Readers are not stupid! A book review without honesty is pretty much meaningless

Cover for A Princes, A Boatman, and A Lizard, showing a silhouette of a princess holding a lizard in the palm of her hand.First up, I get to share some news with you. My short story, “Six Bullets” was recently released in the anthology A Princess, A Boatman, and a Lizard.  My story is about a princess who enlists in the military and then must make a deadly trip on a river to save the kingdom — with only six bullets and an army after her.

Since I have a Nook, here’s the link to Barnes and Noble for the book.  Ebook only right now, but a paperback version will be coming out probably later this month.

Onto the the topic of the post …

Down angle of a seal looking up at you with seal-eyes.
This seal of approval is better than the gold kind!

Let’s start this by saying that I do give 1-star reviews if I don’t like a book.   I also give 5-star reviews, but a book has to be really, really, really good to get the Linda seal of approval.  I’m spending money on the book so I’m thinking about the value I got.  I also have the right to express my opinion about something I liked or didn’t.  And, yeah, I know there are people are there who are probably horrified, because there are those who fear even a single 1-star review, as if it puts a knife through the sales.

But it’s a part of the experience of books and doesn’t automatically doom a book to failure as Kelly Medling notes:

Bad reviews don’t necessarily mean they’ll negatively affect sales. I’ve seen readers say they like reading 1 and 2 star reviews, because it gives them a more balanced opinion to go along with the 4 and 5 star reviews. It’s impossible for all readers to love one book. No single book is so amazing that it actually has nothing but 5 star reviews, and if it does, I’ll probably skip reading it.

That describes how I use reviews.  I know the 5-star ones are going to say the book is good, but the lower reviews give me different perspectives.  The differing opinions make them valuable:

Yet book reviews are not science; they are, by definition, a matter of opinion. They can be negative or positive or somewhere in the middle, but the thing that makes them right—the thing that makes them valuable—is honesty, conveying a point of view deeply felt by the reader.

I had to do a review for an indie anthology, which turned out to be not ready for publication.  When I posted my review, I discovered it had all 5-stars of glowing praise.  Did it make me change my opinion or wonder if I was wrong?  No!  It made me wonder if anyone had actually read the book.  That’s not a type of review anyone wants associated with their book.   Remember the paid book reviews scandal?

But let’s get onto the big question:

Do negative or middle of the road reviews influence whether I buy the book?

With non-fiction,  I do look at the reviews to see if the book’s going to work for me or not.   I was thinking of buying a cookbook for 2 that cost $40.  Reviews identified it as “Cooking for two with lots of leftovers.”  It was a 4-6 serving book.  I was glad for those reviews because they kept me from wasting money on a misrepresented book.

A dog with potholders carries a stewpot as smoke billows in the background
Do you know how hard it was to find an image of bad cooking?

Then another cookbook popped up on my radar.  Reviewers commented that recipes in the book were too simple and not challenging.  Ah ha!  That was what I was looking for.  I don’t like to cook, and I’m not very good at it.  I have trouble hard-boiling eggs, so simple works.  Ka-ching!

A layman’s book on physics looked somewhat interesting, at least enough for me to read the reviews.  A 1-star review pointed out it was more suitable as a science journal article.  That review established it wasn’t for me, but I knew someone who would probably enjoy it, so I passed the title and the link along.

With fiction, if I chose not to purchase another novel by a particular author, it has nothing to do with the reviews.  It has everything to do with the promises they broke in the book that I just read.  Fiction is very subjective, and I’ve enjoyed plenty of books that lots of people hated (Da Vinci Code anyone?).

By the way, 50 Shades of Gray has over 3,600 one-star reviews.  Just putting things into perspective.

How do you use reviews in the purchase of books?

2 thoughts on “Readers are not stupid! A book review without honesty is pretty much meaningless

  1. Pingback: What to put in the stocking this Christmas for a fiction writer | Unleaded - Fuel for Writers

  2. Pingback: What to put in the stocking this Christmas for a fiction writer | Linda Adams

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