOU state that, in turn, my review will be “objective” — meaning, factually accurate, which is, according to your own contract, a guarantee of the review process. Given that the payment was made for the review as described (“objective”), #12 logically supersedes #1, and #1 is contingent upon #12, NOT the other way around. This is non-debatable, and obvious in the very words you’ve quoted to me.

Yet I’ve written TWO detailed e-mails, showing precisely where, why, and how the review was NOT objective, and factually inaccurate. I’ve quoted the reviewer’s words, and given you the relevant excerpts from the book to show the contradictions within. You’ve not addressed this, at all.

Again, I’m not quibbling re: style, or someone’s opinion of this or that judgment of mine. I’m saying, specifically, that I was accused of things that are not in the documentary record, which you have full access to, which I’ve quoted from, which I’ve taken apart, piece by piece, and to which there was NO response from you or anyone else on the BlueInk Review staff.

Why not? Are you THAT uninterested in looking over the material? Do you refuse to vet your own reviews for accuracy, and the reviewers, themselves, for professional standards? I’ve shown you glaring and irrefutable errors in a review that you fully intended to run on your website, and you’ve not even acknowledged them, nor said what you might do to avoid such problems in the future. Again: librarians and TRUE professionals look at your service, for what?

In sum, you’ve not looked at nor responded to the documentary record, nor care, at all, that a review is riddled with verifiable errors.

The review was factually inaccurate, as I’ve shown in minute detail.

You did not fulfill #12 of our contract.

In other words, I expect a refund. Please tell me what additional information you need to issue it.


Did you catch all that? BlueInk’s contract is SO badly written that any literate person can comb through it, and make the very deductions I’ve made. But I don’t care about contracts, nor any other bullshit, and decide — rather charitably — to bring the attention back to the main point, and thus give Patricia another opportunity to review my claims and respond to them in appropriate detail. Yet just as Moosbrugger fails to justify the review’s falsehoods, or respond to my original points, she then (surprise, surprise!) refuses to address the contractual issues I’ve brought up *in response* to her failed power-play. To reiterate: she brings up the contract, gets duly corrected, arrogantly ignores the substance of my correction, then merely re-quotes the very thing I’d already addressed without adding to it. Just watch:

Patricia Moosbrugger <>
To: Alex Sheremet <>
Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 1:49 PM

Dear Mr. Sheremet:

The positions you are arguing in your emails to us are all judgement calls, not facts. Despite your lengthy support of your position, whether or not something is an “ad hominum” attack is debatable and can vary according to an individual’s viewpoint. But even if you deem it fact, which we would take issue with, our contract does not require a refund. See below.

12. No Guarantee of Outcome: By entering into this Agreement, you specifically and fully acknowledge that you are aware of the fact that your review will be objective and may consider such facts and style as the reviewer deems appropriate. The outcome may not be positive or to your liking in any other way. BlueInk hereby disclaims all warranties, express or implied, or guarantees or assurances relating to its reviews regarding any specific outcome (whether positive, neutral, or negative) whatsoever. Your sole remedy is to give notice to BlueInk of your choice not to have your review published on its website. You have no other legal recourse. BlueInk will consider revising a review only if it contains factual errors, and then only at our discretion.

Yours sincerely,
Patricia Moosbrugger
BlueInk Review

I swear, it’s like K. trying to get through a meaningless bureaucracy of double-speak and penumbra. I mean, I keep asking to speak to someone else, someone literate, but with no other e-mail on file, and likely no real staff save 2-3 core members that just sit on their asses all day, popping pustules, BlueInk just keeps moving its mouth without the expected words a-comin’. I try to reason once more; just once:

Alex Sheremet <>
To: Patricia Moosbrugger <>
Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 5:53 PM

Patricia. A “judgment call” is a preference for pizza over calamari, or that Keats is a better poet than Shelley.

By contrast, to say that a book is full of insults, page after page, is a CLAIM- and, in the case of Reel To Real, a fallacious claim. At any rate, it is a claim that can be verified or rejected on a purely numerical basis. Simply crack open the book, and find all the insults cp. to citations, quotations, and the like. It’s simple, really, and downright absurd- especially since the vast majority of the book is an analysis of movies, rather than movie critics. It cannot logically be that the book “depends more on ad hominem attack” when the situations that might give rise to ad hominem attack don’t even occur in the first place! How you do not see this is beyond me.

I’m trying to be as simple as possible here. You’ve responded with sheer ignorance, and yet more claims that I’ve debunked. I asked if I could speak to an actual, literate adult, that might look at BlueInk‘s errors as I’ve documented them. Instead, you sent me BlueInk‘s contractual details that debunk the very interpretation you’ve supplied.

Again, is there a COMPETENT staff member that’s actually willing to do the hard professional work of fact-checking, and responding to the questions I’ve posed? Because, right now, there’s lots of back-and-forth wherein I demonstrate factual errors, and you, for whatever reason, are unable to admit to them.


12. No Guarantee of Outcome: By entering into this Agreement, you specifically and fully acknowledge that you are aware of the fact that your review will be objective

So, let me get this straight. On the one hand, you guarantee objectivity. On the other, you deem objectivity is impossible because we’re dealing with a “judgment call”? Well- which one is it? Do you provide 100% objective reviews, as stated above, or did you renege on your contractual obligations by littering your reviews with incontestable judgment calls?

