David Streitfeld wrote a great piece in the New York Times titled, “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy.” Here’s a key quote.
“Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.”
Yes, there is an industry out there churning out reviews for a fee. I can vouch for it, because I’ve been approached several times to write positive reviews for books. My answer has always been, “No, thanks.” But paid-for reviews are only one kind of pumped up review to be aware of.
First, a note on the stats. Eighty percent of the reviews on Amazon are for at least four stars out of five. There’s a lot of hype out there.
“Buddy reviews” add to the grade inflation. They’re by the friends of the author. You can usually spot them because they’re short, exuberant and the only review the writer has ever written.
Then there are the results of a “help my book make it to number one” campaign. The ones that ask you to write a review usually suggest the wording. Four or five glowing reviews that glow in exactly the same way are a clue.
I look for two things in any book review. I want the reviewer to tell me what the book is about. And I want information that will help me decide to buy the book or at least try the sample.
Want an example of what that looks like? Check out any of the reviews on Bob Morris’ web site.