All writers want reviews, preferably good ones. We ask for honest reviews but we secretly hope for good ones. Really good ones. It makes sense, we want to sell books. We want to feel like that year we spent fiddling with words, plot points and character arcs wasn’t wasted. But above all, we want to know that we spoke to you, the reader. That we resonated. That we connected. That we took you on an adventure. Provided entertainment, relief and escape. Because we don’t write novels for ourselves, we write them for you.
But…are book reviews believable?
Have you been fooled by a book review? I have
A few weeks ago I held my new Kindle in my hands, trembling with excitement and dying to download some books and get reading. I particularly wanted to read some indie authors and hopefully find a few new favorites. So, I popped onto Amazon and was completely overwhelmed by the selection. I suppose I could’ve asked around for recommendations but I wanted books right then.
I decided I could download a few freebies first. If I liked the author, then I’d pony up and buy everything they’d written. I scanned through trying to decide which books to download. I reduced the list by filtering for 4-star and up reviews. Still a daunting list, so I checked the blurbs. I found six books that interested me and I wanted to download and watched my Kindle screen as they magically appeared.
I was in heaven. Six brand new mysteries – total brain junk food and I was hungry. I opened the first book but the prologue was indecipherable and when I made it to the first chapter, the author had totally switched gears and was yammering on about a woman’s red fingernail. Next!
The next four books I couldn’t get past the first two or three pages. For various reasons – mind numbingly boring, passive writing, bad editing – in short, I couldn’t engage.
The fifth book showed promise. The author could write and there were passages that were pure brilliance. But there were so many stupid mistakes that could easily have been solved with research that it was astounding.
It was a crime novel and not do only I write mysteries myself, I’ve been reading them since I was eight years old. I have more than a passing understanding of forensics, investigation and procedure. And it was clear that this writer hadn’t researched any of those things or hadn’t retained any of the research. And the main character was a medical examiner.
I actually read the book to the end because I liked some of her characters and the story was clever. The shame of it was that a good editor could have helped to make it a top notch book. I almost fell off my bed when I saw at the end of the book that this author was touted as ‘best selling’ and had written 10 – 12 other books. I couldn’t imagine how this book had gotten five star reviews up the wazoo. Well, the reviews may have gotten me to read one of this author’s books but I won’t read another. So how helpful were those reviews to her in the long run?
You can buy anything on the Internet
We all love the Internet because we can find anything our little hearts desire in that nether cyber-world. Wonderful things on the Internet, also a lot of crap. The trick is in knowing the difference.
To be sure, if there’s something you want to buy, somebody out there is selling it.
Did you know that you can buy Twitter and Facebook followers? Is it a stretch to think that you could also buy reviews? Not really. I’ve seen ads offering money to write reviews, and they aren’t for the New Yorker. And every second there are thousands of online marketeers coming up with new ways to game the system. Because a lot of these marketeers think that marketing is about creating illusions, they don’t understand that marketing is about helping the consumer find what they’re looking for. You don’t have to trick anyone into buying anything if you’ve got what they need and want, right?
So the phrase, Buyer Beware, may apply doubly on the Internet.
How do you know if you can trust the reviews?
There’s no way to know for sure if a review can be trusted. There is always the matter of personal taste. Some readers may prefer a different style or not care about things that drive you nuts as a reader.
But there are a few things you can do to ascertain the veracity of the reviews:
- Read a few pages before you buy, many Amazon books allow you to read the first few pages to see if you like before purchasing.
- Check the author’s blog, website or Facebook page to see if you like their style of writing.
- Ask friends to recommend authors they like
- Download a free book from the author (if there is one) and sample their writing. Even if there isn’t a free book from the author, most authors offer a free chapter download or other stories for you to read.
In other words, don’t be like me and rush to download because your brain is hungry.
What’s your experience with book reviews? Helpful? Not helpful? How do you choose a book to read?