Luckily for you, I’ve provided a happy medium. There is room for opinion, and there is also fact. I offered the facts, and I’ve even shown how those “judgment calls” are LOGICALLY irreconcilable. It is you that refuses to follow up on this.

Please respond to my claims, then send over a time-table for the refund.


Of course, there was no response. So, I reiterated my intention to turn this exchange into an essay, although I suspect that the gal finally wizened up to the fact that her own words were slowly looping ‘round and ‘round into a noose that’d leave BlueInk without a foot-stool:

Alex Sheremet <>
To: Patricia Moosbrugger <>
Fri, May 8, 2015 at 11:54 AM

So, no follow-up?

I am giving BlueInk the opportunity to defend its unprofessional practices before these articles go live.

You may opt out, in which case our email exchanges, as well as your exchanges with other disappointed authors, and my analysis of such, will be up by Sunday night, unabridged, for the public to judge.


And that’s that, I guess. It is interesting, to me, how Patricia’s refusal to truly engage my claims, or even think about what I’m saying, nicely mirrors BlueInk’s review of my book. The ridiculous word limit, the pretense to being an ‘arbiter’ of independent literary taste — but where’s the REAL follow-through, either in the reviews themselves or the piss-poor customer service? No, the mainstream review rags — Guardian, New York Times Review Of Books, etc. — aren’t much better, at all, but there’s length, there’s excerpts, there’s a true readership, no matter how asinine. By contrast, BlueInk has a Twitter page with a Follower/Following ratio of 1.07, and virtually no engagement from REAL readers. This is the ‘visibility’ that they promise, and the ‘professionalism’ you can expect.

Given that I knew much of this already, a few readers are probably wondering why the hell I’d even go with a company that veers uncomfortably close to being a scam. It’s simple, really: to cast a wide net. The fact is, Woody Allen: Reel To Real is a unique book in the sense that it covers every single film of one director at great depth, and deals with pretty much every aspect of film-art one can imagine. In short, it fulfills a niche that’s been WAITING to be filled, and is, therefore, actively welcomed. No, readers and critics don’t usually know the difference between good and bad writing, but they ARE able to understand gross numbers. That Reel To Real is just so detailed and comprehensive pretty much guarantees uniformly good reviews (which it has received), whether from Amazon, a legit review website, blog, or a wannabe rag like BlueInk. This puts me in a unique position, and opens me up to gambles I am fully willing to take. For this reason, I’d never recommend an author to get a paid review for most books — ESPECIALLY for a work of fiction, and those that are particularly good, daring, or original. I mean, just peruse the ill-formed, cliche-ridden excerpts from the novels BlueInk champions and recommends, then think of their pretentious desire to be ‘arbiters’ of things they refuse to even have an honest conversation about.

Now, BlueInk Review might be pissed at all this, sure, but one must ask the logical question: WHY? After all, look at how much they’ve called mere ‘opinion, not fact’ — a simple difference of ‘interpretation,’ if you will. So, if Patricia Moosbrugger feels humiliated, please don’t fret! This is only one guy’s point of view. I have no argument. I’ve made no real claims. I’ve not provided you with evidence of BlueInk’s abuse, nor have there been any communication between us whatsoever. I am not Alex Sheremet, and Alex Sheremet is not the author of Woody Allen: Reel To Real. The only thing that I know for certain is that Patricia (which one?) is still somewhere in Kabul, reclining on a divan. She is waiting, I am sure, but all I can do is look at my invitation and laugh:

Cute Goat Patricia Moosbrugger BlueInk Review

45 Comments BlueInk Review: Unprofessional, Dishonest, (A)pathetic

  1. Dan Schneider

    Alex: See if you can find a couple of other folks burned by Blue Ink or Kirkus and we can do a DSVI on these review scam sites.

    They are just the review equivalents of vanity presses, and Moosbrugger is a failed agent.

  2. Alex Sheremet

    I’ll look for a few, although I can rep BlueInk. I’m sure there will be others happy to oblige for these other companies.

    1. Xiyun

      Hi Alex,

      Very well said and thanks a lot for sharing this! Had I come across this article earlier I wouldn’t have paid for Blueink Review. While I do agree with some factual errors they pointed out in my book such as my “overuse of adverbs” and “grammatical miscues” (I am not a native English speaker), they’ve made several unbelievable mistakes –

      1. They got the title of my book wrong – it’s “Pearly Gates Beyond Our Universe” and they put it as “Pearly Gates: Beyond Our Universe”, I wonder what made them think they should add the colon;

      2. They labelled me as a “speculative fictionist” without any further evidence to support this label other than the genre of my debut they reviewed, while in fact all my other novels are more experimental and philosophic rather than speculative/sci-fi, and precisely, I’m still a full-time student;

      3. They mistook the ages of the main characters of the book – they are all 15-year-old teenagers, and they put it down as “young adults”;

      4. They purposefully highlighted the lack of stories and plots of the novel whereas they only gave a slight stroke on the intellectual aspects (“Although conceptually and thematically powerful” “although intellectually stimulating”), while what they didn’t know was that “conceptually and thematically powerful” and “intellectually stimulating” was exactly the sole purpose I was aiming at achieving when writing this book. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would turn to tell me that they’d never come across any literary works of the theatre of the absurd and of the existentialism philosophers which literally don’t have any proper complete storyline or plots or character buildings, but full of philosophic wonders and discussion;

      5. I wrote the novel when I was 15 and I’m Chinese, but they seemed to have purposefully completely ignored those two facts and accused me that my “writing style is problematic” and of my grammatical errors, which, while I do admit all the errors committed and have no intention of excusing myself of them with my age and nationality, certainly didn’t do me justice.

      I just sent them an email to the address shown in your article and will patiently wait for their reply. If it’s not satisfactory to me, I think I would try to do what you did. Thanks again for this article and I hope all victims of this company can get their justice done. Cheers!

      All the best,

      Xiyun (Susan)

    2. Alex Sheremet

      Hi Xiyun,

      1) In fact, they got both the title of my book wrong, as well as the page count. They initially listed it as ~220, thus turning a gargantuan work of scholarship into a breezy little text. In your case, adding the semi-colon changes the meaning substantially from a philosophic title to a more religious one. Either way, this should not be the author’s responsibility to police. Money was paid, now do your job!

      2) That sucks. They likely googled your name, and came up with a label that could be partly justified based on one book — the one, of course, they happen to have right in front of them.

      3) This could be a language barrier issue, but teenagers are actually “young adults” here. It is both a cultural designation, as well as a genre/literary one that specifics books written for teenagers.

      4) That is flat-out wrong. I am not a huge fan of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” for instance, but the failings of that book have nothing to do with its lack of plot, and everything to do with structural problems and the way things are presented on a purely line-by-line basis. Most people seem to confuse “plot” for the thing itself, whereas plot/story is merely the excuse to explore more important things: ideas, rich thoughts, strong characters, and whatever else that requires, you know, execution. This is why a cheap thriller can both be a real page turner as well as a bad book. You can easily have a story that is superficially entertaining but poorly told.

      5) Did they mention that you were 15? And another question: why did you release a book that you wrote as a 15 year old? I ask because very few people know how to write, to begin with, and an almost infinitesimally small % of that group that CAN write could ever write a good novel at 15. Did you publish the book because you had that urge, to simply ‘get it out there,’ and move on, or do you stand by the book as a standard for your own work? I don’t mean to be rude as I’ve not read your work but these are the literary precedents, and I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

      Anyway, you seem to have a good instinct for what art is and isn’t, and I’m sorry that your experience with BlueInk was similarly bad. Do what you must on that end. I can offer feedback on an article if that is your intention.

      Thanks again.

    3. Xiyun

      Hi Alex,

      Thank you very much for your reply and I indeed share your point of view regarding what should be a good novel and what is art.

      As to the question on why I intended to publish the novel written when I was 15, I don’t think you were rude at all, so please don’t worry 🙂 and I do agree with your point as indeed many writers only publish books to show off, while their books turn out to be no good to society, which I personally despise.

      I was actually inspired by Jules Verne whose ideas in his sci-fi had come true one by one later on, and that wouldn’t be likely to be a mere coincidence. Therefore, I came up with the idea to write a philosophic science fiction of my own in the hope that some capable readers might turn my ideas into reality. I know it may sound a bit childish now but I decided to give it a go at that age, because you never know if you would get a surprise. So I wrote my first novel and boldly sent it to professors and lecturers mainly in science and philosophy at Cambridge University (I had a strong fascination with Cambridge at that time and still do), among whom Paul Wingfield, Admission Tutor of Trinity College, left a praising mark after three months saying that the book “showed signs of real scholarly promise and ability”. Some other readers also thought that the book was “deep”, and my teachers encouraged me to publish this book. My ex-boyfriend and his father even helped me contact a publishing house. It was mainly the Cambridge tutor’s positive remark that made me determined to go forward.

      I got a really from Blueink clarifying the age matter with me, which I accepted yet still hoped that they could emphasize on the premature aspects of the teenagers rather than the adult sides, as according to the UN all people under 18 can be classified as “children”, which when put in a literary work are usually more appealing to readers than adults are (e.g. Ender’s Game). But they refused to add my age and nationality, claiming that the book should stand by itself, regardless of the background of its creation. Meanwhile, they seemed to have completely ignored my other points including the mistake regarding the title. So I emailed them again reminding them of the left out points, and insisted my age and nationality be added in that “It’s not like scientific essays whose content and logic are the only concerns of their target readers; in literature, the background of the authors does count, and all literature students are advised to close read one’s work according to the author’s own time and background so as to grasp a better understanding of the symbols and meanings of the work, so I still feel my age and nationality should be added, the information meanwhile being not connected with my usage of grammar.”

      They haven’t replied to the above yet, but promised to get back to me early this week, so I’ll just wait and see what comes out of it. But I’ll make sure that if they can’t fulfill my legitimate requirements, I will keep pushing them forward until I’m completely satisfied.

      Thanks for your positive comments and offer to help. I’ll try to handle this myself so as not to cause you any inconvenience. Meanwhile, if you feel like taking a look at an extract of my work, I’ll be more than happy to supply one; if not, no worries, as I’m OK with either way 🙂

      Thanks again!

      All the best,


    4. Alex Sheremet

      Hi Xiyun,

      That’s an interesting way to look at things, and I can imagine kids who’d get into the arts precisely for that reason: to establish a kind of reality (or reality, period) that they’d like in the present’s stead.

      Re: the tutor’s comment, keep in mind that art is rarely “scholarship” and should not be seen as such, even though art might use elements of scholarship (and elements of other things that have nothing to do with art). Thus, I am not even sure how to interpret such a compliment, and you ought to be wary of ANYONE’S praise or criticism, whether it’s a professor, an awards committee, professional reviewer, or even someone like me. The point is to see things through, for yourself, from A, to B, to C, understand how/why the reasoning is sound, and go from there. This is next to impossible to do as a 15 year-old, and the compliments I’d received as a teenager, myself, I realize now did me some damage since they came from people who didn’t have any real understanding of things.

