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All Things Writing & Publishing > Reviews: good for readers, bad for the author?

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message 1: by Nik (last edited Mar 17, 2017 04:18AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Good reviews are viewed as an important marketing tool and authors strive to give them maximum exposure through social networks and otherwise. Probably knowing this peculiarity, I've encountered instances when some pretty high rated reviewers on Amazon gave high rating and positive reviews barely reading the book (at least that was my impression from reading what they say), it seems for the purpose of being upvoted and getting max exposure.
Good reviews, except for a confidence boost, don't give much to an author. Especially when review comes from someone the author had previous contact with, since such reviewers out of the desire to support or uneasiness to offer a critique may not even reflect the true feelings or provide only positive ones while omitting critical.
It's negative reviews (and there are those that even end up with awarding seemingly high rating), that can be emotionally disappointing but may nonetheless provide valuable info to the writer: what works and what doesn't, what audience perceives it well and what less so.
To get a decent critique, you are sometimes required to pay not a small amount, so negative reviews may save expenses in this respect-:). From the PoV of marketing, they ensure credibility to the entire basket of reviews that you've garnered, so the readers see that it's not only 4-5 stars, but something else too.
What do you think?


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Reviews do matter to readers who are deciding whether or not to get your book or someone else's. I think they look for a healthy mixture of ratings - most people ignore the 1 and 5 stars - and can tell by the wording of the review if the book was skimmed or truly read cover to cover.


message 3: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) I dig critical reviews (not too many!! haha) when they warn other readers about something quintessentially "Ann." I had a couple readers say they loved the story and characters but just couldn't connect with my writing style. Umm, this is a GOOD thing because my style is pretty quirky and something I always warn readers about when given the chance.

And this one is reeeeeally helpful:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

*waves happily at Saunders, if she happens to read this*

Personally, I don't classify it as a cliffy (more of an HFN) so I would never say so. However, her review warns other readers who have their heart set on a true HEA. If anything, I owe Miss Saunders my gratitude XD

Hugs,
Ann


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11785 comments I think anyone who relies on reviews for critiques is silly. If anyone wants to give me a five star review, I'll take it, if only to help marketing. What fascinates me is there are a number of sites that say they promote books but to enter you have to have 20 five star reviews, say (and presumably not 30 3 stars.) Whether these sites are of any use, I have no idea, but presumably most of the people using them have farmed out the necessary five star review requests to friends, etc. I can't bring myself to do that.


message 5: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Ian wrote: "I think anyone who relies on reviews for critiques is silly. but presumably most of the people using them have farmed out the necessary five star review requests to friends, etc...."

I sincerely hope the real dimension of fake reviews is not as dominant as you suspect, but hardly anyone knows the precise numbers or percents. Lots of people here write reviews of what they read and express their genuine opinions about that.
When buying something on the internet that I'm unsure about, I also read what customers, who already purchased that thing say, casting reasonable doubt about exceptionally passionate reviews -:). When ordering a hotel that I haven't stayed in before, I read a few reviews about it. Not saying it's a wise behavior, but if you want to know a little more about something, it makes sense to hear opinions of those who should know
Being a constant client of AliExpress, I'm amused how the sellers there almost beg you to leave good reviews and implore not to leave bad ones.. Maybe a bit out of proportion, but at least candid -:)


message 6: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Ian wrote: "I think anyone who relies on reviews for critiques is silly. If anyone wants to give me a five star review, I'll take it, if only to help marketing. What fascinates me is there are a number of site..."

For that reason, when I'm checking out reviews on books, I largely ignore the 4 and 5 star reviews and seek out the 1 and 2 star reviews. Some of those people might be petty or mean-spirited, but more often than not, they'll be the ones to tell potential readers something useful. Most of the times those "negatives" don't bother me, they merely prevent me from forming the wrong impression so I'm not disappointed when a book is "not what I expected."

I think the biggest thing that bothers me about 4 or 5 star reviews though, is more often than not, the reviewer merely regurgitates the plot of the story and doesn't tell me anything I couldn't learn by reading the author's blurb. I understand a lot of those glowing reviews are going to be from genuine fans of the book (the majority of the reviews I give out are 4 or 5 stars), but if you don't have anything to say about the book, there is nothing wrong with keeping with a brief "I loved this book," and calling it a day.


