Why do readers review books?

Stephen Woodfin author pic beach


I’ve wondered a lot about this.

What makes a person review a book?

It’s not an easy question to answer.  Caleb Pirtle often prefaces his remarks to me with a disclaimer: “I don’t have any statistics to back this up,  but I think …”

I suppose the great collector of statistics in the sky may know what percent of readers review a book after they read it, but it really doesn’t matter. A review is a review for good or ill.

I have received a lot of reviews, and they are all over the map, mostly good, a few snide, one or two harsh.

So be it.  They told me what they thought, and I have my big girl panties on and can deal with it.  I mean after all when people buy my book they have some skin in the game, and I should listen to what they have to say.

But what if a reader receives a free book during a special promotion?

Does he have the same standing to weigh in on what he thought about it as does a reader who paid real money for it?

That’s one of the tricky things about the new world of digital publishing.  In that world it’s okay, or even better than okay, to look a gift horse in the mouth.


Many Indie authors have taken advantage of Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP Select).  This is a category that requires authors to give Amazon an exclusive right to sell their book for ninety days, a period that is extended automatically unless the author opts out of it. During each ninety-day period in which an author is captive on KDP Select, she has five free days when she can reduce the price of her book to zero. The thinking behind this is that people who download the book for free, if they like it, will spread the word about it just like people in olden days passed paper backs books from one to another.

That’s all well and good.

But what if they don’t like it?

You would think that if a person got a book for free, read a few pages and found the book wasn’t his cup of tea, he would just quit reading and go on to something else.

Maybe, maybe not.

A handful of such people apparently keep reading a book they got for free, even if they don’t like it.  Then they pan it in a review.

Oh, well.  The only problem is that Amazon assigns this reader “verified purchaser” status even though she never paid one red cent for the book.

Oh well, again.

Be that as it may, most people who review books have actually bought them. They are the ones who have standing to be counted. They are the registered voters.

So, tell me.  What is it that motivates you to post a review of a book? Do you usually review books you love? Hate? Do you tend to say nice things about a book, or do you only chime in when you find a book that rubs you the wrong way? Have you ever reviewed a book you got for free?

Sorry for all the options.  I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this.

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author.)

Stephen Woodfin's  Author Page on Amazon
Stephen Woodfin’s Author Page on Amazon


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