      Anyway, I’d agree that BlueInk ought to have mentioned your age upon writing, but not necessarily because an artist’s background is that important. It isn’t, and books need to stand on their own terms, but special and/or interesting circumstances (such as writing a book at 15) are ridiculous to ignore. Look at the back matter of virtually any book written by a teen, and that information is always there: a bit for publicity, yes (which BlueInk ostensibly ought to provide their customers), but for other reasons, as well. So, in that case, they were wrong, but moving forward you ought to let go of any fixations on your own background… unless, of course, it might help you get published. The point is, do what you must to get noticed, but don’t take those doings (or the noticing!) too seriously. All that matters is the art, the end-product.

      Sure, feel free to send me your book, and perhaps something more recent that you feel is more mature and representative of the adult Xiyun. My e-mail is under “Contact”.

      Thanks for writing.

    5. Xiyun

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks a lot for the good points of view! I’ve emailed my books and their outlines to you. It’s a great honor to share my humble works with you. Cheers! 🙂

      All the best,


  3. Richard Brett

    Thanks. I was thinking of using a review service for my new book – but now I won’t! The review is just so horribly written that it puts me off Blueink not your book !! Good luck!

  4. Alex Sheremet

    Hi Richard:

    Glad that it was helpful. And no, I wouldn’t recommend a paid review service *unless* you have the sort of book that’s virtually guaranteed a good review. Naturally, this doesn’t mean an objectively great book or anything like that — merely a book that people will PERCEIVE as such, which is hard to predict, anyway.

    Happy that BlueInk has lost another customer. Just look at those self-serving, childish e-mails that were sent to me. Christ!

  5. Pingback: Alex Sheremet on his book “Woody Allen: Reel to Real”

  6. Pat Leso

    Thank you Alex for your comments. BlueInk was recommended as a possible source from my critique group. I will forward this to the rest of the group so they at least will be aware before they spend money.

    1. Alex Sheremet

      Thanks, although you should be aware that most review services have a similar problem– minimum effort, on their part, and they’ll refuse to correct any problems since this means they will lose their objective veneer.

  7. Alex Sheremet

    Pat Leso-

    Please the addendum at the top of the article. They refunded my money today without any further action on my part.

  8. R. Cohen

    I have to say, your ranting and raving about Blue Ink has intrigued me enough to where I was just about to purchase a copy of your book when it hit me – wow, how crafty of you and kudos;using the back-and-forth emails with Blue Ink to get attention and sell books. Kirkus is smart; they would never have engaged with you as this Patricia person had. Shit, you got your money back and you’re still posting your woes and bullying them. And you called them abusive? I get it, it’s not an easy industry and without Twitter followers and a strong fan base, you’re left holding your dick. But acting like one isn’t going to help you to sell books. Never worked with Blue Ink, was doing my due diligence before spending another dime trying to promote my new release but after reading your post and then reading her emails, noting how patient she was for putting up with you, I’m curious. Still, if Reel to Real is so fabulous, why haven’t I heard of it? I’m a HUGE Woody Allen fan, almost to the point of obsessed, particularly partial to Husband’s and Wives. Man-up, bro. It’s not that serious. I won’t even plug my book or website.

    1. Alex Sheremet

      The back and forth e-mails were used PRECISELY because one could see all replies, without censorship, so that readers could draw their own conclusions. The word is ‘transparency’, which dozens have e-mailed and thanked me for as a result of this article. I do not share your sense of propriety. So?

      Shit, you got your money back and you’re still posting your woes and bullying them.

      I’m ‘still posting’? Where? I wrote a 6 sentence update indicating they refunded my money, as is only fair. Your preference would have been what, exactly?

      Nor do you know the meaning of the word ‘bullying.’ If I were merely ranting and raving, as you claim, it’d not be bullying, since it would be the words of a psychotic against a group of innocent, hard-working professionals. Instead, it is a cogent, well-argued essay against a team of people that had no argument of their own, yet arrogantly dismissed me (and probably dozens of others) for 6+ months despite- by their own admission- completely being in the wrong. Poor guys!

      And you called them abusive? I get it, it’s not an easy industry and without Twitter followers and a strong fan base, you’re left holding your dick. But acting like one isn’t going to help you to sell books.

      Look at all the assumptions you have made, and the resultant straw-man. I did not write this article to ‘sell books,’ although that is always a nice side-effect. I wrote this article because it nicely reveals the inner workings of the publishing world’s subalterns, as well as the disingenuousness of the claim that art (much less scholarly writing) is somehow ‘subjective’. It clearly isn’t. If you do not see this, that is your issue to sort, and your own tangent to make.

      …noting how patient she was for putting up with you

      Great, another child that, in the midst of sticking his tongue out at me, refuses to condescend with specifics or even offer an argument. The e-mails I received were dense, arrogant, dishonest, and silly, as pointed out in excruciating detail. I offer a word and definition, she says No. I ask for her to point out a page number (or anything, really) to make the accusations stick, she says No. I ask to speak to an adult that could, you know, at least cross-check the references, she says No, No, No.

      Then, 6 months later, everyone is saying Yes, and I’m a ‘bully’ for standing up to the above bullshit.

