What if we just did away with book reviews?

 Amazon Reviews


This blog is prompted by the comments I received the other day to a previous  post entitled “Let’s Get Honest About Honest Reviews.”  A number of readers and authors jumped into the discussion, and as such things go, those comments spurred other thoughts.

Let’s be frank about it, the system of reviews currently in place is broken.  It is fraught with peril on many fronts. Some of the people who commented said they no longer trust the reviews they see on Amazon because they found that the reviews led them astray.  By this I mean that they purchased the book on the basis of a number of rave reviews only to find that the book in their opinion did not live up to them. To be sure, each reader will react to a book in his own unique way.  That is why reviews are inherently subjective.

If I love hamburgers and find a shop that makes great ones, I will sing its praises. But a person who likes hot dogs could care less about the place.

Books come in both flavors, hamburger and hot dog.

But it may be that a hot dog lover would fall in love with hamburgers if she tried just one of them from the right place.

So, if I review the restaurant do I say it is a great hamburger joint or do I say it is a great place to eat? The second way of saying it might offend the die hard wiener eater. It might even cause him to feel misled.

Author Bob Mayer
Author Bob Mayer

Renowned author Bob Mayer weighed in with a comment. He wrote:

The reality is they should do away with reviews altogether. There are no reviews in the bookstore.

And here’s the real issue– are those who rate books and leave reviews the “average” reader. No. The number of reviews and ratings I get as opposed to number of copies sold is less that .1%. That’s not one percent– that’s less than one in a thousand of those who buy the book rate or review. Do I think they’re representative of my readers? No. So a small vocal minority apparently carries a lot of weight. Except maybe we have this backward– how many readers actually read reviews? Many contain spoilers and, ultimately are just opinion.

Who knows? I’m getting back to what I do control: writing my book.

So, the battle is joined.  On the one hand, we can work within the flawed review system  as it now exists. On the other, we can push for a revamping of the process or its total removal.

It is Scylla and Charybdis.  Reviews do little to help an established author because she has a fan base that knows and loves her work.  New comers hope to make a name for themselves by gaining some good reviews so that readers who are considering their first purchase of the newbie’s book will not feel like they are going out on a limb with an untested product.

Add to this the marketing philosophy of some of the premier book sites on the Internet.  If you check the critieria those sites employ in order to list a book, you find that some of them will not allow an author to advertise any book on  the site unless it has a certain number of reviews with a rating of four stars or better. So, if the new author has few if any reviews he is unable to market his book on the sites and is destined to remain in the ranks of the unknown.

You get the point.

So, readers and writers, where do you stand on this issue?  In a perfect world should we eliminate reviews altogether, abandon the star system or keep plugging along as we are now?

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author of six novels.  You can view his collected works on his Amazon author page.)


















, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts