By Linda Lovely
I first posted a blog on the topic of book reviews in 2011. Six years later, the topic is more complicated—and aggravating—than ever as Amazon appears to be in another purge cycle.
The current complaint among authors? Amazon is purging reviews from individuals it has determined have social media ties to the authors. Given these links, the positive thumbs-up reviews must be biased.
The answer from authors? They use social media to communicate with and interact with their fan base—so, of course, cyber ties exist between them. That doesn’t mean the reviewers who have some social media link actually know or have even met the author in the flesh. And it certainly doesn’t mean their reviews are biased.
For authors, reviews are a numbers game. For a book to be eligible for various types of promotion, it needs a base number of reviews to appear “legitimate.” Also, the star ratings must be, shall we say, stellar, preferably with an average star rating of 4 ½ to 5. We (and by this I mean all authors who haven’t climbed into the top 10% of best sellers) need positive reviews.
That brings us to the second review dilemma: it’s those dang stars.
I’m in a book club. After we discuss each read, the moderator for the month asks us to rate the book on a five-star system: 5=I absolutely loved it. 4=I really liked it but it had some weakness. 3= I liked it and would recommend it to others. 2=I didn’t like it, but finished it. 1=I disliked it and didn’t finish it. This past month, we re-read Pat Conroy’s classic, The Prince of Tides. The individual ratings ranged from 5 to 2. Most of the books we read earn average ratings in the 3 to 3 ½ range. That means we’d recommend them to others. Often enthusiastically. Yet, a three-star rating would be a relatively “poor” showing on Amazon.
The problem is that everyone who posts an Amazon review and assigns a star rating comes with a different idea of what those stars mean.
Should 5-stars be saved for only literary classics and never be awarded to excellent romance, mystery or other genre titles? What if the writing is excellent but the plot has some holes? What if the suspense is gripping but the reader feels no emotional attachment to the heroine?
What individual readers see as defects are subjective. Some author friends, who write darker, gritty novels, complain constantly about “bad” reviews that give 1 or 2 stars because their books included bad language or sexual content—even though the description of the book clearly indicates it will include bad language and sex. So why did they read it, if that’s not what they like?
Not knowing how other people will interpret their personal star system, many people I know elect not to post a review—while others only post five star reviews for any book they’d recommend, making the ratings merely “You go, girl!” votes of support and encouragement.
I don’t have an answer to these problems. All I know is that I will continue to beg for reviews because I need them in quantity to succeed in this business.
So here are my questions for authors:
· Do you encourage people to post reviews of your books?
· Do you resent ratings that are less than five stars?
· Would you rather have someone post a three-star positive review or no review at all?
And here are my questions for readers:
· Do you post reviews and/or assign stars?
· What prompts you to take the time to write a review?
· Does seeing posts from an author on social media influence your review?
P.S. I currently have 39 reviews for BONES TO PICK. My new humorous mystery, and I could sure use more!