      Still, if Reel to Real is so fabulous, why haven’t I heard of it?

      Really, Cohen, you cannot be this dumb. What is this- Total Request Live in 1999? Nominations for Prom King? Substitute almost ANYTHING we consider ‘fabulous’ today- that is, a century or two after the fact- from Tesla to Thomas Kuhn, and your ‘argument’ would be just as applicable, and just as absurd.

      You can read it or not. I do not think it will change much.

  9. R. Cohen

    Honest to God; you’re really annoying. Reading the emails between you and Patricia Mooseknuckle (or however you spell her name) – simply proves that you’re nuts. Her replies were standard and calm. Whereas your replies?

    I’m now left with this vision of Patricia —relaxing by the shore, enjoying the view and wearing a lovely sunhat – when along comes this exasperating bee.Patricia shoos it. It comes back. She shoos it again. It comes back. And back. And back again. Hell, I’d pay you just to shut-the-fuck-up.

    Why are Indie Writers so bitter? Go write a poem and reflect.

    1. Alex Sheremet

      Cohen- I reply to your assumptions and evasions ‘point’ by ‘point’, instead of merely calling you out for the ass-hat that you are, yet you 1) have nothing of substance to say about the original article; 2) have nothing to say of my rebuttal to your rebuttal. As with Patricia, I am patient and explanatory. You, by contrast, hem and haw and fart and burble, then pretend I am somehow the unreasonable one.

      Listen- BlueInk is/was on the cusp of going the way of Batrachosauria, and this article is its Permian-Triassic. Had I merely been a raving lunatic, the world would have rightly ignored me. Instead, I get dozens of e-mails thanking me for this piece, then a phone call indicating how badly (and unexpectedly) it had hammered their business. Now, I get that you, R. Cohen, would not have written such an article, and are annoyed that someone would even ‘dare’ to. Yet that is the logical extent of your complaint: that YOU ‘don’t like it’! But as I’ve told Moosbrugger, YOU are not the measure of the world, so pop that head out of your sphincter, get some oxygen back into that brain, and THINK.

    2. Keith Jackewicz

      Uh, what did Alex do wrong? He (unwisely, I think) paid for an objective appraisal of his book, got unsupported ad hominem, and pressed his case for why this constituted a refund per the terms of the contract.

  10. Dan Schneider

    Methinks R Cohen is Patty Moose with a gender identity crisis brought on by the exposure of her scam’s inner workings.


    Not even an original tack much less the content.

  11. Xiyun

    Hi Alex,

    I stated to Blueink Review wishing that they could at least be neutral towards my book, like they said my “writing style is problematic” and the book “has several shortcomings” by which they meant that there are numeral scenes of retrospection, scientific speculation, dream analysis, etc. which by no means have to be “shortcomings” (I wonder how they would review James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake?). And only after I urged them three times did I get a reply, which is as follows –

    Dear Xiyun,

    We understand your desire to shape the review in a more “neutral” way. Unfortunately, a review is by its very nature judgmental. Readers rely on reviewers to indicate the strengths and weaknesses of a book, as seen by that particular reviewer. This doesn’t mean that others won’t differ with that opinion or that individual readers won’t sometimes appreciate the very things a reviewer is criticizing. Those who do will be prompted to look at the book regardless of the reviewer’s judgment. Many people read negative statements in a review and realize from the description that that’s just the sort of book they like.

    We are sure you understand that if we were to change reviews to suit each author’s preferences, we would quickly lose our integrity as a review source. We stand by your review as it is now. This will be our final word.

    Best of luck to you,
    BlueInk Review

    To be honest, I found their logic really “childish”, like that of “some people do get attracted to a negative comment, curious to find out why it’s viewed negatively”. Also, as I’m the customer and I paid money for the service, I’m not too impressed with their comment “this will be our final word”. It is their job to clarify everything their clients demand to be cleared, otherwise they’d better not do the business. Besides, whether they lose their integrity as a review source or not is simply “none of my business”. I’m thinking of posting something similar like your article here. What do you think?

    All the best,


  12. Xiyun

    And I just replied to them as follows –


    It might be your final word but I still maintain my right to make clear my intention – I think I’ve stated clearly enough that I’m never trying to let the review suit my “preferences”, instead just cross out the subjective statements and leave the descriptive content in the review, whether that being positive or negative. Indeed readers rely on reviewers to indicate the strengths and weaknesses of a book, but it doesn’t mean those readers cannot judge by themselves according to the descriptive language given (which can itself be an implicit judgment). They will be able to tell whether the writing style, the pace of the narrative, and the numerous sequences featuring whatever you mentioned will appeal to them or not. But with a subjective statement then there is an implicit direction of the readers’ judgments and intentions. Besides, not every reader will think the same way you mentioned towards the “negative judgments”.

    Indeed, I mean no offense, but how on earth are you going to review the experimental fictions of Samuel Beckett’s and James Joyce’s novels, especially Finnegans Wake, which is by your standard all the way through “problematic”?


  13. Xiyun Liu

    Ah, and one more thing – when Patti replied to one of my emails she even got my surname wrong – my full name is Xiyun Liu, and instead she spelt it as Xiyun Li. Honestly if you even lack the basic respect to a client how can you expect to carry out the service in perfection? And I’ll advise everyone who wishes to choose blueink for their reviews withdraw their decision before it’s too late.

