I know some people don’t care for Amazon for various reasons. There are valid points to be made about the effect on brick-and-mortar stores when a reader buys books online from any outlet. Amazon gets the attention because they are so big! But putting those aspects of buying books through the internet, the thing I like the most is the opportunity to look at reviews.
Good books generally have a LOT of reviews, and the best books have a lot of positive reviews and a high rating.
But the truth is, self-published books, books from a small, independent press, or even most books from a traditional Christian publisher aren’t probably getting rated by a thousand plus number of people. They aren’t getting more than a handful of reviews.
I’ll admit—I’m a little suspicious when a book only has a couple reviews and/or 5-star ratings. Who is making the glowing statements about the book—relatives? writing partners?
I’d like more. In fact, I often prefer to read a 4-star or a 3-star review because I think I learn more about the book when someone explains what they think was missing or could have been better.
But the main thing is, at least there are reviews I can read! Without reviews, what’s a buyer to think? If the author/publisher has done a good job, there is an adequate bit of “back cover copy” that introduces the book, that serves as a story hook. In addition, just like brick-and-mortar stores, buyers can look inside and read a few pages, which is usually the way I buy books: first the back, then the beginning.
If I want to know if the story is the kind that will hold my interest. Then I want to know if the writing will hold my interest. I am not a cover kind of buyer. Great covers can catch my attention, but I’d say the majority of covers are average, at best. And honestly, they don’t always make sense until after I’ve read the book. I’m much more apt to appreciate a cover of a book I’ve enjoyed, than I am to be lured into buying a book because of its cover.
All that aside, the biggest factor for me in buying a book is “buzz.” I’ve heard about this book, a friend has read it and now recommends I read it, or the author sends out info about his or her newest release. With the latter, reviews matter.
For instance, an author I had read before and loved, released a new book that sounded intriguing. Until I checked out the reviews. They were positive and all, but I could tell, this book was a real departure from the one I had loved earlier. I chose not to buy it.
I’ve been burned before—an author who deviates from the types of books I love, has disappointed. Not always. I can think of others who have veered from the type of book I originally loved, and I also loved the new venture.
But that’s where reviews can help.
Just one important thing to remember: readers actually have to take the time to write the review and give a rating.
I’m a writer and I know how important reviews are to the success of books, and I still forget to write them at times. But wow! How great it is when a reader has enough respect for the author and all the people who worked on a book, to give a little feedback.
And “little” is the operative word. I mean, there are bigger, longer reviews. Usually those are at a book review site, however. The ones at a book selling site are usually much shorter. Those are great, I think, because they give a potential buyer either a thumbs up or a thumbs down idea about the book.
Sometimes the reasons a reviewer give for lowering a book’s ratings, actually make me want to buy the book. Other times I think, that issue they mentioned would probably bother me too.
In short, reviews are such an important part of book buying these days, particularly for the books that don’t make the best-seller lists. How else will readers find them unless people start talking about them? And reviews are nothing more than backyard, over the fence talk with a neighbor, saying, “I finished this book the other day and . . .”
One other thing to remember: there are sites like Lorehaven that specialize in reviews, not from the public in general, but ones that have been put out by a staff member or carefully vetted, and consequently reliable.
So there are both types of reviews to consider: ones by everyday, ordinary readers which you can find book-buying sites or at Goodreads, and ones by “professionals” who are reviewing books for a particular reason. In the case of Lorehaven, the “reason” is to let readers know which of the many speculative books written by Christians that are available these days, are ones that the Lorehaven staff can recommend.
I think the sum of both helps someone know if a book they’ve heard about is for them. Hopefully we readers can remember to do our part and help the author and our fellow readers by adding our voice to those already rating and reviewing.