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments I'm the opposite. It does me no good when a reviewer says he just liked or disliked a book without any explanation, no matter how many stars he assigns it. I need to know why he feels the way he does. For example, I was considering a non-fiction book about life in the middle ages so i carefully read the reviews because the book was expensive and there were several similar books in the running. More than a few people gave it 3 stars because they felt the material was good but the author was too meticulous and burdened down the book with too mmany details. Well, that convinced me to buy the book because I love the minutia of history and the more details the better. I ended up really enjoying the book. For another book,a fiction title, reviewers praised the book because of the themes the author touched on. I had gathered a different impression from the blurb so I probably would have been disappointed had i purchased the book based on glowing but non descriptive reviews.


message 8: by Nik (last edited Jul 15, 2016 06:11AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments J.J. wrote: "I think the biggest thing that bothers me about 4 or 5 star reviews though, is more often than not, the reviewer merely regurgitates the plot of the story and doesn't tell me anything I couldn't learn by reading the author's blurb..."

If it's a detailed review, then the author can usually learn something about how the book is perceived. But sometimes it's kind of a dialogue between the author and the reviewer. The author puts 'action-packed' in the blurb and the reviewer confirms 'well, it's definitely action-packed' -:) Says nothing new to the author, but may serve as a validation to other readers....

About retelling the blurb - a few reviewers (especially fellow authors) surprised me with a better description of the book than my own, so I kindly asked them if I could borrow some of their lines -:)


message 9: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @Miss Tara: I'm totally with ya on this one! I think as long as your overall rating isn't dismal, the readers who actually do read reviews are pretty diligent about it.

1-star ratings are especially common amongst dark erotica (which I luuuuurve!!!) because readers will often pick up a book and then be like, "*GASP* The MC is a complete monster! He abducts her and beats her? And she's just a helpless victim of Stockholm Syndrome?? WTFluff is this shizz??? Disgusting!!!" Ummm...

*scampers off to buy book* XD


message 10: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments This is the kind of review I'm talking about...

It's been 50 years since the Cataclysm, since humanity's first contact with an alien race, since scolopendra titaniae - the scum from space - had slaughtered sixty percent of the world's population and plunged mankind into this war. The scum had ravaged the world in a massive assault, bombing and gassing city after city, wiping out billions - a year of death, of inferno, of humanity hurtling towards extinction.

Humanity had scrambled, bonded together, and launched their own warships into space. Ship after ship had perished until one intrepid pilot, the hero Evan Bryan, had launched a nuclear bomb against the scum homeworld, slaying millions of centipedes. The Cataclysm had ended that day. Humanity had emerged from the flames stronger, a civilization with the power to ravage distant worlds, to face enemies in the depths of space and defeat them. That day the genocide had ended and the long War of Attrition had begun.

The HDF, the Human Defense Force, the global military created to fight the scrum, was the gauntlet all humans from every last corner of this ravaged earth entered at eighteen, then spent five years in the fire. Marco Emery lived with his father above the library where his father worked. Addy Linden had lived with them since the day seven years before when she had saved Marco's life, pulling him away from the scum that killed his mother and Addy's parents. The scrawny eleven-year-old had grown into a tall wild woman.

This terrific tale, first of the Earth Rise series, continues to delight with Addy and Marko in basic training, taking me back to memories of the excitement and terror of my own basic training. The rich and colorful descriptions of the characters bring them and their stories to life. Great characters spring from the pages, providing emotional and exciting action. I can't wait for the next installment of this tale!


The reviewer spent three paragraphs retelling the story and frankly if I'm considering the book, I've tuned out before finishing the first paragraph. Instead of wasting the words, all they really needed was the last paragraph. But I have seen reviews where I don't even see any indication of why the reviewer liked the book - only the plotline.

On a side note, I chose a random book to seek out a sample review. The book has not been out a month and already has more than 240 reviews...WTF???


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments That was an exhaustive review, to be sure. The last paragraph would have been good enough. that's what blurbs are for.

Yes, that's a lot of reviews! however, he could have aggressively pursued reviews while he was in beta process and it is quite easy to get reviews during the three months your book can be available for pre-release. Still, that's a LOT of reviews lol.


message 12: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @Mr JJ: I see your 240-reviews-in 1-month and raise you 700-reviews-in-10-days ^_~

Yes, Miss Tara is right on the money! The explanation for your mind-boggling discovery is ARCs, for the most part. Really gives you some traction before an official release date and creates buzz too.

Hugs,
Ann

P.S. - Much love to Miss Torre! Moonshot was a-freakin-mazeballs!! I couldn't put it down!!!


message 13: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments J.J. wrote: "On a side note, I chose a random book to seek out a sample review. The book has not been out a month and already has more than 240 reviews...WTF??? ..."

