Monday, February 16, 2015

The Problem With Book Reviews

Authors love to be able to say their book got a 5 star review or to quote comments from a given reviewer. We love to say we have some great rankings on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites. But here is the catch to those reviews. We can't always trust the comments.

Now, please note there can be some reliable reviews out there for your book. But there are also a ton of other reviews that over-shadow the good ones. Let's just think about how some of those reviews are done.

1) Authors send their books to sites that give great review and avoid the ones that never say anything good. Authors keep track of the reviewers that say great things and then make sure those books keep getting to that person. In essence, it is like sending your book to your mom or dad who never have anything bad to say. Along the same lines, the authors will avoid sending their books to sites that always "tank their books". The point is, the author is insuring only the good comments get out there.
2) Online reviews are from friends. I do understand that online "comments" on sites such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble are open to everyone, but these too are often controlled by the authors. This is an open practice by many authors and certainly online retailers. Get online and with another name, or another email account, you suddenly get a great review and and comment. This is the same as the idea of sending the book to places you know you will get great reviews. I would also add that if people do read a book they didn't especially like, they often don't take the time to log back into the website, search for that book and then write that detailed comment. Yes, some do, but for the most part, we just toss the book to the side and move on to something better.
3) It is mostly the writers who are reading the reviews Yes, we look at the reviews for movies when we decide to go out for the evening, but for the most part, when we are buying books, we are not so concerned about the reviews. We go to our favorite author or our favorite publishing house and buy what we like. Think about your buying habits. You go out to get the latest Nora Roberts book, did you take the time to review all of the comments and reviews before buying it? Probably not.
4) We discount the bad reviews as "freaks" and cheer on the good reviews as the gospel truth. When we get get a bad review, the immediate answer is that the reviewer was a complete freak and didn't know what he or she was talking about. We see this all of the time in the academic community with course evaluations. When an instructor gets a bad set of course evals, the immediate answer is "well you know you can't trust those student comments. They weren't even smart enough to pass the class so how can we expect them to make a quality evaluation?" And yet, when we get those great reviews, we know that person really knew what he or she was talking about.

The point is that we use reviews to really stroke our egos. Yes, there are times when we get to use these effectively in marketing, but when it comes down to it, the reviews are really not as precise as we think they are. Just focus on telling a good story and quit worrying so much about those reviews.

No comments:

Post a Comment