Amazon.com Losing its Book Reviews Footing or Literally Misunderstood
Gaining a great book review is very important for a debut author. Reviews help us stand out in the sea of books that release around the same time that ours do. Book reviews help readers find us. Depending on the media outlet, reviews can get us placed as featured authors in book festivals and shelved in independent bookstores.
Today book reviewer, Curiosity Builds blogger, and former book store manager of LA’s Mystery Bookstore Linda S. Brown shares her insights about book reviews, and posts a controversial water cooler topic about the Amazon.com review system. Please join us today, as we discuss the topic of Book Reviews. At the end of Brown’s post we’ve also added links to related articles that buttress Brown’s argument.
We hope you find this post insightful and please share your thoughts with us.
-Miranda Parker for ITW Big Thrills
SO MUCH CONTROVERSY: To post or not post a book review on Amazon.com
by Linda S. Brown
Over the past few months, several authors have asked me to read and review their books. I am honored by those requests. Moreover, I am touched and flattered that those authors respect my opinion enough to ask me. But when those authors asked me to post my reviews to Amazon, I cringed.
No, Amazon did not single-handedly destroy indie brick-and-mortar bookstores. However, it has dealt death blows to many and weakened scores more. And that truth greatly disturbs me.
And… I am uncomfortable with the Amazon.com review system. For those unfamiliar with the system, Amazon.com allows anyone [who has an Amazon.com account] to post a review of a book and give the book a value based on a 1 to 5 rating system (with 5 being best.) After I did some homework I came to the conclusion that this system is flawed on at least two fronts:
- Some Amazon reviewers are paid. As far as I can determine, they are not identified. That strikes me as misleading.
- The Amazon review and rating system is directly related to sales -- and I don’t feel comfortable with that since I do not work for that retail establishment. I don’t begrudge the authors making money by any means, but why should I, as a reviewer, put more money in the pockets of Amazon.com? The difference between Amazon and book blogs like LibraryThing, GoodReads, CuriosityBuilds.com (my own blog), and publications such as Crimespree Magazine is that Amazom.com will receive direct revenue from someone, who read my review and chose to buy the book based on my review. LibraryThing, GoodReads, Crimespree Magazine, and the rest would not.
Author K. Bennett (aka James Scott Bell, author of a mainstream suspense series featuring an L.A. based attorney named Buchanan, as well as several inspirational novels – and some popular writing manuals) recently asked me if I’d consider posting to Amazon my review of the first book in his new series, PAY ME IN FLESH: MALLORY CAINE, ZOMBIE AT LAW. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I gave it high marks on LibraryThing and GoodReads, and I posted a review on my blog. Jim’s request – innocent enough – sort of sparked this whole debate.
I threw it out to the Twittersphere to discover what other people thought about Amazon reviews. And the issue brought up some lively Twitter and email debates. Some authors felt Amazon ratings and reviews have a direct impact on their sales, and also broaden their exposure to markets they might not otherwise reach. Some authors disagreed. Some authors, bloggers, reviewers and readers refused to look at the ratings and reviews on Amazon, for the same reasons I listed above.
Thriller writer Meg Gardiner (CHINA LAKE, THE DIRTY SECRETS CLUB – which I enjoyed so much while working at The Mystery Bookstore that I made it one of my monthly picks – and more, including her latest, THE NIGHTMARE THIEF) admitted that she had “been surprised to hear from readers who say they hesitate to buy a book that had any 1-star Amazon reviews. To me that sound incredibly shortsighted. Almost every book has at least one 1-star review. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK have 1-star reviews, for Pete’s sake…” However, Meg further pointed out that she understood “why some authors count on good Amazon reviews, especially if their books don’t get a lot of editorial coverage.”
When I expressed my reservation to Jim about posting a review on Amazon, I asked him what made him think people took them seriously. Who takes them seriously? Do authors? Do critics? Do publishers?
Jim’s response was that “readers take (the reviews and ratings on Amazon) seriously, so publishers and authors care because they could affect sales.”
Jim takes marketing very seriously. In addition to offering seminars about the writing process, he also teaches about marketing the finished book.
In the current publishing environment, we all understand the desire for good reviews, good ratings, and most importantly, good sales numbers. I am not currently receiving any compensation for the reviews I’ve written. However, if it ever came to pass that I am compensated for offering my opinions, it would be clear that I am being paid to read the books and to work with the authors.
Meanwhile, I am delighted to continue to read and review books sent to me by authors, publicists and publishers. I will post those reviews on LibraryThing, GoodReads, CuriosityBuilds.com, and I will submit those reviews to other blogs and publications, including the award-winning Crimespree Magazine.
And, meanwhile, I think I will leave the posting of reviews on Amazon to others, until such time as the Amazon system is more clear, open and equitable.
Linda S. Brown was the Assistant Manager of The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles for 6 years, where she leveraged her love of crime fiction into a position in which she developed and coordinated author events, acted as liaison with publishers and public relations firms, and coordinated media campaigns. Since the closing of the bookstore earlier this year, Linda has become Book Lover at Large, in search of self and a job; meanwhile, she is reading and reviewing crime and young adult novels, writing articles for various blogs, and in the process of developing her own book-loving blog, CuriosityBuilds.Com.
Connect also with Linda S. Brown at:
Now that Linda has opened the doors to this great question, let’s discuss:
Do you agree with Linda’s decision? Do you think Amazon.com’s Reviews have the same value as before? Why are Amazon reviews important to your readership?