You've chosen a very goodseller -:) Just taken a look. It's in the first 100 on all of kindle and # 1 on all three sub-categories. 4 reviews from today only, 14 from yesterday. I've taken a look at some of them. Most prima facie look legit


message 14: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments I wasn't sure whether or not to link to the book in case someone was actually intrigued by the review I posted and wanted to check it out, but in the end, I didn't want it to come across that I was actually directing anyone to go and laugh at it (because that is not my intent).


message 15: by Ian (new)

Ian Bott (iansbott) | 214 comments Ian wrote: "I think anyone who relies on reviews for critiques is silly. If anyone wants to give me a five star review, I'll take it, if only to help marketing. What fascinates me is there are a number of site..."

Couldn't agree more. By the time you're ready for reviews (i.e. published) the time for critiques should be long past. Reviews and critiques are fundamentally different animals in the writing zoo, though a lot of people confuse them.


message 16: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 1022 comments I definitely broke all the rules then. I didn't even know what a beta reader was until I was already publishing. The fear of rejection prevented me from showing my manuscript to friends or family, so the only feedback I had prior to publishing was from my brain. I was/am very interested in what reviewers have to say!

I guess I'm more of a "click publish and let the chips fall where they may" sort of gal :).


message 17: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @Miss Marie: Oh, thank goodness! I totally hear ya!! I didn't even know there were rules to be broken hahaha...ha... *blinks*

I dig your style, ma'am! Just like yourself, I pretty much clicked publish and let it be. I mean, heck! I would have never even listed on Amazon had it not been for my buddy annoying the shizz outta me for a month straight (yeah, I'm stubborn like that tee hee). Admittedly, I'm being a bit more proactive this time around with ARCs and such but my deadline is still ridiculously short *shrugs*

Anyhoo, you're doing quite well from what I've gathered...so...perhaps there's something to be said about us ill-prepared, reckless types, eh? ^_~

Hugs,
Ann


message 18: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) Annie wrote: "@Miss Marie: Oh, thank goodness! I totally hear ya!! I didn't even know there were rules to be broken hahaha...ha... *blinks*

I dig your style, ma'am! Just like yourself, I pretty much clicked pub..."


but you did have it published on your website before, right? so that wouldn't be the same as Marie who never showed hers to anyone.

interestingly, you, Ann, and Weir have the same publishing model: he published on his website for free before amazon; and--although, not exactly the same--50 shades of grey was first released as fanfic.

so, i think that you are in good company.

(this is off-topic, so this weekend, i'm going to start a new thread about ebook publishing case studies--like an MBA program)


message 19: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Ian wrote: "By the time you're ready for reviews (i.e. published) the time for critiques should be long past. Reviews and critiques are fundamentally different animals in the writing zoo, though a lot of people confuse them...."

I guess it depends whether publishing bears a final connotation in your opinion. I pretty much 'let go' after publishing a book, but I guess if I saw some major issues in reviews, I might change a thing or two or even unpublish a book. I've ordered a critique report on the first book, didn't do anything on the second and received 5 or 6 beta reports on the third. Sure thing, I've addressed the issues that I found just in the above opinions, but it's only after publishing the readers received the provisionally "final" version and from them I learn how it is perceived....


message 20: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Alex G wrote: "(this is off-topic, so this weekend, i'm going to start a new thread about ebook publishing case studies--like an MBA program) .."

Cool and useful initiative!


message 21: by Annie (last edited Jul 15, 2016 09:20AM) (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @Mr Alex: Oh, yesss! You are correct!!

I released a chapter every couple weeks over the course of roughly 9 months or so with zero intention ever making a book.

Hmm. I suppose the two remain separate in my mind because they were two entirely disparate decisions: 1) to serialize and create a book for an exclusive group of readers vs 2) to publicly publish to the "world". Yeeeah, I dunno hahaha.

Shrugs and hugs,
Ann


message 22: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) J.J. wrote: "This is the kind of review I'm talking about...

It's been 50 years since the Cataclysm, since humanity's first contact with an alien race, since scolopendra titaniae - the scum from space - had sl..."


yea, i read the 3-star reviews and sometimes the 1-2-star ones; can't help but read the 5-star reviews b/c they're usually at the top (i think?)

i try to find ones that describe the reader's own particular passions and hatreds with regard to the work and usually try to skim over the spoilers.


message 23: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 704 comments I'm already on record as saying that I don't feel reviews are even meant for authors; they are specifically for readers to help them choose their next read. It would be nice if those reviews were honest and reliable but...as I've also stated elsewhere once commerce becomes involved honesty is often lost in the rush for profit.

As to whether or not an author can learn from their reviews...I'd say it would depend on the kind of feedback they received. If the review pointed out grammatical errors or formatting problems or even factual mistakes then yes an author could use that to improve.

