Thursday, July 18, 2013


I am always thrilled when I get a good review for one of my books. It brings such a sense of pride and accomplishment when someone likes your book a lot. The snippets are great for promotion, too. I got a three-star review once and was a bit disappointed, but tried to let it roll off the best I could. Everyone has their own opinions of what they like and don't like to read. And three stars isn't an awful rating, just an average one.

The other day I read a book off of my Kindle. I'm thinking at one point it was a freebie I picked up somewhere. Or maybe I won it in a contest. I really don't remember. It wasn't by a publisher I was familiar with, so perhaps it was even a self-published one.

I'm sorry to say this book was one of the worst stories I've ever read. Luckily it was a short one as I soldiered on to the end. Don't ask me why. Morbid curiosity perhaps?

First of all there were spelling/usage/grammar errors on every page. The author switched from the POV of one character to another paragraph by paragraph and once even dipped into a third party's head. These things could have been fixed by an editor, or even a careful read-through. However, it was obvious that editing was not something this author was familiar with. Besides the horrific editing, the story itself was not good. One of the opening scenes was the 19 year old hero having sex with a prostitute while the heroine (then 14) hid under the bed. The historic details did not seem authentic. And the hero and the heroine's family come up with a devious plan to trick the heroine into returning to the hero.

When I finished I realized I'd lost about 45 minutes of my life that I'd never get back. I was a little annoyed with myself. I mean there are so many good books out there, why did I waste time with one that was really, really awful?

I decided to take a peek at the reviews for this book. I was just curious as to what others had to say about it.

Much to my shock and dismay, most of the reviews on Amazon for this book were five star ones. Most claimed the book was riveting, well-written, and a realistic love story. What? Had these people read the same book I did? Then I looked a little more closely. Several of the reviews had as many typos and spelling/grammar mistakes as the book itself. Hmn? What an interesting 'coincidence'. Someone had given it three stars as they liked the story (Really?!) but were distracted by the spelling errors. Well, at least that was something. One did make me laugh. I don't remember what rating was given (although in my opinion it wasn't low enough), but the comment said something about the reader's middle school child being able to spell better and she was dyslexic.

This makes it very clear why there is so much debate about the authenticity and validity of reader reviews on Amazon. And it made we wonder if they do indeed dilute the effectiveness (for lack of a better word) of reviews done by actual review sites. When I get a five star review I am pleased as punch. I feel pride and joy and a sense of accomplishment. When I read these five star reviews I was outraged. Now I'm no Nora Roberts, but the quality and content of my books and this story are light years apart. But anyone looking on Amazon and judging by just the reviews, would find them on equal footing. Plus, this other book had many more five star ratings than any of mine ever did.

Of course reviews are only part of what people look at when considering a book. Many other things are considered as well: cover, blurb, previous books by the author, price. Deciding what to read is a very personal decision. No two readers choose a book in exactly the same way. Which is why there is so much debate as to what is THE most important thing about a book that attracts readers.

I did think about adding a review, just to warn people. I didn't want to do it out of pettiness or meanness, but just to give my own honest opinion of the story. But since I find I don't have time to write reviews for the books I think are good, I really didn't want to waste anymore time on this story than I already had. (Then again, here I am posting about it several days later, so it's still on my mind.) I'm still shocked that there were no one or two star reviews. Perhaps others who held the same opinion as I did just didn't bother to write anything. Or maybe they were taught if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. And of course, everyone's taste is different and unique.

So, how much stock do you put into reviews? For your own books and for those you choose to read?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!



  1. Debra, I agree with everything you've said here - you have echoed my feelings about reviews. I wonder sometimes if there is a tit-for-tat process going on i.e. 'I'll give your book five stars if you give mine five' - because some books I've read recently wouldn't merit 1 star from me, let alone 5!

  2. There really could be something to that theory, Paula. This author also offered a 'gift' if a person left a review and then e-mailed the author with an address for where to send the gift.

  3. Bribery to get reviews? That really is the pits!
    I've seen other questionable reviews - I suspect one author who got her husband to wrote glowing reviews of all her books - and as she uses a pen name, of course no one could tell it was her husband. I guessed because I knew her real surname!

  4. I'm always suspicious of reviews, regardless of how many stars they have. I only use reviews when I want to find out more about the story than the 3 or 4 sentence description offers, because most reviews summarize the story in greater detail than the publisher. But I suspect I'm in the minority. And I do think that reviews are becoming less reliable as authors learn the system (unless they're from really reputable sources). Just my two cents.

  5. I think there are all sorts of tricks out there to get reviews.

    Jen, I agree that because of this, reviews are becoming less reliable as a marketing tool.

    It just makes me sad. When an author works really hard and gets a good review based on merit and accomplishment, how credible is it really in the face of family members and friends who write reviews as favors?

  6. I think you have to be really careful when evaluating reviews and even when soliciting reviews. I had members of a book club talk to me about writing a review of the book I wrote that they discussed, and after warning them, I think I ended up turning them off from writing any, which I didn't mean to do. But I think badly written reviews or those from family and friends call the author into question sometimes, which isn't fair.

  7. I totally agree Jen. And while I was annoyed at Amazon's stand on reviews lately, this experience made me totally understand where they are coming from.

    And that's the tricky involved is the author in the family/friend reviews on there? Unfortunately, there's no way to judge.

  8. What was their stand? I think I missed that.

  9. I think it was that authors can't review other authors' books, which I can partly understand, but at the same time, I think, why not? Maybe it's to avoid the 'tit for tat' reviewing between authors?
    I've had reviews from (internet) friends - completely unsolicited, I hasten to add.
    One of my main peeves is that reviews left on the Amazon UK site don't appear on the Amazon USA site, whereas UK readers can click to see the USA reviews. I don't see why it can't work both ways!

  10. I've started and then abandoned some pretty terrible e-books lately, which makes me sad. Sometimes I'm dying for an escape into a well-written story.
    I've not written too many reviews--mainly because I'm overwhelmed with work, and because I try to adhere to my mother's dogma: if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all.
    Good reviews for bad books? I guess it's buyer beware.

  11. I think there was also some thought to do away with the Amazon reviews, but maybe I'm thinking of something else.

    It does seem like a lot of bad gets in with the good in today's market of self-publishing. There are some very, very, very good books out there, but there are also some real dogs. And how do you know until you get into one?