    1. Alex Sheremet

      Hi Xiyun,

      Do what you wish, although as I’ve said, it’s WAY easier to make a case about a non-fiction book where one can respond to a reviewer’s claims point by point. Yes, I do think fiction can be evaluated objectively (something BlueInk is incapable of, due to their praise for books that are, to put it mildly, complete shit), but it’s a lot harder to get people on your side. They will, even if the book’s great, treat you like a “whiner” no matter what you do. Today, it’s considered “classy” to never answer your critics: a good tactic, perhaps, for most writers, but if you know HOW to answer, and are correct in your assessments, then not speaking means an un-truth is left to fester. Of course, if you miscalculate, then it’s all on you…even if you happen to be right.

      Now – having read part of your first book, it definitely has issues: it’s full of clichés, has some bad description (“terrifying darkness,” “his eyes twinkling,” etc.), characters that have no ‘reality’ outside of the philosophical functions they provide the tale, and other problems. Then again, you defy and invert some genre tropes, and the ideas are interesting, meaning, it is more like a series of inert posits rather ideas living, breathing, and moving through space, which is what fiction is. The former is a critique of the work as written, and the latter is a comment, not judgment, on the type of work this is. In short, there are fair and unfair ways of dealing with your book, and based on what you’ve said, I question BlueInk’s ability to discriminate between the two.

      You wrote the book as a teenager, which by itself pretty much guarantees it won’t be that good, even if some parts are passable. Today, you are a better writer than you were as a teenager, and I think you need to be upfront about this if you decide to write an article and take another angle. For instance, when BlueInk says that a book’s “speculations,” inwardness, etc., are “shortcomings,” that is an *evaluative* statement: meaning, 1) those parts of the book need to have been handled BADLY by the author, since, as you point out, merely including them indicates nothing; and 2) evaluations need evidence, which BlueInk most likely did not provide given how incredibly short their reviews are. Also, how can a book’s style be “problematic”? A book can be written in literally ANY style as long as the *way* in which the style is handled works. Wanna see bad poetic fiction? Look at most of Toni Morrison’s shit. Wanna see good poetic writing? Read Moby-Dick, Loren Eiseley, and Charles Johnson’s novels. The style is identical in these cases, but works only in some of them.

      Thus, be careful when you request a “neutral” review, because I think you mean “unbiased”, which is different. But if BlueInk didn’t see the logic of changing outright false claims about the contents of a non-fiction book that can be debunked by simply glancing at the parts in question, to then expect BlueInk to understand the nuances of DESCRIPTIVE vs. EVALUATIVE comments is impossible. If you write this article, don’t do it for some tangible outcome, or to create a ‘change’. Truth, and good, memorable argumentation is far more valuable in the long run.

      Like I said, given your book’s objective faults as well as the fact that it’s fiction will make this a hard sell. But, logically, you are right in complaining about aesthetic biases, biases against content, biases against form, etc., without tackling clear examples of wrongdoing on your part. (And, yes, you do plenty wrong in the book, but as a review service, it is BlueInk’s job to highlight what, specifically, goes awry, not merely declaim preferences that have only nominal relation to what’s on the page.)

      Think about what you want to do, but first read this article:

      In it, a writer named Dan Schneider is defending a book that he realizes is a bad piece of writing (!) from another book review that, while negative, itself, and therefore correct in its judgment, still reaches this judgment in an incorrect way. I suspect this is what BlueInk has done with your book: the conclusions are likely right, the methods they used to reach this conclusion are completely wrong. It is sort of like a religious person who uses the Bible to keep himself from being a murderer: good, I guess, but when the reasoning is so fucked up, it’s liable to break down at any moment, and cannot be replicated in new circumstances. And this is a problem, for BlueInk needs to be able to replicate its judgments consistently whenever presented with a new text. If they have no reliable method for doing so, they become useless as critics.

  14. Xiyun

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks a lot for your detailed reply and the information you provided. And yes I do admit that there are faults in my book, and I find many of them disturbing when I read the book myself today. When the review mentions that there are “strange choice of words”, “overuse of adverbs”, and “grammatical miscues”, I’m fine with that, as those are facts in my books. The style and the content, however, as you pointed out, cannot be “problematic” and do not have to be “shortcomings”. I also agree with you that it’s harder to get a fair review on fictions, as people’s tastes of fictions are rather subjective, unlike sciences which have precise axioms and formulas to prove whether a statement or an opinion is right or wrong.

    And thank you very much indeed for pointing out the problems of my first book. May I ask how you feel about it so far, apart from the faults aforementioned? I am meanwhile trying to get an editor and hopefully do some rewriting myself to make the text more fluent and more engaging with readers. Your feedbacks will absolutely be helpful to me. And thanks again!

    All the best,


    1. Alex Sheremet

      Hi Xiyun,

      You can certainly edit the book, but I wouldn’t. You wrote it as a teenager, yet I’d focus on adulthood. It’s certainly different from most thriller-type books, as it has an intellectual backbone, but when you look at it line by line, page by page, etc., there’s really no way to recover from cliches, poor descriptions, and the like. This is not an issue of fluency or editing, either; it is a hole in the book, itself, which can’t be patched up without totally changing the fundamental nature of the book itself. Had BlueInk known what they were talking about, they’d focus on those objective faults, first, rather than nitpick aesthetic issues that have no immanent relationship with a book’s quality.

      I’ve read some of QUESTIONS OF ULTIMUS, but the links you sent me expired. I can look at the other ones if you re-send the links.


