Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More About Vetting Reviews...

This week I've read a few interesting pieces about how to find helpful reviews when shopping for books. One in particular discussed how one self-published author has been allegedly writing hundreds of false reviews with different identities and leaving them on Amazon and Goodreads. No links or names in this post. I did some fact checking and all I could come up with were opinions and hearsay. I'm a proud American: I believe we are all innocent until proven guilty.

I read another post about how retail web sites don't categorize e-books the way they should. In other words, readers will often purchase an e-book thinking they are getting a non-erotic romance and they wind up with a highly erotic romance. I once purchased what I thought was a highly erotic romance and wound up with the equivalent of Daisy-Jane Goes Fly Fishing. The most erotic thing about that book was the category in which it had been listed.

As a reader, what these articles proved to me is that it's not easy to vet book reviews anywhere. I even found trouble with RoseMarie Terenzio's, "Fairytale Interrupted," because some readers actually left one star reviews based on the fact that they were mad about not getting a bio about John Kennedy, Jr. It's clearly stated, from People Magazine to the smallest retail web site, that Ms. Terenzio's book is a memoir about HER life, not John Kennedy's life. And yet people slammed her in reviews for this. Which makes it all the more difficult to decide whether or not to purchase the book. I did buy it and I read it; I left a five star review because it was an excellent memoir...about ROSEMARIE'S LIFE.

I'll admit that most of the books I read are based on recommendations from friends or relatives. I trust their judgment and I'm rarely disappointed. I also read books that have been recommended by publications like People Magazine and Time Magazine. I trust them, too. Most of the time I'm not disappointed.

But no one I know in the "real world" has ever left a review on goodreads, amazon, or any other online web site. They belong to book clubs that meet weekly. They are voracious readers. But none of them have ever left a review online. I know at least fifteen other people who have read and loved RoseMarie Terenzio's memoir, and none have bothered to read or write book reviews. They all heard about the book through word of mouth.

Which makes shopping for books even more difficult sometimes. Although the Internet is growing day by day, the majority of people in the "real world" only use the Internet as a resource for basic information. I've personally learned never to believe any political information on the Internet unless it comes from a proven reliable source or I've triple checked to make sure it is accurate.

But, unlike my friends, I do spend a great deal of time on the Internet. And once in a while I come across a book that looks interesting and I need to check it out. I always go to amazon and then to goodreads first. I often do searches to see if there are any online professional reviews. If the book is erotic in nature, I don't always worry about the number of reviews written. People who read erotic romance are discreet and they don't all leave reviews, especially with their names.

And then after I've done all this, I always do one final check. I go over to either Barnes & Noble or Kobo and check out the reviews left there. Unfortunately, many books aren't on these web sites. But those books I've checked that have been there tend to have slightly different reviews than amazon or goodreads. The bad reviews seem less vicious; the good reviews seem less contrived. I don't know why this is or if it means anything significant. But I do think it's a good way to vet books and reviews if you're not sure about making a purchase.

So the next time you want to get a good overall view about a certain book, don't forget to check out the reviews on Barnes & Noble and Kobo, too. If you're like me, you'll find it more than interesting to see the marked differences of opinion. And then, in the end, sometimes you just have to take a chance and go for it even if you're not sure. Most of the time you can tell whether or not you'll like the writing by the free excerpt, and that always counts for something.

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