Those of us shopping for self-published e-books have very little to go on. Short synopses and sample chapters lie all too often. There isn’t even a proper book jacket to tempt you. So how do you make the decision to buy?
We’ve come to rely on reviews. And reviews make bestsellers. 2 websites seem to have cornered the market – Amazon and GoodReads. But which reviews matter? What calls out to you from the murky depths of the online world, full of blind love and extreme hate? And more to the point, what should be disregarded?
Here are 5 book reviews I ignore with impunity:
1. The Fake Review
There are 2 kinds of fake review: the gushing, sycophantic piece of uselessness brought about by the bullied friend or relative of an author, or the sneaky, underhand rant of a rival author (or his mates) racked with jealousy (or possibly stomach ulcers). Either way, they are the second scourge of the internet, and deserve an entire post of their own. Which will be forthcoming. You have been warned.
2. Moany Whingey Whiney Reviews
Ok, so I don’t trust gushing reviews, but scathing ones are slippery little suckers. I generally seek out those which find at least one fault, because they’re more meaty, but the singularly most important aspect of any online review for any product whatsoever is what I like to call The Tone of the Moan.
When the reviewer is saying something negative, do they sound like someone I might like to have a coffee and a natter with? Or do they come across as someone I’d like to put in a box and snail-mail to Vladivostok? It’s all down to connecting with them. If something which annoys them sounds like it’d annoy me too, I can be pretty sure that something they thought was wonderful might just make me happy I bought the book.
3. One-sentence reviews dashed off without any thought whatsoever
Here are 2 examples of such reviews that I found after just 0.8 seconds on Amazon:
“brilliant my daughter gave me her copy to read said it was a good book, she was right i loved it from start to finish”
“I only read this book as a stop gap (was waiting on another book coming into store) i wasn’t disappointed amazing read”
In both cases these reviews would almost certainly ensure I would not buy this book. If you can’t be bothered to give any useful information, I can’t be bothered to listen to you, much less agree with you.
I know you have a degree in English Lit. I know you read 3 books a week and have been a top reviewer online – with a badge and everything – for 6 years. But for pity’s sake, I have at least 10 more reviews to read before I decide whether or not to spend 99 cents on this e-book. Just pick something you liked and something you didn’t like, and try not to make half your review nothing more than a spoiler-ridden synopsis. Please!
The sole exception to this is when reviewers are being genuinely original. Or funny. One of the best reviews I ever read, despite being also one of the longest reviews I ever read, pointed out numerous examples where plot, characterisation and quite often dialogue in a certain novel were uncomfortably similar to a bestselling predecessor. There is always room for intuition… not to mention public service.
5. Reviews which are not reviews, written by people who should never have learned to type
4 of the 5 minutes I spent painstakingly researching this post were taken up with looking up books online. And lo and behold, what did I find for J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy on GoodReads? 4 out of the first 5 reviews I came across said the same thing. WATCH OUT!, they said (often in caps lock). THIS BOOK IS NOT LIKE HARRY POTTER! DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ONLY LIKE HARRY POTTER!
I can’t even comment further on this. Even typing the above killed off a good 7% of my brain cells. Morons.
So what about you? Authors and readers? What sort of reviews do you trust? Or what do you ignore?