  15. Xiyun

    Hi Alex,

    I received my review regarding Questions of Ultimus again and I’m not happy with this one either, though this one was free as I was promised that I would get a free review if I paid for one (which is regarding Pearly Gates Beyond Our Universe).

    Patti Thorn said she reviewed Questions of Ultimus personally given its experimental style and she insists that this book “needs revision”, “is impossible to understand” after I explained to her what certain sentences that she claimed to be grammatically erroneous actually mean, and refuted her comments with the fact that certain readers (most of whom are from top universities of the world) have no problem understanding the content and my logic in the book, and she replied saying that “I’m happy that there are people who understand the book, but I stand firmly behind the review.” Quite “objective” indeed, huh?

    She thought she could get away with it by “having no further response” to my complaints, and I am thinking of sending the link of this article to her and telling her that if Blueink doesn’t revise both reviews for my book, I would either ask for a refund or post a similar article like this one. But before I proceed, I’d like to get your permission. If you don’t want me to send the link, then please feel free to tell and I will certainly understand it.

    By the way, did you receive the books I resent to you? I resent the attachments after you told me the previous ones expired, but I didn’t hear back from you.

    All the best,


    1. Alex Sheremet

      Hi Xiyun,

      Sorry, never received your email. I was wondering what happened.

      All I could say is, it’s next to impossible to convince readers and reviewers that they’re wrong in their assessment of fiction. Of course, they may very well be, but I’d never go with a paid fiction review for that reason. Literally any self-defense you might have can be viewed as sour grapes, whereas in my case, if I’m directly being accused of things I do not do, in a work of scholarship that’s utterly dependent upon evidence, I can easily point to a page number and disprove the allegations. This is why BlueInk apologized in my case. You just can’t skirt around an accusation of ad hominem when you’re dealing with academic work.

      I agree such argumentation is possible in fiction, as well, but few will be convinced of this- society is simply not there yet, is not mature enough. I’d simply let this go if I were you. And, again, not having read these other books, I cannot say whether Patti Thorn is right or wrong about her assessment.

  16. Xiyun

    Hi Alex,

    I’m sorry you didn’t receive my books! I’ve resent them again to your email and hopefully they should’ve come through fine.

    I agree with what you said, but seeing that Patti Thorn admitted to you that your book should’ve been reviewed by another person, I think it’s righteous of me to demand the same. I requested that I would prefer someone with a philosophy degree to review my Questions of Ultimus, given that philosophic thinkings and discussions are throughout the entire book. But she just ignored my request and kept saying “I firmly stand behind the review”, which I think shouldn’t make her think she could get away with like this. Do you think it would be wise to repeat this request to her and list the fact that she had agreed to the same request made by someone else?

    1. Alex Sheremet

      Yep, got ’em now. Thanks.

      It’s not so much that she admitted it should have been reviewed again, but that BlueInk handled the whole thing poorly. It went well beyond a review, in my eyes, as I was accused of things from an academic perspective that simply were not so. It was the equivalent of saying that a professor gets up on his podium, and instead of delivering a lecture, goes on to insult all the students in the room and attacks the personal character of anyone who disagrees. This is easily disproven and should not have taken 6 months for them to come around and admit they screwed up.

      Assuming your book is in fact good, I don’t think our situations would objectively be different, but I do think that the vast majority of people would think that it is different. You simply can’t convince most people that someone’s review of a work of fiction can in any way be wrong, particularly when there’s payment involved and a negative review the author has a vested interest in denying. I wish it were different, but society is not there yet. If I were you, I would let this go and never submit a fiction book to a review service since fiction, in most people’s eyes, would have no legitimate defense when it’s attacked.

      My recommendation is that you manually find book reviewers on Amazon and elsewhere who are interested in similar work, and send them a copy. That will do a lot more in the long run, anyway. Get on science blogs, as well, and give interviews not so much on the book itself but on the ideas you are interested in, with your book a kind of cross-connection.

  17. Xiyun

    Thanks for your useful suggestion Alex! I think I would let this go as well instead of wasting my time with a bunch of unprofessional entertainers. I’ll try to approach as many academics or writers within the same circle as possible too so that the reviews may come across more convincing. Cheers!

    All the best,


    1. Alex Sheremet

      Good luck! Almost every uni website will have a philosophy department with contacts. Maybe start there.

  18. marc twine

    Oh for crying out loud. Get over yourselves. You made a decision…live with it !!

  19. Paul Hemingway

    I self publish because my books are going straight to the silver screen due to connections in that industry. Self-publishing allows me to control everything up to the motion picture LLC. I don’t have to prove copyright ownership etc because I own it.

    I recently published a book that received great reviews from both Kirkus and Clarion. It received a good review from Blue Ink but the review was just plain weird. The very features that Kirkus and Clarion described as the strongest point of the book, namely it is not written with a lot of poetic embellishment, Blue Ink described as a weakness and said it reads more like a documentary that will have mass appeal. By that test, Hemingway, George Orwell and even James Patterson could never have wide appeal notwithstanding that they were tremendous sellers and Patterson is the best selling author of all time.

    The review actually said very good things about my book and said it will be of great interest to historians but the comment about not having mass appeal just seemed off. So much so that I asked them not to publish the review. My thought is that the reviewer is locked into one writing style and is not able to review objectively outside of that style. That just isn’t a professional review in my mind and not one that I would want dragging behind my book.

