Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Amazon Reviews

I read this on Hilary Davidson's blog last week. She wrote:

"I’m dubbing July my own personal Amazon Review Month. Each day, I will write one review of a book I truly enjoyed. My only criteria is this: would I recommend the book to a friend? If so, it’s worthy of a review on Amazon. I’m not planning to write epic reviews detailing the book’s content, just three or four lines about what I found so engaging about it.

What I’d like to suggest is that you make July your own personal Amazon Review Month, too. I suspect that if enough of us review books we loved, we can entice others to read them, too. Who’s in?"

I'm in. I've posted half a dozen already, A lot of the books I've enjoyed this year have very few reviews on Amazon. Only certain kinds of people post reviews. And only certain kinds of books draw reviews. In a time of diminishing print reviews, it seems like a good thing to do.

I am not sure if it matters though. Do you take amazon reviews seriously? Do they influence your reading choices at all?

27 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Well, I read them. I've written a few. I look at the unadulterated raves suspiciously (flacking is usually pretty easy to spot), the irrelevant and inept condemnation likewise, and take anyone who thinks the three greatest writers ever are Richard Bach, William Faulkner, and Ayn Rand for what that's worth.

Aside from wasting some time, at worst, I suppose it can't hurt.

R. T. said...

I resist Amazon and its reviews for two reasons:
(1) I am opposed to purchasing from Amazon as any purchase tends to further ensure the demise of small, neighborhood bookstores.
(2) I remain skeptical about Amazon reviews and reviewers. For example, without mention any names, there was (and perhaps still is) a "famous" reviewer (HK) who laid claim to reading and reviewing three or four (or more) books each day. In any event, no one who looks at Amazon reviews can determine the credibility of the reviewer.
So, I'll take a pass on everything attached to Amazon.

David Cranmer said...

I'm with Todd on the "unadulterated raves" and if someone is over the top nasty I suspect they have a beef with the author. I can't say these reviews have swayed me but I have definitely paid attention.

Ron Scheer said...

Carolyn See says to write a letter a day to an author you like. I've written book and film reviews at amazon instead. Done it for maybe 8 years - usually of titles with few or no reviews. Up to 750+ now.

I keep a review to 2 short paragraphs and try to give a good idea of the content, with any caveats, so a reader can decide whether it's their cup of tea. I also have a bunch of "lists" and "guides" (like Books about Montana). Amazon keeps a count of views and you can see that these can get a lot of traffic.

You read more attentively when you know you're going to write a review, and for a writer, I think it's a good discipline.

You're getting a cool response to this idea so far, and I won't argue with the points being made. I'm saying that for all its faults, amazon's customer reviews are a service that helps connect authors and readers who would not otherwise find each other. That's worth something.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess I am always looking for ways to help writers who I think deserve more reocgnition. I am not worried about posting reviews for the big ones--just the little guys.

Frank Loose said...

I read them. Those that lay out the plot do no good, as far as I'm concerned. The reviews i find helpful are those that say why they thought the book was good or bad. And if that reason is one that syncs with my likes/dislikes, then it can influence a purchasing decision.

It is amazing how many reviews contain plot spoilers, so I have found it pays to read slowly, and bail if it looks like a review is heading that way.

I agree with RT in part about buying from Amazon. I rarely purchase NEW books from them. I prefer to buy those local for the reason RT outlined. But, so much of what i read are old books, most out of print, and for that Amazon (and Alibris, Abebooks, Biblio) is a terrific resource for both the books and reviews of them. But even then, i try first to find the books at local used bookstores.

Todd Mason said...

A cool response? I'm afraid I don't see that--aside from RT, I think we've been rather measured supporters. After all, Amazon is hoping to get free labor out of folks.

The biggest problem with this as boosterism, Patti, is that one has to actually go to the item before one sees a customer review...these exercises don't actually draw readers to the books, just possibly nudge them one way or another (unless someone is genuinely following one reviewer or another. I've met at least one reviewer who was quite taken with herself on several levels, but has now achieved even greater obscurity than she had at the time.)

Anonymous said...

I've never written one. I do read them occasionally - mostly when someone else calls them to my attention. I do NOT buy books based on amazon readers' reviews.

I liked Ron Scheer's 'two short paragraphs' technique. Too many reviews are too long and mostly just plot summaries, outright raves or poitnless slams. Give me a hint, and maybe a comparison to two or three other similar writers would help.

Todd, you forgot Stephenie Meyer on the 'greatest writers ever' list.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Yes, Jeff, I did.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Amazon does seem to attract crackpots and swivel-eyed-loons who would, in the olden days, be writing to the local authority to complain about the smell of their neighbours' cooking. Can be quite funny.

Charles Gramlich said...

I do pay attention to Amazon reviews if I don't know anything else about a book. I've reviewed quite a few books there, although these days I do most of my reviews at goodreads. I'm over 2000 reviews there.

John McFetridge said...

While Amazon may be bad for local bookstores, it's good for small presses with limited print runs that can't ship out books to all those stores and then pay for the returns.

Right now one of the biggest things pushing sales of books (especially from newer authors) is the, "If you liked this you may like this," on Amazon.

