Reviews and Why I Write Them

As A Blog Publisher, Why Do You Write Book Reviews?

That’s actually a nicer way of summarizing some of the emails I’ve received over the last few years!

Yes, I do write reviews for the books I read, and starting in 2011 I started to make a point to write a review for most things I read.

Why do I write reviews? Well, I do read what others write for reviews, and those reviews influence my decision to (a) first try out the free Kindle sample, which a lot of the time leads me to (b) purchasing a book or downloading it with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.  I appreciate the time and effort complete strangers took to write a review to tell me the good and the bad, and common courtesy tells me I should do the same.  If I like a book I’ll tell you – if I didn’t like it, well, let’s just say I’ve been told my professional career has been limited a time or two for being too honest (i.e., blunt).

If you’re like me, you look at the customer reviews in order to see if you want to investigate a book further – while my general cutoff is a book needs to have an average rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars, I also read the text of the review: things that may make a reviewer dislike a book might be favorable to me and, things a reviewer absolutely loved (and mentioned in the review) could be a complete turnoff to this grey-haired guy.

I also look to see if a review on the Amazon website is from an “Amazon Verified Purchase,” which tells me the person writing the review actually purchased the item from Amazon; if the reviewer purchased the item from the Amazon website, and didn’t “uncheck” the box to label it as an Amazon Verified Purchase, you will see that notification just below the title of the review and right above the main text of the review.

Why do I look for an Amazon Verified Purchase?  I’ve been burned too many times by friends and family of the author or shill reviews – reviewers that immediately rate everything a five star, they leave about one sentence of commentary, and they are generally marked by it being the one and only review a person has ever written on the Amazon website; these are typically reviews done in order to inflate a book’s overall rating.  Another good indicator is a book will have a flurry of reviews around the same day, are short and all five stars, and have a lot of other things in common that make everything suspect.

If you’ve read as many reviews on the Amazon website like I have over the years while looking for books to promote on the blog, you learn to spot the friends and family reviews pretty quick.

The “star” rating on Amazon can be broken down like this:

5 stars – I love it
4 stars – I like it
3 stars – It’s ok
2 stars – I don’t like it
1 star – I hate it

As far as the reviews I write, I try to write an honest assessment if I liked something or not without providing a spoiler: why write a spoiler and ruin the ending for everyone?  I also think your and my taste regarding the likes and dislikes of a particular book are more honest than a paid book reviewer a major publishing house contracts with to have in a book’s advertising materials. My motto is to keep it short and sweet on your likes and dislikes without providing a Cliff’s Notes version of the book.

There are also very few things I “love” in terms of reading as well as very few things I “hate” as both, to me, are very extreme ends of the spectrum.  Not to sound too hokey, but love and hate are permanent things and very few things qualify for either emotion.

Some people think I shouldn’t be writing reviews because I have this blog, and due to the blog’s popularity it could influence people’s behavior, especially if I “give” it a bad rating – every once in a while I will have a rather interesting dialogue with a few folks regarding the same. My response to those type of comments is my – and anyone else’s – review of a book reflects my opinion only and I don’t “give” out anything: your opinion on a book or item may vary, and we probably won’t agree on everything. For example, something I really liked you may absolutely detest and puke all over it.

The same could be true for something you thought was outstanding and I may question why it was published in the first place. When I read reviews sure, the star rating is important (see above), I don’t put that much weight into the “star” rating, but I look at the comments – mainly to see if they are substantive to back up the rating as well as to see what the reviewer’s pluses and minuses are with the book.  If you look at those written comments, sometimes they match up to the “star” rating and sometime they do not.

I also discount reviewers who rate everything a 5 star and I imagine most others do, too.

You can vote on the individual reviews on the Amazon website if you think they were helpful or “Yes” vote – you can click on the voting option immediately below the text of each review.  The more “Yes” votes you get in proportion to the overall votes – as well as some super-secret factors Amazon won’t divulge – you will move up in the review ranking scale (yes, Amazon ranks the reviewers).  A couple of years ago Amazon took away the “No” vote on a review’s helpfulness – I wish they would bring the
No” feature back.

So, yes, I will continue writing reviews and I hope you will do the same!  After all, if you can’t share your opinion on a blog what else can you do?

Anyway, that’s all I can type about for now. Have a great week!

Michael

 

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