What Do Reviews Really Tell Us?

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If you are anything like me, you have a TBR pile that if it were ever officially noted down would take several lifetimes to get through.

Or at least one Dr Reid on staff giving you regular updates on all the juicy bits.

But seriously, when it comes to picking your books, whether to read, or simply to plan to read, what is it that you look at?

As writers we are driven by reviews. We seek them out, we see the notification of a new review and our stomaches twist themselves into knots… is it good, do they like it. Yet as a reader, what do reviews tell us?

You have spent hours browsing through your chosen genre and have narrowed it down to three books. One caught your eye because of the catchy cover, one because of the price, it was reduced, and the third one has been on your radar for a while. They all have good reviews. The catchy cover is rated 4.8 (out of 5) from 6 reviews. The reduced price book is 4.0 after 15 reviews but has 45 likes. The one that’s been on your radar is rated at just 3.75, but has 36 reviews. Which book is really the best?

To me, good reviews are one thing, but like judging a book by its cover, they cannot be the sole reason to purchasing it. Personally I would trust a book with more reviews and a lower rating than a book with a near perfect score but only a few reviews. Of course I am talking more in terms of new writers and not writers whose other books you have read and enjoyed because then you already have an opinion formed.

As a writer reviews are the name of the game, because to us, reviews mean sales, and that is true, but if we are to expect our book to get nothing but perfect reviews and five stars, then we are either kidding ourselves or sending our books to people who will review so as not to hurt our feelings rather than with any useful information. How many and I use the terms with a cringe on my face ‘mainstream’ authors are there whose books have a perfect score? I can’t think of one.

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6 thoughts on “What Do Reviews Really Tell Us?

  1. I try to stcik with my genra, sci-fi or mystery, I do look at the star ratiing and read the reviews, for me it is the introduction and story itself that I go with unless it is a mainstream author that I have read before. As for discovering newer writers I will usually grab a smaple of thier work before the actual money out option.

    1. I do like the Look Inside option that Amazon offer, and the free samples on smashwords too. It gives you the perfect change to not only sample an author but actually the work you are interested in. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  2. I never believe reviews – half the time I’m sure they’ve been either paid for or otherwise solicited.
    Take mine; those on my website. Most of them are from readers I’ve sold to personally or requested reviews from, and whilst I hope they would be honest surely neither can be trusted as completely unbiased?
    It’s a bit like front-cover comments from famous authors. Anyone believe they weren’t paid, in some way, shape or form, for their favourable opinions?
    Maybe I’m just a cynic. Wait – I am. Sorry about that.

    1. I too am often mistaken for an experienced cynic, and I agree with you. Even I would find it hard to be completely unbiased if reviewing the novel of a friend. As a fellow writer I understand the importance of a good, and by that I mean constructive, review, but there are plenty of writers whose friends are just that, friends and readers. So they review from the heart, with good intentions.

      The only front cover comment I can remember that seems genuine is the Stephen King comment on the Books of Blood by Clive Barker, but maybe it is just because these two writers are heroes of mine that I choose to believe they were genuine. Maybe I’m not such a cynic after all. 🙂

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