However, if the review merely cites personal preferences of the reader it's of little value to the author if you think about it. As an example, I've heard from a few people that my novel is violent. From just as many people though I've heard that it isn't. Personal preference plays such a huge role in whether someone likes something or not. And at the end of the day, well, we can't please everyone. Nor can we make every change that is suggested in reviews.


message 24: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Eldon wrote: "However, if the review merely cites personal preferences of the reader it's of little value to the author if you think about it. As an example, I've heard from a few people that my novel is violent. From just as many people though I've heard that it isn't. Personal preference plays such a huge role in whether someone likes something or not. And at the end of the day, well, we can't please everyone. Nor can we make every change that is suggested in reviews..."

That's very true, but even from such reviews you can at least learn what audience like your stuff and what doesn't and sometimes, which genre your book belongs or it least close. I probably mentioned it b4, but it took me time to realize that Godfather isn't even considered a thriller, but rather 'historical fiction' or 'family saga' and as the first Oligarch is somewhat similar in concept, the reviews helped to realize who was likely to enjoy it.


message 25: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 704 comments Perhaps Nik, but does that not then assume that an audience is similar to lemmings? That if one likes it they all will like it? While traditional publishers sure do treat us like this I like to think that we're all individuals, each with our own likes and dislikes.

The danger I would guard against here is running back to the drawing board every time a negative review comes in. There will always be those that are unimpressed with the work, and no amount of changes will changethat.


message 26: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 1022 comments Interesting, Nik. I call my books "historical fiction" and "family saga", but some people have called them mystery thrillers. It is just interesting what different people will take away from the books.

Annie, I think there might be a sort of "raw beauty" to the recklessness :) sometimes I worry that a book can be over-edited or over-critiqued to the point where it might lose some of its original magic. I am interested to hear your experience with the ARC's! I have a ridiculously short attention span, and worry that if I let a book sit too long without being published, crippling self-doubt might take over and I might do something dreadful like toss the book into the trash *gasp*. However, I can see how things like NetGalley can make for an amazing launch day.

Alex: I like your idea of the case studies thread!


message 27: by Annie (last edited Jul 15, 2016 10:52AM) (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) *raises weirdo hand again*

I 100% agree with Mr Eldon here and would go a step further by saying that critical reviews are precisely why I do NOT make changes (with the exception of typos haha).

I would much rather have a 5-star who loved it and a 1-star who hated it vs. a plethora of 4-star ratings who thought it was "quite good". Personally, I wanna elicit a reaction, leave an impression, be memorable. I'm totally cool beans if it's negative XD

Hugs,
Ann


message 28: by Annie (last edited Jul 15, 2016 10:58AM) (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @ Miss Marie: Ooops, sorry! I was typing all up in your space there *smirks*

Okay, fine, fine, you're "raw beauty" ^_~ I'm the reckless one. Trust me hahaha...ha...dang it!

Ah, with ARCs, I just made a sign-up sheet/post thingy on my site:

https://www.anniearcane.com/hart-of-h...

My only requirement is that they've already read and reviewed the first book too.

Hugs,
Ann

EDIT: I wholeheartedly agree on preserving the "original magic". My book's not perfect by any means, but it came from a place of passion. Sooo people can take it or leave it XD


message 29: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Eldon wrote: "The danger I would guard against here is running back to the drawing board every time a negative review comes in. There will always be those that are unimpressed with the work, and no amount of changes will changethat...."

Especially agree with the 2-nd paragraph.
Lemmings are cool, hardened by extreme weather -:)
It's not that I sift readers and avoid thriller lovers, but I present the book a little different now, and I hope the readers have a better understanding of what to expect


message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11785 comments I review a reasonable number of books, mainly indie (to be helpful to people like me, in the hope someone will be helpful to me - ha ha ha) and I start by saying what sort of book it is (not always what it is advertised as!) a brief description of the plot/settings (about 3-4 sentences so other comments make sense) then a comment on the writing style, things that are good/bad (e.g. good/poor characterisation), how plausible, and end with a comment on who is likely to like it.


message 31: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1908 comments Do peer reviews mean any form of recognition? Or is it just delusional?


message 32: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11785 comments In scientific journals, it means you either do or do not get published. Most of the time they are rubbish there - if the author is well known, he or she can get away with just about anything, and if the author is unknown, the chances are the reviewer makes up the number of rejections, just to show "he is doing his job"!


message 33: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Ian wrote: "I start by saying what sort of book it is (not always what it is advertised as!) a brief description of the plot/settings (about 3-4 sentences so other comments make sense) then a comment on the writing style, things that are good/bad (e.g. good/poor characterisation), how plausible, and end with a comment on who is likely to like it...."