Getting any attention for a book is good.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

Amazon sales rankings are also dubious. I've tried hard to get Amazon to tell me how they work, to no avail. I've had a book bounce from around the 900,000 mark into the 20,000s in one day. What that says is just how few books Amazon actually sells. When one or two books out the door yield violent leaps in the rankings, the system becomes absurd.

Travis Erwin said...

I do post my reviews on Amazon, but don't think they have ever influenced me one way or another.

Eric Beetner said...

I was a big fan of this when Hilary suggested it. As a writer on a small press I agree with John that any attention helps. Amazon (love 'em or hate 'em) can co-exist with indie booksellers. I truly believe that.

With the new Amazon Encore too they look at those ratings for small books. Yes, it should all be taken with a grain of salt and yes the crackpots are out there. Look up your favorite classic and someone gave it one star.
My favorite kind of comment is "if you liked ---- you'll like this" that helps me decide if a book is up my alley.
I'm doing this to help out and add some praise to books I've truly enjoyed. We may even get a few more for our book. Every little bit helps.

Zack said...

I have discovered that my career is impervious to advancement. Sigh.

Chris said...

I've done a few, and need to remember to do more. I'll usually do a sentence or two in Goodreads, shouldn't be too much of a hassle to do the same over at Amazon too.

Deb said...

I never read an Amazon review prior to reading a book, but afterwards--particularly if I'm ambivalent about the book--I'll see what other people have thought about it. I notice that some reviews are so detailed that they give away much of the book--those should definitely be marked with a "Spoiler Alert."

Richard R. said...

In reply to the comment by R. T., I think dismissing A'zon completely and out of hand is throwing out the baby with the bath water. When there were great, then good, several, then a few, local independents I bought from them. Now there are none of any quality. There is one Barnes & Noble, one Borders (half an hour away). I can rarely find what I want there. I have a friend who lives in a more isolated area than i do, and he says without in-line book sellers, he would have to drive an hour and a half each way to buy a book, if the store there had it (he always calls if he's "going to the city". So for a lot of people, Amazon and other internet sellers is the only way, and the big ones have some discounts and shipping breaks.

I don't have a problem with Amazon they are a good information source and have the selection.

As far as the REVIEWS are concerned, I do read them, usually only for books with which I'm unfamiliar. If I'm trying to figure out which book is the first in a fantasy trilogy, for instance, and the publisher information doesn't say, a reader review often will. I don't ignore flattering reviews, but I take what all of them says with a few grains of salt and assume they are written in the heat of the (love or hate) moment. I will also look to see what other books the person has reviewed and if they are all the same rating (5 star, 3 star, etc.). Most of the books I buy come recommended on blogs I trust or review websites I have found to be an accurate reflection of my own preferences.

Oh, Todd: You mean Richard Bach, William Faulkner, and Ayn Rand aren't the greatest writers of all time? Ah. Maybe Danielle Steel and Taylor Caldwell should be in that group instead? :-)

Richard R. said...

Re Paul Brazil's comment: "swivel-eyed loons". What a GREAT expression!!

George said...

I actually read the "1-Star" reviews first. If someone really hates a book, I want to know why. AMAZON reviews run from raves to hatchet jobs. I'm much more influenced by what you or Todd or Jeff or Deb or Bill or Charles or Richard have to say about a book. But, I will take up your challenge and write a review for AMAZON in July.

Dorte H said...

Recently I heard from a writer that it mattered to his publisher when people reviewed his books on Amazon. So I ran off to review his latest. I never read them myself, though, as I don´t know the taste of the people who review there. So 90 % of the books I buy are based on reviews on blogs written by bloggers whose opinion I have come to trust over time.

Todd Mason said...

Taylor Caldwell is truly in a class by herself, of course, though Rand certainly tried to equal her achievement.

DanielLe Steel, Taylor Caldwell, and, say, Robert Coover. The ones who have utterly unrelated trios or longer lists are the most intriguing. Harold Robbins, D. M. Thomas, and Ngaio Marsh. Anyone can trumpet Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson, and Mary Higgins Clark together (without evincing any more informed judgement).

My swiveling eyes are watching the review sections...

Anonymous said...

Patti - I know, I'm commenting awfully late on this one, but you raise a really interesting question. I sometimes read Amazon reviews, and in the sense that they tell me the basic premise of the book, I pay attention to them. But I have to agree with R.T. about the credibility of reviewers. Hard to tell who these people are at times..

Randy Johnson said...

R.T, I stumbled across the reviewer you mention and dubbed her the serial reviewer. Someone commented that she'd written as many as forty reviews in one day and the last time I saw anything, she was closing in on 22,000 written reviews. I don't think it possible for her to read that many books, let alone write reviews of all of them.

Could be it's a pseudonym of an army of readers.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I have cut way back on posting reviews at Amazon because I am tired of being tarred and feathered with the same brush by those simple minded fools who don't understand there are good reviewers on Amazon (just like everywhere else) and that Amazon isn't some evil empire responsible for killing small bookstores. It gets tiresome to deal with crank e-mails and reviewing on Amazon seems to generate quite a few.

Since I am an Amazon Vine reviewer, I now pretty much just post reviews of those products at Amazon and not reviews generated from all my other publishing contacts.

Kevin

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