The random—and not so random—musings of a quirky Regency romance writer.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reviews and the Reader

I have been curious for quite some time now about reviews. I like to write reviews myself but wonder how much they actually influence a potential buyer. So that is the theme of my second blog poll.

How much importance do you place on reviews? (The poll to the right is anonymous; please be completely honest. If you'd like to share your views, comments are welcome. If there is an answer missing that you feel should be added, let me know.)

On the one hand, I tend to be influenced by the negative ones. If the negative review is poorly written, attacks the author, or is so vague it could have been written for a dozen other products, I ignore it. I have recently found reviews written by people who haven't even read the book. How ethical is that? This gives me a much more cynical outlook of chronically negative reviewers and their reviews. Conversely, I become more interested in the product being slammed.

On the other hand, positive reviews can be off-putting for me. Nobody's perfect. If all the reviews claim perfection the hype builds until the book cannot possibly live up to it.

I try to take each review as it comes, make an educated decision based on the reviewer's review history and the tone of the review.

How much importance do I place on reviews? It all depends on the reviewer, so I would say moderate importance. Please note, this does not mean I would not buy a book with no reviews. If the book sounds interesting, reviews, or the lack thereof, mean nothing.

So that's my opinion. What's yours?


11 comments:

escapadethroughegypt said...

Interesting topic, Jaimey! I do most of my book choosing from the shelves of bookstores or libraries and so there are no reviews there to sway me one way or the other. I like this. When buying online, I rarely will decide to purchase a book based solely on a review. Topic, author, content, and description are usually enough. I would purchase based on a recommendation by someone I know rather than reviews by strangers. I do tend to read the negative reviews of books though.

Jaimey said...

Good point! I didn't think of those who still prefer brick and mortar bookstores. I guess my real question is, when shopping online, do you let reviews influence you?

Rachel Rossano said...

Reviews can be helpful especially in indicating how clean or not clean a book is, but I usually try to evaluate things for myself. The most helpful decision-maker for me is if I can read the first page. I am a bit of a writing snob. However, if the story promises to be interesting enough, I am willing to plow through quite a bit to read it.

I agree that readers really do need to evaluate the reviewer as well as the review. If I get a sense that the reviewer isn't looking for the same thing I am in reading the book, I tend to discount the reviewer's opinion or interpert it in that light. The advantage to purchasing in the bookstore as opposed to online is that the book can stand on its own feet without other's evalations clouding your own.

To sum up, I can take or leave reviews. ;) Thanks for bringing up such an interesting topic.

D.B. Pacini said...

Jaimey,

In my opinion, reviews are extremely important. In my case, they were, in large part, a main reason I secured my publisher, and a main reason I am presently getting youth advocates, librarians, and school principals to read/consider my book for their students.

I sent the manuscript for my youth/YA fantasy novel, THE LOOSE END OF THE RAINBOW to a number of people, requesting them to write a review that I could list on my website, providing that they liked the story. Most of the reviews that I currently have listed on my website are from people I did not previously know before I contacted them requesting a review; most are people that read my unpublished manuscript.

When I sent queries to publishers I shared condensed snippets from the reviews and asked publishers to visit my website to read the reviews in full. My publisher admitted that one of the reasons she decided to read my manuscript was because the reviews on my website were compelling.

As an author, I think reviews are tremendously important.

As a reader, I rarely purchase a book without reading most of the reviews listed about it. I think a reviewer can share his/her unfavorable opinions about a book without attacking the author and without being a deliberately mean/rude jerk. Unconstructive and aggressively offensive reviews, written by overtly negative reviewers, bore me. They reveal more about the reviewer than about the book. Even if the reviewer does make legitimate points about the weaknesses/flaws in the book reviewed, I am unimpressed with any reviewer that uses his/her review as a swinging club to bash a writer. I respect reviewers that appreciate that a poorly written book is as important to its author as a well written book. There is an appropriate way to give an unfavorable review. Reviewers that strive to be respectful always receive a tip from my hat even if I disagree with their opinion about the book.

I am a book reviewer. I have a blog posting in my Goodreads blog (Title: About Self-Publishing and Paying For Reviews, posted May 16th) that shares my philosophy about reviews. I am strongly opposed to paying for reviews. As shared in the blog, I don’t have respect for “paid for” reviews regardless of how well written they are. That is why I can’t consider purchasing them for my novel. Something just feels really wrong about them to me. It feels like paying for a handsome date, phony and pathetic---even if he is handsome, even if you have a great time at the prom, school reunion, wedding, or whatever. You must choose for yourself if you wish to consider paid for reviews. I know some people want them. That is fine. I just don’t want them for my books.

