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Seeing Stars: Why Some Reviews Matter . . . and Some Don't

Book reviews have been around for ages, but they’re not limited to Kirkus or NYT. With Amazon, Goodreads, and various blogs, typing any title into a search engine will result in a eruption of various opinions. But are all reviews created equal?

The Five Star Method
It’s a quick glimpse into the opinion of the majority of readers, but remember--it’s an average. If a book has only a handful of reviews, a negative one could shoot the average down pretty quickly.

The Super Fan
All authors want them. And why not? They make fanfiction, memes, and countdowns on their blogs until the author’s next release. In short, they’re awesome. But. All that adoration can lead to reviews that aren’t always helpful. Rose-colored glasses can make it hard to give an honest critique.

The Negative Nancy
Why oh why did anyone EVER publish this book?! It's so stupid. The author is a joke. I write better than this. My senile cat with bladder control issues writes better than this.

There’s a fine line between a good review of a 'bad' book and a bad review of a 'bad' book. I'm not talking about if a reviewer thought a book was a total flop. That, they're more than welcome to say. Unfortunately, we've all seen a review or two where a person's moral compass seems to be stuck in the a$$hole direction. If a review only serves to mock, degrade, or slander the author and doesn’t focus on the book’s issues, it won’t be helpful.

Pay Attention to What They Say
What someone felt was cliché might be your cup of tea. I’m an avid urban fantasy reader and have enjoyed reading several books with reviews claiming it was too expected and typical. Everyone has their own personal taste, which is why it’s important to look for common complaints that are your own pet peeves when making a decision about a book.

How much of your book buying is based off reviews you've read?
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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  1. I don't really buy books based on reviews. I generally buy what looks interesting to me. I don't like to let what other people say about a book color my opinion of it.

  2. occasionally i have impulse buys but i mostly plan my book purchases these days and by planning i mean i read a lot of reviews both positive and negative. so reviews (on amazon, goodreads, book blogs) have a huge impact on what books i end up buying.

  3. What someone felt was cliché might be your cup of tea. I’m an avid urban fantasy reader and have enjoyed reading several books with reviews claiming it was too expected and typical.

    I agree with this SO much. I'm not necessarily looking for a plotline that will blow all others out of the water (though it certainly helps!) -- but I am looking for characters I can connect with. Characters who are unique and vivid and strong. The books that stick with me at the end of the day are the ones with strong characterization.

  4. To be honest, I don't often buy books based on reviews--I pick it up based on the synopsis and try out the first few pages.

    That being said, I haven't picked up many e-books yet. It's certainly a possibility that I'll pay more attention to reviews when I do, especially for an unknown author.

    Reviews help, but I don't think I'd ever base my decision to buy (or not) a book, solely on the reviews (unless, of course, the issue is consistent across the majority of the which case I might pass.)

  5. If a book looks promising, but I'm still a little skeptical, I'll go straight to amazon and check the reviews. But I have my own system.

    I'll look to see the star rating, and how many people gave it how many stars. If there's a lot of negative reviews, I'll read a few to see if there's a common complaint, and it it would bother me.

    The last step for me is to read a passage from the book. If I can't read it without cringing, it's a deal breaker.

  6. I don't base my buys off of reviews, but they do help sway me. But now that I'm an author looking for reviews, I'm finding them more important

  7. I actually begin with the 1-star pans and skim up to the 3 star. They give me a good sense of what people hated about the book (its weakest points) and insight into the reviewers as well. It's usually quite clear if the person simply didn't like the style or content, or if they've got something constructive to say.

    I work my way up from there. I don't often find the 4 and 5 star reviews very helpful - they can be as worshipful as the 1 star are loathing.

  8. mh, hard to say, not much, i guess, because i like to have my own opinion, i mean i get interested in a book, when everyone has read it and say its AWSOME,i want to read it too, and some bad reviews keeps me from reading, because i know this person has the same taste in books like me and i will dont like the book, too...spending money & time on books are hard decisions xD sometimes reviews help, sometimes they help me find really cool books i never heard of! :)

  9. I never not buy a book because of a bad review, but if someone that I recognize to have the same tastes as me 5 stars a book I will probably go more out of my way to read it than otherwise.

    For the most part, I get books by browsing covers/titles/authors, reading the back/inside cover, and the first page or so. It hasn't really done me wrong yet!

  10. Your post is so true and informative.

    I have found that, like many movie reviews, book reviews are only so helpful. There are movies that get creamed by the critics then go on to become box office hits. Vice Versa.

    The same for books. I like giving books a chance and judge each one on my experience with it.

    Angela B

  11. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to reviews. Mostly I choose my books based on recommendations from friends and family. They rarely steer me the wrong way.

  12. The majority of books I buy, I buy based on summaries and articulate positive reviews. However, much more often, I have decided to not buy a book because of a slew of well thought-out negative reviews -- or sometimes, a series of poorly written positive reviews on GoodReads that praise aspects of the book that I know I would personally have problems with.

    But if the summary is compelling enough, I will check out the book regardless of reviews.

  13. It really isn't about if the reviewer loved or hated it, it's about WHY he or she loved or hated it. If they hated the book because it had XYZ, and I love books with XYZ, then I'm getting the book. I read several reviews that said "Coin Locker Babies" was too ambiguous and surreal. I was like BRING IT ON, and I loved it. So if the review is done well and gives reasons not just emotional blah, they can be very helpful.

  14. I'm kind of a mixed bag. On one hand, I will buy books that simply interest me even if I buy a book that has received a number of bad reviews. What doesn't work for one reader may mesh well with me, and I recognize that. I will also buy books that I've not read reviews of too.

    That being said, I do purchase books based off of good reviews too. I mean, that's why some of us are book bloggers. To share with the world awesome books we've read, and to encourage other readers to pick up the same book. During my most recent trip to Barnes and Noble, all of the books I purchased were based off of positive reviews I read. I probably would not have picked up these books if it were not for the reviews.

  15. I always assumed reviews were the be all and end all...until I got a few and didn't see it make any real difference to my sales.

    great post

  16. I've never bought a book or crossed one off my list because of reviews. I do pay attention to what books people are talking about the most and what they're saying, but that's more word of mouth than a real review.

  17. "a person's moral compass seems to be stuck in the a$$hole direction" = ROFL

  18. My book buying is based almost 100% upon reviews from goodreads. The exceptions are days when I can't find what I want at the library, presents and authors I already like. Oh and when there are Kindle sales. But I do check the reviews as well.

    Goodreads has rapidly become my social network of choice. Its not just ANY review that influences me, but reviews from trusted goodread friends with similar taste. It's been really excellent and increased the odds of reading books that are for me. And isn't that what everyone wants? To hook the right book up with the right reader. Reviews help me do that.


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Item Reviewed: Seeing Stars: Why Some Reviews Matter . . . and Some Don't Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah