Book Reviews, the controversy

It sometimes seems like there are more opinions on how to do book reviews than there are books to review. Okay that might be an exaggeration, but it’s a hot topic that ebbs and flows in the world of authors.

book reviews, reviewing books, critiques

Three types of book reviews

The three most common types of reviews seem to be, fan review, amateur review, and professional review.

As an author, you are told you need reviews to help new readers to find your books. If you are at all savvy you know that only 5 star glowing reviews is a red flag. You need the 3 and 4 star reviews. You don’t really need the one and two star ones but sometimes they do contain a bit of information you can use.

The fan review sometimes isn’t helpful to the new reader. It can be gushy and just talk about how much the reviewer loved the book. I’m not saying these aren’t useful. They are good for the ego, if nothing else. Please feel free to gush over my books.

The amateur reviewer will generally do an analysis and comparison of books. Helpful to readers because they get a reason why the book is good, or not. The amateur will often stick to a genre giving book reviews on just paranormal fantasy, for instance, or will list a wide variety of genres they love. Occasionally the reviewer will let a spoiler slip, but my experience is they genuinely want to recommend books.

The professional reviewer will dance to the tune of the employer. Not a bad thing, but they tend to stick with the traditionally published books. Some will conduct an analysis worthy of a PHD candidate, some will enjoy a rant and others will try to be balanced in their reviews.

To pay or not to pay

This is a tricky one, because everyone defines pay differently. Some organizations will pay a fee for a set number of reviews. They call them honest reviews, but for $300 to $1,000 I’m not sure anyone is really expecting anything other than a good review. At that price, the book reviews are tainted. Even if they are honest, there’s that sniff of bias.

Professional book reviewers are paid by someone. The key distinction is they aren’t paid by the author or publishing house. My take on that is still a bit of a taint on these. The publishing houses are advertisers in the paper, magazine or other format. So, if the publisher is dropping heavy coin on advertising, is the reviewer truly unpaid?

The other form of payment is very common, a free copy. I’ve done this form of payment multiple times. To be honest, the free copy doesn’t cost me much – and if it’s an ebook, it cost me nothing. I’ve had reviewers take the free book and never review it, or take the free book and give it a lukewarm reception.

Do reviews help you find a new book?

It’s true that the number of reviews and the rating will push a book up the list on Amazon or other retailers. The thing is I’m not sure people use those lists to find a book. I know I find authors by taking advantage of free books  from places like Freebooksy and ereader news today – yes I kiss a lot of literary frogs, or rather read a few pages and delete them from my Kindle.  Then I will buy more of the book from authors I like. I use reviews to tip the balance on books I pay for.

How do you use book reviews?