Five star Amazon reviews are the holy grail of Amazon books, yet for me pretty much all Amazon reviews spark controversy. As a book reviewer for a website, and an author, I feel I straddle two sides of the review world, and I wonder if anyone else finds them such a minefield.
I know I’m guilty of reading reviews for most things I do in life. From picking a kennel for my dog, to choosing hotels or restaurants. I’ve even been known to compare mould sprays on Amazon from their reviews. There is absolutely no denying that reviews can influence our behaviour. But I rarely read the Amazon book reviews of a book I’m buying.
Going back a fair few years, I used to love going into bookshops and browsing books until I finally found the one (or three if I was in Waterstones) that I was going to buy. I spent ages stroking covers, on occasion sniffing pages and having a read of both the blurb and the first few pages. Unless I was looking for a new book by a favourite author, that was how I discovered an author. It was all down to my own skills of picking whether the book was good. And once I finished it I’d either lend the book if it was really good to a friend, or if I didn’t like it I’d probably banish it to the bag of books destined to go to the charity shops.
Fast forward ten years and that’s no longer how I buy books. Now when I buy books it’s usually because I’ve come into contact with the author on Twitter or Facebook or I’ve been swayed to buy it from a review that I’ve read on a book blog. If I’m browsing on Amazon, whilst I try to buy a book without reading reviews, I do take heed of alarm bells when there are nothing but one star reviews.
As an author I know that reviews do help to sell books and nothing puts a big smile on my face than a good review going up of one of my books. Yet with Amazon reviews there’s that ability for anyone to put up anything. I have a one star review of my book in which the reviewer explicitly says that he doesn't like the title and hasn't even bought or read the book he's reviewing. Whilst the discerning reader would ignore that review if they read it, it still affects my overall ratings.
For me, I sort of hope that I don’t get reviews. Not that I wouldn’t want to get thousands of five star reviews, but because hopefully a lack of reviews means that people didn’t hate my book. Maybe they weren’t moved to write a review, but they didn’t think the book was so bad that they had to rant about it.
I’ve sold over 15,000 ebooks and have a total of 41 reviews on the Amazon. That suits me down to the ground. For the 14,939 people that have read one of my books and haven’t reviewed it, then I hope it just means they were happy!
What do other readers and writers think? Do you like Amazon reviews? Do you use them when you’re choosing a book to read? Or like me do you find them a controversial minefield?