    1. Paul Hemingway

      Correction to my post above: I said
      “The very features that Kirkus and Clarion described as the strongest point of the book, namely it is not written with a lot of poetic embellishment, Blue Ink described as a weakness and said it reads more like a documentary that will have mass appeal.”

      I meant to say: The very features that Kirkus and Clarion described as the strongest point of the book, namely it is not written with a lot of poetic embellishment, Blue Ink described as a weakness and said it reads more like a documentary that will NOT have mass appeal.


    2. Alex Sheremet

      Hi Paul,

      In general, whatever is deemed non-objective by the laity (such as fiction) is just hard to argue with a review service. Glad, at least, that my book was non-fiction, and BlueInk’s comments were demonstrably false- as opposed to false way of subtle argumentation, which a work of fiction needs in its defense.

  20. Elle

    Thank you Alex for sharing. I’m waiting for a reply back from Patricia. My review came in. The title of the main character is wrong in this review. Shoot, even my dedication found in the front matter of the book is dedicated to this person, with their title given, and yet the reviewer got this person’s title wrong. Hmmm. And unlike other reviews that have come in thus far, I’m not convinced my book was thoroughly read– their subjective comments are quite dry.

  21. Tony Taylor

    I have nothing but praise for BlueInk. I’ve had two of my books reviewed by them, and the results were very well done and very professional. On the last book, Patricia Moosbrugger was especially accommodating in agreeing to review my MS before publishing so I could use the review as leverage in agent queries.

    BlueInk uses a stable of reviewers, and which one you get is the luck of the draw. Obviously some will be better than others, some will be better attuned to your style than others, and some will give poor reviews where others would give good ones. You pay your money and take your chances.

    1. Alex Sheremet

      Happy to hear you’ve had a positive experience, Tony, and I’m sure you’re not the only one.

      That said, the number of comments here as well as the number of e-mails I’ve received about this essay kinda alarm me.

  22. Nadine

    Author’s be wary of this company they get your genre wrong, misquote your story and say it’s scary because someone hit turned into a frog, ummm no one hit turned into a frog, a toad was in the child’s bedroom. How can you get that so wrong? Did you even read it my book is less scary than three blind mice. You say it’s an adult’s book but appears as if it’s written for children with it big bright illustrations and larger font. Ummm it’s a children’s book. If you want a review written by incompetent people who don’t even seem to have actually read the book go with this bad company.

  23. Bob Smith

    Alex… I’m pretty much behind you on this. I’ll share some of my experiences, but being that we live in a retaliatory type of world now, I’ve given a false name so that I can speak freely without fear of reprisal…

    I’ve had no such experience with BlueInk because I read enough ugly things like what happened to you, Alex, that I chose to shy away from them. I did however receive what I would call a piss-poor review of my book from Kirkus. To be fair, they gave the book mild praise, saying the story “works more often than not.” But then went on to call it confusing at the very last, without one single explanation as to why they found it so in any prior portion of the review. I politely called them out on this, as well as pointing out more than a few factual inaccuracies within the review. To Kirkus’ credit, some of these points they amended, and the others they chalked up to being the reviewers’ opinion, etc. Fair enough… so, you found the book confusing, eh? But why? (That was the question I put to them, which was never answered).

    Most recently I received the most unprofessional “review” from IndieBrag that I’ve ever seen. The reviewer started off by saying “I read every word of this book.” So, that raised a red flag immediately. They didn’t like the foul language, to which they described as “having no purpose.” (The book takes place in a prison… I mean, hey, if prisoners aren’t foul mouthed, then I don’t know what they are). The reviewer went on to admit their poor understanding of the premise, which they backed up by taking a sentence in one of the book’s later chapters that described an event in the past which had very little (ie. almost no) bearing on the plot. The reviewer mentioned “malapropisms” in the text, insinuating that they were done out of my lack of intellect (when in fact I know what they’re referring to, and I inserted them purposefully because the book is set in the future and I was trying to create “new” words). The reviewer went on to say that “first person narratives should be limited to biographies.” (I guess the reviewer has never heard of The Hunger Games? Twilight? Legend by Marie Liu, etc, etc, and so forth). The reviewer even went on to mock the cover, which won 1st place in a contest on Instagram, by the way! (Hey, I have to “brag” a little, right?)

    So, as you can see, I’m not one for seemingly blind negativity. I guess the point I’m trying to make is, you’re never going to win over everybody, are you? There’s always going to be haters. Not everyone is going to get how deep or how multi layered your work is. And it seems no one has the time nor the inclination to discuss any of their thoughts directly with the author. If they don’t get it, they just rag on it. I mean, it’s easier to be a critic, isn’t it? I think some of these “reviewers” forget that if you’re going to deconstruct work, whether they spent a decade on it or a few months, you have to attempt to do it with tact. Unfortunately, as a first time author, I’m learning the hard way that the industry is plagued by people who, perhaps, cannot write… and because they cannot write, perhaps, they feel the need to tear down those who can. And I’m not even saying I myself can write… but if someone pays you for an objective service, I would think a reviewer could deconstruct the perceived “shit” writing with a bit of grace, yeah?

    But hey, I don’t wish ill will on anyone… I have no hard feelings toward these anon “reviewers”… and I wish all the best to everyone out there.

    1. Alex Sheremet

      It’s hard enough to respond to non-factual critiques of nonfiction work, but if you’re writing a novel when everyone believes that “art is subjective”, you won’t win anybody over arguing about a bad review. Hopefully that can change.

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