Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tales from the Bookshelf - Book Reviews

Good reviews are something every author wants, but how much do they affect a reader’s decision to purchase a book? Do we really pay attention to the blurbs on the back?

First we must realize that there are many types of reviews.

Pre-publication reviews are aimed more at the industry than at the public, such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and the ALA. A glowing review from one of these sources affects the amount of publicity, bookstore pre-orders, and library orders a book will receive. Unfortunately, the percentage of books reviewed by these sources is very small.

Magazines often review books that are geared toward their target audience. Niche non-fiction books stand the best chance here, as do books from the big six.

Newspapers such as the LA Times and Boston Globe review books, although primarily only the best sellers.

There’s other pre-publication reviewers such as ALAN Reviews and Independent Publishers Reviews, available to smaller publishers as well.

Celebrities don’t actually review books, but they can provide endorsements.

Online periodicals and reviewers are growing. Armchair Reviews, Genrefluent, Midwest Book Reviews, FlamingNet, etc. Plus sites such as YABooksCentral and TeensReadToo. (Obviously, I know a lot of YA sites! LOL)

There are book bloggers for every genre imaginable, reaching thousands of people.

There’s reviewers on Library Thing, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc. Often these people are book bloggers, too.

And finally there are reviews on bookseller’s sites from all of the above and from casual readers and fans.

Now that I’ve listed many of the sources for reviews, which ones really matter? Which ones do you as a reader trust? If Entertainment Weekly gives the book a C but your best friend loved it, are you more apt to give it a try?
As a reader, how important are these reviews?


JournoMich said...

I read a bad review on PaperbackSwap the other day, but I ordered the book anyway. What I read about the book--the premise on the actual book--interested me, and the cover was mysterious and ethereal. This is a case of great elements that some might consider minor (the cover, the publisher's description) doing their job.

I don't put too much emphasis on professional reviews. That is, I don't seek out newspapers or magazines for their book review section. But I have pulled a few books off the pages of Vanity Fair and the New York Times. What you all--blogger friends--have to say is more important to me.

Another point, I never thought about the importance of getting reviews for the blurbs on the books. While I don't seek out The NYT book reviews, I AM impressed when a blurb on a book comes from a well-respected source--a big newspaper, an author that I like, etc.

Great post!


TerryLynnJohnson said...

I have to say, the reviews on the book jackets influence me. If I have two books that look good in a store that I've never heard of, I'll pick the one that has reviews - author or PW.

Book blogs that I follow hold more weight, but the reviews on Goodreads hardly matter. I've read trashing reviews on there about really great books.

Way to go on your Flamingnet success! And thanks for listing these review sites, I'd never heard of some of these!

Mason Canyon said...

I read reviews from a variety of places to get an overall look at a book. However, if would take a friend's recommendation over a review because she would know my taste in reader and the reviewer won't. I've read reviews before on a book and they were mostly saying the book wasn't good. But my friend had read it and highly recommended it. So I read it and enjoy it. The reviewer had focused on one aspect of the book and completely overlooked what really made the book enjoyable.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for all the info on review sites! :)

I can be influenced by reviews, but if I'm interested in a book because of the author, genre, etc, I don't search out reviews before I buy the book.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Unknown said...

I read reviews, but they usually do not have too much impact on my decision. If the synopsis grabs my attention I'm more apt to go by that than the reviews of others; along with the author and genre.

And … as Mason said, if a friend recommends a book to me that has even greater impact!

MeganRebekah said...

I can't think of a time that I've bought a book based on a review. But I have bought books from suggestions from friends, and based on reading excerpts or the first chapter.

Creative Chronicler said...

The only influence a review may have on me is to introduce me to a book or an author I hadn't heard of before. Other than that I don't pay much attention to the actual review itself. Like Crystal the synopsis has to grab me. It can have wretched reviews but if the synopsis is compelling I'm likely to buy it. The look of the book has a big influence too since I was an art minor. By that I mean the overall look not just the front cover but the back, the spine any extras like a map or dictionary of odd terms in the front, sometimes even the author's photo. Is that someone I can relate to or share ideas with? If they are posing on a golf course in country club attire... probably not. Another influence for me, now that I'm a blogger is would I want to interview this author, if the answer is yes, even if their book isn't something I'd normally read, I'll buy it for the insight.

JournoMich said...

