Monday, March 18, 2019

How Can You Trust Reviews These Days?

The other day, I was scanning through the ebook newsletter and FB posts as I often do, looking for new books to add to my growing TBR list.

I found a book that sounded interesting, so I dug a little deeper (so I don't get burned by a bad book).  Ten reviews.  Cool.  Fits my 'underappreciated' requirement.  All the reviews were 4 or 5 stars.  Also cool.  Scanned through the reviews.  None of them said 'verified purchase' and none of them had any specifics which would lead me to think the reviewer actually read the book.  Sniff test failed.  Move on.

I found another book that sounded interesting.  Repeat the process.  Low review count.  Check.  The majority of the reviews were verified and sounded like they'd read the book.  Except for one - the lone two-star review.  Unverified and almost totally unreadable.  It was one long sentence that barely passed for English - but not in an 'English isn't my first language' way.  More like a 'I'm American, but I failed every English class I ever took' way.  Sniff test on that review failed.  Downloaded the book.

How does one even know whether to trust any reviews anymore?  In the first case, it looked like friends and family reviewing a book they never read.  In the second, it looked like someone with an axe to grind or a warped bent to trash the author reviewing a book they hadn't read.

Just about every day, I see posts to one of the FB book groups offering to review books - either for free (if you send them your book for free) or for a small fee.  I see authors begging for 'review exchanges' - I'll review your book if you review mine. 

I get that not all reviews can be 'verified' reviews.  Authors regularly send books out to have them reviewed, so it stands to reason, the reviewer wouldn't necessarily purchase the book.  But I also see people offering to give 'verified' reviews for a small fee.  So, basically, you're paying them to buy your book and review it. 

I've talked before about seeing a virtually unknown book/author with thousands of reviews.  I shy away from those automatically.  Sure, they could be legitimate, but I don't want to risk wasting my time if they aren't. 

But Amazon won't let me review a certain author's books because they've determined we're friends.  (Umm, I don't love her books because we're friends - we're friends because I love her books.  I can't be friends with someone whose books I don't like.  Duh.)  And because of stuff like this, I know people who shy away from even trying to review books because they don't want their reviews to be rejected.  No one likes to be rejected.  Blerg.

It's all messed up. 

Jus' sayin'.


  1. Reviews are a weird thing. I definitely take a look at them before I pick a book to read, but I'm pretty cynical about them, as you are. Some of my oldest ebooks have upwards of 700 reviews, but that's because it was the start of the Kindle explosion and the books were cheap and being grabbed up. Nowadays the reviews are fewer and some people seem to prefer reviewing on Goodreads instead of Amazon.

  2. What you said. And Elizabeth. What bugs me about some of the advertising venues is that you have to have X number of reviews to be considered for an ad or a listing or a boost or whatever. Which leads to the vicious circle of begging/borrowing/buying reviews. A mid-list/hard-working self-pubbed author can't win for losing.

    So far, Amazon hasn't kicked any of my reviews, that I'm aware of. I think part of it is, I'm always verified, I use my real name, or if I'm doing it because the book was a free contest read, I state that I judged the book in a contest and received the book free.

  3. I don't bother to read reviews anymore (except for my own books, and those only occasionally). The back blurb and the first few pages of a novel interest me, or it goes back onto the shelf.

    Oh, and the typeset has to be big enough that I can see it. I'm too old for 5pt lettering these days. LOL!