Friday, February 11, 2011
Reviewing on Amazon: It's a Jungle Out There!
I have been thinking quite a bit lately on posting reviews on Amazon and whether I want to continue to do so. Amazon is pretty much top dog in reaching the largest amount of consumers which is a plus for any author trying to get the word out there about their work.
I can definitely see the appeal for the author and for people who want to get their opinions out there on what they read. Its got to be a good thing for me-the small potatoes blogger-to post my reviews on there because it will reach a wider audience. A little publicity for the author and a little publicity for me and my mad reviewing skills (heh). Win-win right? Well, maybe not. There are a few elements to the whole Amazon reviewing deal that just make me go hmmm. Such as.....
1. Totally clueless customers-people that use the review section to complain about e-book pricing or how the item was not delivered in the condition described. I didn't know whether to laugh or be seriously annoyed when I recently perused the reviews of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett and saw one star review after one star review because of the price of the e-book. Then as if that wasn't bad enough, to have people give one star reviews as a protest of people giving one star reviews for the pricing issue. Really?
2. Reviewer rankings. These are decided by helpful ratings. I've seen well written, thought provoking reviews get trounced in helpful ratings by reviews that were the equivalent of "I was hopin' the author would git r' done and he did! He got r' done!" Okay, so maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it still leaves me completely baffled as to how people reading the reviews decided if they were helpful or not. I've also noticed that positive reviews tend to garner more helpful votes than the less positive ones. I tend to favor the reviews that point out potential problem areas in a book.
Adding to my confusion about the whole helpful vote thing in general is there are two different tiers of reviewers: Classic Reviewers which appear to be the paragons of Amazon society-the people who have been reviewing for years and have several thousand reviews under their belts and New Reviewers which are the fledglings who must work their way up the reviewing food chain. So, why the need for two separate reviewer rankings Amazon? Which brings me to my next area of concern.....
3. Credibility! As a blogger, this is important to me. I want my readers to feel that I am someone who can be trusted to give my honest opinion. So it begs the question, why does Amazon gives so much credence to people like Harriet Klausner whose every review is rainbows and puppy dog farts? Never mind that it is not humanly possible for one person to read and review that many books (or that at times the reviews read like she hasn't even read the book). I know for a fact I am not the only person out there that doesn't give much weight to a Klausner review because of the reasons I cited above, so what does this say about the reviews on Amazon as a whole when it is their ranking system that puts her at the top of the dung heap? To be fair to Harriet, she is not the only one who gives glowing reviews on everything but she is the most visible. Now, I know there are some excellent reviewers on Amazon but I also know that it takes effort to weed out the never read a bad book in their lives people to find them.
4. Snarky Snarkerton commenters. I love snark and sarcasm. It is as essential to me as oxygen. You know what I also love? Common courtesy and respect. On Amazon I had someone leave me a rather insulting comment because I dared to use the word "novel" to describe a memoir. I don't see the point in ripping someone a new one for a small oversight. I've seen plenty of not so nice comments on Amazon, most of which were completely unprovoked by anything the reviewer said. Number of times I've received a rude comment while blogging? ZERO. Apparently the posting of reviews on Amazon also requires the wearing of a flame retardant suit at all times. Here in blog land most of what I've seen is someone respectfully disagreeing with an opinion followed by a discussion of why. Rudeness hardly ever enters into the equation.
5. Authors. I can't discuss reviewing on Amazon without discussing the authors themselves. Amazon calls to them with their siren song of masses of potential customers. Unfortunately there are just so many ways authors could end up crashing on the waves. Amazon is the only place I've personally seen authors behaving badly and attacking reviewers for less than favorable reviews. I'm not saying it doesn't happen elsewhere but it happens with more frequency on Amazon. Authors also add to the credibility issue when they post reviews of their own books, have family members post reviews, or even make up fake user names to post numerous 5 star reviews of their work (I have seen all this happen and more). Is an author or a family member really going to give an unbiased opinion of the book? No. I am not attacking authors as I know they have an extremely difficult job in promoting their work but there are ways to do it without alienating potential readers. I know if I see an author on Amazon attack a reviewer, there is a 99.9% chance I will never read anything by them or recommend them to anyone else. After seeing some of the scathing responses from authors to reviewers who have posted less favorable reviews, it makes me hesitant to put my reviews out there.
Those are the main concerns I have with reviewing on Amazon which is why for the time being I think I am going to stick to just posting reviews here. I'd love to hear from other reviewers as to why they're willing to slog through the mire that is Amazon reviewing.
Also a question for everyone-how much importance do you place on Amazon reviews when making a decision to buy a book? When I am on the fence about buying a book I'll look at reviews on Amazon but I also look at reviews at several other sites and blogs and I solicit opinions from others before I buy. I never buy just based on the Amazon reviews and am wondering if others do.
In closing I would just like to say a quick thanks to those that do post the honest reviews on Amazon. I have discovered a handful of reviewers there that I can rely on to give a fair and unbiased opinion of the books they read. Also a big thank you to the authors who do take the time to interact favorably with their readers. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful I think it is as a reader to be able to interact with authors on a more personal level due to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other forums for reviews as opposed to just knowing the author as a picture on the back of the dust jacket.
For me personally, I just wish that Amazon could be so.....amiable :)