I forgot to tell you, I sent your FlamingNet reviews to a couple of friends, and they responded with great excitement to read yourbook! I hadn't heard of FlamingNet before, but now I'm having fun clicking through it. Congrats on your award there!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guess I really never pay attention to reviews outside of a friend's recommendation. If the synopsis sounds good and cover art rocks, I pick it up.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It's funny that as authors, we want every good review we can get, but as readers, it doesn't really matter.
Go figure!

The Old Silly said...

Comprehensive list! I don't really read many reviews from "official" book review sites. Usually a blogger will review a book and it'll pique my interest. That and word of mouth are the two most used avenues I use for being directed to good reads.

Marvin D Wilson

Elana Johnson said...

For me, it's not necessarily about the review, but about the BUZZ. If people are talking about a book, good or bad, it creates a buzz. And then I have to read it for myself to decide which side of the buzz I'm going to be on.

Does that makes sense?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Elana, that does make sense!

Mary Cunningham said...

I've always heard it's better to have a bad review than no review.

That said, I don't usually pay too much attention to reviews, but more on word-of-mouth and whether I'm interested by the synopsis.


Nancy J. Parra said...

Thanks for all the great info on review sites. When I buy books, It's mostly because a friend recommends the book or I know the author. So reviews don't make any difference to me as a reader.
In fact I had no idea when my 2nd book got a starred review from ALA's Booklist that that was a good thing. lol.
But it really does make a difference to libraries and bookstores. Cheers~

Lydia Smith said...

I check the number of comments on a review to see how helpful it appears to be to other people. So a review that has lots of "reviews" gets my attention.

Kitten said...

I have little faith in the professional reviews. For me, word of mouth is the best way for me to decide to read a book. That, and reviews from those in the blogging community, from your everyday bloggers.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Nancy, it was indeed a big deal!

Kitten, I trust the judgement of book bloggers far more because you guys are actual readers! You read because you love books.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I’ll read reviews but they don’t usually determine whether I’ll buy the book or not. Friends recommendations carry much more weight with me.

Jemi Fraser said...

I actually don't read reviews very often - only on the blogs of friends. Recommendations of friends are ones I use the most.

Anonymous said...

I have a review from Midwest Readers Review, but other than that, I have only reader reviews. When searching for a review for a book I want to buy, I go by reader reviews at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.

Like Jemi and others, I rely on recommendations from others. I don't read reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. I'm surprised they're still in business as the way books are purchased is changing so dramaticaly these past few years.

Stephen Tremp

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My books have received reviews from many sources, both pre-pub and online, but it's funny how those types of reviews don't influence my buying decision when it comes to books.

Tony Eldridge said...

My favorite place to look is the Amazon.com reviews. These are usually done by normal book lovers, not professionals trying to find some deep secret woven in the pages of a book. And I don't pay too much attention to the star ratings. I am more interested in the comments. When you see a trend in comments, you get a pretty good idea about the book. And the thing that might make one person rate the book a "two star" book might be the same thing that will cause me to rate it a "five star" book.

As far as professional reviews, they are usually hit and miss with me. Half the time I agree and half the time I don't. I don't think it's about who is right or wrong about a book as much as it's a difference of taste among individuals. A pro reviewer, after all, is still an individual and is hardly the last word on literary value or entertainment of a book. Each reader is the last word.

Jai Joshi said...

I never bother reading or listening to reviews of books. The only time I'll listen is if someone I know personally (whose intelligence I respect) tells me a book is good. Then I'll look out for a copy. Otherwise I read what I want when I want to read it and ignore every one else's opinion. I've discovered many treasures that way and continue to do so.

Having said that it's always nice to get a review of my own work but that's just for my ego.


Donna McDine said...

I tend to go with my gut on reading the synopsis rather than a book review.

Christina Rodriguez said...

I like to gauge reader reviews of books to see if I might like it as well. Generally I look at the overall rating based on the number of reviews, and then I like to book at the harshest review to see if the argument holds any water. Sometimes the person you'd give a book a bad review has very valid points, but sometimes they are just crazy. I still like to check it out though.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Christina, you're right about the sometimes they are just crazy!

Tony, I think it's like movie reviewers - half the time I don't agree with them, either. Maybe after reading so many books those reviewers grow jaded. They want the perfect book, which as we know, doesn't exist.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I agree others don't understand. But when I had retail stores they didn't understand, either. "Oh, you have your own stores. It must be wonderful to do whatever you want!" LOL.