Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reviews: Proof Required When Told What to Think

Reading books and writing reviews are fun for me. My reviews are not, by any stretch of the imagination, professionally rendered. Like this blog post, all reflect my opinions about a book I enjoyed reading. If the story has merit and the author’s writing style appeals to me, I will submit a review with a five- or four star rating.

The following may deserve a “Get A Life” response: I love to read book reviews. Now that Amazon has made it so convenient to access reviews, I take pleasure in reading them. I don’t read all the reviews, mostly those with one- and two-stars because those are the most entertaining. What prompted me to write this article today is one review in particular I just read - for a novel I will not name. My comments are not directed at the author’s writing (that is not my point here) but at the reviewer’s remarks. More accurately, they address one remark in particular.

First, let me say that the novel in question received numerous four- and five-star reviews (deserved or undeserved - again not my point.) Second, the one- and two-star reviews often reveal more about the reviewer than the novel being reviewed. The one-star review remark that energized me to write about it? This: 

“I’ve downloaded a hundred books and never bothered to write a review but I HAD to for this one.” 

This one remark seems to encapsulate what so many authors are tweeting and facebooking and linkeding and pinteresting about. It drew my attention NOT BECAUSE this particular person did not like the novel and wrote a one-star review but BECAUSE this particular person read (or at least downloaded) ninety-nine other books and “never bothered to write a review” for any one of those books that offered pleasant reading or compelling thought for that reader. 

Voracious readers and book bloggers cannot write a review for every book they write. That is why they choose to write reviews for the books they do like. It is also fair to write an honest one-star review. But only writing a review when a novel so enrages the reader that it becomes a moral obligation to tell the world of the outrage? Wouldn’t that hurt the reader more than the author or the novel being reviewed? 

Unless there are thousands of people out there like me who leaf through page after page of good reviews looking for the more entertaining comments, then the main benefit of writing a one-star review is for the reviewer to vent an emotional reaction to a story the reader found lacking. But how does that affect the sale of the book? The following BEST-SELLER books (none the focus of this post) received numerous one- and two-star reviews: 
The Hunger Games - 8875 reviews - #11 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 4.5-star rating)
No Easy Day - 478 reviews - #4 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 4-star rating)
Twilight Book 1 - 5465 reviews - #834 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 4-star rating)
Fifty Shades of Grey - 12,256 reviews - #2 Paid in Kindle Store; (overall 3-star rating) 

On the highway, a vehicle accident draws stares, cars slow and people gawk. When the traffic officer tells drivers, “Move on, there is nothing worth seeing here,” that only makes people look harder. After all, it is human nature to require proof of statements that tell us what to think or do. This same principle applies to one-star reviews. The reaction is “How can a novel be THAT BAD?” or “If this novel so incited the reviewer, I’ve got to check it out for myself.” 

Good or bad, Word of Mouth and Reviews sell books.



  1. Great post, entertaining and somewhat thought provoking. As an author, I can honestly say, every time I get a one star review, sales of that book increase. Amusing really.
    Keep on reviewing, we need more people like you. :)

  2. I too love to read reviews! And as for those one star reviews like you mention, I've run across quite a few like that. Always good for a laugh, although not so much for the author if it hurts sales. I review every book I finish, usually on Goodreads. Gail, I'd love to have you review my new novel Lighting Candles in the Snow. I'll provide an ARC, just let me know!

  3. So true! Reading reviews can be great entertainment, even if you're on the receiving end of a doozy. As you pointed out, opinions vary widely, so why get twisted out of shape over a bad one. Especially the lopsided. (Good or bad.)

  4. Prudence, great to hear you've experienced that that all reviews help sales.

    Karen, I'll check out your novel! I don't do professional book reviews though or blog them. Upload them to Amazon and Goodreads.

  5. E.J., you're right. It is best to deal with a review the same as a critique. Use what you can and move on. Though, in the case of a critique, you do want to hear what's wrong with the manuscript.

  6. The only books I give one- and two-star reviews are for authors who have a huge following already and who won't be hurt by it. As a writer myself, I know how difficult it is to attract readers, especially to a book with a price in these days of promotional freebies.

    Besides, it's just more FUN to talk about the books I love and why I love them!

    PACKAGED by Leslie R. Lee is a current favorite of mine. It's a surreal dream trip I couldn't stand to put down. :)

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  7. Marian, I agree with you completely that it is so much more fun talking about the books I enjoyed reading than getting all upset about one that didn't tickle my kindle! Maybe the old adage fits here, if you can't say something nice ...


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