Should be a reviewing benchmark to measure all the others against -:)


message 34: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Mehreen wrote: "Do peer reviews mean any form of recognition? Or is it just delusional?"

Sure, any positive acceptance is a recognition of a kind, yet it probably doesn't say much in terms of a potential for commercial success


message 35: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1908 comments Liked Nik.


message 36: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments Mehreen wrote: "Liked Nik."

Hope your books will gain traction, Mehreen!


message 37: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1908 comments Moirae is a hard, unconventional book. But thanks for your encouragement.


message 38: by Tim (new)

Tim Rees | 732 comments I hate it when a reviewer states a plot spoiler in a review, but apart from that, reviews are critical to the success of the book. I never pay for reviews, but when a reader emails me - one reader found my number and text me! - I ask them to post an honest review on Amazon. In the future I will ask them to post a review on Goodreads as well. I'm disappointed with the reviews for WTF on Amazon as the criticisms are stuff I have warned the reader about in the blurb i.e., one reviewer was disappointed it wasn't a love story and there was too much sex, whilst I have billed the book as an untypical love story... But even that I use in my marketing. In Sights has had 19 five star reviews and every one is genuine, but it has taken two years to get those reviews in. A reader on Goodreads is currently reading Delphian and I will encourage her to leave an honest review, explaining it is the life blood of our business...


message 39: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments So do you treasure 'bad' reviews? -:)


message 40: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Any review - good bad or indifferent for whatever reason is welcome - I may disagree, concur or think the reviewer had read a different book altogether but there is an easier way

Don't read them about my books (that's a lie but I should not). They are not author critiques but info for other readers.

I too have had the too much sex, violence, on a book with a clear warning in description that this was in book and unrealistic (for a Sci-Fi as well as usual other stuff e.g dull, too tense, upsetting alongside sentence structure, comma positioning and so on - Sometimes all in the same review, but at least some one read it and took the time to report back - for that I am grateful in both ways.


message 41: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Clark (tlcauthor) | 7 comments Reviews are for readers.
A reader feels steongly enough (good or bad) to leave a comment on the book.
Other readers then have some info to base their decision to read or not.

However, as an author I love to read the reviews too.
They give me valuable insight.
Of course I love to read what people loved, but it's what they didn't like that may help me to grow.
Nobody is perfect. We all learn all the time.

When I read a good review it gives me a warm fuzzy boost to help me carry on writing. Yes, we all have an ego.

As a marketing tool? It should not be seen or sought as such. It is not its purpose.

That's my humble opinion anyway.


message 42: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11785 comments Whether or not it is its purpose, that fact is the number of stars does influence where it comes on Amazon's list, although in fairness if you are only a modest seller it probably doesn't make much difference.


message 43: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 3079 comments Ian wrote: "Whether or not it is its purpose, that fact is the number of stars does influence where it comes on Amazon's list, although in fairness if you are only a modest seller it probably doesn't make much..."

I dream of being a modest seller :-/


message 44: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16071 comments What's review's real worth for you?


message 45: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Not sure if anyone noticed yet, but Amazon is allowing people to rate anonymously without leaving an actual review. Now there's no way of telling if an author got his or her friends together to swamp their book with 5-star ratings, or if a jealous competitor gets his or her friends together to try and kill a book's ratings. There's no way of knowing if the people actually bought or read the book. There's just less credibility behind the ratings than there was behind reviews...


message 46: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11785 comments Hadn't noticed that. A step backwards.


message 47: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6177 comments Well, that's not fair and should be changed.


message 48: by Marie (new)

Marie | 28 comments When did that all start? I have been hearing about that Amazon has become more strict with reviews and that reader/reviewers on here have had their reviews deleted from Amazon. There is a new rule over on Amazon that reviewers must spend up to $50 a year before they can leave a review on Amazon. I did find that rule. Check out this link:

https://justpublishingadvice.com/amaz....

I would be curious to see your thoughts on that article.


message 49: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments It says you must make the purchase using a valid credit or debit card...what if a first time customer shops with a gift card someone else bought for them? What if you you only shop with gift cards bought from a local retailer where you're paying cash instead of forking over your CC or DC information over to Amazon?

BTW, here is an article about the ratings...I wouldn't have known myself except I started getting anonymous ratings this summer...

https://www.marketplacepulse.com/arti...


message 50: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11785 comments If you make purchases using a gift from someone else's credit card, Amazon won't count it. You have to use your pwn card at Amazon. Or at least that is where I fell into a hole with them.


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