The pain – and pleasure – of gleaning reviews

Like all authors, I tend to be paranoid about getting my books reviewed on Amazon, because so many people (not just readers, but booksellers, agents, God Almighty for all I know) judge  the worth of a book by the number of such reviews it has (quantity seems to count at least as much as quality!). It’s a road beset by obstacles. For one thing, reviews posted on one Amazon site (for example .com) don’t show up on the others such as, so the author has to pray for large numbers of people on both sides of the Atlantic to post reviews. For another, not all readers want to post a review – not because they don’t like the book, but because they are just not review-posters. I have to admit that, although an avid reader, I very, very rarely post book reviews on Amazon. Thirdly, some reviews are so brief or off-the-wall as to be of no real use in guiding prospective readers (or providing feedback to the writer!). A really competent Amazon reviewer is worth her/his weight in rubies. I would never BEG for reviews. I know this puts me in the dunce’s corner as far as “book marketing” is concerned, but it seems to me like terribly bad manners, and from what I’ve read, Amazon has its little ways of detecting reviews of the “friends & family” type, and it removes timagehem!

In any case, many (most?) of the books I admire most have very, very few reviews on Amazon.

So I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of NetGalley, that amazing website for librarians, the book trade and bona fide reviewers. Although not everyone who downloads a book reviews it, and although some only award a star rating rather than writing a review, there are pearls to be gleaned – and most reviewers also post on other sites: Goodreads, their own blogs or Amazon (much more commonly on the .com site, unfortunately from my point of view). Reviewers on NetGalley have so far provided me with some cracking good feedback on The Swan Widow and By Heart. It’s expensive to list books on the site, but I belong to a romance writers’ co-op, which makes it affordable. I’m sure there are similar co-ops for other genres. A Sensible Woman is also listed at the moment, via an agency, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for good feedback on that too.

Because, in the end, I’d rather have a really thorough-going review from a single reader who has enjoyed my book (or even one who has hated it, but takes the time to tell me why) than a dozen who write things like “I didn’t like this book, because the postman had dropped it in a puddle” (I kid you not – I have actually seen this on a 1* review; thank goodness, the postman’s managed to keep mine out of puddles, as far as I know).

By Fiona Cameron

Former journalist, PR consultant and fiction writer, cat- and dog-owner, currently living in beautiful Galloway, SW of Scotland. Passionately concerned about my country's environment, animal rights and freedom of expression for all authors & artists.

1 comment

  1. You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head as far as my feelings about reviews. I often feel like a beggar with hat in hand willing to do anything to get people to write a review. And since getting a review is such a challenge, I hardly feel I’m in any kind of a position to complain but sometimes I want to. Why does anyone think a long, long rambling recap of the entire book with multiple spoilers is helpful? I have too few reviews to have seen anything like – wouldn’t open on my Kindle, or it was too long, or I don’t like books where characters swear. Oh wait, I did get that one. Oh, the writer’s life.

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