YES!!! (Wherein I explain how to read reviews)

First, a big WOOHOO!! I’ve just got another 1-star review on Amazon! Yippee!

No, I’m not crazy, I know how the star system works. This particular verified purchase review says:

One Star
do not recall this book and I cannot give a fair critic [sic] of it.

So, basically, someone bought my book, maybe read it, can’t remember it, and gave it a one-star review because they can’t remember if they read it.

Seriously, if the intent was to troll me — don’t they realise that ANY review is a good one? If people are buying the books and leaving review, the book is active. It’s churning interest. As long as they spell my name correctly, right? And this one is even more hilarious than the previous one-star review.

I’d like to use this opportunity as a segue into a discussion about how to read reviews. This is meant for both authors (for their sanity) and readers (when evaluating reviews).

Side note to authors: read the Amazon Myth Busting post, before you consider Amazon and reviews.

When evaluating the worth of reviews (not editorial critique — that’s a subject for another day), always look at the Two and Four star reviews. The breakdown is rather simple:

  • One Star: tells you just that the reviewer is a caustic moron. You won’t learn about the book, you’ll only learn about the reviewers preachy opinions
  • Two Stars: Didn’t like the book, and assessed why
  • Three Stars: humdrum meh.
  • Four Stars: liked the book, but not blind to it’s faults
  • Five Starsloved everything about it

So, readers, if you’re looking to evaluate a new book — look at the two- and four- star reviews. These are more likely to show you what is the good and bad about this book, and match it to your own tastes. (And do remember, that all reviews — like all art critique — is far more subjective tastes than exact science).

And, authors, just keep working to get as many reviews as you can. Who cares if it’s a troll leaving one-star rating? If your work is good, then the overwhelming numbers will be positive. No book is for every reader. The total average (and the more reviews the more meaningful it is) is telling prospective readers if the work is generally good or not, and the two and four stars help them match it to their tastes.

Crack open the champagne, and keep on writing!

8 Comments

  1. Very good analysis of the review system. Also as an avid reader who agrees that no book will be for everyone, I still glance at the reviews. Not to determine if it’s for me because I have no idea what those reviewers read otherwise, but to see if there ARE reviews and if they all sound like they were written by the author’s favorite Aunt!😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m struggling to get reviews for my work (yeah, I know – I need to get out more and socialize is the big problem there) but I have a one-star on GoodReads that I actually nod and grin about. It’s a DNF rating. Considering I keep getting rave reviews (how??) I finally have one that reveals not everyone’s going to like the way I write.

    Kind of proud of that first 1-star, and the courage of the reader to actually post it when the rest are 4- or 5-star ratings/reviews.

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  3. Well, that’s the strangest review I’ve ever read. If that read doesn’t remember the book, why would he want to ‘review’ it? I’m telling you, this star system is really a strange place 😉

    As a reader, I normally first read the 1-star reviews, but only if there are more than three sentences in there. Because it’s true, most 1-star reviews just say, ‘I don’t like it’. So what? But when the reviewer takes the time to elaborate and not be hateful, there are lots of intersting things going on in 1-star reviews. 2-star reviews are very similar and I’ll agree with you that they tend to be more elaborated, in general.

    Then I’ll read a selection of 5-star reviews, just to see who wrote them. If I find an overwhelming number of 5-star reviews that are clearly written by friends (and it isn’t hard to spot them. They normally praise the book highly without giving any insights in it), I’m already forming an idea about the author. Normally, I come across a few thoughtful 5-star reviews, and those are intersting to balance against the 1-star reviews, both their number and quality.

    Then I read a selection of the other reviews. I normally choose the longer ones, because I assume they are more elaborated.
    In the end, I form an idea about whether or not I want to read the book. The outcome isn’t garanteed, but we reader have to start somewhere.

    This said, true, as authors we ‘have’ to rely on the star system, but I really find it becoming more hateful as the years pass. There are so many ways to twart it. There’s money and favours being exchanged and it’s becoming so apparent that I’m placing ever less trust on this kind of reviews. I mean the reviews on online stores. I trust a lot more bookbloggers’ reviews, which are normally more thoughtful and at least come from a true (and most often experienced) reader.

    Ooops. Ok, I’ll stop. I don’t want to hijack your blog 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As a reviewer and author, I agree with you that your need to read beyond the star rating.
    But I think it’s unfair to say that a reviewer is a “caustic moron” for giving a one star rating. I’ve one-starred books before, because they’re so badly written; and even a masterpiece that bored me to tears (Great Gatsby). I think I had the right to on both those occasions, and whether it’s quality or personal taste, readers are allowed to say “it wasn’t for me”.

    Isn’t it that type of name-calling that discourages readers from leaving any review, because they might get shamed for it?
    As you rightly said, any review is good in the big picture.

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    1. I try to separate my personal tastes from a review. My tastes do not necessarily reflect the tastes of other readers, or the literary merits of the work. I won’t leave a 1 or 2 star review – simply because life is too short for books I don’t enjoy. If a book doesn’t grab me I’ll simply put it aside and move on to the next.

      As for name calling, please bear in mind that I never engage with reviewers, besides saying “thank you” to those who contact me (regardless of content; I’ve said it to people who hated the book as well). I do, however, allow myself a smidgen of venting on my own blog 😉

      Like

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