I love it when one of my books receives a 4 or 5* review. The world glows! The gloom that descends when there is a non favourable review is all consuming and depressing for a while until I pull myself together and remember not everyone is going to like what I write and maybe the reviewer had a valid criticism. And then I get on writing the next book and telling myself a mix of stars is a good sign in readers eyes. It proves that more people other than just your mates have read the book.
There’s been a lot of talk on various FB groups this week about a certain reviewer leaving one star reviews with the words ‘Didn’t read’ against a lot of books on Amazon. But, aside from the fact that it is quite simply not a review at all, the one star automatically lowers the author’s overall rating, which is what has angered many authors and caused them to react. But should authors react to these type of reviews? Isn’t it a question of the best policy is to read, sigh and ignore? A difficult question to answer.
For authors dependent on Amazon reviews to sell books it’s all turned into a bit of a lottery hasn’t it? Amazon’s policy of emailing customers within a week of them making a purchase of anything, asking them to review the item, seems to intimidate people into leaving a comment immediately. This way of garnering reviews simply doesn’t work for books. For example ‘5* - arrived safely’ says more about the packaging and delivery service than it does about a book. So a failure as a review but it will give the author’s rating a boost - albeit unfairly. Some people also seem to fail to understand the 1 - 5 star system. I’ve seen glowing reviews in the past accompanied by a 1* because the reviewer has the mistaken belief that it’s the highest ranking and not the lowest. And, once again, the author's rating on Amazon suffers.
I'm not sure whether it’s an urban myth or not but apparently Amazon like to see at least 20 reviews for a book before they start to feature it in various threads like ‘Recommended for you’ and ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’. What definitely isn’t an urban myth is the fact that Amazon will delete a 5* review if they believe there is a connection between the author and the reviewer - whilst leaving the '1* didn’t read' in place.
And in truth the majority of buyers/readers of books will never leave a review. Not because they didn’t love/hate the book but because it simply doesn’t occur to them, nor do they realise how important a review on Amazon has become for authors. Years ago popular fiction was rarely mentioned in the book review pages of newspapers, it was literary fiction all the way. Amazon has certainly changed that with their review system - even if it is a bit like the curate's egg!
Word of mouth has been proved time and time again to be the way to sell books but that is as difficult to kick start as getting people to leave reviews. So personally I'm going to stop worrying about the reviews, try to always write the best book I can, and carry on dreaming that one day one of my books will be the next big thing.
Do you look at the reviews before you buy a book? Or do you prefer to take recommendations from friends? Do you look at book blogs? Or simply buy if the blurb appeals? How do you decide?