Regarding positive reviews, most of us can tell when a GLOWING review was written by MOM or DAD. Such reviews do have value. A praised filled review written by a family member or a friend simply needs to be taken in the context that it is written. It is not a professional review. It is not trying to claim that it is. Our parents, our mates, and all of our loved ones have just as much right to share their opinions about our books as anyone else has.

Jaimey, I know there is a growing trend for people to write reviews about books they have not read. Like you, this slimy practice utterly flabbergasts me. When a person lies to their own soul they are doing something far more serious than being unethical. Our souls know our truth. A personal choice to be deceptive is a powerful boomerang that hurls back to us fast, hitting us hard in the core of our souls. A dishonest reviewer reaps more crap karma upon themselves that any damage their fake review can ever do to an author. Their biggest victim is themselves.

Take care my friend.

Jaimey said...

Excellent points, Rachel, and thank you for joining the discussion.

I agree, bookstore purchasing would be the most unbiased way to purchase a book. And yes, reviews can help us determine if a book contains certain things that we find to be uncomfortable subjects.

As for the reviewer looking for something different, I saw an example of this recently. The book was given 2 stars by the reviewer who didn't care at all for the gore in the book and the laughable way that hell was represented. This review helped me decide that the book really wasn't for me, which was something I had figured on anyway. However, my husband was more intrigued with the book than ever. Reviews work both ways.

Great point, DB. I hadn't considered that publishers and agents would consider reviews of paramount importance--but then, I've never seriously considered acquiring either one.

Yes, family and friend reviews tend to be easily spotted. I don't immediately discount these, however.

Paid for reviews: I've mentioned before that I don't think reviewers should charge to do a review. The fact that they get a free copy of the book should be enough. It is for me. :op If they love books and reading them, this should be enough. Do you really want someone reviewing your book who doesn't love books?

Keep the opinions coming, folks.

Sheila Deeth said...

Interesting topic. I'm not sure I'd have anything to add to what you say. But I was fascinated with DBs comments. I'd never thought publishers would look at reviews... Interesting approach

Kappa no He said...

I usually just skim reviews. If I'm really debating a book say on Amazon I'll read a couple good reviews and then a couple of the worst reviews. If I feel the worst reviews don't make a valid point I'll buy the book.

Terrie

Gina Collia-Suzuki said...

I'm astounded by people who review books that they haven't read. I can't quite fathom it. I received one at one point... my 'Utamaro Revealed' book was given one star and the comment was something like 'it sounds like a book I wouldn't like because I don't like Japanese art'. It was removed by the site, but it threw me completely. I'm still thrown by it.

Personally, I don't really bother with reviews, unless friends recommend a book and shove the reviews under my nose, insisting that they're spot on. I'll have a look after I've read a book, to see if others felt the same way I did, but that's about it. If a book had a large number of bad ones and no good ones, then I might have a look out of curiosity.

Author interviews tend to have a greater impact on me. I recently bought 'Firmin: Adventures Of A Metropolitan Lowlife' by Sam Savage, because the central character is a rat (and I love them). It was at the top of my 'to read' list, and then I read an interview with the author where he said he hadn't intended to make the character a rat and had no great feelings about them... the character could have been any animal and it wouldn't have mattered. He sounded so disinterested in that element of Firmin's character that it fell to the bottom of my list.

Joyce DiPastena said...

Sadly, I've bought a number of books because I'd read a glowing review, only to be severely disappointed when I read the book for myself. This has taught me that much depends on a reviewer's personal taste in reading, and that a glowing review doesn't mean that our reading tastes necessarily align. So I think word of mouth from readers I know enjoy the kinds of books that I like would influence me more than a review written by a stranger. (Or it should, if I've learned my lesson!)

Rita J. Webb said...

Yes, I pay a great deal of attention to reviews when I'm shopping online, especially when I'm buying educational material, self-help books, or toys. I combine that with the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to see if I like it.

And for fiction, I keep track of recommended books on goodreads. If it sounds interesting and several people I know have recommended it, then I go for it.

But I always try to get it from the library first. Partially because I'm not rich. Partially because I don't like extra clutter in my house. Partially because it is better for the environment to use something that can be reused.

Jay said...

If something had only bad reviews I would probably avoid it, but if it was mixed I would decide for myself. Sometimes good reviews don't sway me.

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