How effective are Amazons' reviews?
I feel that Amazon's reviews can be very effective, though I think that the key to Amazon is its Also Bought feature. While that is great for finding new stuff, it's also helpful in that if I search for a book and find that it's well-reviewed AND also frequently bought along with other books I love, I'm more likely to give it a shot.
I think Nell has the right of it. Book reviews do influence me, if I believe them to be genuine. The main thing I do is look for trendlines - do multiple people praise the characterization, or the plotting? For example, I know that my own novel has very strong characterization, but the plotting was too linear. That shows in the reviews - people keep mentioning the characters.
I also filter out reviews that object to things I don't. For example, if they complain about diction level, or the length of the book, or salty language, it doesn't bother me.
- J. Wesley
I admit I am influenced by Amazon reviews - but only to a point.
If it is a book with only a handful of reviews I tend to check whether 1) the review is verified through Amazon and 2) if the reviewer has written other reviews.
If it is a book with quite a few reviews, I read the ones marked Most Helpful, and if there are 1 or 2 star reviews, I read those reviews and try to determine if they are valid (i.e. - arrived late does NOT count!)
I do find that Amazon reviews can be too generous in their ratings - perhaps as Amazon is more 'general' and anyone who feels like it will just post a review - whereas readers who take things more seriously tend to belong to more dedicted book sites, such as Goodreads, Shelfari or LibraryThing.
You know, that "Has the reviewer written other reviews?" used to be an indicator that the review was fake - but that was back before 2004 or 2005, when they changed the requirements to create an Amazon account.
Before 2005 you could create as many accounts as you wanted. I recall a group of rogue authors who created literally hundreds of different accounts, and used them to give themselves and each other five-star reviews, while attacking other authors with one-star reviews. In fact, this group of authors is responsible for the checks and balances Amazon has now. They were unbelievable. They all had something like 250 five-star reviews within three months on books that weren't best sellers, and most of the reviews were one-offs - or else they only had reviews for the same books.
They also weighted the Helpful and Unhelpful votes to suit their purposes. So I would be wary of Helpful and Unhelpful votes too - if you make someone angry on one of the forums, they come after you with Unhelpful votes without ever reading your books, and I know of authors who got slammed, and a couple who no longer have careers because of it. In one case, she wrote a really wonderful book, but kept getting into tussles online. So Amazon is really a popularity contest along with everything else - and sometimes it gets incredibly mean out there.
Now you have to have a credit card associated with your account, and you have to purchase something in order to post to the forums or write a review. I know I keep getting reviews from reviewers who never posted other reviews, and I know for an absolute fact that those reviewers have nothing whatsoever to gain from posting them. So I wouldn't use that as a gauge anymore.
Thanks for explaining further Nell - to be honest I only started using Amazon in 2008, so I didn't get to see that kind behaviour!
When I say 'most helpful' I usually read more than the first three reviews shown - quite often I expand the list and sort by date to get a more generic overview.
Amazon reviews are certainly not what I solely base my decision on to purchase a book - if I have a feeling that the story is something I will enjoy I tend to ignore the reviews, or research on Goodreads and Shelfari also.
I think that part of it might be that people are more willing to post a review of something they like if they don't see many other reviews out there. I don't generally cross-post my reviews, but I will go on to Amazon and review the CD of unknown bands because I like the music and feel like they could use the extra support.
Then again, with books I tend to ignore Amazon reviews largely because I don't trust people. My biggest pet peeve when reading is a lack of editing in books, and there are times that I have read books by traditional mainstream publishers that get hundreds of 4-star or better reviews that are filled with grammatical errors and terribly written. The preview does a lot more for me than reviews, and if there isn't a preview I'm not likely to buy the book.
I noticed there is a section on Amazon's Authors' pages called Editorial Reviews. These cannot exceed 250 words and are generally excerpts from well-known publications. Are these more effective than the customers' reviews?
For me, yes.
Although I sold twentysix copies of my self-published novel according to Amazon, I haven't had a single review. How soon do people usually leave a review, if they leave one at all?
I haven't told any of my friends or family that I self-published. Just wanted to see what would happen first, I hope you understand, being insecure and worried about them not liking it, but pretending they do. Or them pitying me as the author who thinks she has talent.
My Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn has been out for more than 10 years, and I have 74 reviews. You can expect to get about one review for every 2000 sales. I'm just grateful when someone takes the time to click "Like" because most readers don't even do that!
With my new book, I had a LibraryThing giveaway, hoping to get reviews from it, but I only got a couple. The problem is that books sit on their Kindles for months and months and months - especially the free ones. You may have sold 26 copies, but I would bet you haven't had that many people who read the book yet!
Thank you Nell. This gives me so much more insight in the whole process. I've been writing for seven years, but it wasn't until earlier this year that I tried to (self) publish my fiction novel, and I truly had no idea how it all works. It's been a fun.
Congratulations on the sale of your book about Anne Boleyn. Is your new book the same genre?
I tend to read Amazon's reviews for nonfiction books. If there are enough reviews, I can generally figure out what the book's strengths and weaknesses are. This helps me know if the book is for me.
Reviews of fiction are more difficult to judge, because everyone has different reading interests. Still, I might find new titles in a particular genre or special focus to check out at my library.